It's fair to be a little cautious at first with arugula, which can be a little too peppery on its own. But once you try a bowlful with a lemon vinaigrette, it will be love at first taste. The citrusy tang balances the bitter arugula, and the bold, smooth Parmesan makes it absolutely perfect.
This has become our go-to salad for the week, since it goes with pizza, grilled meat and pretty much anything you can cook up. Buy a big tub of baby arugula, make enough dressing, and you can enjoy it with variations the whole week and never get bored.
Pair it with pizza, pasta, salmon. Everything!
Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) is a peppery leafy green. Also commonly called rocket, it has been cultivated since Roman times and is even considered an aphrodisiac. It gets stronger with age, so the baby variety is a little milder.
By itself, it's really not the most enjoyable piece of green you can find. But when you add a few things, it's pretty amazing. And it's pretty inexpensive, You can buy a small container for around $3 or a large one that will easily last a week for $5 to $6.
Arugula has a ton of uses. One of my favorites is in a delicious pesto sauce that is great for pizza, pasta or spreading on crusty bread for a sandwich with grilled chicken.
9 Simple Ingredients
- Baby arugula - the slightly bitter and peppery green loves to be paired up with lemon juice.
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano - salty and fatty cheese that balances out the acidity and bitterness from the arugula. You can also use Pecorino.
- Lemon juice - I prefer to use Meyer lemon juice for its depth of flavor.
- Lemon zest - Best from organic lemons. Adds an extra depth of citrus flavor from the essential oils.
- Honey - Sweetness to bring down the acid flavors and balance it out. You can also use maple syrup or even sugar.
- Extra-virgin olive oil - Use high-quality olive oil. Taste it before using it as some are stronger than others.
- Dijon mustard - Adds a bite with a little heat along with being an emulsifier to keep the dressing together.
- Shallots - finely chopped and preferably macerated in the lemon juice prior to making the dressing. This will cut down on the bite.
- Salt & pepper - I prefer Diamond Kosher salt and always freshly ground pepper. Go lighter on the pepper for this one as the arugula packs a peppery flavor already.
Get the details and steps on making the perfect lemon vinaigrette.
Add-On Ideas and Inspiration
- Candied pecans
- Goat cheese
- Roasted beets
- Thin-sliced apples or pears
- Cherry tomatoes
- Dried cranberries
Baby Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Parmesan
- ¼ cup lemon juice (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
- ½ tsp. lemon zest
- ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- ¼ tsp. Diamond kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 7 oz. baby arugula
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (coarsely grated)
To make the vinaigrette:
- In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, shallots, honey, salt and pepper to dissolve.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create an emulsion.
- You can also just add all ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds or until the dressing is emulsified and the honey is completely dissolved.
- Gently mix the arugula, Parmesan and the amount of vinaigrette as desired just before serving. Season with freshly ground pepper and top with more Parmesan.
- For the sweetener: Honey, maple syrup or sugar can be used. Use more or less depending on the acidity of the lemon.
- The vinaigrette recipe makes about ½ cup of dressing, which is more than needed for the salad. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the next one within 5 days.
This post was originally published March 7, 2014 and was updated February 17, 2021 to include useful updated information and photos.
This is a really good dressing, but shouldn't there be some vinegar in a dressing with the word "vinaigrette" in its name?
Jody Wilson says
This was fantastic. I did add an avocado to it!
Avocado sounds like a wonderful addition, Jody!
SANDRA HAACK says
Thank you for a delicious dressing for this salad. The best I've ever had.
Wow! So happy to hear that, Sandra. Thank you for the nice comment.
This is delicious and is my "go to" recipe for arugula salad. The honey really offsets the lemon and is a perfect flavor combination. I highly recommend this!
So happy to hear it, Sally! This is totally our go to as well. 🙂
Jessica Stemper says
Made it tonight - simple and delicious. Love when I have everything I need at home already. ♥️ Did sub shallot with red onion. Might add garlic next time. I’m a garlic fan. ♥️
Love the idea of adding a little garlic to this dressing. 🙂
L Wilson says
Easy simple healthy and yummy!
Glad you love it. 🙂
Greg Watkins says
So you get a quarter cup of lemon juice from one lemon??
Hi Greg. Yep, I do actually. The Meyer lemons I use usually have 2 tbsp per half x 2, but they are probably on the larger side. Just updated the recipe to specify 1 large or 2 small lemons. Small-medium lemons usually have about 2 to 3 tbsp each. Thanks for the comment.
rob holl says
Sounds yum gonna do this weekend with venison tenderloins wrapped in bacon
That's going to be an amazing pairing.
you made me drool at work.
Ed Solis says
A simple, bright, flavorful and refreshing salad that the entire family enjoyed- I will definitely make this again.
Great to hear. Thanks, Ed. Cheers!
Love this salad! Made it 2 weekends in a row. The vinaigrette is delicious.
So glad to hear it, Marci! We make this one all the time as well. 🙂
Brooke Golubow says
My absolute favorite especially with slivered almonds!
That sounds amazing! I also like adding candied pecans.