Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Copy Cat Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing - Formulated and tasted side-by-side for accuracy! Fresher tasting than the original.

This is not just another average copy cat recipe. This dressing actually tastes like the real deal!

Copy-Cat Olive Garden Salad Dressing

This is the best copy cat version of Olive Garden's Italian salad dressing that I have tasted so far. I actually like this better than Olive Garden's bottled version. Their bottled version does not taste as fresh as my version does. Their soybean oil tastes a bit funky (usually rancid) and has some other off-taste in there that I'm not sure of where it is coming from...

Anyway, I have tasted many copy-cat versions of Olive Garden's dressing. There are a lot of versions online. They are not it. Most of them are too sour (too much vinegar), or are flat tasting, or are too runny, or have too much mayonnaise in them... They just aren't right.

My version has a zesty punch, but is balanced with all the other flavors. You need to have a hint of sweet to tame the vinegar, and enough salt to blend all the flavors and keep the dressing rich and tasty when it is actually dressing your salad. This dressing is thick and creamy enough to cling to the lettuce and not just end up as a watery mess at the bottom of your salad bowl.

I like my blend of seasonings but I may actually smash a clove of fresh garlic with the salt called for in my recipe next time. I do not taste fresh garlic in Olive Garden's version, but I think it would taste better with fresh garlic.

I used a blend of both Parmesan and Romano cheeses. I may just go back to using only Romano, increasing the portion to 3 T. (21 grams). Romano is stronger tasting, so you decide what you'd like.

The xanthan gum is critical to my recipe. The dressing will be very runny without it. Notice that the first ingredient in Olive Garden's version is WATER. That is why water is the first ingredient in my dressing too. It is much too vinegary if you do not add the water. Olive Garden's trick to thicken their dressing is adding the xanthan gum. Go get yourself some xanthan gum, I use it in almost all of my salad dressing recipes. Guar gum is an alternate option to using the xanthan gum. Look in your local health food stores or in the gluten free baking section of grocery stores to find it.

The annatto powder is used to give a richer color to the salad dressing, omit it if you choose to.

Olive Garden's ingredient listing on their salad dressing bottle:
distilled vinegar
soybean oil
high fructose corn syrup
Romano cheese
xanthan gum
spice and spice extracts
lemon juice concentrate
calcium disodium EDTA (to protect freshness)
extractives of annatto.
(Contains milk, eggs).

I used my formulating background to recreate this dressing for my family and for yours. I hope you enjoy it! I conducted side-by-side taste test comparisons. I also compared ingredient lists. My version is healthier, although not sugar-free. I may formulate a sugar-free version later. My goal for this recipe was to as closely duplicate the original as I possibly could at this time. Let me know your thoughts on this recipe after you try it for yourself.

Leila's Copy Cat Version of Olive Garden's Italian Dressing:

1/2 c. (100 grams) purified water
1/2 c. (128 grams) Best Food's Mayonnaise (contains eggs)
about 1/2 c. (87 grams) white distilled vinegar (I prefer white wine vinegar)
1/4 c. (60 grams) extra-light olive oil (regular olive oil tastes too strong)
2 T. (36 grams) IMO syrup to replace corn syrup
2 T. (16 grams) Parmesan cheese
2 T. (14 grams) Romano cheese
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 t. sea salt
2 t. xylitol, or slightly more, to taste
1/2 t. + 1/8 to 1/4 t. xanthan gum (3/4 t. xanthan gum makes dressing thicker than Olive Garden's)
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. parsley flakes
20 grinds fresh ground black pepper
1/4 t. granulated garlic
1/16 t. red pepper flakes
1/16 t. annatto powder (Mexican foods section of grocery store)


Mix the water, mayonnaise, vinegar, oil, and IMO syrup together until fully combined with a stick blender (or blend by hand).

Add the cheeses and lemon juice.

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, xylitol, xanthan gum, Italian seasoning, parsley,black pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, and annatto powder.

Sprinkle the dry seasoning blend over the liquid and mix until well combined.

Chill in a jar with a tight fitting lid to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve over a salad of romaine lettuce, roma tomatoes, vidalia onion slices, black olives, pickled pepperoncini, garlic croutons, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.