What ingredients are in homemade Italian dressing?

Have you ever made homemade salad dressing? It is amazing! It blows away store bought every single time! But, most people are not privy to how to make their own salad dressing. It’s like it’s some weird, hidden secret and you can only find salad dressing in a bottle on a shelf in the grocery store. Well, today you’ll learn the EASY way to make the best Italian salad dressing that you’ve ever tasted! You’ll go from asking: What ingredients are in homemade Italian dressing to Can I have seconds, please!?

What is Italian dressing?

Italian dressing is an oil-based dressing. It is clear and filled with herbs, spices, and sometimes, Italian cheeses. It’s flavor profile can vary based on what is added to its oil and vinegar base. Its taste is tangy, crisp, and fresh.It’s actually second in popularity to Ranch salad dressing.

People that are on a diet prefer Italian dressing because they can literally spray it from a spray bottle onto their salad. It is light compared to some of the heavy cream dressings out there. Lets take a close look at the ingredients for homemade Italian dressing.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the number one ingredient in Italian dressing. A good quality extra virgin olive oil is needed for a great-tasting dressing. Why extra virgin olive oil? Extra virgin means only one press of the olives. This means maximum lightness and maximum flavor.

You’ll usually have 3/4 unit of olive oil compared to all the other ingredients combined. Olive oil is the last ingredient added to the bowl when making homemade dressing.


The best vinegar to use in homemade salad dressing is apple cider vinegar. It has great background flavors and not a harsh finish. White vinegar taste reminds me of Easter egg dying so I don’t like to use white vinegar unless I have to.

Apple cider vinegar gives a wonderful pucker and tang, but a richness not found in other vinegars. A good Italian dressing needs a balance of oil and vinegar for a slight pucker and a good mouthfeel. It coats the leaves of lettuce perfectly with oily goodness and sharp acidity.


I also add a squeeze of lemon to my homemade Italian dressing. I like an extra kick so I even add the zest of a lemon to jazz things up! The extra zing gives a pop to my fresh veggies and creates a clean mouthfeel.

Parmesan Cheese?

Hey, any Italian will testify to the fact that Italian cheeses make the meal! Asiago, parmesan, you name it! Add a sprinkle of Italian cheese to your homemade dressing and you’ve got a winner!


Yes! Lots of herbs! Come on, we need extra flavor here, not less! Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley. It’s called “dressing” for a reason. We’re supposed to taste it! Be bold with the seasoning.

Salt and Pepper

Like any delicious meal, a good dressing needs seasoning. Salt and pepper your salad dressing to your taste preferences. But, don’t skip this part. Even with herbs, lemon, and so on, without salt and pepper, your homemade dressing will be as bland as the day is long.

Creative additions

Salad can sometimes be cast as a boring dish. But it doesn’t have to be! You can add things to your dressing to bring out its flavor and the flavor of every ingredient in your salad as well.

How you might ask? Chop up some scallions or red onions and add them to the dressing. Mince some fresh garlic! Squirt a little hot mustard in your dressing and whisk away.

Favoring the sweet side? Honey makes the perfect mix-in to balance all that tartness. Get creative!

The ingredients for your homemade Italian dressing are very important, so be sure to take your time and select fresh choices.

You’ll need the perfect cutting board for cutting all those fresh herbs, garlic, and onions. I love my Boos block cutting board and use it every day. I trust it to be balanced and sturdy. Check out the exact cutting board I used for this recipe here.

I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Are you wondering how long homemade dressing can keep fresh? Good question! I haven’t kept mine past a week. A week is long enough to use it all up. If it’s not, you need to eat more salad, my friend! The acidity in the dressing allows for good storage in the fridge as long as it’s in an airtight container.


Q1: What are the ingredients for homemade Italian dressing?

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The star player, offering a robust flavor.
  • Vinegar (Red Wine or White Wine): Brings a tangy twist.
  • Lemon Juice: For a citrusy zing.
  • Garlic: Adds a punch of flavor.
  • Dried Herbs (Oregano, Basil, Thyme): The classic Italian trio.
  • Dijon Mustard: A hint of spice and depth.
  • Honey or Maple Syrup: A touch of sweetness.
  • Salt & Black Pepper: Essential seasonings.
  • Optional Add-ins: Red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, or anchovy paste for an extra kick!
IngredientRole in DressingNotes
Extra Virgin Olive OilBase of the dressingProvides a robust, rich flavor
Vinegar (Red/White)Adds acidity and tanginessRed wine vinegar for a deeper taste
Lemon JuiceCitrusy zingFresh is best for vibrant flavor
GarlicAromatic punchFreshly minced for best results
Dried HerbsItalian flavorOregano, basil, thyme are classics
Dijon MustardSpice and depthJust a hint for complexity
Honey/Maple SyrupSweetnessBalances the acidity
Salt & Black PepperSeasoningAdjust to taste
Optional Add-insExtra kickRed pepper flakes, cheese, anchovy

Q2: What is Olive Garden Italian dressing made of?

  • Signature Blend: A mix of classic Italian herbs and spices.
  • Oil & Vinegar Base: Olive Garden likely uses a blend of oils for a unique taste.
  • Cheese Notes: Romano and Parmesan for a creamy twist.
  • Garlic & Onion: Essential for that savory depth.
  • Sugar & Natural Sweeteners: Balances the tanginess.
  • Lemon Juice: Just like homemade, for that fresh zing.

Q3: What is Italian dressing a mixture of?

  • Oil & Vinegar: The dynamic duo of any Italian dressing.
  • Herb Medley: Oregano, basil, and others bring the Italian flair.
  • Garlic & Onion Powder: For that umami goodness.
  • Citrus Element: Often lemon, sometimes orange zest.
  • Sweet & Spicy Elements: Sugar, honey, or red pepper flakes.

Q4: What is zesty Italian dressing made of?

  • All Basic Italian Ingredients: See Q1 for the base.
  • Extra Spices: Paprika, red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne.
  • Mustard Seeds or Powder: For a zesty, tangy kick.
  • Additional Vinegar: Often more than the classic recipe.
  • Fresh Herbs (Optional): Parsley, cilantro, or even mint for a fresh twist.

Q5: Which oil is best for salad dressing?

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The go-to for flavor and health.
  • Canola Oil: A lighter option, neutral in taste.
  • Avocado Oil: Rich, buttery, and full of nutrients.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Light and versatile, with a subtle flavor.
  • Nut Oils (Walnut, Almond): For a nutty, gourmet touch.

So, are you teetering on the edge of making the decision to make your own homemade dressing? I hope you will! It literally takes less than 10 minutes and your first bite will have you hooked!

Comment below on if you liked your homemade dressing. Also, try our delicious Italian Salad Dressing recipe below! Share this article with other home cooks who like easy recipes and tasty results!

homemade Italian dressing

Course: LunchCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time



This Italian dressing is easy to make and will take the place of your standard store-bought dressing after just one bite!


  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest

  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon hot mustard

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Add all the ingredients except olive oil to a bowl.
  • Whisk in the olive oil vigorously.
  • Drizzle over salad and enjoy!


  • Add additional herbs and seasonings to suit your preferences.
  • Can be used as a marinade for chicken or fish.

Craving more delicious recipes? Try these: Irish Stew