Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 14, 2021

Italian dressing is one of those products that seem vegan at first glance, but in reality, that's not always the case.

So, in this article, we'll look into Italian dressing - one of the most versatile salad dressings, to answer this question that's been bugging many vegans.

What is Italian Dressing Made Of?

What Italian Dressing is made of

This famous salad dressing is a vinaigrette, a combination of lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, or red wine vinegar), vegetable oil, salt, and water.

All of these ingredients are vegan, which makes the basic recipe also vegan.

Some varieties may also contain sugar or corn syrup, dried Italian spices and herbs, chopped bell peppers, and sometimes onion and garlic.

In addition to these ingredients, factory-made dressings, especially the creamy variety, can contain animal products and food stabilizers.

3 Problematic Ingredients

1. Milk & Eggs

With homemade vegan Italian dressing, you're safe. As for bottled options, you should probably pay attention when the label says "may contain trace amounts of milk/eggs."

2. Xanthan Gum

Another ingredient that may not sit well with others is xanthan gum, a food additive produced from fermented sugars. Some people might have a problem with this ingredient because a small percentage of those sugars come from animal products like whey.

3. Honey

If a salad dressing is advertised as plant-based, it shouldn't contain honey, commonly found in various condiments.

Does it Contain Dairy?

Although Italian dressing tends to be dairy-free, there's still a chance to encounter some non-vegan stuff, especially its creamy version.

The usual animal products in salad dressings include:

  • Milk
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Lactose

The good news? Dairy is not the only way to make a creamy vegan Italian dressing. Plant-based alternatives can make it equally satisfying, such as cashews, vegan butter, or any plant-based milk.

Homemade vs. Store-Bought

Difference between homemade and store bought italian dressing

Whipping up your very own vegan dressing recipe takes just a bit of creativity.

The total prep time usually involves only a couple of minutes, so you don't need proficient-level cooking skills.

Besides, the internet is flooded with delicious vegan salad dressings so that you won't be lacking inspiration.

If you're into creamy stuff, you can always rely on cashews to make a nice and thick Thousand Island-style vegan dressing.

You get to select the best ingredients, so you can skip on consuming low-quality vegetable oils and replace them with extra-virgin olive oil, for example.

Also, if you are extra-careful about eating healthy, you can even make oil-free Italian dressing in no time.

"If you just made a green salad chock full of vitamins and nutrients, why ruin it with a store-bought dressing that may quite possibly have refined sugars, poor-quality oils and, artificial flavors?" [1]

 

- Gigi Gaggero, culinary education expert and the author of "Food Fight."

On the flip side, not everyone is cut out to be a chef, and that's totally fine because there are some excellent vegan dressings you can order online or pick up at your local supermarket.

To get inspired, check out our top picks of vegan salad dressing brands below.

4 Best Vegan Brands

When it comes to Italian dressing, vegan options are plenty, so if you're not crazy about experimenting in the kitchen, you can rely on any of these super-delicious vegan salad dressing brands:

  1. Daiya (Homestyle Ranch, Creamy Caesar, Creamy Italian) - All are gluten, soy, and egg-free, vegan, and contain no GMOs.
  2. Primal Kitchen Vegan Ranch - is based on avocado oil and is sugar, gluten, and soy-free. A great replacement for creamy Italian dressings.
  3. Anni Organic Goddess - a perfect balance of garlic, sesame seeds, parsley, and chives; all dipped in canola oil and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Garlic Expressions dressing If you are into garlicky flavors, you'll love this vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, canola oil, and fresh garlic cloves. It may not be creamy, but it's damn delicious.

Related:

Creamy, Oil-Free Vegan Salad Dressing Recipe

Oil free vegan salad dressing on a yellow background

Extra-picky vegans or folks with dietary restrictions can always resort to homemade, oil-free versions of this dressing and tweak the flavor to match anyone’s taste.

Just blend the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ or 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard for a zesty flavor

You can make it zesty by adding Dijon mustard and garlic powder, or you can make it sweet by adding corn or maple syrup.

Is It Healthy?

Classic Italian dressing offers a healthier option to the creamy version because it's naturally lower in calories and fat.

"You won't get many nutrients from any salad dressing, but regular Italian dressing is a good source of vitamin K and healthy unsaturated fats that help prevent cardiovascular disease"

 

- Sandi Busch, livestrong.com [2]

Too much oil or salt can undoubtedly contribute to some health issues, but you shouldn't be too worried if you find the right balance.

Also Read:

So, Is Italian Dressing Vegan?

Yes, its plain classic form is vegan-friendly.

In general, dressings clearly labeled as vegan are also a safe bet. However, not all store-bought sauces are completely free from animal-derived ingredients.

The dressing is critical, especially for neutral-tasting greens. Even if it's just fresh lemon juice and olive oil, you can't fail. Many of us enjoy making it on our own, but many bottled dressings are just as good.

If you are a vegan, Italian dressing can be an excellent addition to your diet if you know how to make it vegan.

Share your favorite homemade plant-based recipe in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://30seconds.com/food/tip/16564/Homemade-Vs-Store-Bought-Salad-Dressings-Here-Are-3-Reasons-You-Should-Make-Your-Own
  2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/394210-is-italian-dressing-healthy/

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