Olive Garden Salad Recipe

This speedy Copycat Olive Garden salad recipe is loaded with fresh flavor and your new favorite dressing! We’ll use my secret ingredient to make it perfectly creamy and zesty. This simple side is a quick and healthy pairing for any weeknight meal.

Love homemade salads? Be sure to whip up our southwest chicken salad with homemade avocado dressing. Light and delicious!

Homemade olive garden salad served in a white bowl.


Why You’ll Love This Salad 

If you’re seeking a fast and delicious solution to add a crispy, crunchy serving of veggies to your savory dinner and sweet dessert – look no further.

There is something so wonderful about going out for Olive garden soup, salad, and breadsticks.

We’ve already perfected the Olive garden breadsticks and pasta e fagioli, now it’s time to share the iconic Italian salad.

  • The dressing is uber-creamy. It’s unlike any Italian dressing you’ve had before, but not quite as heavy and overpowering as a caesar dressing. You’ll love it.
  • There are no obscure ingredients. You’ve probably got most (or all) of them already standing by in your pantry. All the better for a quick and cost effective side.
  • It’s done in under 5 minutes. That means this salad works great as a last-minute side dish, or you can make it whenever you have a free moment and have it on standby.

Serve this up with our homemade lasagna or chicken tetrazzini for a complete meal.

Salad and Dressing Ingredients

Ingredients needed to make olive garden salad at home.
  • Salad mix – Choose a colorful salad mix with purple cabbage and shredded carrots for an attractive blend of colors and textures. If you want to assemble your own salad, grab a head of romaine lettuce.
  • Red onion – Thinly sliced red onion adds a pop of savory, pungent flavor.
  • Pepperoncini Peppers – Adds a little heat and sourness.
  • Roma tomatoes – Fresh tomatoes look and taste great in this recipe.
  • Black olives – Black olives add a dose of saltiness.
  • Croutons – Crisp croutons add a bit of crunch and substance.
  • Parmesan cheese – Adds savory, nutty flavor to the salad and dressing.
  • Olive oil – Serves as a delicious base for the dressing. Extra-virgin works best.
  • White vinegar – Adds acidity and a refreshing bite.
  • Mayonnaise – (SECRET INGREDIENT) Thickens the dressing, giving it a creamier texture.
  • Lemon juice – Adds a zing of fresh flavor.
  • Granulated sugar – Balances out the sour flavors and helps the dressing last longer.
  • Garlic powder – Adds savory, garlicky goodness.
  • Italian seasoning – An herb blend that adds flavor dimension to the dressing.

Easy Instructions

Homemade olive garden italian dressing in a mason jar.
  1. Toss the salad. Drop your salad mix, red onion, pepperoncini, sliced tomatoes, and black olives in a bowl. Shake or toss them, and then refrigerate until serving time.
  2. Shake the dressing. When you’re ready to serve, add all the dressing ingredients to a large mason jar. Cap the jar and shake it up until the dressing emulsifies.
  3. Top it, dress it, serve it. Add croutons and parmesan cheese atop the salad before covering it in dressing. Give it a quick shake before serving if you’d like your dressing evenly distributed on every bite.

Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t be shy with the dressing! This dressing is made to be used liberally and is so tasty you won’t regret it. 
  • Use freshly grated parmesan cheese for the best flavor. The classic “green cap” parmesan will work in a pinch, but you lose out on some flavor and texture by not grating your own.
  • I love using plum tomatoes like a Roma, but you can also use cherry tomatoes. There is a higher ratio of skin-to-flesh with cherries, making those bites a bit chewier than if you use Romas. I’d recommend halving cherry tomatoes if you go that route.
  • Don’t want it spicy? Try it with artichoke hearts instead of pepperoncini. 
  • Or if you’re looking for a crispy crunch, try adding a few thin-sliced cucumbers for an extra-summer flavor. I like English cucumbers because they are seedless and grow with a thinner skin. 
  • Chill your bowl. Want to have a restaurant quality salad? Refrigerate your salad bowls before serving. Makes a huge difference!
Italian salad served in a white bowl.

Serving Suggestions 

Italian Salad makes a perfect light meal with a cup of lasagna soup or grilled chicken or shrimp on top. Serve it with Cheesy Garlic Bread for the ultimate simple dinner. 

If you’re looking to throw something in the oven and have it bake while you prepare the salad, I’ve got you covered. Baked Pork Chops and Italian Chicken Casserole are easy, creamy, and full of Italian flavors. 

Finally, my Baked Ziti is a comfort food classic that’s rich with three types of cheese and a hearty meat sauce. You’ll love it!

Close up of ingredients in an assembled olive garden salad.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make Italian dressing vegan?

To make the Italian dressing vegan, use vegan mayonnaise in place of the regular mayo and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan. For the salad mix, you can also use nutritional yeast (or vegan parmesan) in place of the parmesan.

What if I don’t have a mason jar? 

If you don’t have a jar to mix the dressing, feel free to whisk the ingredients together in a medium bowl instead. 

Can I make this salad ahead of time? 

Because the leaves can get brown, I’d recommend only making the dressing a day ahead of time. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. Then, on the day you’re ready to serve it, make the salad mix and serve it with the dressing. 

Can I use a different vinegar in the dressing?

If you don’t have white vinegar, feel free to use red wine vinegar in this dressing. Apple cider vinegar would also do the trick. 

More Dinner Recipes

Salads and Side Dishes

See all Side Dishes recipes

Italian Salad Recipe

4.55 from 11 votes
By: Aimee
This Italian Salad is loaded with fresh flavor and the homemade Italian Dressing is zesty and flavorful! The perfect pairing to your weeknight meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients 

For the salad

  • 6 cups salad mix including iceburg lettuce (or romaine, purple cabbage, and shredded carrots)
  • ¼ red onion sliced
  • 8 mild pepperoncinis
  • 2 Roma tomatoes sliced
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 cup croutons
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

For the dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine salad mix, red onion, pepperoncinis, tomatoes, and black olives. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • In a large mason jar, add dressing ingredients. Shake until blended.
  • To serve, top salad with croutons, parmesan cheese, and Italian dressing. ENJOY.

Notes

  • Don’t be shy with the dressing! This dressing is made to be used liberally and is so tasty you won’t regret it. 
  • Use freshly grated parmesan cheese for the best flavor. The classic “green cap” parmesan will work in a pinch, but you lose out on some flavor and melt-y texture by not grating your own.
  • I love using plum tomatoes like a Roma, but you can also use cherry tomatoes. There is a higher ratio of skin-to-flesh with cherries, making those bites a bit chewier than if you use Romas. I’d recommend halving cherry tomatoes if you go that route.
  • Don’t want it spicy? Try it with artichoke hearts instead of pepperoncini. 
  • Or if you’re looking for a crispy crunch, try adding a few thin-sliced cucumbers for an extra-summer flavor. I like English cucumbers because they are seedless and grow with a thinner skin. 
  • See blog post for more recipe tips and tricks.

Nutrition

Calories: 317kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 21g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 2181mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 6g
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!


Avatar photo

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

Learn How To Become a Better Home Baker
Sign up for the Shugary Sweets FREE Email Course Today—soon you’ll say, "I made it from scratch!"

Categories:


Posted on September 1, 2023

Comments & Reviews

  1. I find making ur own salad dressing is the best and everyone who tries it will love it. They will be asking you for your recipe 😉. Great recipe 😋 and so delicious!

  2. Yummy!!! We had this salad with your Beef Enchilada Mac and Cheese tonight. Super tasty! To be followed by the Eclair cake from Shugary Sweets, too! Thanks for dinner, Aimee!

  3. I recently figured out I am allergic to lemons. As much as I love the flavor, it triggers migraines. Is there any substitutions for the lemon? Or can it be omitted without changing the flavor?

  4. I often make homemade Italian dressing but I never thought of putting mayo in it. I bet my husband would like that better because he loves mayonaise! I’ll try it. Thanks for the recipe! I never tried that lasagna either and I think I will give it a whirl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating