This easy Italian Salad is a copycat Olive Garden salad recipe topped with tomatoes, onions, black olives, pepperoncini, and croutons.
We make this delicious salad as a dinner side dish for spaghetti, pizza, or fettuccini alfredo!
We enjoy eating at Olive Garden, but getting to one isn’t always convenient, and me and my girls especially love the soup and salad! So we make this Italian salad at home along with garlic breadsticks, Italian sausage soup, and whatever pasta we are craving.
Here’s What You Need To Know To Make This Copycat Olive Garden Salad Recipe
Ingredients Needed and Substitutions
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this salad and possible substitutions. Be sure to check out the recipe card for the specific amounts needed.
- Lettuce: We use Romaine lettuce for this recipe and chop it before making the salad to get fresh, bite-sized pieces. If you are short on time, you can buy bagged, chopped Romaine.
- Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes are an excellent choice for this Italian salad because they are firm and sturdy with fewer seeds. Plus, the slices are the perfect size for a salad. You substitute the Roma tomatoes with grape or cherry tomatoes. But if you want to use another kind of tomato, remove the seeds and then dice the tomatoes.
- Olives: We used whole black olives, but sliced ones would work too.
- Onion: The sliced red onion add a spicy flavor and pretty pop of color.
- Pepperoncini: These pickled peppers add a tangy flavor to the salad. We used whole pepperoncini, but sliced ones would work as well. If you don’t care for pepperoncini, you can leave them off the salad and could use diced or sliced bell peppers instead.
- Croutons: If you have the time, be sure to make homemade croutons! They are so good you might want to make extra since everyone will want to snack on them as well.
- Parmesan: We suggest using fresh grated Parmesan over the shaker bottle version for the best flavor. You can also use fresh shredded or shaved Parmesan as well.
- Italian Dressing: We made the most delicious homemade Italian dressing to put on top of this salad! You can also buy Olive Garden dressing or use your favorite bottled brand.
- Optional Ingredients: You can also add shredded carrots and red cabbage.
How To Make Italian Salad
This copycat Olive Garden salad recipe is so easy to make! You can prepare the dressing and croutons ahead of time if you want homemade versions.
- Chop and Slice: Wash and dry the lettuce and veggies. Slice and chop them so that they are bite-sized.
- Assemble: Arrange the lettuce in a bowl and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, black olives, pepperoncini, grated parmesan, and croutons.
- Dressing: You can add the dressing to the whole salad and toss it to coat everything. Or serve the dressing on the side so everyone can add however much they want.
We usually enjoy this salad as written, but sometimes it is fun to add a little more. Here is how you can turn it into a pasta salad or an antipasto salad.
Italian Salad with Pasta
To make this Italian salad with pasta, add a cup or two of cooked ditalini pasta and crumbled bacon bits. Plus, skip the parmesan and top the salad with 1/2 cup of gorgonzola cheese instead.
For an antipasto salad, add cured meats such as chopped deli ham, pepperoni, and salami. For pickled vegetables, add the pepperoncini as well as chopped artichoke hearts. You could also use pickled onions. Mozzarella balls and sun-dried tomatoes would be great additions as well.
Make Ahead and Storage
Leftovers of this Italian salad do not last well, so only make as much as you plan to eat.
- Plan Ahead: If you want to make this salad to enjoy throughout the week or prep it beforehand, chop and slice the veggies and keep them in separate containers. Then you can quickly assemble the salad for lunch or dinner.
- Refrigerator: Store the salad and dressing in the refrigerator. Add the croutons, grated parmesan, and dressing before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prepare it ahead of time by chopping and slicing the vegetables. Then, you can assemble most of the salad but wait to add the croutons, parmesan, and Italian dressing until you are ready to serve.
It is made of romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, black olives, pepperoncini, shredded carrots, red cabbage, croutons, Parmesan, and Italian dressing.
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