A copycat recipe for the famous Olive Garden Salad complete with juicy sweet tomatoes, tangy pepperoncini peppers, savory black olives, salty Parmesan, sharp red onions, and garlicky croutons. The salad is dressed in a homemade creamy Italian dressing (or grab the Olive Garden dressing at the store).
We’re obsessed with this Olive Garden copycat salad — it’s light, fresh, healthy, and loaded with flavor. The Italian dressing is easy to make and filled with good-for-you ingredients: olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and plenty of herbs. It’s the perfect pair for all the veggies!
And the ultimate finishing touch to this salad is the garlicky croutons and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top!
- Lettuce: while Olive Garden uses iceberg lettuce mix, we like it best with Romaine lettuce — either works!
- Red Onion: if you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, soak the onions in ice cold water (with a pinch of salt) for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and dry before adding to the salad.
- Pepperoncini: these are sweet, mild chili peppers, usually sold pickled. They’re generally found by pickles, jarred red peppers, and jarred artichokes in the grocery store.
- Tomato: any good ripe tomatoes will work in this salad (bonus points for garden tomatoes — they’re the best!). We also like to use cherry tomatoes.
- Black Olives: we like them whole, but feel free to halve or thinly slice them.
- Croutons: Olive Garden sells their croutons at the grocery store. Those work great in this salad, or any garlic-herb flavored croutons. 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. The lettuce/veggies/croutons don’t sit well with the dressing.
- Make ahead: you can make everything for this Olive Garden Salad ahead of time, just store everything (lettuce, salad ingredients, dressing, croutons) separately. Toss it all together right before eating!
- Grating parmesan cheese: I highly recommend grating the cheese on a microplane — it gives it an awesome light texture which helps it disperse more evenly throughout the salad.
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 pepperonici peppers, savory black olives, salty Parmesan, sharp red onions, and garlicky croutons. The salad is dressed in a homemade creamy Italian dressing (or grab the Olive Garden 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 cut up the lettuce and 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 (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). 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 (intensifies flavors). Shake again right before adding.
ASSEMBLY: Right before eating (Note 1) toss the salad with the dressing (you probably won't use all the dressing, use what you'd like -- 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 lettuce/veggies/croutons don’t sit well with the dressing, the croutons will get soggy.
Note 2: there is 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 5-7 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.