Caesar Salad

The best Caesar Salad recipe AKA the ultimate, easy side to practically everything!

Everyone needs the BEST Caesar Salad recipe and this is it!  It’s an easy, everyday dinner staple everyone LOVES and is also guaranteed to impress dinner guests. This Caesar Salad is a hypnotic balance of fresh, crisp Romaine lettuce, crunchy, homemade garlic-herb croutons and rich, salty Parmesan all bathed in my favorite ever luscious, WAY-better-than-store-bought Caesar Dressing.  You’ll never want to buy Caesar Dressing again!   Best of all, this recipe is so easy to make with minimal ingredients and is also easy to customize; feel free to add veggies or protein, (chicken, shrimp, salmon, etc.).  Serve this Classic Caesar Salad with everything from Tuscan Chicken and Lasagna, to French Dip Sandwiches, Garlic Butter Pork Tenderloin, Cajun Chicken, etc.

If you love Caesar recipes as much as we do, check out our Homemade Caesar Dressing, Chicken Caesar Salad and Caesar Tortellini.   

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top view of Caesar Salad in a wooden bowl

CAESAR SALAD RECIPE

I am so excited to bring you everyone’s favorite salad – Caesar Salad!  In fact, The International Society of Epicures in Paris, named Caesar Salad “the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years.”  And I am strongly tempted to agree. Some foods are classic for a reason, like hot, crispy French fries, juicy, shatteringly crispy Nashville hot chicken and fresh, crunchy, creamy, Caesar Salad.

So, what makes this this the best Caesar Salad recipe?  It comes down to having the BEST two homemade elements:

  • Crunchy, herb, garlic croutons and
  • Creamy, garlicky, bright, umami rich Caesar Dressing

here’s why this recipe works:

This isn’t your grocery store’s Caesar Salad.  Sure, you can pick up a bag of Caesar Salad at the grocery store with lackluster Parmesan, overly creamy, heavy dressing and soggy croutons but making this simple recipe at home creates a real stunner that everyone will go crazy for. 

Seriously, there are never any leftovers when I make this salad.  It’s a masterful blend of salty Parmesan, crunchy croutons seasoned with Italian herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper then baked until golden, crunchy addictiveness, (you’ll be eating them off the baking sheet), and crisp lettuce all laced with the bold, creamy, dressing that will instantly become a household favorite.  This Caesar Salad recipe is simply irresistible and might just be the best version yet. 

The dressing is 1000X better than any store-bought variety! The salad is dressed with my stunning Caesar Dressing that I shared earlier this week, packed with bold, bright, creamy, tangy, garlicky, umami flavors – and it takes MINUTES to whisk together!  As a bonus, you can customize the dressing to your personal preferences as far as acidity, garlic, umami and Parmesan.

This Caesar Salad is quick and easy – no blender or food processor required!  There’s no need to load up on a huge list of ingredients for this recipe; it’s one case where less is more, making prep a breeze!  Additionally, the Caesar Dressing primarily uses a sour cream base plus a punch of mayo so all you have to do is whisk the ingredients together.  While it chills, toss the croutons in herbs and olive and bake.  Now all that’s left is to give your chopped lettuce a spin!

Caesar Salad goes with practically ANY entrée. This is one recipe you will have on repeat.  Not only is it super simple to make but lends itself well to so many different types of cuisine.  Best of all, no one ever grows tired of it!  I could eat Caesar Salad every day for the rest of my life and still look forward to the salty, creamy, crunchy explosion every time.

Make it the main dish!  This Caesar Salad recipe isn’t just delicious as a side salad, but is easy to add protein (chicken, salmon, eggs, etc.) to create a tasty main dish.   It is one salad no one will ever complain about having as their dinner!

The origin of Caesar Salad

While Julius Caesar might be the most well-known Caesar around, he is not the namesake for tantalizing Caesar salad.  It was actually invented by a different Caesar – Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States.  Cardini was living in San Diego (can I get a whoop whoop) but he was also working in Tijuana where he avoided the restrictions of Prohibition. 

During a Fourth of July rush in 1924, the kitchen’s supplies were depleted and Cardini had to make do with what he had on hand.  So, when you combine an Italian upbringing with 4th of July feeding frenzy you get the masterpiece of Caesar Salad. Another reason to LOVE this salad – a hometown specialty!

Did you know Julia Child visited one of Caesar Cardini’s restaurants as a child?  Yup you guessed it – she had the Caesar Salad.  This was in the 1920’s just when it was newly invented.   Now we can all enjoy this great American classic from our homes anytime with this stellar recipe.

showing what's in Caesar Salad recipe by adding Romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan and homemade Caesar Dressing to a bowl

What goes in Caesar Salad?

Caesar Salad is a classic example of combining simple ingredients in perfect proportions for an epic explosion of flavor, texture and YUM!  There are a few variations out there, but most foodies will agree classic Caesar Salad is made with:

  • Romaine lettuce  
  • Croutons
  • Caesar Salad Dressing
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked salt and pepper

Classic Caesar Salad was originally served with large lettuce leaves that you would grab by the stem and take bites of it.  It is still served this way in some restaurants, but most agree, tossing chopped Romaine with the dressing makes for a more evenly dressed salad.

CAESAR SALAD INGREDIENTS:

Caesar Salad is made with very few ingredients, so it’s important each ingredient be high quality and homemade (please resist the urge to purchase store-bought dressing and croutons!). You’ll want to use Parmesan Reggiano, crusty sourdough bread and from-scratch Caesar Dressing.  With these ingredients, you will be enjoying the Best Caesar Salad in the comfort of your own home!

Lettuce

Romaine is the fresh, crispy lettuce of choice for Caesar Salad which holds up well against the creamy dressing. I prefer Romaine hearts as opposed to the whole head because they seem fresher, sweeter and crunchier than whole heads without the wilted outside layers. Still, you can go with one large head Romaine, two medium heads or three Romaine hearts to equal approximately 10 cups of chopped lettuce.

Chop the lettuce into bite-sized pieces so they make the perfect bite of lettuce, croutons, Parmesan and dressing.  Use a salad spinner to clean the lettuce and to spin it super dry.  No wants dirty or wet lettuce!

Parmesan

Parmesan amps up the salty, umami flavor and adds that satisfying rich, cheesy texture.  Look for imported Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy for its great bite and sharpness, as opposed to domestic Parmesan which pales in comparison (they will be labeled Parmigiano-Reggiano and Parmesan). 

I personally love combining two cuts of Parmesan cheese, finely grated and shaved.  Finely grated Parmesan ensures every nook and cranny is dusted with Parmesan and shaved Parmesan offers salty, rich bursts of flavor.  To make shaved Parmesan use a vegetable peeler and shave some off of a wedge.

Croutons

Croutons add the satisfying, olive-oil infused crunch in every bite.   While you can pick up some seasoned, store-bought croutons, homemade croutons are so easy to make, and so worth the couple extra minutes.

You can use any crusty bread to make homemade croutons, but I especially like sourdough, although French bread and artisan bread will also work. Just toss the cubed bread with some olive oil and seasonings and toast while you prep the lettuce.

Freshly-cracked black pepper

Finally, freshly cracked salt and pepper finish the salad with as much or as little pizazz as you want.

up close of a spoon in a jar of homemade Caesar dressing showing how creamy it is

Homemade Caesar dressing

Your Caesar Salad is only as good as your Caesar Dressing, so you can proceed with confidence because this is the BEST Homemade Caesar Dressing!    I published a blog post earlier this week detailing all about the dressing which can read here, but here’s an overview:

  • It’s bold, flavorful and perfectly balanced.  The homemade Caesar Dressing is a creamy, bright, tangy, garlicky, umami explosion of YUM. It will blow any store-bought version out of the water.  It’s made with a base of sour cream and mayonnaise and bold amounts of anchovies, garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic and Dijon.
  • The dressing doesn’t contain any raw eggs so it’s easy to make and will last up to two weeks in your refrigerator, should you be so lucky.  Traditional Caesar Salad Dressing is made with raw egg yolks and olive oil, but this recipe uses a sour cream and mayonnaise base so it’s lighter and simpler, but every bit as delicious.  This also means you don’t have to haul out your food processor or blender to make it.  Simply whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  You’ll end up with a hypnotic creamy, tangy, savory dressing that makes the salad.  It doesn’t get any easier or more delicious than this my friends.
  • Anchovies are the secret ingredient in Caesar Dressing but I’ve included substitutes.  Anchovies are the key, umami rich ingredient that add saltiness and a savory, complex depth to this otherwise flat dressing without leaving it “fishy-tasting.”  In fact, you probably won’t even realize they are in the dressing (if you haven’t noticed yet! they are in all Caesar Dressings), aside from the deliciously deep, nondescript umami base they provide.  
  • Anchovies are easy to use.   You will need 4 anchovies from a can or jar usually located next to the tuna fish. These anchovies have been filleted, salt-cured, and stored in olive oil.  This curing process produces the intensely salty flavor we want for this Caesar Dressing recipe.  To use the anchovies, lift them out of the can, plop them onto a cutting board and dab off excess oil with a paper towel.  Don’t be alarmed if you spy any tiny bones, they are harmless and undetectable.  Finely mince the anchovies then use the side of your knife to mash them by pressing down and sliding the knife against the cutting board. 

WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD OF ANCHOVIES?

If you’d like to make Caesar Dressing without anchovies, you will find it is difficult to find a spot-on substitute. However, here are some possible substitutions:

  • Anchovy paste:  use 1 ½ teaspoons in this recipe.
  • Fish sauceAsian fish sauce is usually made from fermented anchovies, so it’s one of the best substitutes for anchovies in Caesar Salad Dressing.  Fish sauce is strong and concentrated, so start with ½ teaspoon and add more to taste.
  • Worcestershire sauce: is probably as close to the real thing as it gets in terms of flavor because it is made with anchovies (or sardines).   Start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste.
  • Vegan Worcestershire sauce:  if you are vegetarian or allergic to shellfish, look for anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce.  Some vegan brands include Wizard’s, Annie’s and Whole Foods 365, but as always, check the labels first.  Vegan brands typically are not gluten free but use soy, if that is something you need pay attention to.
  • Capers:  are a vegan and vegetarian anchovy substitute with a briny, acidic, salty, savory flavor.  Start with 1 tablespoon, minced and mashed, and add more to taste.
  • Olives: choose an olive with a salty brine like Kalamata or Castelvetrano and mash them up into a paste.  Start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste.  

caesar dressing VARIATIONS AND DIETARY SUBSTITUTIONS

This Caesar Dressing can be modified to suit your personal dietary preferences.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Mayonnaise substitute: use your favorite vegan mayonnaise substitute.  Readers have said great things about grapeseed oil Vegainase.
  • Sour cream substitute: I prefer sour cream in this dressing but Greek yogurt will work, just start off with only 1 tablespoon lemon juice and add more to taste.  If you are vegan, swap in your favorite vegan sour cream or even vegan mayo.
  • Parmesan substitute: if your vegetarian or vegan, try Whole Foods 365 or BelGioioso brands of Parmesan, which are truly vegetarian (most Parmesans contain animal rennet).
  • Anchovy substitute:  use any of my anchovy substitutes listed above.
  • Vegan Caesar Dressing:  use vegan sour cream, vegan mayonnaise, vegan Worcestershire sauce, vegan Parmesan and replace the anchovies with 1 tablespoon minced and mashed capers.
  • Play with ingredient quantities.  Use more or less of any of the ingredients to make this homemade Caesar Dressing perfect for YOU!  I love a bold, full-flavored Caesar Dressing but you can tame the dressing by using less garlic and anchovies. 

HOW TO MAKE CAESAR SALAD:

Are you ready to see how easy it is to make Caesar Salad? (Full measurements and instructions in the recipe card at the end of the post.)

  • Step 1: Make the Caesar Dressing. Make the dressing first so it has time to chill.  Start by chopping the anchovies until finely minced, then mash them by pressing down and sliding the knife against the cutting board.  Next, add all of the dressing ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until smooth -that’s it!
showing how to make Caesar Salad by adding Caesar Dressing ingredients to a bowl and whisking to combine
  • Step 2: Make the homemade croutons.  Cube the bread into bite size pieces and toss with olive oil, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then bake until golden and crispy.
showing how to make Caesar Salad by adding cubed bread to a baking sheet and tossing with olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano
  • Step 3: Toss the salad. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce, homemade croutons, and Parmesan. Drizzle with your desired amount of Caesar Dressing, then toss until combined.
showing how to make Caesar Salad recipe by drizzling salad with Caesar Dressing
  • Step 4: Serve.  Taste, then season with freshly cracked pepper as needed. Dig in!
showing how to make Caesar Salad recipe by tossing the salad ingredients together in a wood bowl with tongs

Tips for Making the Best Caesar Salad

  • Use crusty, day-old bread.  I recommend day-old bread because it doesn’t smoosh when you slice it for more even, less compact croutons.
  • Cube the croutons small.  Cubing the bread into small pieces makes for crispier croutons and more explosions of crunch in the salad.  You will want them in every bite!
  • Bake the croutons until crispy. Depending on the bread, size of the croutons and actual oven temperature, your croutons may take more or less time to bake.  Make sure to bake them until just crispy and then they will continue to crisp up as they cool after baking.
  • Use fresh, quality ingredient in the Caesar Dressing.  Use fresh lemon juice, fresh garlic, whole anchovies (not paste) and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, labeled Parmigiano-Reggiano, which has much better flavor than just Parmesan and definitely far superior than the powdered stuff with the green lid.
  • Embrace the anchovy. Anchovies are essential for the best tangy, salty, rich, full bodied, satisfying Caesar Dressing.  If you omit the anchovies, make sure to use a suggested substitute, but it won’t be quite as good.
  • Plunge then dry lettuce.  After you wash the lettuce, plunge it into ice cold water.  This will help crisp and refresh the leaves.  Next, use your salad spinner to dry the lettuce and then wrap the lettuce in a towel to ensure it’s perfectly dry.  This will make for the crispiest lettuce and dry lettuce won’t water down the dressing and dilute the flavor.
  • Chill the dressing.   Chilling the dressing melds and marries all of the flavors together so it tastes exponentially better.  To ensure you have sufficient chilling time, always make the dressing before you begin prepping the salad ingredients.  If you only have 30 minutes, pop the dressing in the freezer then transfer it the refrigerator after 30 minutes.
  • Make the Caesar Dressing perfect for YOU! The most accurate taste test comes by dipping a lettuce leaf in dressing as opposed to a spoon.  For tangier, add additional lemon juice, for more garlicky, add more minced garlic, for more umami, add additional minced/mashed anchovies and/or Parmesan.  To tame the dressing, stir in additional sour cream or mayo.  
  • Serve immediately.  The sooner you serve the Caesar Salad after dressing it, the freshest and crispiest it will be.  To avoid wilted lettuce and soggy croutons, prep all of the ingredients and combine just before serving.
  • Prep ahead.  To save time, prep the dressing in advance and keep it in the fridge refrigerator for up to two weeks. Chilled dressing will also taste better.

Caesar Salad VARIATIONS

Caesar Salad with its fabulous dressing and crunchy croutons is a great springboard for adding protein and other vegetables. Here are a few ideas to customize the salad:

Add a protein:

Additional add-ins:

  • Avocados:  add sliced or chopped avocados for a satisfying creamy burst to complement the crunchy textures.  Make sure you use ripe avocados but not overly ripe or they will turn to mush.  To tell if an avocado is ripe, squeeze it gently. A ripe avocado should yield slightly to pressure but not feel overly soft.  If your avocados ripen before you are ready to use them, they can be stored in the refrigerator which will dramatically slow down the ripening process.  For more detailed information on how to select avocados, see my guacamole recipe.
  • Corn: add two ears sweet corn on the cob.  You can slice the kernels directly off of the cob OR char them for an amped up layer of smoky, juicy YUM like I do in my Corn Salsa, Avocado Corn Salsa, and Mexican Salad recipes. I highly promote fresh corn in the spring/summer months but you can get away with using canned or frozen corn in the winter.  If using canned corn, take care to rinse and drain it first. If using frozen corn, you don’t need to thaw it before you add it to the hot skillet to char for a couple minutes.
  • Tomatoes:  cherry or grape tomatoes are the perfect bite size morsels when sliced in half. Cherry tomatoes are inherently sweeter than grape tomatoes, so aim for cherry if you can.
  • Cucumbers:  I like English cucumbers because they tend to be sweeter, have less seeds and you don’t have to bother peeling them, but you may also substitute with a peeled, slicing cucumber.
  • Radishes:  add a delightful spicy, peppery, zesty crunch.
  • Onions:  add a fresh pop with zesty red onions, punchy, tangy pickled red onions or milder, aromatic green onions or chives. 
  • Kalamata olives: gems of dark, rich intensely fruity, salty flavor. 
  • Capers:  are tangy, salty, lemony doses of flavOR.  They should be easy to find by the olives at your grocery store. Capers are actually flower buds imported from Italy that have been brined to mellow their bitterness. 
  • Nuts:  pine nuts or roasted, salted sesame seeds for a tasty crunch.
  • Roasted chickpeas: for an extra crunch.  Make sure to season them for flavor and interest.
  • Pasta or tortellini:  turn this recipe into a Pasta Caesar Salad by adding pasta or tortellini.  You may need to 1.5x or double the dressing if also incorporating pasta.

Other variations/substitutions:

  • Use different greens: I love how crunchy Romaine is but you can also use half Romaine, half iceberg lettuce, your favorite spring mix or arugula, kale, butterhead lettuce, shaved Brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Grill the greens:  grill hearts of Romaine to make a Grilled Caesar Salad for a dimension of smoky charred flavor.
  • Make it a Spring Caesar Salad:  turn Caesar Salad into a Spring salad with crispy bacon, creamy avocados, crunchy bell peppers, juicy tomatoes and fresh sweet corn right off the cob (I could eat fresh corn for days!) and/or whatever your veggies your heart desires.  

Can You Make This a Chicken Caesar Salad?

Absolutely!  You will want to use about one pound of chicken, either a large chicken breast sliced through the equator or two 8-ounce chicken fillets. Whichever option you choose, pound the chicken with the side of a can or meat mallet to an even thickens to tenderize the chicken and to help it cook more evenly. Season the chicken by brushing it lightly with olive oil and sprinkling with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper or use one of my aforementioned chicken marinades.

  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad:  Grill chicken undisturbed for about 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)  The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken.  Let cool for 5 minutes before chopping.
  • Baked Chicken for Caesar Salad:  pound and season chicken per above instructions then transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Skillet Chicken for Caesar Salad:   Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add pounded chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes, or until deeply golden on one side.  Flip chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.
top view of Caesar Dressing recipe with Romaine lettuce, Parmesan, croutons and Caesar Dressing

IS CAESAR SALAD HEALTHY?

This Caesar Salad can be as healthy as you want!  If you are watching calories, you can omit the croutons and add more nutrient rich vegetables such as chickpeas and use less cheese.  You can also try mixing half spinach and kale with the Romaine lettuce. 

The Caesar Dressing does not contain very much mayonnaise, so it is naturally a healthier dressing option, but you can make it healthier by swapping the sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt.

GLUTEN FREE AND DAIRY FREE CAESAR SALAD

  • For gluten free Caesar Salad:  omit the croutons. and use gluten-free Worcestershire sauce in the dressing.
  • For dairy-free Caesar Salad: omit the Parmesan and use dairy free or vegan sour cream such as Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream. You can even google “how to make dairy free sour cream” and experiment with a few recipes.  

Make ahead instructions for Caesar salad

Once you’ve made your creamy Caesar Dressing and crunchy croutons, the salad takes minutes to throw together.  Here’s how to make it ahead:

  • Prep the lettuce up to 24 hours in advance.  Chop, wash and thoroughly dry the lettuce using a lettuce spinner and towels, then transfer to a sealable bag. 
  • Make the dressing up to 2 weeks in advance.  The Caesar Dressing doesn’t contain raw egg so it stays good for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.   You may need to add a splash of milk to thin when ready to use.
  • Make the croutons 3 days in advance. Make the croutons, let them cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container.  If you use a sealable bag, make sure to squeeze out excess air.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

If you are bringing the Caesar Salad to a gathering, add the lettuce to a large serving bowl and top with the Parmesan. Bring the croutons and dressing in separate containers then toss together when ready to serve.

How to Store Caesar Salad Leftovers

If you think you might have leftovers, then plan on a Caesar Salad bar so everyone can top their own lettuce with croutons, Parmesan and dressing.  This will prevent the lettuce from becoming wilted and soggy and the croutons from softening from the moisture of the lettuce and/or the dressing.  By keeping the ingredients separate, you can enjoy leftovers for days.

  • The Caesar Dressing is good for up to 2 weeks. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.  Thin with milk as needed when ready to use.
  • The croutons will last for 2 days.  Transfer to a sealable bag, squeeze out excess air and store at room temperature or freeze for up to one month.
  • The lettuce will last for up to 7 days.  The lettuce can last quite some time but the sooner you use it, the fresher it will be.

Caesar Salad Serving Suggestions

Caesar Salad pairs well with any of your favorite proteins, pastas, soups, pizzas or sandwiches. Here are just a few ideas:

showing how to make Caesar Salad by tossing the ingredients together

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top view of Caesar Dressing recipe with Romaine lettuce, Parmesan, croutons and Caesar Dressing

Caesar Salad

Everyone needs the best Caesar Salad recipe and this is it! It's an easy, everyday dinner staple everyone LOVES and is also guaranteed to impress dinner guests. This Caesar Salad is a hypnotic balance of fresh, crisp Romaine lettuce, crunchy, homemade garlic-herb croutons and rich, salty Parmesan all bathed in my favorite ever luscious, WAY-better-than-store-bought Caesar Dressing.  You’ll never want to buy Caesar Dressing again!   Best of all, this recipe is so easy to make with minimal ingredients and is also easy to customize; feel free to add veggies or protein, (chicken, shrimp, salmon, etc.).  Serve this Classic Caesar Salad with everything from Tuscan Chicken and Lasagna, to French Dip Sandwiches, Garlic Butter Pork Tenderloin, Cajun Chicken, etc.
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded or shaved (I like a combo)
  • 10 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (1 large, 2 medium, or 3 small heads)

Caesar Dressing

  • 4 whole anchovy fillets, minced then mashed*
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (may sub Greek yogurt and use less lemon)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup finely freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • milk as needed

Homemade Croutons

  • 1/2 loaf (5 cups) sourdough or French bread, cubed (preferably day old)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Instructions

  • Caesar Dressing: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a mixing bowl except the Parmesan and mix until smooth; then mix in the Parmesan. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste if needed and additional lemon juice if desired. Best if chilled 1 hour before using.
  • Croutons: Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Cube bread into bite size pieces then add to a large baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings, then toss until evenly coated. Spread the bread into an even layer and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  • Assemble: Add the Romaine lettuce to a large serving bowl then sprinkle with shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese and cooled croutons. Drizzle desired amount of Caesar Dressing then toss gently until lettuce is evenly coated. Taste then season with freshly cracked pepper as needed.

Notes

  • *To prep anchovies: start by chopping the anchovies until finely minced.  Next, use the side of your knife to mash the anchovies by pressing down and sliding the knife against the cutting board to form a paste.  It might sound odd, but will make sense once you attempt it.
  • Anchovies: are a key ingredient so please don’t skip!  Anchovies are the key, umami rich ingredient that add saltiness and a savory, complex depth to this otherwise flat dressing without leaving it “fishy-tasting.”  If you omit the anchovies, the dressing will be flat, bland and wanting.   The anchovies you want for this recipe are sold in cans packed in olive oil, usually located next to the tuna fish.
  • Anchovy substitute? Nothing is as good as the real thing but here are some options: 1) increase the Worcestershire sauce to 1 tablespoon, 2) add ½ teaspoon fish sauce plus more taste, 3) add 1 tablespoon, minced and mashed capers.   Adjust any of these quantities as needed. 
  • Vegan Caesar Dressing:  use vegan sour cream, vegan mayonnaise (readers have said great things about grapeseed oil Vegainase, vegan Worcestershire sauce, vegan Parmesan (try Whole Foods 365 or BelGioioso brands) and replace the anchovies with 1 tablespoon minced and mashed capers.
  • Variations:  see the post for grilled chicken Caesar Salad, adding veggies, chickpeas, etc.  I love adding blackened chicken, lemon basil chicken and Greek chicken to this salad. 

Make ahead 

Once you’ve made your creamy Caesar Dressing and crunchy croutons, the salad takes minutes to throw together.  Here’s how to make it ahead:
  • Prep the lettuce up to 24 hours in advance.  Chop, wash and thoroughly dry the lettuce using a lettuce spinner and towels, then transfer to a sealable bag. 
  • Make the dressing up to 2 weeks in advance.  The Caesar Dressing doesn’t contain raw egg so it stays good for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.   You may need to add a splash of milk to thin when ready to use.
  • Make the croutons 3 days in advance. Make the croutons, let them cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container.  If you use a sealable bag, make sure to squeeze out excess air.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
If you are bringing the Caesar Salad to a gathering, add the lettuce to a large serving bowl and top with the Parmesan. Bring the croutons and dressing in separate containers then toss together when ready to serve.

How to Store Caesar Salad Leftovers

If you think you might have leftovers, then plan on a Caesar Salad bar so everyone can top their own lettuce with croutons, Parmesan and dressing.  This will prevent the lettuce from becoming wilted and soggy and the croutons from softening from the moisture of the lettuce and/or the dressing.  By keeping the ingredients separate, you can enjoy leftovers for days.
  • The Caesar Dressing is good for up to 2 weeks. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.  Thin with milk as needed when ready to use.
  • The croutons will last for 2 days.  Transfer to a sealable bag, squeeze out excess air and store at room temperature or freeze for up to one month.
  • The lettuce will last for up to 7 days.  The lettuce can last quite some time but the sooner you use it, the fresher it will be.
 

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