Colorful and crisp, this Vegan Italian Salad is delicious and filling enough for a meal or makes the perfect side. The classic Italian flavors and zesty, creamy dressing will leave you wanting more, and luckily this salad is easy and simple enough to make all the time!
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Hey Internet, I’m feeling kind of salady after last week’s Jewish Week. All those rich meals--vegan brisket, spinach kugel--and dessert like apple cake are super delicious and comforting… but they kind of leave me wanting something lighter.
Enter salad, my friend. Everyone thinks all vegans eat is salad…
While I certainly hope I’ve proven that’s not true, I will let you in on a funny fact about me: salad is by far one of my favorite foods!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a pasta and vegan cheese girl, but man do I sure love my salads.
My favorite thing to eat at the Olive Garden actually wasn’t pasta, surprisingly enough, it was their salad. Oh, how delightful the croutons and olives were.
Y’all know I don’t like to tell long personal stories on my blog posts. I want my posts to be as useful and succinct as possible.
But now and then I have a small aside, and this actually fits. It’s also only two sentences:
When I was a kid I was homeschooled for the latter half of my schooling, but in early elementary we went to public school and the neighbor’s children would wait at our house for the bus to come since the parents had to go to work early. The last night of every school year was their treat to us: dinner at the Olive Garden and I always ate all the olives and croutons out of the salad.
Luckily now I like more vegetables and while I still love the olives and croutons, I eat the all the veggies too.
This salad is super customizable so you can add whatever veggies you like.
It’s honestly very rare for us, but this dish was so good that when we tested it one day we ran out the next day to get more ingredients to make it again!
Let’s get into the recipe!
What You’ll Need
At the base of most salads is greens. While you can make this a chopped salad with no greens if you like, I LOVE salad greens.
For this salad I used a simple herb and spring mix. Other soft greens such as spinach, any baby greens, butter lettuce (one of my favorites and great if you’re not a greens fan), or green/red leaf lettuce will go very well in this salad.
As far as vegetables go, I kept this salad classic with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onions. Add whatever you like!
Now of course you know I had to add my olives and croutons. Black or kalamata olives work great in this salad.
And for croutons, you probably already know I had to make my own. If you’d like to make oil-free croutons in just 10 minutes, give my recipe a try!
For optional toppings, you could add peperoncini which are kind of spicy and amazing. They’re actually a little intense for me so I just had one sliced super thin in my whole salad. Mr. Zardyplants took several as he can handle heat a bit better than I can.
You could also sprinkle some vegan Parmesan topping on here if you’d like.
And for dressing, you could go with a simple vinegar dressing, but I made a creamy vegan Italian dressing in 5 minutes while my croutons were toasting and it is just AMAZING. Not that I’m biased--no, not at all.
How to Make Vegan Italian Salad
I feel a little silly telling you how to make a salad, but I have learned a few tips and tricks over the years.
First, prep all your ingredients. Wash your greens and dry them really well--no one likes a soaked salad.
A really great tip for drying your greens is to use a salad spinner! Mine was about $30 and it was money well spent.
You can wash the greens straight in the colander portion and pop it in the outer bowl and spin it dry! I run my greens through the drying cycle twice.
As far as your greens go, even spring mix greens can be bulky. It helps to give them a good chop with a knife or kitchen shears--this makes the pieces easier to chew and digest.
Add the greens to a bowl and toss the dressing with just the greens. This helps the rest of your veggies stay crisp and beautiful.
Add your veggies into the salad and give it a gentle toss. You’ll get a little dressing on them but not too much.
Top the salad with your croutons, olives, pepperoncini and vegan Parmesan if using and enjoy!
If you’re not going to eat your salad immediately, store the dressing, and wetter veggies separate from the salad. The extra water from the cucumber and tomato could wilt the lettuce.
Store cut greens in a reusable container with a paper towel in it to absorb excess moisture.
Optional Salad Ingredients to Add More Flavor
- Sun-dried tomatoes: these are chewy, sweet, and even more delicious than fresh tomatoes!
- Cubed vegan Feta cheese
- Canned marinated artichoke hearts for more Mediterranean flair and flavor
- Chickpeas or cubed tofu for extra protein--try toasting the chickpeas or baking the tofu for a fun texture!
- Pepperoncini or banana peppers for some heat and kick
- Other olives like Kalamata, Manzanilla and more
- Bitter greens like radicchio or endive for a wonderful flavor contrast
- Cooked pasta like rotini for a fun and filling addition
- Fresh herbs like Italian parsley, cilantro, basil, or oregano for bright herby tones
- Cooked mushrooms for a little umami burst
More Vegan Salad Recipes
Do you like salads as much as I do?
Wait, really? OK let’s be friends because sometimes people tease me.
Those people being my husband. THAT’S RIGHT PAUL I’M TALKING TO YOU.
But back to being serious, or somewhat sane, I’ve got a ton of delicious salad recipes right here on the blog for you. Check out of some of them below if you’d like!
- Waldorf Salad with Apples and Grapes
- Vegan Watermelon Feta Salad
- Creamy Avocado Salad
- Vegan Goat Cheese Salad
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Vegan Caesar Salad with Chickpea Croutons
- Thanksgiving Salad with Pomegranate and Orange
- Creamy Chicken Cucumber Salad (vegan)
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. We literally licked the bowl, this was so good.
This vegan Italian salad is:
- And great for a meal, side, or dish to bring to a barbeque or party!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!