Homemade Zesty Italian Dressing Mix

By Ann Fulton

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You control the ingredients with this copycat recipe that's easy to make with everyday spices. Fast, fresh-tasting, economical, and endlessly versatile!

You control the ingredients with this copycat recipe that’s easy to make with everyday spices. Fast, fresh-tasting, economical, and endlessly versatile!

 

A packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing provided a convenient shortcut for me for years.

I first discovered it when I was dating my husband and we were invited to a coworker’s house for dinner. I don’t remember what else was served that night, but I remember the salad.

The memorable vinaigrette produced a salad that tasted like more than the sum of its parts. 

When I inquired, my office compatriot revealed his go-to dressing: a packet of zesty Italian made with balsamic vinegar instead of the white vinegar instructed on the package. (The packet now simply specifies “vinegar.”)

I bought a packet shortly after and have used it countless times for what my husband considers his favorite salad–Jack’s Tomato and Cucumber Salad. ⬇

You barely need a recipe for this garden-fresh summer salad that will round out a broad range of meals, from corn on the cob and burgers to grilled fish or chicken.

Between the short list of garden-fresh produce and the flavor-packed vinaigrette, “Jack’s” salad is a summertime staple for sure. And almost too easy.

Somewhere along the way, Good Seasons added wheat to the spice blend, so it’s no longer suitable for those with a gluten allergy or intolerance. And sometimes, it can simply be nice to do it yourself, whether to control the specific ingredients (eliminating preservatives or reducing the sodium content, for example) or making use of the spices you likely have on hand.

If you question the sugar in an otherwise savory mix, know that it’s there to balance the vinegar that will be added to the dressing. Eliminating it would be appropriate if you plan to use the mix as a dry spice rub, for example, where no vinegar is involved. When making the vinaigrette, you could also substitute the sugar with a touch of honey instead.

You control the ingredients with this do-it-yourself rendition of a store-bought convenience. It's easy to make with spices you likely have on hand and tastes fresher, too.

Beyond the tomato and cucumber salad, the vinaigrette can be used in countless other salads and recipes that call for the Good Seasons packet. Next up, I plan to try the dry mix as a seasoning for simply seared shrimp.

Before posting it here, I made small batches of the dressing using balsamic vinegar as well as red wine, white wine, apple cider, and distilled white vinegar, and served on a basic salad. 

I had the whole family on hand (they love these taste tests 😂), and we leaned towards the same favorites. 

Beyond the balsamic vinegar version, which has been a well-liked staple in our house for years, the red wine vinegar earned glowing reviews. Apple cider vinegar came in next.

The flavor of both the white wine and distilled white vinegar batches was more one-note. It perked up, however, when I whisked in a spoonful of Dijon mustard. A half tablespoon was sufficient to add depth of flavor.

The results were quite good when I pushed the Dijon addition to a full tablespoon, although that iteration read more like a Dijon vinaigrette, not so much an Italian one. You may wish to try this if you enjoy the zing of mustard.

You control the ingredients with this copycat recipe that's easy to make with everyday spices. Fast, fresh-tasting, economical, and endlessly versatile!

When preparing the dressing, I use less oil that called for in the store-bought packet. I also offer a range. For a bolder flavor, I use the lesser amount. Opt for the higher amount if you’d prefer a milder flavor or like a more liberally-dressed salad. 

How else to use Zesty Italian Vinaigrette: 

Beyond Jack’s Favorite Tomato & Cucumber Salad, you may enjoy the Zesty Italian Vinaigrette in a crowd-pleasing Italian Hoagie Salad. Or try it in place of the Greek dressing in Greek Pasta Salad.

Likewise, it’s a natural in One Pan Greek (or Italian) Chicken, or use it in place of the red wine vinaigrette in a Cobb Salad, with or without the asparagus included in the linked recipe. 

For a speedy weeknight salad, I often combine leaf lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, slivered red onion, and crumbed feta, and then toss with the dressing. Extras like chopped avocado, a sprinkle of nuts or seeds, and olives complement nicely, too.

…as will chopped artichokes, cucumbers, even leftover roasted or grilled vegetables–or try the vinaigrette as a marinade for grilled veggies. The possibilities are truly endless. 

With this dressing on hand, even the simplest of tossed salads will come together effortlessly–and basic vegetables will taste like more than the sum of their parts! 

    You control the ingredients with this copycat recipe that's easy to make with everyday spices. Fast, fresh-tasting, economical, and endlessly versatile!

Homemade Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
Yield: ~ 6 tablespoons or 3 “packets”
Make your own "packets" to have on hand with this fast, fresh, economical (and endlessly versatile!) copycat recipe.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder (not onion salt)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar*
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt**
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes***
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
Instructions

Mix all ingredients and store in a jar, spice bottle, or airtight container. When using fresh spices, the mix will keep for at least a year when stored in a cool, dark place.

Tip: the olive oil with separate and firm up slightly when refrigerated; this is normal. Simply let the dressing stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or so and then shake well just before serving.

To make the vinaigrette: Mix 2 tablespoons of seasoning with ¼ cup vinegar, ⅓ to ½ cup olive, and 2 tablespoons water. Shake well. For an added flavor component, you can add ½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the dressing. For a more pronounced Dijon vinaigrette, I’ve increased the amount to 1 tablespoon.

What kinds of vinegar work best? My favorites are balsamic and apple cider vinegar. Red wine vinegar is also quite good. White wine vinegar provides the mildest flavor, while basic white distilled vinegar tastes good but is less nuanced. When using white wine or basic white vinegar, my taste testers have preferred the addition of the optional Dijon.

Notes & Tips:

Two tablespoons = 1 Good Seasons spice packet. I like to divide the recipe into three equal portions for three homemade packets at the ready. Be sure to stir well before measuring, as the finer ingredients tend to settle.

*The sugar balances the vinegar that is added to the vinaigrette later. If preferred, you could omit and add 1 teaspoon of honey (or sweetener of choice) to the vinaigrette when preparing. You may also omit the sugar if you’d like to use the mix as a dry rub for chicken or to season ground beef for burgers. You could even use it as an herby topping for garlic bread.

**For a lower-salt option, you may reduce the salt to 1 tablespoon. I’ve made the mix this way and it still has good flavor. The higher amount, however, pops the flavor somewhat more and is reasonable in the context of how many servings are created through three generous batches of vinaigrette.

***This amount of red pepper flakes provides flavor but does not make it spicy; may increase to 1 teaspoon, or more to taste.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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