Our veganized copycat recipe of Olive Garden’s House Salad contains iceberg and romaine lettuces mixed with red onion, black olives and more. It’s finished with piquant pepperoncini peppers and a homemade, creamy Italian dressing. True, this salad may be more Italian-American than Italian, but hey, so is Pasta Primavera. And trust me, your taste buds won’t care where this sublime salad got its start because it is pure deliciousness from start to finish.
This post contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates, we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases (at no cost to you). Click here to read our full policy about affiliate links.
Okay, full disclosure: I’ve never had the house salad from Olive Garden. But the way B raved about it when she wanted to veganize it, I knew it had to be good. Like really, really good because B never raves about leafy green salad!
At first I didn’t understand what would need to be veganized. “It’s a salad,” I said. (I really didn’t have much Olive Garden experience.)
Then she explained that even though you can stuff yourself full with unlimited soups (their minestrone is vegan!) and bread sticks there, the salad has dairy in the croutons, the dressing, and the salad itself has shredded cheese. So I got to work, did my research, and it wasn’t long before recipe testing yielded some delicious results.
Today, I am proud to bring you my new favorite summer green salad. It’s packed with fresh veggies and crunchy croutons and vegan cheese and so, so much flavor. And it’s so easy to put together in the comfort of your own home.
If you’ve never had the Olive Garden salad before, welcome to your new favorite salad.
Why You’ll Love Our Copycat Olive Garden Salad Recipe:
- It’s full of fresh ingredients and easy to make, but so flavorful and satisfying. I could probably eat this whole salad.
- There’s no need to turn on the oven. Perfect for those hot summer days and nights.
- It tastes just like the original, as B excitedly tells me, but dairy free and vegan. Great for guests who have allergies or are vegan.
What is in Olive Garden salad?
We kept our recipe true to what’s in this classic Italian house salad – with some slight vegan twists.
For the salad, you’ll need:
- Iceberg and romaine lettuce – chopped
- Roma tomatoes – sliced as rounds
- Red onion – sliced
- Shredded carrots – You can buy them bagged or shred your own with the julienne peeler from Microplane.
- Black olives – pit removed and whole from a can or jar.
- Pepperoncini – whole and marinated in the jar. Also known as the Golden Greek pepper and the Tuscan pepper. You can easily find small pepperoncini jars near the pickles and olives in the grocery store or at Target or Walmart sold by brands like Cento and Mezzetta.
- Croutons – Read the ingredients to make sure the brand you’re using is vegan-friendly. Or make your own easy vegan homemade croutons in the air fryer with any bread!
Olive Garden Salad Dressing ingredients:
- Italian Dressing – Check to make sure the brand you’re using is vegan. Most are! We used our homemade Italian dressing!
- Vegan mayo – Our favorites are Vegenaise and Hellman’s Vegan Mayo
For topping, you’ll need:
- Extra croutons
- Vegan parmesan cheese – We love freshly grated vegan parmesan from Violife! Follow Your Heart also makes a pre-shredded version. Or make your vegan cheese seasoning!
- Pepper grinder for some fresh cracked black pepper on top of the salad
Substitution Options for Olive Garden Italian Salad
For the lettuce: You can sub your favorite crisp lettuce or salad mix for part or all of the lettuces originally in the salad.
For the roma tomatoes: I like to use the Romas because you get nice sized rounds. But you can use any small vine-ripened tomato or use halved or whole cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. I don’t like to use squishy or overly juicy tomatoes.
For the red onion: You can use shallots in place of the red onion. Or use thin-sliced sweet onion like a Vidalia for a slightly different flavor vibe.
For the black olives: You can use sliced olives instead of whole. Opt for kalamata olives or capers for a brinier taste in the salad.
For the pepperoncini: Pepperoncinis are a very mild pepper, around 100-500 on the Scoville scale. Similar ranged peppers include the Cubanelle, the Golden Greek or Friggitello (Italian Sweet Pepper), the Gorria or Espellette pepper, or the Japanese Shishito pepper. All the peppers mentioned range from 0-1,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units).
For the croutons: To make this gluten free, you can buy GF croutons or make them in your air fryer from gluten free bread.
For the Italian dressing: A red wine or balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette would be a delicious dressing for this salad. You could also use a vegan ranch dressing, but that would probably take away from the Italian vibe, but if you love ranch like we do…
For the vegan mayo: You can use a high-powered blender to blend in some cashews, hulled hemp seeds, avocado, or white bean puree in place of the vegan mayo to make your dressing recipe creamy. In this case though, you may need to add a little liquid.
How to Make This Olive Garden House Salad Recipe
It couldn’t be easier to make this Olive Garden copycat salad. Just slice your veg, open a couple jars, and put it all together in a large bowl.
Step 1: Make the dressing.
Step 2: Prep the Italian salad ingredients.
If you haven’t already, prep your salad vegetables. Rinse, chop, and dry your lettuce. Slice the Roma tomatoes and red onion. Julienne the carrot to matchstick size.
Step 3: Combine salad ingredients and tangy dressing.
Add all the salad ingredients to a large salad bowl. Drizzle salad dressing over the salad and toss gently until combined.
How to Serve This Copycat Olive Garden Salad Recipe
This amazing salad is great as a meal all its own, especially with some fresh garlic bread. Or serve it as a great addition to a larger meal.
How to Store Leftover Olive Garden House Salad
This salad is best stored immediately, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days in the fridge.
However, if you think you’re going to have leftovers, we suggest leaving the croutons to the side and adding to each individual serving. Otherwise, you’ll get a salad full of soggy bread, and no one wants that!
How to Prep Olive Garden Copycat Salad Ahead of Time
Croutons for the salad can be made well in advance, up to a week. You can slice your lettuce the day before and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container with some paper towels. I don’t really recommend slicing the tomatoes or onions too far in advance as they can get mealy or overly pungent respectively.
More Go-To Salad Recipes:
Sometimes on those warm days there’s nothing more satisfying than a light, filling, and tasty salad. Here are a few of our personal favorites for you to enjoy as well.
I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I did, especially if it’s your first time trying it too. If you were a fan of this famous salad in your pre-vegan days, I hope the flavors bring back some great memories.
When you give it a try, don’t forget to leave a star rating and review on the recipe below. We love when you bring us along on our kitchen adventures, and this also helps more people find our recipes.
For the Salad:
- 6 cups rinsed and chopped iceberg lettuce
- 4 cups rinsed and chopped romaine lettuce
- 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1 (6-oz.) can whole black olives
- 1/2 cup whole pepperoncini
- 2 cups vegan-friendly croutons
For the Dressing:
- Extra croutons
- Vegan parmesan
- Pepper grinder
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl or jar, mix the dressing and vegan mayonnaise with a small whisk. You can also seal with a lid and shake to combine fully.
- Prep the salad ingredients: If you haven’t already, prep your salad vegetables. Rinse, chop, and dry your lettuce. Slice the roma tomatoes and red onion. Julienne the carrot to matchstick size.
- Combine salad ingredients: Add all the salad ingredients to a large salad bowl.Drizzle salad dressing over the salad and toss gently until combined.
- Serve the salad: Top the salad with the optional vegan parmesan, freshly cracked black pepper, and extra croutons if you wish! Serve immediately alongside a big plate of pasta, a bowl of minestrone, or all on its own topped with our vegan chicken cutlets.
Serving Size:1/6 the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 274Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 941mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 3gSugar: 11gProtein: 4g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.