A panel of Cooking Light staff sampled five Italian dressings and nine balsamic vinaigrettes "blind" in two separate tastings.
Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

Nutrition Note: Go easy. Although a serving is only 2 tablespoons, it's easy to pour more. Measure the proper portion first. Watch for sodium. We kept our contenders to 300mg or less per serving, but many bottled dressings came in between 300 and 600mg. Italian dressings, especially, have high levels.

BEST BARGAIN BALSAMIC: WINNER: Wish-Bone Balsamic, $1.89 (16 ounces) 280mg sodium
This balsamic earned warm reviews for its mild and fruity flavor, with underlying cola notes and woodsy sweetness.

BEST ITALIAN: TIE: Drew's Classic Italian, $3.39 (12 ounces) 216mg sodium
Neutral with faint hints of garlic and herbs, this dressing tastes closer to homemade than bottled. The vinegar is fairly mellow, making this a good choice for delicately flavored greens.

BEST ITALIAN: TIE: 365 Italian, $3.99 (16 ounces) 290mg sodium
This Italian scored high marks for its nicely salty, acidic tang. It's equally tasty over greens or as a marinade—the dried herbs and garlic impart just the right amount of flavor.

BEST BALSAMIC: WINNER: Lucini Italia Tuscan Balsamic & Extra Virgin, $5.69 (8.5 ounces) 180mg sodium
Tasters enjoyed this thick and creamy vinaigrette's balance of sweetness and acidity. Lucini packs plenty of flavor without a lot of sodium.