Learning with Lil’ Sprouts: Homemade Dressing and Salad

Learning with Lil’ Sprouts: Homemade Dressing and Salad


I don’t like salad! is the first response of most students when I tell them we are making a dressing and salad for cooking class. 

You don’t have to like it, but you may have fun making one I tell them. Eager to get cooking, they agree.

I demo a knife cut, pass out age-appropriate knives and let the students get to work chopping carrots, tomatoes and cheddar cheese. Then I pass out fresh herbs and show them how to tear the leaves into tiny pieces. When all the ingredients are chopped we move on to making a dressing. 

I hold up each ingredient asking students to name what they see. Olive oil! Vinegar! Mustard! New ingredients make them curious. What is the difference between balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar? They ask. We do a tasting exercise to find out. The balsamic, they conclude, is sweeter than the red wine vinegar. 

I distribute the components for the dressing into cups and the students start to build their dressings. Creating a salad dressing is a great opportunity to teach kids about the five taste types. Lemon juice and vinegar are sour; stone ground mustard is bitter; honey is sweet; miso paste is umami; olives are salty. Tasting their dressings are they work, students can see how different flavor profiles interact with one another. 

The lemon juice is too sour a student tells me. I ask them what they think might balance it out. 

Honey! They reply. 

When all the dressings are complete, I put lettuce in each student’s bowl and let them toss it with their dressings and the toppings. Now it’s time to try them. Some students take a bite and decide they still dislike salad while others take a bite and their faces lights up in delight. 

My salad is so good! I didn’t know there were other dressings besides ranch. Yummy! These are some of the responses I get from students. At Steele Elementary, every student finishes their salad and asks for more. 

The philosophy of Lil’ Sprouts is to teach students basic culinary skills while introducing them to new, high-quality foods. Students are more excited to try a new vegetable when they get to cut into a size they like and can dip it in a dressing they made themselves. Salad day is a great opportunity to learn about the palate and taste buds, customizing a dressing to their liking, and learning basic skills to safely chop vegetables. At the end of our class, one student even declares salad her new favorite food. While all my students may not be fully sold on eating salads – yet—they all can agree that making one is a lot of fun.

Recipe: Homemade dressing and salad

Age range: all ages. For younger children, utilize age appropriate knives, pre-cut large vegetables to create a flat surface for easier cutting and pre-steam vegetables that are hard to cut into. 


Cutting board




Tasting spoons 

Deli containers 




Cherry tomatoes



Cubed cheese 

Fresh herbs 

Olive oil 

Vinegars; try balsamic glaze for something sweet and red wine vinegar for something sour 



High-quality salt 

Fresh cracked pepper 


Miso paste



  1.  Give each student a few vegetables and cubes of cheese. 
  2. Prior to passing out knives, demo a safe knife cut. Pass out knives after demo. 
  3. Once vegetables are chopped, pass around herbs. Ask students if they can identify the herbs. Have students tear herbs using their hands.  
  4. Show students different ingredients for salad dressings and have them identify them. Pour ingredients into deli containers so there are three students to every ingredients. 
  5. Have students build dressings by first adding olive oil followed by vinegar. Have students taste as they go. 
  6. For new ingredients, allow students to taste them first. If a student does not like the flavor of their dressing, have them identify which “taste” is missing and have them add it to the dressing.
  7. Pass out lettuce into each bowl and have students mix it in with their dressings, topping with vegetables, herbs and cheese.  

Post by Meredith Kaufman, Lil’ Sprouts Instructor


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