Delight your taste buds with this Italian salad with creamy garlic dressing. Crisp greens, tender chicken, and a burst of garlic flavor in every bite!
I almost always make this Italian salad with garlic dressing when I don’t know what to eat for dinner but crave a light, simple meal. It has become my go-to. I love that the salad is fresh and light yet filling. Changing things up is as easy as swapping one protein for another. Yeah, I know the salad consists of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and chicken – nothing earth-shattering. However, I decided to share the recipe because of the dressing. The dressing is inspired by a vinegar-based one from this hole-in-the-wall place that serves the most delicious classic comfort dishes. It’s garlic-forward, acidic, herby, briny, and oh-so-satisfying.
Why You’ll Love Italian Salad with Garlic Dressing
No fancy ingredients – All you need are the standard salad staples, and you’re good to go.
Quick and easy – All this deliciousness comes together in under an hour. It will be ready in less than 30 minutes if you have cooked chicken ready.
Versatile – Use any vegetables, swap the chicken for another protein, or incorporate your favorite fresh herbs. The salad leaves room to play.
A great introduction to capers – Capers add something special to the dressing. They have a unique flavor that is briny like green olives yet bright and acidic with a subtle floral flavor that makes them all the more delicious. If you’ve never tried them, this Italian salad with garlic dressing is a great way to introduce them to your diet.
Italian Salad with Garlic Dressing Ingredients Notes
- Romaine: Romaine lettuce is high in minerals essential for bone health. Additionally, it is so crisp and has a nice mild flavor, so it is the preferred choice for salads. When shopping, look for dark green outer leaves that are firm and crisp looking.
- Chicken: I used boneless skinless breasts for lean protein.
- Tomatoes: Juicy bites of tomato make each forkful all the better.
- Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella adds a creamy soft bite to the salad, accompanied by its pleasant milky flavor.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is the primary ingredient in the incredible salad dressing.
- Oregano: The bold herb adds dramatic impact to the dressing and stays true to the Italian theme.
- Apple cider vinegar: It is one of the two acids in this dressing. Apple cider vinegar is exceptionally sharp, adding a sour kick to the garlic dressing.
- Lemon juice: Lemon juice adds another layer of acidity that is fruitier and brighter.
- Capers: Who knew edible flower buds were so tasty? They’re essential additions to the garlic dressing, so don’t skip them! You can find a jar at pretty much any grocery store.
You’ll find the complete ingredients list with amounts in the recipe card below!
How to Make Italian Salad with Garlic Dressing
- Cook the chicken: Toss the chicken with oil and seasonings, then pan-sear for 6-8 minutes per side. The chicken is done when nicely browned with an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the veggies: Throw them into a large salad bowl. This includes lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion.
- Make the Italian garlic salad dressing: Add all the dressing ingredients except the capers and oil in a food processor. Run the processor as you slowly drizzle in the oil, stopping once smooth. From there, transfer the dressing to a container and add the capers.
- Dress and serve: Dress the Italian salad (only use half of the dressing), toss, slice the chicken, and arrange it on top, then follow with fresh mozzarella. Serve any remaining garlic dressing on the side.
Variations, Substitutions, and Cooking Tips
Use another protein – Pan-seared white fish with sauteed garlic is a delicious alternative to chicken, as is shrimp. Thinly sliced steak will work just as well.
Incorporate more salad greens – Add arugula for a peppery kick, spinach for a bitter bite, or radicchio.
Make it vegan – Cannellini beans are often used in Italian dishes and work beautifully in this Italian salad with garlic dressing. They are large, hearty, and creamy with a mild flavor.
What to Serve with Italian Salad
There are so many directions to go regarding Italian salad pairings. You have the protein and vegetables so you can go with a simple carb like garlic knots, bread, or a small side of risotto. A side of soup would also be nice. You can’t go wrong with soup and salad. As for beverages, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with the salad, as would Italian Vermentino or a crisp white like Picpoul de Pinet.
Storage and Freezer Tips
Store the vegetables, chicken, cheese, and dressing separately if not serving the salad immediately for the best results. They can be refrigerated in airtight containers for 3-4 days. If storing leftover Italian salad that is already dressed and tossed, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 days. A lot of excess moisture will be present if you go past this point. Do not freeze.
- 2 medium chicken breasts
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- A few cracks ground pepper
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cucumber, sliced
- Fresh mozzarella cheese
- Creamy Garlic Dressing
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. oregano
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
- The juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp. salt
- A few cracks fresh pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tbs. capers
- Add the chicken breasts to a medium-sized bowl and top with the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat completely.
- Place a pan over a medium-high heat.
- Place the chicken breasts, top-side down onto the pan and let cook for about 6-8 minutes on each side.
- Once the chicken is finished, set aside to rest.
- Add all of the veggies into a large bowl.
- To make the dressing add all of the ingredients, except for the capers and olive oil into a food processor.
- Pulse the ingredients together then slowly add the olive oil while blending.
- Place in a container and add the capers.
- Pour about half of the dressing over the salad, and top with additional capers if desired, sliced chicken and the mozzarella cheese.
Try these delicious salads next!