Here’s a copycat recipe for the famous Olive Garden Salad, complete with all the best ingredients. It’s brimming with juicy sweet tomatoes. Tangy pepperoncini peppers. Savory black olives. Zesty Parmesan cheese. Sharp red onions. And garlicky croutons. They all combine to create a flavor explosion! The salad is dressed in a homemade creamy Italian dressing. However, if you prefer, you can pick up Olive Garden’s bottled dressing at the grocery store.
Pair this salad with some other Olive Garden copycats like this zuppa toscana soup or this pasta e fagioli soup. And here’s a bonus: they’re both slow cooker recipes! That makes it even easier to go Italian.
We’re obsessed with this Olive Garden copycat salad — it’s light, fresh, healthy, and loaded with flavor. And what’s more, the Italian dressing is easy to make and filled with good-for-you ingredients. How does olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and plenty of herbs sound? It’s the perfect pairing for all the veggies!
The ultimate finishing touch to this salad is the crunchy, garlicky croutons and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top!
- Lettuce: Olive Garden uses iceberg lettuce mix, but we like it best with Romaine lettuce; either type of lettuce works!
- Red Onion: If you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, I have a hack that’ll help tone down the bite. Soak the onions in ice cold water (with a pinch of salt added) for 10 minutes. Then, drain thoroughly and dry before adding to the salad.
- Pepperoncini: These are sweet, mild chili peppers, usually sold pickled. Grocery stores stock pepperoncini near the pickles.
- Tomato: Any good ripe tomatoes will work in this salad (bonus points, however, for garden tomatoes — they’re the best!). We often use cherry tomatoes.
- Black Olives: We like them whole, but feel free to halve or slice them.
- Croutons: Olive Garden sells their croutons at the grocery store, and they work great in this salad. You can use any garlic-herb flavored croutons. Or, you can even make your own!
- Parmesan Cheese: I like to grate fresh Parmesan cheese on a microplane and add it to this Olive Garden Salad.
- Only add dressing, cheese, and croutons to the amount of salad that will be eaten the same day you make it. Otherwise, the ingredients will get soggy if they sit in the dressing too long.
- Make ahead: You can make everything for this copycat Olive Garden Salad ahead of time. Just store the salad ingredients separately and then toss them all together right before serving.
- Grating Parmesan cheese: I highly recommend grating the cheese on a microplane. It gives it an awesome light texture and helps it disperse more evenly throughout the salad. If you’ve never tried a microplane, they’re game changers. I like this one because it’s so easy to use.
More delicious salad recipes:
- Italian Salad with an herb vinaigrette
- Chickpea Salad Mediterranean inspired
- Cobb Salad with an herb vinaigrette
- Crispy Chicken Salad with a honey BBQ dressing
- Orzo Pasta Salad with a lemon vinaigrette
A copycat recipe for the famous Olive Garden Salad, complete with juicy sweet tomatoes, tangy pepperoncini peppers, savory black olives, zesty Parmesan cheese, sharp red onions, and garlicky croutons. The salad is dressed in a homemade creamy Italian dressing (or pick up Olive Garden's dressing at the store).
- 8 ounces romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup whole black olives
- 2 large Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1/4 of 1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
- 6 whole pepperoncini peppers
- 1 cup garlic-herb flavored croutons (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons good quality full-fat mayo
SALAD: Coarsely chop the lettuce, wash and throughly dry (I love a salad spinner for this step). Place lettuce in a large bowl. Top the salad with black olives, thinly sliced tomatoes, very thinly sliced red onion, and pepperoncini.
DRESSING: In a large mason jar add all the dressing ingredients: 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons mayo, and salt & pepper to taste. Put on the lid and shake to combine. It might take a minute of good vigorous shaking, but the mayo should completely integrate (keep shaking until it does). If you have time, make this ahead and chill in the fridge to intensify the flavors. Shake again right before mixing in to the salad.
ASSEMBLY: Right before eating (See Note 1), toss the salad with the dressing (you probably won't use all the dressing -- See Note 2). Add the croutons and freshly grated Parmesan cheese right on top and enjoy immediately.
Note 1: Only add dressing, cheese, and croutons to the amount of salad that will be eaten the same day you make it. The salad ingredients will get quite soggy if they sit too long in the dressing.
Note 2: This makes a lot of dressing! You can halve it if you'd like, but I like to make this full batch and use it on other recipes throughout the week. It will last up to a week stored in an airtight container in the fridge.