How to Make a Copy Cat Olive Garden Salad

Side Dish, Side Salads | 25 comments

When my kids were younger, eating out on a budget wasn’t too terribly difficult, even for our family of seven.

One of our favorite restaurants has always been the Olive Garden, affectionately known to our family as “The Grape Place,” because that’s what the kids called it when they were very young based on their familiar logo.

Big portions of pasta and endless bowls of salad and baskets of breadsticks make for a hearty meal and went a long way with our large family.

How to Make Olive Garden Salad at Home

Written by Tara of Unsophisticook

But as time marches on, one by one my kids are starting to graduate from the children’s menu to the regular menu, and we’re finding out that a meal out can put quite a dent in our finances — which is why we’ve started trying to recreate some of our favorite dining out dishes at home.

A favorite restaurant copy cat dish of ours is this recipe for Olive Garden’s salad dressing. Creamy and tangy just like the original, it’s delicious poured over a big bowl of salad greens, topped with red onion, black olives, Roma tomato, pepperoncini, and your favorite croutons – try this recipe for buttery sourdough garlic croutons.

How to Make Olive Garden Salad at Home

For a real restaurant-style experience, pick up one of these handheld rotary cheese graters and a chunk of real, fresh parmesan cheese. Though fresh parmesan is a little more pricey than its shelf-stable counterpart, a little of this cheese will go a long way, and it lasts quite awhile when wrapped well and stored in the refrigerator.

Pair this recipe for Olive Garden’s salad with Katie’s version of their creamy and rich Italian Sausage and Kale Soup (known as Zuppa Toscana) and a few slices of rustic homemade bread for a delicious comforting Italian dinner.

What is your favorite restaurant dish to recreate at home?

Copy Cat Olive Garden Salad and Dressing Recipe

Print Save Recipe


For the dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup white vinegar
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2/3 cup parmesan romano cheese blend
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

For the salad:

1 bag salad blend of your choice
sliced red onion
black olives
sliced Roma tomato
freshly grated parmesan cheese


Mix all of the salad dressing ingredients well in a blender or food processor. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Assemble salad and toppings in a large bowl. Pour on desired amount of dressing and toss right before serving. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This makes enough dressing for about four large bowls of salad and will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

About the Author:

Tara Kuczykowski lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, Luke, and five active kids ages 5-10 years old. When she's not shuttling one or more kids to baseball, gymnastics, basketball, or some other sport of the season, you'll find her in the kitchen cooking and baking to feed her family wholesome meals, mostly from scratch. She shares her favorite tried and true recipes and tips on her blog, Unsophisticook.

Email  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

  • 1
    Rachel @ painfreekitchen - February 27, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    Thank you for this post. The salad and the breadsticks are hands down two of my favorite things to eat (and unfortunately not so good for you). I’m gluten and dairy free, so will need to do a little tweaking, but I have a feeling this will allow me to get as close to the real thing as possible :)


  • 2
    Carla @ Carlas Confections - February 28, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    I love that! Cant wait to try it myself :)


  • 3
    Erin D. - March 06, 2013 @ 7:45 am

    “The grape place.” I love it. :) I don’t think I’ve actually ever been to Olive Garden, which is really weird. I’m not a big fan of salad or vegetables (actually, they’re my least favorite food!) but my husband LOVES salad but rarely makes it. I’m definitely going to try this out. Thanks!


  • 4
    Shoba Shrinivasan - April 01, 2013 @ 8:26 pm


    Neer thought of it as ” The Grape Place”…such a cute expression! Lovely recipe and I should really try it sometime. Would take out tonnes of sodium in the restaurant version definitely!



  • 5
    Julia | JuliasAlbum.com - April 07, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

    This salad looks delicious! Pinned!


  • 6
    Pamela - April 15, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

    We actually do not use any parmesan cheese on the salads. Fresh romano cheese is what is in the cheese graters.


  • 7
    Arielle - May 29, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

    Just made this, thanks for posting! I think it has a little bit too much sugar for my taste and not enough seasonings and cheese but it was a really good place to start


  • 8
    Erinn - June 18, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    Wow! Thanks for the recipe! My friends and I are having dinner tonight, and we all wanted Olive Garden, but we’re all BROKE! So instead, we decided to make it all at my house and imitate it. Cannot wait to try this out. I’ll reply again with my results :)


  • 9
    Kay - July 20, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    Before I make this wanted to know if you drain the pepperoncini when you toss it in the salad?


    • Tara Kuczykowski replied: — July 22nd, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

      Yes, I would drain the juice off before putting them in the salad, but you don’t necessarily need to slice each one individually to drain out any juice inside them.

  • 10
    Christine - August 27, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

    My daughter is the pickiest eater. I thought for sure
    No matter what recipe I tried she would hate it.
    Well, I was proudly wrong. This is a great
    Recipe. Thank you so much for posting this


  • 11
    Dennis - October 19, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    Sorry, but I tried this recipe the other night with high expectations. Not even close to Olive Garden’s Italian salad dressing. Way too watery.


  • 12
    Kristen - October 30, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    Does anyone know what parmesano and romano cheese blend to buy because i am not quite sure???


    • Lizz replied: — March 18th, 2014 @ 2:05 PM

      I bought the Homestyle 100% natural parmasean and romano (aged over 5mo.ths) it tastes pretty good.

  • 13
    aswathi - December 08, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

    hai i loved ur recipie. This was the one i was looking for the past 1 year. I just want to know which is the best lettuce to buy for this salad. Im not interested in salad bags. can u please help me.


    • Lainie replied: — January 8th, 2014 @ 2:45 PM

      Romaine lettuce.

  • 14
    shirley - April 16, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

    Hi Ijust read your recipe and hope to make it tonight,Thank you ahead of time.


  • 15
    Bonnie - May 05, 2014 @ 2:53 pm

    The overall dressing is delicious, but as someone else commented, it was way too watery. I added about 1 more cup of mayo, and it was a much better consistency.


  • 16
    maroonmango - May 27, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    Hi there thanks for this recipe, will be giving it a go tonight as we are a little sick of our usual italian salad. For those of you saying it is too watery try adding a 1/4 tsp or so of xanthan gum to it (I always have it around due to being gluten free) it is a thickening agent used in a lot of store bought sauces and dressings, it won’t add flavour like overdoing it with mayo or other things.


  • 17
    Natalie - October 21, 2014 @ 12:04 am

    So good I made it two days in a row! I made it vegan by using sunflower mayonnaise and vegan parmesan and it was like the real thing I tell ya! Not sure what I did differently, but my dressing was not watery at all, I even ended up adding a bit of water to it. If there was ever a reason to buy a whole jar of pepperoncini, this is it. Thanks very much!


  • 18
    Karen - April 20, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

    Thank you for this recipe – I cannot wait to try it using all organic ingredients. I love Olive Garden dressing, but dislike the preservatives, the GMO high-fructose corn syrup and fake colorings. Going to try this!!


  • 19
    Pat Germal - May 07, 2015 @ 3:39 pm

    That was the best salad ever! thank you so much!


  • 20
    Beth Gabhart - June 05, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

    I use this salad dressing for all of my salads. My family of 5 goes through a batch within 4 days. Definitely try this recipe! WARNING: one huge bowl of salad needs like 1/4 cup of dressing. It is very easy to over-dress the salad!


  • 21
    Sandy - October 26, 2015 @ 7:19 pm

    Made this tonight. Halved the recipe as I don’t often use the same dressing more than twice. This one I will. It was very good. I also thinly sliced chicken brcipe. Season with Greek seasoning and grilled. Sliced and served over top. Everybody ate it and thought it was delicious, even the kids. I didn’t have any croutons though. Will have to try again with them. Thanks so much for recipe.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie Goodman replied: — November 10th, 2015 @ 2:01 PM

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by to tell us. :)

Leave a Comment