Italian Salad Dressing: The Not-So-Secret Ingredient to Easy Dinners | Yummly

Italian Salad Dressing: The Not-So-Secret Ingredient for Easy Dinners

That trusty salad standby can do so much more. Cooking, grilling, and even entertaining are easier and more zippy in these 25 recipes that use bottled Italian dressing. 

Cooking with bottled salad dressing doesn’t have a stellar reputation. Fancy chefs don’t talk about it, and food shows don’t teach you how to use it. My first introduction to it was a boyfriend’s tipsy mom who hated to cook; one afternoon, after a few glasses of Chardonnay, she boasted she’d marinated chicken breasts in Italian dressing before putting them in the oven to roast. I took a peek in the oven and discovered a sheet pan with a mountain of raw chicken dotted with red and green. As soon as she left the kitchen I grabbed some tongs and frantically dismantled the pile of raw poultry, spaced each piece evenly and carefully set a timer. Yikes! But you know what? That chicken was surprisingly good. And no one left feeling sick. Whew.  

My eyes had been opened, and not just to potential danger (perhaps not surprisingly, that relationship did not last). It turns out there are many more uses for Italian dressing, beyond green salads and suspicious chicken dishes. It’s a shortcut ingredient for an edible homage to Puerto Rican grilled adobo chicken; helps you bake frozen ravioli into delicate, savory pasta pillows; adds instant Italian cred to pressed paninis; can be a glaze for barbecued shrimp and a sassy sauce when pureed with avocado; and even a post-oven marinade to elevate cruciferous vegetables. 

Be sure to grab your favorite bottle with as few additives and stabilizers as possible, and in general avoid using “Creamy Italian” dressings outside of the salad realm. Plus, the techniques and shortcuts in the recipes below are easy to apply to other dishes in your repertoire when time is of the essence and the flavor needs a bump. Drizzle on.    

Jump ahead to:

Surprising starters >>

Stunning suppers >>

Fresh pasta salads and comforting pasta entrees >>

Grilling with salad dressing marinades >>

Veggie-tastic >>

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Surprising starters

Italian salad dressing makes these tempting little bites the belles of the ball

Cowboy Caviar Cups

This zesty vegan appetizer has something for everybody: black-eyed peas, avocado, tomato, cilantro, corn, black beans, and red onion, plus Italian dressing to bring it all together. Served in fluted tortilla cups, it becomes an elegant appetizer with crunch.

Italian Chicken Wings

Italian dressing and soy sauce come together to marinate these chicken wings, and they’re best cooked on a rack set in a sheet pan at 400°F for about 30 minutes, turned once. They’ll get gobbled up by a grateful crowd.

Marinated Mozzarella Cheese and Olives

This elegant appetizer only needs to marinate for an hour before it’s served. Orange zest adds a fresh citrus note and fresh parsley makes it pretty, while red pepper flakes give the salad dressing a little more fire. 

Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups

Long zucchini slices are marinated in Italian salad dressing before being grilled (a grill pan on the stovetop also works). Then they’re spread with a mixture of cream cheese, feta, and fresh herbs, and rolled into adorable spirals for all to enjoy.

Stunning suppers

Streamline your dinner prep time by using Italian salad dressing while adding a layer of flavor to your main dish

Easy Ravioli and Cheese Bake

This incredibly clever recipe guides the cook to stir frozen ravioli into a baking dish filled with a soupy mixture of jarred pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, beef broth, and Italian salad dressing (for a jolt of pizzazz) — then pop it in the oven to slowly simmer the ravioli in the zippy sauce. Only one dish to clean, and the ravioli actually taste better because they soaked up so much flavor!

Chipotle-Orange Shrimp 

A handful of ingredients deliver big flavor in this quick shrimp dish: Zesty Italian dressing does the seasoning for you, along with sweetness from orange marmalade and heat from chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a bed of warm rice, and dinner is served!

7-Ingredient Italian Dressing Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

This easy chicken recipe works great on a weeknight, and can be keto-friendly if you choose a keto-approved dressing. Roasting both grape tomatoes and chicken thighs in the Italian salad dressing (set the oven to 450°F) layers the flavors and makes this a simple dinner to prepare. 

Perfect Chicken Tenders

This simple four-ingredient dish achieves a good equilibrium: Chicken tenders are marinated in a mixture of Italian salad dressing, honey, and lime juice to achieve a delicate flavor balance of savory, sweet, and citrusy acidity, then cooked in the marinade to create a satisfying sauce.

Easy Succulent Saucy Spareribs

These ribs cook low and slow for several hours, filling your home with a tempting aroma. They’re slathered with a mixture of chopped onion, brown sugar, Italian dressing, and a cup of jarred red sauce. They couldn’t be simpler, or more luscious.

Italian Panini

The rolls in this recipe using Italian salad dressing get painted with the peppy oil and vinegar mixture to make this grilled (or pressed) version of a hoagie a complex and delicious toasty sandwich. 

Barbecue Pork Skillet

Equal amounts of barbecue sauce and Italian salad dressing make a simple yet zesty sauce for these juicy pork chops that are ready in about 15 minutes.

Fresh pasta salads and comforting pasta entrees

Pasta salads and cozy pasta dishes all get a bump from the Italian seasonings in Italian salad dressing

Easy Antipasto Pasta Salad

The best elements of an antipasto platter come together in this tender Italian pasta salad with Italian dressing to give it a bold exuberance. Salami, fresh mozzarella, colorful bell pepper squares, and cherry tomatoes are tossed with pasta shells and bottled dressing for a delicious dish.  

B.L.T. Pasta Salad

Summer’s best sandwich becomes a refreshing pasta salad: Crisp bacon, sweet grape tomatoes, chopped romaine lettuce, and grated Parmesan cheese are mixed with farfalle (bow tie) pasta — but it’s the Italian salad dressing that really pulls the dish together.

Slow Cooker Olive Garden Chicken Pasta

Boneless skinless chicken breasts get slow cooked in a creamy, savory sauce of bottled Italian salad dressing (choose a low-salt option for best results) and cream cheese. The chicken gets shredded in the Crock-Pot after cooking, pepper and Parmesan are added, and cooked penne is stirred in just before serving, for a zestier take on chicken alfredo.

Creamy Poblano Bow Ties with Salmon

Italian salad dressing provides the liquid in this quick salmon braise before it gets served over bow tie pasta tossed with a three-ingredient — yet decadent tasting — poblano cream sauce.

Chicken Parmesan Pasta Skillet 

Flavors of chicken Parmesan permeate this easy one-pot meal: Cubes of chicken breast are sautéed in Italian dressing so they absorb the flavors, then a box of pasta, jar of marinara, and two cups of water get simmered together until the pasta is tender. Parmesan and mozzarella on top gild that Italian lily, and there’s only one pot to wash after dinner.  

Grilling with salad dressing marinades

The easiest cooking method just got simpler with this assortment of recipes that use Italian dressing for marinating meat and fish

The Best Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Grilling pork tenderloin is fast and quite simple, and using an Italian salad dressing marinade imparts lots of flavor and helps this lean cut of meat hold onto its moisture on the grill. Using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature ensures it’s cooked through while staying juicy — the Yummly Smart Thermometer masterfully accomplishes that task. 

Grilled Shrimp Tostadas   

Grilled poblano chiles and corn make these summery tostadas even more appealing. Glazing the shrimp with the salad dressing as it’s over the fire gives an automatic pop of savory flavor to complement the natural sweetness of the shrimp. Then the dressing is pureed with avocado to make a luscious sauce to drizzle on top.

Famous Adobo Grilled Chicken

Take a shortcut to grilled Caribbean-inspired chicken with a savory salad dressing marinade, then a rub of Adobo seasoning, and finally a stint on the grill while brushing with barbecue sauce. It couldn’t be simpler.   

Grilled Kielbasa and Veggie Kabobs

Choose your favorite bottle of Italian salad dressing and keep brushing these kabobs as they grill to impart maximum flavor with minimal effort. Plus at the end, everyone gets to enjoy a complete meal — on a stick! 

Herbed Pork Chops 

This easy recipe uses Italian salad dressing and spoonfuls of fresh herbs (choose your favorites, or pick whatever’s growing like crazy in a pot or yard nearby) to marinate pork chops before tossing them on the grill. Be sure to let the chops rest for five minutes before slicing or serving. 


Vegetables get a healthy boost from bottled dressing in these flavorful main or side dish recipes 

Roasted Zucchini Salad with Feta and Italian Dressing

This salad is delicious served warm or at room temperature, and with only five ingredients it comes together quite easily: Zucchini rounds are dry roasted in a skillet, then tossed with feta cheese, fresh mint, and Italian dressing. 

Brussels Sprouts Marinated in Italian Dressing

Steamed or roasted Brussels sprouts get marinated after cooking in this salad dressing marinade that also includes fresh dill, minced garlic, and some finely chopped onion (that ends up pickled in the dressing).

Grilled Mushrooms

With only two ingredients, this might be the easiest recipe using Italian salad dressing, and hey, it's gluten-free and low on the carbohydrates. A pound of mushrooms (try to get ones that are roughly all the same size) are marinated in your favorite bottle of olive oil and vinegar — or whisk up some homemade Italian dressing in a pinch — then they're grilled up to be a great complement to any meaty mains or mezze platter.

Grilled Vegetable and Grain Salad  

Your favorite fresh vegetables — like zucchini, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes — can be marinated in Italian salad dressing, skewered, and grilled (or roasted in the oven) before being tossed with your favorite whole cooked grain and a little more dressing for a great side or satisfying vegan meal.

More quick dinner ideas 

Italian salad dressing is one clever trick for getting dinner on the table fast. Check out these Yummly articles for additional ideas to solve the dinner dilemma.