Tarragon Vinegar Brings Copycat Olive Garden Salad Dressing To Life

Even if you're not a fan of Olive Garden's pasta, you may admit that the chain knows how to put together a pretty decent salad. You can easily make a meal out of that never-ending salad supplemented with some breadsticks and maybe a bowl of soup. While Olive Garden does allow this as a menu option, which is a policy we wish many more restaurants would adopt, you can also recreate the experience at home with one of our DIY soup recipes such as Olive Garden-style minestrone, pasta e fagioli, or zuppa toscana. If you're a real overachiever you can try your hand at baking OG-esque breadsticks, but even a rookie cook shouldn't have too much trouble recreating the chain's signature salad dressing.

Olive Garden's house dressing is an Italian one, which ties in with the restaurant's overall theme, but it also incorporates aspects of a Caesar dressing with its eggs and Romano cheese. According to recipe developer Jake Vigliotti, though, the one element that really makes the restaurant's dressing stand out and gives it that certain je ne sais quoi (or should we say non so cosa?) is an ingredient with "almost a pickle flavor, but more subtle" that he surmises is tarragon vinegar. While this herb-infused vinegar can be pretty pricey, you won't need too much of it to make our copycat Olive Garden salad dressing. Vigliotti tells us that 2 "tablespoons will give it the punch we need."

How to make a salad dressing like Olive Garden's

In addition to tarragon vinegar, our copycat Olive Garden salad dressing also includes the much cheaper distilled white vinegar that, according to Vigliotti, "bring[s] the tang." The bulk of the dressing is a light neutral oil (OG uses soy, Vigliotti opts for safflower), while other ingredients include egg yolks, corn syrup, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, Romano cheese, and xanthan gum. If you don't typically stock ingredients starting with "x" in your pantry, Vigliotti says "Don't sweat it," as he admits that xanthan-free dressing will just be a trifle runnier than the restaurant version and more the consistency of, well, homemade salad dressing.

Once you've assembled all of your dressing-making ingredients, you'll start by making a mayonnaise-like emulsion of tarragon vinegar, egg yolks, corn syrup, and oil. You'll then make an oil and vinegar dressing with more oil and tarragon vinegar plus distilled vinegar and season it with dry spices and cheese. Stir in ingredient X (xanthan gum) if you've got it, then add a spoonful of homemade mayo, shake the dressing, and let it chill before using it on a salad.

As for the homemade mayonnaise, you may wind up with half a cup or so left. Transfer it to a jar and keep it in the refrigerator, but try to use it up in four days or less as this is the maximum amount of time recommended by the USDA for homemade mayonnaise that contains raw eggs.