Favorite Italian Salad
My go-to salad recipe is this fresh and flavorful Italian Salad. It’s made with crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, red onion, sliced black olives, crunchy croutons, Parmesan cheese and zesty pepperoncinis. All of that deliciousness gets tossed in an easy homemade Italian vinaigrette for an irresistible side dish, you’re going to want to serve with everything. And you totally can because it pairs well with pretty much any meal and it’s fabulous topped with chicken, shrimp or fish for a light lunch or dinner.
Made this Italian salad for a small dinner party! Everyone loved it! Two people even asked for the recipe!— Jeanne
I’m a total salad person. In fact, I try to eat a salad with all of my dinners (and many lunches too), no matter what is being served. My favorite salad to whip up is this tasty Italian salad. It goes with just about everything from pasta to steak, and is super easy to throw together. There isn’t anything too fancy about it, but it has the best taste. Plus, it’s a great way to get in extra veggies!
Why you should make this recipe
- So delicious. This easy Italian salad is the perfect salad for weeknight meals, but it is also great for serving to family and friends at dinner parties and potlucks because it is SO good.
- Easy to make. Everyone loves this salad recipe, yet there’s nothing fancy about it. Sometimes simple is best and that is true with this crowd-favorite Italian salad. It is perfection without any fuss!
- The perfect Italian side. We love this salad served alongside our favorite Italian-inspired recipes from spaghetti and meatballs to this easy baked chicken parmesan. And it’s a must when I bake up my easy lasagna recipe!
Like most salad recipes, this Italian salad is completely customizable with whatever ingredients you love best. Go ahead and get creative and make this recipe your own! Below are the ingredients my family enjoys most:
- Greens. I usually use chopped Romaine lettuce, but a bag of mixed spring greens works great too. Use whatever you have in the fridge!
- Red onion. Sliced red onion gives the salad a pop of flavor and color. If you are not an onion fan, you can leave it out.
- Tomatoes. It’s not an Italian salad without the tomatoes! I like to use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. If it is tomato season and your garden is producing lots of large tomatoes, feel free to chop up big tomatoes and use them.
- Black olives. Black olives are my favorite, but you can totally leave them out or use another olive variety.
- Pepperoncini peppers. Zesty pepperoncini peppers really complete this recipe! However, if they’re not your thing or you don’t have them available, no worries.
- Parmesan cheese. I highly recommend you use GOOD Parmesan cheese, not the stuff in the green can. You can use shaved or freshly grated Parmesan cheese. And if you want to mix up the cheese, feta, goat, or shredded mozzarella cheese would also be delicious.
- Croutons. My kids’ favorite part of this salad are the croutons. Who can blame them?! If you want to make homemade croutons, I love this homemade crouton recipe!
- Homemade Italian vinaigrette: The star of the salad! This vinaigrette is an easy mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper. We actually love this vinaigrette on all kinds of salads!
How to make this recipe
Italian salad can be tossed together while your main entrée is cooking. It can also be made in advance. To make ahead, add all of the ingredients (except croutons and tomatoes) to a large salad bowl. Cover with a slightly damp paper towel and then loose plastic wrap over that. Refrigerate up to 24 hours.
Pro tip: tearing the lettuce leaves, instead of using a knife to cut them, prevents the greens from wilting or bruising as quickly, if you’re preparing this ahead of time.
- Wash and dry the veggies and tear the lettuce into pieces.
- Grab the rest of the ingredients and slice and chop vegetables.
- Make the Italian vinaigrette.
- Toss everything together in a large bowl and serve.
Don’t add the vinaigrette until just before serving, to avoid a soggy salad.
How to make the dressing
My favorite thing about this salad is the homemade Italian dressing! It’s easy to whisk together, with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. I love it so much more than store-bought dressing. You can make the vinaigrette in advance and keep it in the fridge for about 2 weeks. It’s great to have on-hand if you need to make a quick weeknight salad!
To make this Italian salad dressing you’ll simply need to combine oil with red wine vinegar and seasonings. The oil and vinegar in vinaigrette dressings can separate, so it’s important to include the teaspoon of Dijon to keep the mixture from separating. You’ll also want to shake it up before each use. I like to whip mine up and store it in a mason jar with a lid.
This is super easy to toss together, but here are a few tips for the perfect Italian chopped salad!
- As previously mentioned, my family seriously loves this tossed with my easy Italian vinaigrette dressing, but you can use any dressing you’d like from blue cheese dressing to homemade ranch dressing.
- You can add other Italian-style ingredients to your salad such as sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, banana peppers, bell peppers, prosciutto, salami, kalamata olives, basil, parsley and/or pine nuts.
- This makes a great side dish, but amp it up and serve it as a main dish! I often enjoy it topped with my favorite grilled chicken. It’s also great with my foolproof pan fried salmon. And to keep it vegetarian, try adding chickpeas, white beans or even kidney beans.
- A good quality olive oil is a must to make the BEST vinaigrette! This olive oil is my favorite and I also really like this more budget-friendly olive oil as well.
Frequently asked questions
Surprisingly, a classic Italian salad like this one are not popular in Italy. A popular recipe originally from Sicily is the Insalata di finocchi e arance. Although there are many variations, it is usually made with a combination of orange slices, thinly sliced fennel, onions, black olives, olive oil, salt, and mint. Another popular option is Insalata di tonno e fagioli made with a combination of red onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, cannellini beans, and tuna.
This Italian salad recipe is packed with fresh vegetables and the vinaigrette is simple and includes hearty-healthy olive oil. One large serving with dressing is 275 calories, 17 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein. You can use less dressing to cut down on calories and fat. This recipe is naturally gluten free, depending on croutons, is vegetarian, and can easily be made vegan by using a dairy-free parmesan cheese or omitting.
Like most salad recipes, once the salad and dressing have combined, it is hard to store for any length of time. The dressing will quickly start to make the lettuce and croutons soggy. Only dress what you plan on eating and store the salad and dressing separately for longer storage. Both will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
For the vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the salad:
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
- 1/3 cup sliced or whole pepperoncini peppers
- 2 cups croutons , more or less depending on preference
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
For the vinaigrette:
- Add all ingredients to a jar with a lid. I use a mason jar. Shake vigorously to combine all ingredients. Use immediately or store in the fridge for about a week.
For the salad:
- Add all salad ingredients to a large salad serving bowl. Toss to combine, drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss again to coat the salad. Serve with more Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.