Italian dressing is not Italian at all but is one of the more popular American salad dressings. It is versatile and perfect for light, savory salads. One of its best qualities is that it has a lot in common with other dressings and is thus easily replaced. If you’re out of it, here are a few excellent Italian dressing substitutes.
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Your best bet: Make your Italian dressing from scratch
Italian dressing is one of the simplest salad dressings to make at home. If you cook Italian food regularly, you probably have all the ingredients in your spice cabinet. The most important ingredient is olive oil, preferably extra virgin. The vinegar is another crucial element. Ideally, you will want red or white wine vinegar, but any kind will do in a pinch.
The use of Italian seasonings is the final part of what makes Italian dressing distinctive. Oregano, basil, and garlic are responsible for the dressing’s strong savory character and herbaceous aroma. The recipes do vary, so you will find versions that include other ingredients like sugar or Parmesan. The classic version has only the oil and vinegar, along with the aforementioned seasonings and salt.
A decent second choice: Greek dressing
Like Italian dressing, Greek dressing is a vinaigrette. It is made up primarily of extra virgin olive oil and a wine vinegar (most recipes suggest red). It also contains Mediterranean seasonings like garlic and oregano just like Italian dressing. Because most of the ingredients are the same, you can expect it to have approximately the same flavor and consistency as Italian dressing.
The standard Greek dressing does not contain basil, but the oregano supplies many of the aromatic notes found in Italian dressing. You also have the option of adding some basil leaves to bottled Greek dressing to make it more like Italian dressing. Note also that Greek dressing will often contain mustard, which is not found in most Italian dressing recipes. The mustard will bring some extra tanginess.
In a pinch: Balsamic vinaigrette
A balsamic vinaigrette is another vinegar-and-oil dressing with mostly Mediterranean ingredients. The fact that it contains many of the same ingredients is why it can usually stand in for Italian dressing.
Balsamic vinaigrette is made up primarily of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with seasonings like Parmesan and garlic. It has the same umami character as some versions of Italian dressing and will work with the same kinds of salads.
Because of how much balsamic vinegar differs from wine vinegar, you can expect a more richly fruity flavor profile with a little added sweetness. The traditional balsamic vinaigrette recipe has mustard among its ingredients. The tanginess of the mustard can help to balance the sweetness from the vinegar.
Creamy Italian dressing will contain dairy products like sour cream, mayonnaise, or a combination of them to give the dressing its creaminess. While this is different from the light tanginess that is one of the main characteristics of regular Italian dressing, it does have the same set of seasonings. Creamy Italian dressing contains oregano, basil, and garlic.
While it’s not a salad dressing, you can use chimichurri sauce like one. It consists of herbs (parsley and oregano), oil, and vinegar. One of the ways that Italian dressing is used is as a marinade, which is primarily how chimichurri sauce is used. Chimichurri sauce will give your salads and meat dishes a strong herbaceous flavor along with a vinegary sharpness.