The number of calories in a tablespoon of oil and vinegar depends on the specific types used. On average:
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains about 119 calories
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil contains about 124 calories
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil contains about 120 calories
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar contains around 14 calories
- 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar contains around 3 calories
So a tablespoon containing half oil and half vinegar would range from about 60-85 calories depending on the types used.
Explaining Calories in Oils and Vinegars
Calories are a measure of the energy content in foods. The number of calories in fats and oils is directly related to the quantity and type of fat they contain.
Most oils are primarily composed of a mix of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. So the more fat in an oil, the more calories it will contain in a given volume.
Here is a breakdown of the typical calorie and fat content in common cooking oils:
|Oil||Calories per Tbsp||Total Fat per Tbsp (g)|
As shown, the typical calorie count per tablespoon ranges from about 117-124 for most cooking oils. Olive oil has slightly fewer calories than other oils due to its fatty acid profile.
In contrast to oils, vinegars have a minimal amount of calories and fat. Vinegars are derived from fermenting ethanol from fruits or grains.
The acetic acid produced gives vinegars their sour taste. But there is little to no fat left after the fermentation process.
Here are the typical calories for common vinegars per tablespoon:
|Vinegar||Calories per Tbsp|
|Apple cider vinegar||3|
|Red wine vinegar||3|
As shown, most vinegars only contain 2-14 calories per tablespoon. The slight differences depend on the starting fruit/grain source and any residual sugars left after fermentation.
So when combining oil and vinegar, the calories in a tablespoon will be determined almost entirely by the oil. The vinegar contributes minimal additional calories.
Calories in Common Oil and Vinegar Dressings
Using the individual calorie counts above, you can estimate the calories in mixed oil and vinegar dressings.
Here are some common examples, assuming a 1:1 ratio of oil to vinegar:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil and balsamic vinegar: About 65 calories
- 1 tablespoon canola oil and red wine vinegar: Around 60 calories
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar: About 60 calories
The typical per tablespoon calorie count comes out to 50-70 calories for a simple oil and vinegar dressing, depending on the specific types used.
Adding extras like shallots, garlic, herbs, mustard or honey will slightly increase the calories. But the oil and vinegar forms the majority in most cases.
Calories in commercial dressings
Packaged commercial dressings tend to be higher in calories than simple oil and vinegar. Some examples:
- 1 tablespoon Caesar dressing: Around 80 calories
- 1 tablespoon Italian dressing: About 75 calories
- 1 tablespoon ranch dressing: Around 115 calories
- 1 tablespoon blue cheese dressing: Around 120 calories
The increased calories come from added ingredients like sugar, cream, cheese, and stabilizing thickeners. So make sure to check labels if counting calories.
Oil and Vinegar Ratio
The oil to vinegar ratio also impacts the total calories.
If using more vinegar than oil, the calories will shift lower. For example, 1 tablespoon with a 2:1 vinegar to oil ratio would have about 30-40 calories.
Conversely, increasing the oil ratio increases the total calories. A 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio would be around 100-110 calories per tablespoon.
So in addition to the specific ingredients, the proportions can also adjust the calorie counts in oil and vinegar combinations.
Effects on Health
Along with minimal calories, using oil and vinegar for dressings offers some benefits for health:
- Better than creamy dressings – Vinaigrettes help limit saturated fat and calories compared to creamy dressings.
- Source of healthy fats – Oils in dressings provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats that our body needs.
- Antioxidants – Olive oil and balsamic vinegar supply beneficial antioxidants.
- Blood sugar control – Vinegar may help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
- Satiety – Fat from the oil promotes feelings of fullness compared to low-fat dressings.
So in addition to being low calorie, oil and vinegar pairs make a healthy dressing choice thanks to their great nutrient profile.
Cost Effectiveness of Oils and Vinegars
Oils and vinegars can be purchased at most grocery stores and tend to be relatively affordable, making them a budget-friendly dressing option. Here is a pricing comparison per unit volume:
|Extra virgin olive oil (16 oz bottle)||$8-12|
|Vegetable oil (32 oz bottle)||$5-8|
|Balsamic vinegar (16 oz bottle)||$4-12|
|Apple cider vinegar (32 oz bottle)||$2-5|
As shown, typical prices range from about $0.10-0.50 per ounce. Higher quality olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars sit at the higher end, while basic vegetable oils and vinegars cost less.
Compared to commercial dressings which can cost $3-5 for just 12-16oz, oils and vinegars give you significantly more dressing for your dollar. So they are one of the most cost-effective ways to add flavor.
Tips for Using Oils and Vinegars
Here are some tips for buying and using oils and vinegars:
- Look for extra virgin or cold-pressed oils for higher quality.
- Store oils in cool, dark places to prevent rancidity.
- Refrigerate after opening for prolong shelf life.
- Choose vinegars with live “mother cultures” for probiotic benefits.
- Pair lighter vinegars like rice wine with sweeter dressings.
- Combine robust vinegars like balsamic with bold oils like olive oil.
- Add emulsifiers like mustard or honey to help mix oil and vinegar.
- Use immersion blenders make quick vinaigrettes.
- Shake up dressings before using to integrate oil and vinegar.
Following these best practices will help ensure you get the most health benefits and flavors from oils and vinegars in dressings.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about oil and vinegar nutrition:
Are there any calories in vinegar?
Most vinegars contain minimal calories, ranging from about 2-15 calories per tablespoon. Balsamic vinegar is highest due to its syrupy consistency. But vinegars are still an extremely low calorie choice compared to oils and other condiments.
Which oil is lowest in calories?
While most oils contain 120-130 calories per tablespoon, olive oil is slightly lower at about 119 calories per tablespoon. Its higher monounsaturated fat content packs a little more energy per gram.
What vinegar has the least calories?
White vinegar and champagne vinegar have the lowest calories at just 2 calories per tablespoon. Other light vinegars like rice wine, red wine, and apple cider provide 3-5 calories per tablespoon.
Is olive oil and balsamic dressing healthy?
Yes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar make one of the healthiest salad dressing options. Olive oil provides heart-healthy fats while balsamic contains antioxidants. Together they make a nutritious, low-calorie choice.
Can I use oil and vinegar as a weight loss aid?
Replacing creamy high-calorie dressings with oil and vinegar combinations can support weight loss goals. Their balance of satiating fats with minimal carbs keeps calories low while still providing flavor.
Oil and vinegar make up flavorful and healthy salad dressings with just 50-110 calories per tablespoon. The specific oil and vinegar types determine the exact calories and nutrient profile. But most combinations provide good fats and antioxidants with very minimal carbohydrate and calorie counts. Pairing these ingredients allows home cooks to avoid the excess calories and sugars found in most commercial dressings. So whip up a simple vinaigrette using heart-healthy oils, tangy vinegars and fresh herbs to liven up any salad or side dish.