This Italian salad is zesty, crisp and fresh! With veggies, olives, pepperoncini peppers and Parmesan, all tossed in homemade Italian dressing, it’s my go-to side salad for a pasta dinner.

Italian salad with serving spoons in a big wooden salad bowl.

I make this Italian salad all the time! It’s a great staple recipe that my family enjoys year-round. I’ve served it alongside a Vegetable Lasagna for Christmas dinner, and with Grilled Chicken Thighs at a summer BBQ. I regularly make it to serve with my family’s favorite Instant Pot Spaghetti for a quick weeknight dinner. This salad is super versatile!

I love the mix of ingredients in this salad, and I think you will too. There’s juicy tomatoes, fruity Kalamata olives, spicy pepperoncini and salty Parmesan cheese. It’s all tossed together in a zippy Italian dressing so that each bite is bursting with flavor. I make this recipe anytime I want to liven up our salad routine!

Why I Love this Recipe

  • It works as a side dish or a main dish if you add protein, like chicken, steak or salami.
  • You can make it ahead to take to a potluck or other get-together.
  • There’s lots of ways to customize it to your tastes. See the recipe variations below for ideas.
Pouring dressing onto salad ingredients in bowl.

Italian Salad Ingredients

  • Salad Greens: I like to use romaine lettuce in this salad because I love the crunch and it holds up well to the other salad ingredients. You can use your favorite lettuce or mixed greens if you prefer.
  • Cucumber: I like to use English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds and a less bitter flavor than American cucumbers, plus their thin skin doesn’t require peeling.
  • Red Onion: Thinly slice the onion so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
  • Tomatoes: Use cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes or chopped whole tomatoes.
  • Chickpeas: The chickpeas (garbanzo beans) add satiating protein and help to bulk up the salad. Kidney beans are another good option because, like chickpeas, their firm texture can hold up to being tossed in a salad.
  • Kalamata Olives: These have a meaty texture and add a delicious pop of flavor to the salad. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, black olives are a great substitute.
  • Pepperoncini: Pepperoncini peppers are mildly spicy and slightly sweet. They’re a big flavor-booster in this Italian salad.
  • Parmesan Cheese: I like to use shredded Parmesan cheese, rather than grated, for maximum flavor.
  • Italian Dressing: I highly recommend making my homemade Italian dressing to go with this salad! It takes just 5 minutes and I’ve included the recipe below.
Spoonful of dressing held over jar of dressing.

How to Make Italian Salad

  1. Make the dressing. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, or shake to mix in a jar.
  2. Combine the salad ingredients, except for the Parmesan cheese, in a large bowl. 
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad, a little bit at a time, and toss to combine. Continue adding dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking.
  4. Add the Parmesan cheese to the salad and serve.

Recipe Variations

You can customize this salad to your tastes. Here are my favorite ways to switch up the flavors and textures:

  • I love adding homemade croutons to an Italian salad. The crunch can’t be beat!
  • Kidney beans or cannellini beans are great substitutes for the chickpeas.
  • Salami, prosciutto or grilled chicken are easy ways to add protein and flavor.
  • Add cubes of mozzarella, fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese.
  • Swap black olives for the Kalamata olives.
  • Add avocado. I believe any salad is better with avocado!
  • Add more veggies. Try bell peppers, carrots, artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers.

Serve this Italian Salad With:

Or any meal, really! Like my simple Green Salad, this versatile salad goes with just about anything.

Make Ahead Tips

You can prepare the salad ahead of time (without dressing) and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Undressed, it will last for about 2-3 days. Toss the salad with the dressing and Parmesan cheese right before serving.

The dressing can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If the olive oil separates and solidifies, let the dressing come to room temperature and then shake or whisk to recombine.

Italian salad served in a salad bowl.
Italian salad with serving spoons in a big wooden salad bowl.

Italian Salad

Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
This Italian salad has crisp lettuce, crunchy veggies, olives, pepperoncini peppers and Parmesan cheese, all tossed in a zesty homemade Italian dressing. It's my go-to side salad for a pasta dinner, don't forget the garlic bread!

Ingredients

For the Salad:

  • 6 cups (loosely packed) chopped romaine lettuce, or mixed greens, or lettuce of choice
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives
  • ½ cup sliced pepperoncini
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

For the Salad Dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon honey, or more, to taste

Instructions
 

To Make the Dressing:

  • Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until everything is mixed together well. (You can also make the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake the jar to combine.)
  • Taste dressing and adjust seasonings as needed.

To Make the Salad:

  • Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, chickpeas, kalamata olives and pepperoncini.
  • Pour dressing over the salad, a little at a time, tossing to combine, until salad is dressed to your liking.
  • Sprinkle on the shredded Parmesan cheese and toss to mix in the cheese. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Salad (without dressing) can be made up to 2-3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Toss the salad with the dressing right before serving. The dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Serving: 1/4 recipe, Calories: 309kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 632mg, Potassium: 418mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 6524IU, Vitamin C: 26mg, Calcium: 132mg, Iron: 2mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
Cuisine: Italian
Course: Salad
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