Light Italian Dressing

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A true classic, this homemade Light Italian Dressing will become your go-to salad dressing. It’s so much healthier and better tasting than store-bought and made with pantry ingredients.

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This easy homemade Light Italian Dressing is made with a combination of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, and Italian seasoning. It complements any salad, vegetable, or grain dish well and also tastes great as a marinade.

There’s just something about store-bought salad dressing that doesn’t quite taste right to me. Since salad dressing is so easy to make at home, I always have a jar in the fridge ready to go. I try to include salad dressing as part of my weekly meal prep.

Italian dressing is a great dressing to have on hand since it has so many uses.  The classic flavor pairs well with everything from a classic Spring Mix Salad to Grilled Chicken to pasta salad

Why You’ll Love Homemade Italian Dressing

  • Simple: Everyone needs a basic salad dressing to have in the fridge at all times and this is it. It is universally popular and the classic flavors work with almost any salad.
  • Multi-purpose: Italian dressing can go on salads, in sandwiches, or be used as a marinade. It can be drizzled on pasta, tossed with veggies, and spooned over grilled proteins. 

Looking for more homemade salad dressing? Try these creamy Gorgonzola Dressing, Healthy Thousand Island Dressing, or Greek Salad Dressing.

Italian dressing in a jar with herbs, garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Key Ingredients and Easy Swaps

Here are the ingredients and some possible substitutions for healthy Italian dressing.

  • Olive Oil: We use extra virgin olive oil but any kind of oil will work, even avocado oil. Choosing an olive oil that tastes good enhances the flavor of the dressing. 
  • Red wine vinegar: If you can’t find red wine vinegar balsamic vinegar also works.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice adds a little acidity and brightens up the flavor. If you don't have lemon, add some extra vinegar.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic really adds the best flavor. Make sure to grate it. Don't worry about the raw garlic flavor since the vinegar and lemon mellow the garlic. 
  • Dijon mustard: Dijon is a secret ingredient to add tons of flavor with a single ingredient. Whole-grain mustard also be used, but do not use yellow mustard. 
  • Honey: We used honey but you can also use maple syrup or agave. You can also make this dressing without any sweetener at all.
  • Italian seasoning: You can use an Italian seasoning mix or individual spices; basil, oregano, and thyme.
  • Salt and black pepper: We prefer to use kosher salt but any kind of salt will work.

How To Make Healthy Italian Dressing

This dressing comes together in less than 5 minutes. 

  • Combine: Whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl or add them to a mason jar and shake vigorously. The dressing should emulsify after its mixed or shaken. 
  • Taste: Taste test to determine if the flavor needs adjusting. If you find the dressing is too tart, add more olive oil or a touch more honey. If it lacks flavor, add some extra salt. 

Healthy Italian dressing with olive oil and red wine vinegar in a jar with a green salad.

Ways To Use Lightend Up Italian Dressing

Salad dressing is definitely for salads but you can also use it for other things. Here are a few options.

  • In a wrap: Drizzle the salad dressing on the tortilla or flatbread before you add your fillings.
  • As a marinade: Italian salad dressing is ideal as a marinade for chicken, turkey, pork, steak, fish, or shrimp.
  • Over vegetables: Lightly cover the vegetables with dressing before roasting or grilling them.
  • On top of potatoes: Whether you make baked, fried, or mashed, a little Italian vinaigrette will add loads of flavor.
  • With some pasta: Italian salad dressing coats pasta salad noodles really well and adds loads of flavor.
  • To season beans: Bean salads would taste great with Italian salad dressing.
  • Along with grains: Quinoa, bulghur, or couscous would all benefit from a drizzle of this dressing.

How To Store Italian Salad Dressing

Here are some tips on how to store your salad dressing.

  • Fridge: This Italian dressing will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container or mason in the fridge. I do not recommend freezing it. Make sure to stir it well before you use it since the olive oil and vinegar will separate.

Make it Yours! Recipe Variations

There are so many ways to change up this salad dressing but here are a few of our favorites.

  • Add some spice: A touch of cayenne pepper or red chili flakes always does the trick.
  • Up the Italian flavor: Mix in fresh herbs instead of dried ones to really increase the Italian flavor. Use basil, oregano, or fresh thyme leaves.
  • Mix in pesto: Whether it be homemade or jarred, pesto always adds a fantastic flavor to salad dressings.
  • Stir in some cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan cheese would go really well with this dressing.
  • Make it creamy: If you are in the mood for a richer dressing stir in some full-fat Greek yogurt for a creamy Italian dressing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making this homemade Italian dressing.

Italian dressing is a healthy salad dressing for most people since it is made with heart-healthy olive oil, vinegar, and spices. It tends to be low in sugar and doesn't contain lots of saturated fat like many creamy dressings that use mayonnaise. With that said, Italian dressing is generally not low calorie since it is made with a base of oil.

Vinaigrettes are the most common salad dressing in the world, being used in most cuisines. Vinaigrettes are usually made with a combination of oil and vinegar or oil and lemon juice.

In the United States specifically, creamy dressing like ranch dressing are also very popular. 

Italian dressing being poured over a salad with avocado, tomatoes, and herbs.
The Recipe
Light Italian dressing in a jar with olive oil, vinegar, and lemon and served over a green salad.

Light Italian Dressing

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  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey (or pure maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

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In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. You can also add them to a mason jar and shake vigorously. The dressing should emulsify.


Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. If the dressing is too tart, add more olive oil or a touch more honey.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2 tbsp
Amount Per Serving
Calories 121
Calories from Fat 109
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 454mg
Total Carbohydrate 3g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 2g
Protein 0g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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