Creamy Italian Dressings
Here in the test kitchen, we always make our own salad dressing. But readers insist they like the convenience of bottled dressing on occasion. In the hopes of finding an acceptable supermarket creamy Italian dressing, we rounded up six top-selling brands (data courtesy of Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm), readied our industrial-sized salad spinner, and called 20 cooks and editors from America’s Test Kitchen to taste each dressing plain and with iceberg lettuce.
The results? We still prefer homemade, and can’t recommend any store-bought bottles more strongly than “with reservations.” Two are acceptable: They have the least sodium per serving, aren’t too sweet, and have no off flavors. Most important, they have the most fat of those we tasted. The type of fat matters, too. These dressings have vegetable oil as the primary fat source, but the fats listed next in one dressing are egg yolk and buttermilk; in the other, sour cream, whole egg, and egg yolk. These rich, fatty ingredients give our winners creamy flavor and texture. A few dressings we tasted get virtually all their fat from relatively flavorless oils. Another dressing does have egg yolk, but it also has Romano and Parmesan cheeses, a combination our tasters found overpowering.
Ingredients lists don’t tell the entire story. All but two of the dressings contain chemical additives and preservatives, and their presence didn’t affect our preferences. Our top-ranked dressing, for example, contains high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial color. The dressing that finished second to last has none of those additives. While our top dressings are passable in a pinch, we still suggest you make your own.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
For complete access to the results,
start a 14-Day Free Trial.
Start Your 14-Day Free Trial Membership
Every Recipe. Every Rating. Every Video from
Every Magazine & Every Episode!
- 8 years of Cook’s Country Foolproof Recipes
- Complete Cook’s Country TV Video Library
- 2,900+ Equipment Ratings and Ingredient Taste Tests
- Step-by-Step Technique Photos
- Save Favorites, Create Menus, Print Shopping Lists