Olive Garden Salad Hack



My Italian father in-law eats the salad after the meal.  Even when out at a restaurant.  Yep, I’m not kidding you.  He asks the server to bring the salad after we eat.

My husband does it, too, but only at home, lol.

Now my daughter does it.  I’ve never gotten use to that because I can’t wait that long.

Especially when we eat out.

How to make your own Olive Garden Salad, just like there's but way better for you! This version is made with olive oil.

Our girls love going to the Olive Garden, and I admit that I do, too.  It’s the endless salad that brings me back, oh and the endless bread sticks.  Did you know you can ask for bread sticks to go at the end of your meal?  I do all the time.  They put them in a foil bag and I pop that in the freezer when I get home and then in the oven for 5 when we want them.  Just be careful, I burned the bag once.

Lets talk about their salad for a second.  I’ve studied it.  I know it by heart.

The size of the tomato slices, the 1-2 pepperoncini’s, and our favorite…the black olives.

What makes it one of the best salads I’ve ever had, is the dressing.  I was buying it for a while (yes they sell it at the restaurant)  until I found out how bad it is for us.

It’s made from soybean oil.  Soybean oil is big no no.
Olive Garden Salad Recipe

So, of course I got to thinking about how I could make the salad and dressing at home with my own recipe with olive oil.  Time for an “Olive Garden Salad Hack” or simply a salad that is inspired by the Olive Garden.

My husband and I turned our kitchen into a salad dressing taste testing lab one Saturday.  That was fun.  The hard part was photographing the salad with out eating it.  I took these pics quick and we all sat down and had salad for lunch.  The girls loved it.

Here’s the printable recipe…or you can always pin this for later.


Olive Garden Salad

Rating: 51

Prep Time:

Cook Time:

Yield: 5-6 servings

Olive Garden Salad


  • Salad:
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup radicchio washed and shredded (purple cabbage)
  • sliced red onion (use as much as you prefer)
  • 3-4 pepperoncini (mild)
  • 1 medium tomato washed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • black olives
  • croutons
  • grated cheese if desired (we usually don't because it's in the dressing)
  • Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Hellmans Canola Mayo
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese (or parmesan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper


For salad, combine ingredients in order in large bowl. For dressing, combine ingredients in a medium sized jar, or bowl with a lid. Shake well and poor preferred amount over salad right before serving. A little goes a long way. Mix salad up gently. We eat this with a side of crusty bread. Yum!!

LEFTOVER DRESSING: Store leftover dressing in fridge for up to one month. After it is chilled it will solidify a bit. To help get it more fluid when you are ready to use it, you can leave out for 30 minutes prior to use, and/or mix with a fork vigorously. A little goes a long way. I usually make a double batch so I have it for all of our salads and marinades. It's even great on subs.

Homemade Version of Olive Garden's Yummy Salad

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You may also like my new “Skinny Salad” recipe too!


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Sharing here: Lou Lou Girls

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49 Responses

  1. I love their salad, too…so I am definitely grabbing this recipe! Thanks so much, Julie!…hugs…Debbie

  2. Vanessa says:

    Totally making this ASAP and so glad its a healthier version!!

  3. Gee says:

    Having it on my salad right now!!!! Had it , lost it. Now thanks to you , I have it again!!

  4. kristin says:

    oh my this looks amazing! That is funny he eats it after dinner 🙂 Pinned.

  5. Oh that looks so good Julie! I need to remember about the breadsticks to go – great tip!

  6. Lois says:

    Would another oil work? Olive oil adds too much of its own taste.

  7. Dawn says:

    You don’t have olives listed on the ingredients.

  8. Jackie says:

    Please clarify for me, do you user radicchio or red cabbage? They aren’t the same thing in my understanding. Since I have never been to Olive Garden, I am anxious to try your version!

    • Julie says:

      Hmmmm…I thought they were the same. I just read where purple cabbage (or red) is cheaper and not bitter. Go with that. I have no idea what I used, but I’ll always go with cheaper. Not sure what they use in restaurant either. Thanks for pointing this out!

  9. Tiffany says:

    How long can the dressing last after its made?

    • Julie Fiato says:

      I would say at least 2 weeks Tiffany. Just refrigerate it.

      • Tiffany says:

        OK thanks. One more question…I’m making it for tomorrow. Do you think the salad would turn if I made it night before??

        • Julie Fiato says:

          I would prep the lettuce and other veggies the day of and put in fridge until time to eat covered with saran wrap. The dressing can be made ahead though. Mix everything in a big bowl right before you eat. Not too much dressing…just leave out extra incase people want more dressing.

  10. Laura Lou says:

    I’m 21 weeks pregnant and eating as healthy as possible, but got a major craving for Olive Garden’s salad. Your recipe NAILED it, and I don’t feel as guilty for eating my weight in it ? I will definitely be making it regularly, thank you!!

  11. Bonnie says:

    If soybean oil is a no no on your list you may want to look at healthier options for your mayo as I’m pretty sure the first ingredient in the hellman’s light mayo is soybean oil….

  12. Sheri Bryant says:

    Hi Julie,
    i just wanted to say thank you to you and your husband for trimming down this salad dressing. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate what you both have done.
    Sheri B.

  13. Abigail says:

    I love you for this. Lol! I’ve always loved Olive Garden salad and never got to eat there enough. Now I moved the UK where there is no Olive Garden and at 9 weeks pregnant, I’m craving it like you wouldn’t believe! Now I can eat it all I want, just need breadsticks to go with it. 🙂 Thank you thank you thank you.

  14. Liz says:

    Sssooooo good! I was looking for something like this. I love OG dressing but wanted something more homemade … and I actually think this is better than the original. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  15. Nicole says:

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!! This salad dressing is sooooooo good! You definitely need to let it marinate for a couple of hours, but it is well worth it! This one is spot on and I always have these ingredients on hand! This definitely makes it to where I know what’s going in my body and I can now eat more salads, no more excuses!!!!!

    Thank you very much for sharing this!!!!

  16. JaneEllen Jones says:

    Just give me their soup (one with kale), salad and bread sticks, that’s all I need. Our daughter makes hack of soup, tastes pretty darned good. They eat more Italian food than we do, she’s really good and adventurous cook, unlike her Mother.
    Your lasagna looks and sounds pretty good even tho am not much of lasagna eater, cheese too thick makes me gag.
    Sounds like your family is pretty lucky having good cook. I used to be but lost interest after all (4) kids left home. After that hubs took up all the cooking, welcome to it. I clean up and he cooks,pretty darned good cook too.
    Hope you’re having wonderful Fall weather. Have great week. Love your blog

    • Julie Fiato says:

      Hi Jane! A husband that cooks is such a blessing!! I like how you guys share the chores. So sweet! Rick (my husband) can cook, too. He makes great tomato sauce! Now I want some. 🙂 ~ Julie

  17. Chantel Hayes says:

    What is wrong with Soybean oil? I’m so tired of the “no no’s” that people come up with. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that….for God sake, every thing it’s fine….in moderation! Guess what, I eat High Fructose Corn Syrup, and I don’t care if it has MSG in it….and you know what….I’m perfectly healthy. I’m 5’4″ and only weigh 115lbs…..I have never been hospitalized, and I don’t even have allergies! And I’m 36 yrs old…and I used to smoke in my early 20’s….and I’m Still fine! Oooh and I use a microwave to reheat things too….!

    • Julie Fiato says:

      Hi Chantel, I get frustrated at times, too. Lots of rules with trying to be healthy. Lucky for you, you are still very young. As you age, your health will change and you will need to modify things. Good luck and happy eating!

  18. Chanele says:

    I tried this and it was right on!! I ended up making twice in two weeks. I am only cooking for two so it ends up lasting us awhile! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Can you use regular mayo instead of canola mayo in the Olive Garden Dressing?

  20. Tiffani says:

    I’m 13 weeks pregnant and I have been craving Olive Garden salad as well! My husband and I actually went there for my birthday and I ate the entire bowl on my own lol. I will definitely be making this! Would it taste any different if I didn’t add the sugar?

    • Julie says:

      Tiffani, I just made a batch last week and we were talking about how good it is. You are going to love it. It’s very little sugar so I don’t think it will matter that much. Try it both ways ?

  21. Carole says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve seen several copycat recipes for the dressing floating around the web, but haven’t been too excited by them. This one, I will try.

  22. Meghan Parent says:

    What brand or type of croutons do you recommend? Thanks.

  23. Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try it, I love their dressing!

  24. Paula says:

    I love Olive Garden salad and will be trying this recipe very soon.

  25. […] Click here to print my favorite salad to serve with the lasagna… […]

  26. skinny salad says:

    […] best part is that I used my dressing recipe from the “Olive Garden Salad Hack“.  Did you see that post yet?  It has become my most popular post of all […]

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