Add Sweet Tea To Your Summer Salad Vinaigrettes And Thank Us Later

As soon as summer hits, so does the craving for fresh, garden-grown veggies, bright green herbs, and crisp, light flavors. Behold the summer salad. It's our favorite because it makes clean eating so simple, and it never leaves anything to be desired in the flavor department. Best of all, you can get so creative with a summer salad that you'll never be bored, and probably won't eat the same one twice. You can even tweak all your salad dressings based on available fresh ingredients. And what's the GOAT of all summer salad dressings? A vinaigrette, of course. A splash of vinaigrette on summer greens is all you need to elevate their flavor from delicious to divine.

The base of a good homemade vinaigrette calls for three parts oil to one part vinegar. Seasoning, aromatics, and fresh herbs complete the dressing. You can tailor the ratio of acid to oil, and if too much vinegar is a turn-off, try adding a sweet element. Sugar, honey, and maple syrup are all fine choices, but there's one thing probably already sitting in your pantry or fridge and calling out for a new summer pairing: sweet tea. This southern staple comes in hot with sweetness (when prepared correctly, it's got a lot of sugar) but stays around for the cool, refreshing ending. Tea leaves naturally embody an earthy depth of flavor that pairs well with herbs and other seasonings, and the sugar in sweet tea tempers the bite of the vinegar or other acid.

Add sweet tea for scrumptious summer salads

If it's summer, southern folks already have their favorite sweet tea recipe ready to go. For a simple sweet tea vinaigrette, start with 1 ½ cups of sweet tea, 2 tablespoons of apple cider (or your favorite) vinegar, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. From there, add summer herbs like basil or mint. Use this sweet tea vinaigrette instead of lemon herb dressing in this perfect everyday salad recipe. Try tossing some beautiful summer tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden — add sweet tea vinaigrette with basil to perfectly balance the acidity of the tomatoes. This delicious grilled summer shrimp salad recipe will shine even brighter with a splash of sweet tea added to the creamy garlic dressing. 

If you're looking for a sharper tea flavor with more complexity, try replacing the 1 ½ cups of tea with ½ cups of sweet tea reduction. Reducing sweet tea is simple, but requires a watchful eye. The sugar in the tea reduces nicely, resulting in a light syrup. Many recipes call for 4 teabags, 1-2 cups of water, and a cup of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and allow it to reduce to the consistency of a glaze. Remove the tea bags halfway through the process to reduce bitterness. Use this sweet tea reduction in fruit salads that call for balsamic-based vinaigrettes, like this mint and melon fruit salad, or our ultimate summer favorite: grilled watermelon salad.