I know that Italian dressing isn’t really Italian; it’s absolutely an American-style invention. But given its ingredients—olive oil, herbs, the occasional Romano cheese—it actually feels pretty darn Italian to me. Italian dressing adds tangy, herby luxury to any bowl of mixed greens, and that’s why we love it, regardless of its origins.
Salad dressing is all about the proper ratio of ingredients, so we looked for that perfect balance in our Italian dressings we tasted. We want tang, richness, herbs, and seasoning. Sweetness isn’t always a requirement (more on that later), but there is something homey and comforting about a Midwestern-style Italian dressing featuring a good deal of sugar. When used sparingly, sugar provides some balance and cuts the sharpness of a dressing quite well. Dressing is all about delicious balance. If it had that, it ranked high.
- Trader Joe’s Organic Italian Dressing with Romano Cheese
This is a prime example of perfect salad dressing alchemy. It’s got great acidity, good oil-based richness, and a healthy amount of herbage (a tasty trio of rosemary extract, basil, and oregano). Additionally, the salty and pungent bite of the Romano cheese elevates this Italian dressing to elite status. There’s a hint of sweetness here too, probably from the bell pepper. Trader Joe’s makes the ideal Italian dressing, probably better than what you could make at home.
Sarah Demonteverde/Trader Joe’s
- Girard’s Olde Venice Italian Vinaigrette
This was the Italian dressing that surprised the hell out of all of us. Girard’s has MSG in it (hell yeah, flavor) so it’s really savory. The ingredients include mustard seed, corn cider vinegar, and white wine vinegar, which make it stand out among the other Italian dressings on this list. It’s just got everything we want: richness, umami, piquancy, and bite. Maybe it could use some herbs or a little cheese, but it doesn’t even need it. Girard’s, while maybe not a traditional Italian dressing, brings the flavor in a big way. Make sure to shake it often (the oil separates), but it’s definitely worth buying.
- Whole Foods Market Organic Italian Romano Vinaigrette
Whole Foods Romano Italian dressing is sharp, savory, and garlicky. It’s got the most garlic flavor of any dressing on this list. It’s really robust because it’s made with olive oil (which also means it’ll congeal in the fridge), and overall just has a wonderfully complex flavor. The combo of garlic, cheese, more garlic, vinegar, and good olive oil makes for a phenomenal dressing.
- Ken’s Steak House Italian with Aged Romano Dressing
This dressing is herby, funky, cheesy, and delicious. The romano here adds a really good salty bite. There’s a sharpness and a complete lack of sweetness that I found quite refreshing. This one labels itself as a marinade, too, if you like to marinate chicken in Italian dressing. This dressing is what I think of when I picture Italian dressing. You could do much, much worse than Ken’s.
- Olive Garden Signature Italian Dressing
This one feels really lemony, although no lemon is listed in the ingredients. That’s probably just a good helping of white vinegar and maybe some garlic. There’s a sweetness present here (high fructose corn syrup), and the only knock on the flavor is that it could use some herbs. A great thing about Olive Garden’s dressing is that it’s really viscous and homogenous; the oil isn’t separated at all, so you don’t need to shake the bottle. This dressing is thick and creamy and the tang is sensational.
- Ken’s Steak House Creamy Italian Dressing
Creamy Italian fans rise up! Ken’s Creamy Italian has a dynamic creamy and tangy quality to it, plus it’s loaded with herbs and seasoning. Personally, I like mixing Ranch and Italian dressing together to create an Italian dressing that is actually creamy, but this one is pretty dang good. It could use some cheese, but hey, just add some Romano cheese to your salad to achieve that.
- Zia’s Sweet Italian Oil & Vinegar
Do I like sweet Italian dressing? Gang, I think I do. I’ve often been critical of food in St. Louis (see: Imo’s pizza, provel cheese, etc.), but I really love this Italian dressing. It’s made with red wine vinegar, cane sugar, and olive oil. That olive oil helps give it a rich flavor. There’s something super comforting about a sweet Italian dressing. Maybe I’ll go to Zia’s one day, because this Italian dressing really won me over. Probably have to buy it online, unless you live in the Midwest and they sell it near you.
- Marzetti Italian Salad Dressing
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Marzetti’s Ranch dressing, but I like the Marzetti Italian. I think sweet Italian is a more familiar, American style of Italian dressing that tastes great. When Italian dressing isn’t sweet at all, I think you could better categorize it as a vinaigrette. Italian dressing is an American construct, and Marzetti fully leans into that. The ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, garlic, onion, bell pepper, and soybean oil. It’s maybe not made well, but the overall flavor is comforting and good.
- Yo Mama’s Creamy Italian Dressing & Dip
Yo Mama’s Creamy Italian is absolutely stacked with herbs, so much so that it’s almost chunky. I like it, though. It’s really fresh tasting and cheesy. You might think it has too many herbs, which I would understand, but if you want a fragrant, herbaceous Italian dressing that’ll last in the refrigerator, this will do just fine.
Best of the Best
Other products we tried: Newman’s Own, Wishbone Creamy, Kroger Zesty Italian, Kraft Deluxe Supreme Italian, Kraft Zesty Italian, Walden Farms Italian, Signature Select, Simple Truth, O Organics Italian, Drew’s, June Moon Spice Company.
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