2013 – Gluten Free Living
I LOVE Olive Garden’s featured salad and dressing along with a host of their other entrees and food items. I’m a tomato lover anyway, add in some olives and pepperocinis to give a salad a little bite and I’m delerious with enjoyment! I was in the mood for Olive Garden Salad last week but I didn’t want to go out to eat, nor use the bottles of Olive Garden salad dressing I have in my refrigerator or on my pantry shelf. I wanted to see if I could improve on the copycat versions available by eliminating mayonnaise, sugar, and corn syrup and make a satisfying dressing that was healthy, yet still very close to the original in flavor.
Many of you who follow my blog know I’ve been on a journey for the past four years to eat healthy and healthier and keep my weight down, so I’ve been trying to come up with gluten free and healthier versions of many of my favorite foods in order to accomplish those goals. To that end, I eat a LOT of salads, fruits, soups, and veggies, and I limit my use of lean meats and dairy. For the most part that eliminates sweet desserts, pasta, pizza, fried or junk foods, and I stick with clean eating except for special occasions. It has made a significant difference in my overall health so I will continue to try to eat cleaner in the future. Anyway, I find lots of recipes online and on Pinterest that I modify somewhat in order to accomplish my healthy eating goals. This is one of those recipes I have been wanting to makeover for sometime, as I am always on the lookout for healthy salad dressing recipes that don’t use high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial sweeteners, mayonnaise, and other ingredients like soy, fillers, GMO products, or MSG. And when a makeover recipe turns out as well as this one I am ecstatic!
Both of the dressings turned out fantastic. But one came out sensational in replicating the taste of Olive Garden’s original dressing. I substituted Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise in each recipe–which was a completely excellent call for a substitution. Then I substituted honey for the corn syrup in one recipe and honey for the sugar in the other recipe. I also substituted olive oil (I only use extra virgin olive oil) for regular vegetable oil since it is a lot healthier. One recipe needed more Italian seasoning, in my opinion, and while the taste was great for a healthy salad dressing, I did not personally feel it came close to replicating Olive Garden’s recipe. Perhaps the original version is a little better, but this one does not compare. Even saying that, the dressing itself was extraordinarily tasty. I would easily consider making it again with my healthy substitutions and adding more Italian seasoning and perhaps more garlic.
The other copycat version from The Country Cook, however, turned out phenomenally–in color, texture and taste. Mine was slightly greener because I used olive oil, but the taste was really close to Olive Garden’s version–and it’s a LOT healthier, too, for those who want healthy versions of their favorite recipes. The salad dressing recipes I include here are both gluten free, and if you leave off the croutons on the salad (unless you make homemade gluten free croutons) then both the salad and salad dressing are healthy, low calorie, and gluten free. I will add one other comment–this salad tastes more like Olive Garden’s salad when you add a LOT of freshly grated (fine grate) Parmesan cheese to the salad. Without adding that, you won’t be able to get even close to the original taste.
Let me also add that I have taken a little license with Olive Garden’s salad, too. Most Olive Garden’s are notorious for being very stingy on topping ingredients. You are lucky if you get one or two olives, tomato slices, or pepperocinis when your table is served a bowl of their salad, while getting a half cup of red onion rings! We almost always ask for more tomatoes and dressing, and sometimes extra olives and pepperocinis too, because we prefer salads with more than just lettuce. For this salad, I’ve also incorporated cucumbers which are not on Olive Garden’s salad menu, but since we enjoy them a lot, I included them in the pictures for this post.
If you love Olive Garden’s Salad like I do, but would like to make your own healthier version of their great salad dressing, then you’ve got to consider trying out either of these great healthy copycat versions below. While both versions taste great, my healthy adaptation of the The Country Cook’s version turned out spectacular and closer to the original Olive Garden recipe in taste, texture, and appearance. The reason I’m including BOTH copycat versions is because my healthy adaptation of the other salad dressing also turned out so well in taste that for those who are just looking for healthy salad dressing recipes, this gives you another option. It just doesn’t taste or look quite like Olive Garden’s salad dressing with these adaptations. So, I offer you both versions and pictures of each particular dressing which I will label well. You’ll also get double the pictures in this post because of it.
My healthy version of Olive Garden’s copycat dressing is really wonderful.
Sprinkling plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper help bring out the tastes you’re used to when eating Olive Garden’s salad.
Here’s a close up so you can see the texture of the salad with the first version of my healthy copycat dressing.
This is what the first version of my copycat dressing looks like. It’s slightly greener since I use olive oil in place of the vegetable oil in the recipe.
This close up shows the salad all mixed up.
By eliminating the croutons or substituting gluten free croutons you can have a gluten free salad.
Here’s a look at the salad with my healthy version #2 copycat dressing. You can see by looking at the dressing that it does not have the same color as Olive Garden’s recipe. Still, this tasty dressing is very healthy and a great option for any kind of salad dressing.
Both of the copycat salad dressings turned out with a wonderful taste and I will make each of them in the future. But the first version looks and tastes a lot closer to Olive Garden’s original recipe in my opinion.
This close up shows the salad with version #2 salad dressing. I think this healthy version would really work nicely with green salads that have a lot of nuts and fruit in them.
Here’s a look at the salad before any dressing is added. I tried using larger Parmesan pieces, here, but I ended up liking the salad better with a finer grated Parmesan cheese.
Here’s another close up with version #1 healthy salad dressing. I used a finer grated cheese and I liked it a lot better. But you can grate the cheese any way you desire.
Here’s what I did.
Toss lettuce mix into a large salad bowl.
Add sliced tomatoes. This is about 20 times more tomatoes than Olive Garden puts in their salads, but we really love tomatoes so I added a lot of extra slices.
I added cucumbers which are NOT in Olive Garden’s traditional salad.
Add jumbo black olives. This is about 10 times more olives than Olive Garden usually uses. We prefer a lot of toppings on our salads.
Add pepperocinis. This is about 5 times more pepperocinis than found in most Olive Garden salads. Again, we prefer a lot!
Add grated Parmesan cheese. I ended up liking it better with finely grated Parmesan cheese, but I did that after I took this picture.
Add red onion rings and serve with salad dressing: either healthy version copycat #1, or healthy version copycat #2 (pictured above).
To make salad dressings: For healthy copycat version #1: Start with a packet of Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix. I checked the ingredients carefully. This packet does have sugar, but no gluten, and not a lot of the fillers I was expecting.
Measure white vinegar into a measuring cup. Then pour into a pint-sized mason jar.
Now add the Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix to the mason jar.
Here I’ve added the three ingredients.
Cover the mason jar with a lid and shake vigorously.
Now add olive oil to the mason jar and shake again. This is a lot healthier option than any of the vegetable oils.
Add Italian seasoning, kosher or sea salt, black pepper, Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt, and honey.
Now you will add garlic powder, more olive oil, and more white vinegar.
Here, I’m adding more olive oil.
Here I’m adding more vinegar.
Here I’m adding more water.
Seal mason jar and shake vigorously again for about 60 seconds until all the ingredients are well combined.
This is what my healthy version #1 copycat salad dressing looks like. I LOVED this stuff!
For my healthy copycat version #2: Place yogurt in a blender. I started out with a bowl and had to move it to the blender.
Add white vinegar.
Add olive oil.
Add grated Parmesan cheese.
Add shredded Romano cheese.
Add minced garlic. I highly recommend you increase this amount to using at least 3 large cloves garlic.
Add Italian seasoning. I went back and added more because the dressing needed a little more zip.
Add dried parsley.
Add lemon juice.
Blend ingredients in your blender until well mixed.
Here’s what my healthy copycat version #2 of Olive Garden salad dressing looked like.
Both salad dressings are delicious and can be used on any kind of salad you make–whether you try to replicate Olive Garden’s salad or not.
But version #1 with the Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix came really close to replicating the traditional Olive Garden dressing–even with my changes to the oil, sugar and mayonnaise and substituting olive oil, honey, and Greek yogurt–this dressing still tasted amazingly like Olive Garden’s dressing.
As you cans see, we prefer more olives, pepperocinis, and tomatoes on our version of Olive Garden Salad.
This healthy copycat version of Olive Garden’s salad dressing is amazing! It’s healthy, low calorie, and gluten free.
You can use the traditional lettuce mix or you can use iceberg lettuce with a little shredded carrot and red cabbage in a pinch if you can’t find the other mixes in the store.
This salad is really healthy, too. Toss the croutons if you can’t eat them. Regardless, this is such a scrumptious salad.
Here’s a look at the salad before I served it.
This salad is packed with healthy vegetables: tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, olives, and pepperocini. Adding croutons and a little grated Parmesan cheese finishes it out nicely.
Healthy copycat version #2 tasted wonderfully. I would recommend adding more Italian seasoning and garlic for taste.
Here I’ve added Healthy Salad Dressing Version #2 on top of the Olive Garden salad.
Here are the recipes.
HEALTHY OLIVE GARDEN SALAD & COPYCAT DRESSINGS
(Recipe adapted from Olive Garden)
(My version of Olive Garden salad)
about 6-8 cups iceberg lettuce mix (with carrots and shredded red cabbage)
4-5 roma tomatoes, sliced
½ cucumber, peeled and sliced
½ cup red onion slices, sliced thinly and separated into rings
¾ cup ripe jumbo olives, whole, drained
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Texas Toast croutons, as desired
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Layer salad ingredients in this order in large salad bowl: lettuce mix, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, pepperoncini and red onion rings. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. To serve: toss salad ingredients and place on plates. Drizzle with salad dressing; sprinkle with kosher salt. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with croutons, then extra Parmesan cheese, as desired. Serves 6-8.
NOTE: You can also substitute one head iceberg lettuce, ¼ cup shredded carrots and ¼ cup shredded red cabbage for the lettuce mix.
NOTE: Olive Garden is a little sparing on their ingredients except for lettuce and onions sometimes. We always ask for more tomatoes and dressing on the side. Sometimes we’ve even asked for more olives and pepperocinis. This recipe reflects our tastes. Olive Garden does not add cucumber to their salads. That’s my addition.
HEALTHY SALAD DRESSING VERSION #1:
(Recipe adapted from The Country Cook)
1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix (this does have sugar in the ingredients but no gluten)
¼ cup white vinegar
3 tbsp. water
½ cup olive oil
½ tsp. dried Italian seasoning
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. honey
1 tbsp. Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 ½ tbsp. water
In a pint-size mason jar, pour ¼ cup white vinegar and 3 tbsp. water. Add Italian Dressing mix, replace lid and shake. Add ½ cup olive oil and shake again. Now add Italian seasoning, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, honey, Greek yogurt, olive oil, white vinegar, and remaining water. Seal lid on mason jar and shake thoroughly for 30-60 seconds or until ingredients are well mixed. Makes 1 pint salad dressing.
NOTE: The color of this salad dressing is a little greener than Olive Garden’s salad dressing because I use ALL olive oil and NO vegetable oil. I substituted vanilla Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and honey for the sugar in the copycat recipe.
HEALTHY SALAD DRESSING VERSION #2:
(Recipe adapted from copyKat.com)
½ cup Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. honey
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup finely grated Romano cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced (I recommend increasing this to three cloves garlic, minced)
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Combine ingredients in blender and pulse until well mixed. Combine with salad or drizzle over individual servings. Garnish salad with croutons, salt and pepper, and more grated Parmesan cheese.
NOTE: I substituted Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and honey for the corn syrup in this copycat recipe. I increased the Italian seasoning and I would recommend increasing the garlic to at least 3 cloves.
Doesn’t this salad look wonderful? It was so fresh and crisp!
I served my Healthy Olive Garden Salad with Copycat Dressings with a delicious homemade Whole Wheat Greek Bread.
Are you salivating yet?
This healthy copycat version #1 is so quick and easy to make up. You can have your salad dressing ready to go in under 10 minutes!
We loved both of these healthy versions of salad and salad dressing.
If you love Olive Garden Salad you will love these recipes.
Healthy copycat version #2 is also quick and easy to make. You just pour or sprinkle everything into your blender and pulse until smooth. It also only takes about 5-10 minutes to prepare.
Come join our family for our healthier versions of Olive Garden salad!