Copycat Olive Garden Salad (with Easy Homemade Dressing)

Inspired by the popular restaurant chain salad, this is our copycat recipe for the well-known, well-loved, perfectly fresh Olive Garden Salad. It makes a delicious and healthy side dish for any Italian meal, and the homemade Olive Garden dressing is a recipe you’ll want to make again and again. Trust us, we’ve been making it again and again ever since we perfected it at home. It’s that good! You can even make this Olive Garden Salad Recipe the star of the show by serving it as the main entree along with some grilled chicken, shrimp, or other protein.

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Yes, You can make olive garden salad at home

You don’t need to wait in line, you don’t need to be on the Olive Garden payroll, and you don’t even need to make a reservation to enjoy this famous salad. We’ve broken the code on the good ol’ OG salad, and it hits all the familiar flavors you crave. Using fresh greens, iconic salad toppers, and our secret recipe for creamy Olive Garden dressing means you can be enjoying this classic restaurant salad right in the comfort of your own home.

Ingredients to make Copycat Olive Garden Salad

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make an Olive Garden clone salad recipe at home:

  • Romaine salad mix – you’ll need 2 9-ounce bags of chopped romaine lettuce mixed with shredded carrots and purple cabbage, or use you can chop 2 heads of romaine yourself
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes – or you can use sliced Roma tomatoes 
  • Pepperoncinis – these sweet Italian chile peppers come in a jar; find them near the pickles and olives at your local grocery store
  • Large black olives – use canned or jarred
  • Red onion – you’ll need 1/2 cup (half of a small red onion), very thinly sliced
  • Parmesan cheese – use shredded or shaved Parmesan – omit the Parmesan for a dairy-free salad
  • Croutons – use any croutons you’d like, or make your own. For a gluten-free salad, use gluten-free croutons

Ingredients for the homemade creamy Italian dressing:

And here are the pantry ingredients you’ll need to gather to make a copycat recipe for Olive Garden salad dressing:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil 
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Mayonnaise 
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic clove
  • Honey 
  • Fine salt and cracked black pepper

How to make Olive Garden Salad recipe

This is a simple two-step salad that comes together so easily. Here’s what to do so you can enjoy a fresh and crisp Italian salad in just minutes!

  1. In a large bowl, place the salad ingredients: the romaine lettuce mix, tomatoes, pepperoncinis, black olives, red onion, Parmesan, and croutons. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: the olive oil, avocado oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, garlic, Dijon mustard, garlic, honey, salt, and pepper. 
  3. Pour desired amount of the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Serve with cracked black pepper and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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How this Salad fits into Your special diet

This fresh recipe for copycat Olive Garden Salad is easy to tailor to any dietary needs, so everyone can enjoy this popular salad, and even go back for seconds!

Gluten-free: Make this salad gluten-free by omitting the croutons, or use purchased gluten-free croutons, or make your own from gluten-free bread

Dairy-free: To make this Olive Garden salad dairy-free, simply omit the Parmesan

Nut-free: The recipe is naturally nut free

Vegan: For a vegan salad, omit the Parmesan. Also, use vegan mayonnaise in the dressing, such as Sir Kensington’s Vegan Mayo

Egg-free: Use a vegan mayonnaise

Whole30: To make Whole30 Olive Garden salad, omit the Parmesan in the salad and omit the honey in the dressing

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Is Olive Garden Salad Good for You?

It’s common for people to wonder if something as delicious as Olive Garden Salad can really be good for you. We’re here to let you know that this fresh salad is a healthy and nutritious. Plus, it’s so easy to make at home! Here are some nutrient-filled ingredients in our Olive Garden Salad clone recipe:

  • Romaine lettuce – this fresh and crispy lettuce may not get the health halo that spinach and kale receive, but it’s a great lettuce choice with mild flavor that many people enjoy. It’s also a good source of heart-healthy minerals, vitamin C, and plant-based calcium
  • Tomatoes – small tomatoes, like grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, tend to be your sweetest choice year-round. Because of their seeds and skins, they’re also a good source of fiber, as well as the bone- and skin-health powder combo of vitamins A and C
  • Black olives – just like the oil that comes from olives, olives themselves are a rich source of healthy fatty acids and antioxidants. They also contain vitamin E, which can help guard against premature skin aging
  • Pepperoncini – these small olive-green peppers are sweet Italian chile peppers, sometimes also called Tuscan peppers or Sweet Italian peppers. In addition to the tangy and tart flavor they add to this salad, pepperoncinis supply a good amount of hearth-supporting and antioxidant-rich vitamin C.
  • Olive oil and avocado oil – these lesser processed oils are chock full of healthy plant-based fats and antioxidants. They’re also preferred because they are known to be anti-inflammatory, rather than inflammation-causing, like other heavily processed and stripped vegetable oils are. We use the extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil from Primal Kitchen every day in our kitchens.

Serve this Olive Garden Salad with these dinners!

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What to serve with This OG clone salad recipe

The Olive Garden restaurant chain has roots in Italian cuisine, with many pasta entrees and Italian soups on the menu. For that reason, this salad (with its tasty Olive Garden Creamy Italian Dressing) is a great match for Italian recipes of all kinds, including those pictured above. It would also make a great complement to:

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Tips to make the best homemade Olive garden salad

When developing this recipe for Olive Garden Salad, we’ve discovered a few tips that make this salad irresistible every time.

Serve it chilled! The reason so many people love this salad at the restaurant is because it’s crisp and crunchy, right out of the chiller, when it comes to the table. No soggy, warm lettuce; no limp tomatoes. You can mimic this effect at home by combining the salad ingredients (sans the croutons) in a large bowl. Chill it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before adding the dressing and croutons, then serve it right away. Also, you can achieve a chilled Olive Garden salad by keeping all ingredients cold until right before you chop them. Then, toss everything together quickly and serve immediately.

Don’t skip the extras! Olive Garden has really perfected this recipe and people love it for a reason. The perfect combination of textures, flavors, and acidity come together for a satisfying salad that so many people love. That’s why we recommend you follow the recipe as written. Sure you could skip the pepperoncini peppers or the sliced red onion, if those aren’t your favorites. But just know that this salad is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

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How to store olive garden salad

Store leftover salad in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 day. Or, if you know that you won’t be eating the whole salad in one sitting, toss together only the amount of salad and dressing you’ll eat at once. Store the salad and dressing in separate containers for up to 3 days. Then toss the salad and dressing together right before eating. We also recommend storing the croutons separately at room temperature. Add them right before serving so they won’t get soggy.

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Recipe

Copycat Olive Garden Salad

Fresh, crisp, and just the way you remember, this simple recipe for Olive Garden Salad makes it so simple to enjoy this iconic restaurant salad at home. Comes complete with the clone recipe for Olive Garden Creamy Italian Dressing. 

Prep: 10 minsTotal: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 (9-ounce) bags classic romaine salad mix, or 2 heads of romaine, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, or 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 
  • ¾ cup pepperoncinis
  • ¾ cup large black olives
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ½ cup shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese*
  • 1 cup croutons of choice**

For the Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil 
  • 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise*** 
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey****
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt + more to taste
  • Pinch of black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the romaine salad mix, tomatoes, pepperoncinis, black olives, red onion, Parmesan, and croutons. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. 
  3. Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. 
  4. Garnish with cracked black pepper and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. 

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Notes

*For dairy-free, omit the Parmesan cheese
**For gluten-free, omit the croutons, or use gluten-free croutons
***For vegan, omit the Parmesan and use vegan mayo in the dressing
****For Whole30, omit the Parmesan and omit the honey in the dressing

Store leftover salad in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 day. Or, for fresher salad, store the salad ingredients and the dressing ingredients separately, and toss together only the amount you’ll eat in one sitting. Toss together when ready to serve. 

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1/8 of salad with dressing
  • Calories: 172
  • Fat: 13 g
  • (Sat Fat: 3 g)
  • Sodium: 585 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 9 g
  • (Fiber: 3 g
  • Sugar: 2 g)
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Cholesterol: 8 mg

Dietary

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