Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat Dressings
2013 – Gluten Free Living
Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat Dressings give you two delicious ways to make this lovely restaurant dressing. 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 delirious 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 Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat 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.
Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat Dressings are 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of my Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat 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.
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.
Here are the recipes.
HEALTHY OLIVE GARDEN SALAD & COPYCAT DRESSINGS
- 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
- 8-10 pepperocini
- 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, pepperocini 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.
- 1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix (this does have sugar in the mix 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. [url href=”http://chobani.com/home/” target=”_blank” title=”chobani”]Chobani[/url] 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.
- ½ cup [url href=”http://chobani.com/home/” target=”_blank” title=”chobani”]Chobani [/url]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 using 3 large garlic cloves, 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.
Are you salivating yet? My Healthy Olive Garden Salad Copycat Dressings are terrific.
I served my Healthy Olive Garden Salad with Copycat Dressings with a delicious homemade Whole Wheat Greek Bread.
Doesn’t this salad look wonderful? It was so fresh and crisp!
We loved both of these healthy versions of salad and salad dressing. If you love Olive Garden Salad you will love these recipes.