A white bowl filled with olive garden copycat salad with two wooden spoons. Tomatoes, dressing and a striped towel off to the side

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Why I love this olive garden salad recipe 

I know a lot of places are opening back up, but the thought of going out to eat right now just doesn’t thrill me like it used to. Especially when we have to deal with food allergies on top of everything else.

Thankfully, we can make copycat versions of our favorite dishes, and this one is almost spot-on. I say almost because we left out the cheese, but this salad recipe is really satisfying. Feel free to add that back in if it works for you.

And since you’re making it at home, you can add as many of your favorite ingredients – for me it’s the olives and pepperoncini – as you want.

A bowl filled with Olive garden copycat salad with two forks and salad dressing to the side

Here’s what you’ll need to make it

Dairy free tip: make sure to read the label on your croutons package. Many of them contain hidden dairy. If you aren’t able to find dairy free croutons at the store, you can easily make some homemade croutons. It’s easier than you might think.

A close up vew of salad in a white bowl

How to make olive garden salad

Start with a bag of salad. Shortcuts like this save so much time and make it more realistic to cook at home on a regular basis. We usually opt for Italian or American blend bags, but if you really want to prepare your own lettuce, go for it.

Make the dressing. For this recipe, I usually mix a batch of my creamy Italian dressing. It’s really similar to Olive Garden salad dressing, but it doesn’t contain milk. If you want to make this salad vegan, swap the mayo for vegan mayonnaise.

Toss the salad. Add the salad ingredients to a big mixing bowl, and top with salad dressing. Mix the salad to coat it evenly in the dressing. This simple step takes the salad from homemade to “restaurant quality”.

Holding a wooden spoon in the bowl of salad

FAQ’s and tips for making olive garden salad dressing

What is in a salad at Olive Garden?

The salad at Olive Garden contains pepperoncini, tomatoes, croutons, olives, sliced onions, and a mix of lettuce. With that, there is an Italian dressing which unfortunately contains Parmesan cheese making it not dairy free.

Can I cut my own lettuce?

Absolutely! Grab a head of romaine or iceberg lettuce and cut it up into salad sized chunks. You can even add in some shredded carrots and a little sliced purple cabbage if you want.

Does the type of onions really matter?

Yes, red onions are the perfect onion for salads and sandwiches because they have a simple sweetness to them that the other onion varieties don’t have. 

How long is this Olive Garden salad dressing good for?

You can expect it to last anywhere between 3 to 5 days if you keep it stored in the fridge in an airtight container (Mason jars work great!)

Can I make Olive Garden salad in advance?

Yes, but not completely. This salad and the dressing can be made separately and kept apart until you’re ready to serve. Making the salad too far in advance will cause the lettuce to wilt in the dressing and the croutons to soften.

A close up view of the salad dressing drizzled over the olive garden salad

More salad recipes like this one

Other Italian recipes you’re going to love


Olive Garden Salad

You don’t need to go out to enjoy the flavors of your favorite Italian salad. This Olive Garden salad recipe is super easy to make at home and features all your favorite ingredients – tomatoes, olives, croutons and that classic peperoncini. I’ve made this one dairy free, but you can easily customize it at the table with your favorite cheese, just like they do at the restaurant.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Italian, American



For the salad:

  • 1 bag Italian (or American) salad mix
  • 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 1/8 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 13 black olives
  • 12 pepperoncini peppers

For the Olive Garden salad dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss until the salad is evenly coated.


*Use vegan mayo to make this salad vegan


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 209
  • Sugar: 2.7 g
  • Sodium: 279.5 mg
  • Fat: 18.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10.8 g
  • Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Protein: 2.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 4.3 mg

Keywords: dairy free, easy, copycat, salad, dressing, vegetarian

Last Updated on November 12, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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