Chicken Caesar Salad


Chicken Caesar Salad turns your favorite Caesar salad into a complete mouthwatering meal with  tender, juicy Lemon Basil Chicken! 


This Chicken Caesar Salad is bursting with not only Parmesan cheese and homemade croutons but crispy bacon, fresh corn, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. and the most tender, juicy Lemon Basil Chicken all bathed in luscious WAY-better-than-store-bought Caesar Dressing.  That being said, you can completely customize this Chicken Caesar Salad with – or without – any salad ingredients your stomach desires!  I’ve also included stove top and grilling instructions so you can also make Grilled chicken Caesar Salad! 

Caesar salad pouring onto a bowl of grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe

Caesar Salad.  It’s a love – love relationship.  Caesar Salad is probably the most popular salad in the world.  A society in Paris, The International Society of Epicures, named Caesar Salad “the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years.”  So, basically – enough said!

Who can deny a classic Caesar Salad with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese sprinkled throughout the bed of greens and in the dressing?  Or crispy, herbed croutons that you plan your entire forkful around just so you can taste that buttery crunch in every mouthful. 

Caesar Salad goes with practically ANY entree and the freshly grated Parmesan, crunchy croutons and dressing laced lettuce is nothing short of addicting – so why not make it a COMPLETE addicting meal with Chicken Caesar Salad?!

Chicken Caesar Salad – is a love-love long term relationship for all of the above reasons AND you can devour this salad as a complete meal and be joyfully satisfied!

But this isn’t any bland Chicken Caesar Salad, this is tender, juicy, Lemon Basil Chicken Caesar Salad! I posted this chicken a while back as the star of my Roasted Garden Vegetable Linguine, and I couldn’t wait to spotlight it again – AKA eat it again!

WHAT IS CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD?

  • Classic Caesar salad consists of romaine lettuce that’s been chopped, tossed with Parmesan, croutons and Caesar dressing. Originally it was served with large lettuce leaves that you would grab by the stem and take bites of it. 
  • The dressing is traditionally made with lemon juice, olive oil, (egg  – not my version) Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard, black pepper (in dressing or ground on top) and Parmesan cheese.
  • Caesar salad was originally only a side salad but you can serve this Caesar Salad with added chicken and veggies to make a hearty and satisfying meal!
  • For this Chicken Caesar Salad, I have kept with tradition, yet added some more flavor with bacon and my delicious lemon basil chicken! With the creamy and the crunchy veggies all sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with Caesar Dressing  – you quite possibly might eat more vegetables than you have in one sitting in your entire life – and  love every second of it.  Thank you Chicken Caesar Salad!

a bowl of easy Chicken Caesar Salad recipe with romaine lettuce, croutons, chicken and Parmesan

Are Chicken Breasts or Thighs Best?

I use chicken breasts for this Chicken Caesar Salad recipe because they are leaner and emerge wonderfully juicy once marinated but you are welcome to use chicken thighs as well.  You can even turn this into a shrimp or salmon salad and use the same tantalizing dressing!

Can I use Rotisserie Chicken?

Absolutely!  Rotisserie chicken is a fabulous shortcut if you don’t have time to make chicken or if you simply want lazy day Chicken Caesar Salad.  You will want about 1 ½ cups shredded chicken but you can always add more or less to taste.  To pump up the flavor of rotisserie chicken, you can toss it with:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Easy Chicken Caesar Salad

Making Chicken Caesar Salad is very simple to make but does require a few steps.  There are several shortcuts you can take, however, such as using one or a combination of the following:

  • pre-chopped lettuce
  • rotisserie chicken
  • store-bought croutons
  • store-bought salad dressing

how to make Chicken Caesar Salad

If you want the BEST Chicken Caesar Salad, however, go for gold and make everything from scratch. Here’s how:

Step 1 – Chicken:  Make the chicken by whisking all the marinade ingredients together and marinating for 4 hours up to overnight.  When ready to cook, you can grill or cook on the stove top.    You can serve the chicken warm or cold, sliced or chopped.

Step 2 – Caesar Salad Dressing:  Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients to your blender and processing until smooth.  I like to make the dressing the same time I’m marinating the chicken, that way it has plenty of time to chill and the flavors to meld. 

Step 3 – Croutons: these croutons are SO easy and SO worth making at home!  All you do is toss cubed bread with olive oil, garlic powder, freshly cracked salt and pepper and bake for 15 minutes.  
 
Step 4 – Veggies:  Chop any other veggies you would like to add your salad such as tomatoes, fresh corn, bell peppers, cucumbers etc. 
 
Step 5 – Assemble: Add all of the Salad Ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine.  You can add more of whatever ingredients you love -measurements are just a guideline! 
 

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

You can make your chicken on the stove top or on the grill for this salad.  Both produce delicious results but your grilled Chicken Caesar Salad will naturally boast a smoky flavor and have less cleanup -win-win!

To make Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad:

  1. If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
  2. Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  3. Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 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.
  4. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

No matter how you cook your chicken, you’ll want to devour its lemon basil goodness in every bite.  Move over croutons.

showing how to make Grilled Caesar Salad by slicing juicy chicken

 

VARIATIONS OF CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD

  • Traditional Chicken Caesar Salad: you can forkful the Chicken Caesar Salad with the traditional cast of characters of lettuce, Parmesan, croutons and grilled chicken.
  • Spring Chicken Caesar Salad:  turn it into Spring Chicken Caesar Salad with the addition of 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.  
  • Other proteins: feel free to substitute pork, salmon or shrimp in lieu of the chicken.
  • Add-ins: cucumbers, olives, hard-boiled eggs are all great additions to this salad.
  • Anchovy paste: I have been told anchovy paste works great instead of the anchovies in the dressing but I have not personally used it so can’t answer to substitution quantities.
  • No need to stop with these ideas; let me know how you like your Best Chicken Caesar salad!
  • If you are looking for a laugh, check out variation for Chicken Caesar salad here! 

far away view of a white bowl of healthy Chicken Caesar Salad recipe with lots of veggies!

Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing

Every Chicken Caesar Salad is only as good as its dressing.  This easy 5-minute Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing is so far beyond good you will turn up your nose from every other grocery store version – or be strongly tempted to. 

A few notes about this ridiculously delicious Homemade Caesar Dressing:

  • Anchovies: I know some of you might be intimidated by using anchovies in dressing, but they really are the reason Caesar Dressing tastes sensational.  They are the secret between a “good” Caesar Dressing that tries to get away without anchovies and a lick-the-blender Caesar Dressing you can’t get enough of.  And of course, an incredible dressing, means an incredible Chicken Caesar Salad.
  • Do I have to use anchovies?  There are plenty of recipes out there for Caesar dressing without anchovies; I have never had one that popped with the flavor I desire.  My recipe uses anchovies because it’s the foundation on which this dressing is made and tastes sensational. 
  • Can I use store bought dressing?  Absolutely!  If you can’t get over using anchovies or already have a favorite Caesar dressing, feel free to use that instead. 
  • Parmesan Cheese:  Parmesan Cheese adds the signature taste to the Caesar Dressing and the OH MY YUM factor so I definitely wouldn’t skip it unless you need to make the dressing dairy free.
  • Freshly Grated cheese:  You can substitute the freshly grated Parmesan cheese with canned but it will not taste quite as good because fresh cheese is the best!  Freshly grated Parmesan will also dissolve much better for a smoother texture.
  • Egg or no Egg?: I have made this an egg free Caesar dressing and love the dressing every bit ass much.  The eggs are not added for flavor but to help thicken or emulsify the dressing. I simply use sour cream (or Greek yogurt) instead.  As someone with a compromised immune system, I just do not mess around with uncooked or partially cooked eggs.  Coddled eggs do not always reach temperatures required to sterilize potential contaminants and pathogens. In the United States, eggs have around a 1 in 30,000 risk of exposure to salmonella and other bacteria. Also, by not using the coddled egg, it saves on time: win-win! 

Can I have a chicken Caesar salad while pregnant?

As I mentioned above about coddled eggs not being ideal for compromised immune systems, that also includes pregnant women.  This Caesar dressing, however, is safe for anyone (minus individual allergies), including pregnant women.

Although pregnant women are advised to consume no more than two 140g portions of fish per week due to mercury, this salad dressing only has a few fillets so, it is completed safe.  So, don’t hesitate to make this Chicken Caesar Salad and share with the whole family!

How to make Caesar Salad Dressing

You will be amazed at how easy it is to make gourmet tasting Caesar Salad Dressing at home in minutes:

  1. Add all of your ingredients to your blender EXCEPT the Parmesan: 3 whole anchovy fillets (you can find these in cans by the tuna fish), Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice, sour cream, salt and pepper and chop then liquefy until smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
  2. Add Parmesan and puree until smooth and then chill while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

See how EASY that was.  Now you have the best Caesar Salad Dressing to douse your hearty, satisfying, texture packed, flavor filled Chicken Caesar Salad!

fr away view of pouring Caesar Salad dressing onto grilled chicken Caesar salad

IS THIS CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD HEALTHY?

This Chicken 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 and use less cheese.  You can try mixing half spinach and kale with the romaine lettuce. 

My Caesar Salad Dressing does not contain mayonnaise or egg, so it is naturally a healthier dressing option.  To make it even healthier, use nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.  

 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.  

CAN I MAKE CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes, Chicken Caesar Salad is a great make ahead or meal prep salad!  This means it can come together in a flash when you are ready to chow down.

  • the Lemon Basil Chicken can be made and refrigerated ahead of time.
  • the Caesar Dressing can be made entirely ahead of time – and actually tastes much better if made hours in advance. 
  • all the fixings except the avocados can be chopped and stored in separate airtight containers until ready. 
  • chop the avocado right before serving to avoid browning, or drizzle with lemon juice.  
  • the Parmesan cheese can be shredded and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • the croutons can be prepared 100% in advance and store in an airtight container. 

a big bowl of healthy Chicken Caesar Salad with chicken, croutons and Parmesanv

How long does chicken Caesar salad last?

Chicken Caesar Salad should be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.  Properly stored salad will last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  When lettuce and veggies turn brown, its time to literally toss!  Don’t leave Chicken Caesar Salad out at room temperature for more than two hours for food safety.  

For best results, do not add the dressing to the salad or it will get soggy.  Instead, dress individual portions in dressing if you are planning on any leftovers.  The dressing will last for 2 to 3 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

CAN I FREEZE CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD?

Yes, you can freeze elements of the Chicken Caesar Salad.  You cannot freeze the lettuce but you can freeze the Caesar dressing and the chicken.

Once thawed, blend the dressing once more in the blender to emulsify because it will separate when frozen.   Once thawed, the chicken can be served cold or warmed up on the stove or grill.

Where does Caesar Salad get its name?

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 Cardinis 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.  And NOW you can make it an entire meal with this Chicken Caesar Salad recipe!

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up close of a forkful of the best Chicken Caesar Salad

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Garden Caesar Salad bursting with not only Parmesan cheese and homemade croutons but crispy bacon, fresh corn, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. and the most tender, juicy Lemon Basil Chicken all bathed in luscious homemade Caesar Dressing.

Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad bursting with not only Parmesan cheese and homemade croutons but crispy bacon, fresh corn, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. and the most tender, juicy Lemon Basil Chicken all bathed in luscious WAY-better-than-store-bought Caesar Dressing.
Servings: 6 -8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

Garden Salad

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Fresh corn from 1 ear of corn
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 6 Mini Bell Peppers sliced or 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1-2 Avocados, sliced or chopped

Caesar Dressing

  • 3 whole anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (may sub Greek yogurt with dash of sugar)
  • 1/3 cup finely freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Easy Croutons

Garnish

  • Parmesan cheese finely freshly grated
  • 6 slices bacon cooked and crumbled, more or less to taste

Instructions

  • Lemon Basil Chicken: Prepare according to directions. Set aside.
  • Caesar Dressing: Add all of the dressing ingredients to your blender EXCEPT the Parmesan and chop then liquefy until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add Parmesan and puree until smooth. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste if needed and additional lemon juice if desired. Chill while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  • Croutons: Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Cube bread into bite size pieces and add to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Spread bread in an even layer onto baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.
  • Assemble: Add all of the Salad Ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine (if you are expecting leftovers then hold avocados and add to individual servings). You can add more of whatever ingredients you love (measurements are just guidelines - I like to add more corn).
  • If not expecting leftovers, drizzle salad with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine along with freshly grated Parmesan. Garnish with bacon, croutons and top with chicken. If you are expecting leftovers, garnish individual servings with dressing, bacon, croutons and chicken.

Notes

*found in cans next to the tuna fish - don't be grossed out - they MAKE the dressing!
**I use a French bread called "Everything French Bread" that has sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic and herbs already baked into it. If your bakery has something similar I highly suggest it! If they only have garlic or herb French bread, then use that. There will probably be extra croutons - store in an airtight container or plastic bag.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

  1. If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
  2. Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  3. Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 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.
  4. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
No matter how you cook your chicken, you'll want to devour its lemon basil goodness in every bite.  Move over croutons.

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Carlsbad Cravings Original

Garden Caesar Salad bursting with not only Parmesan cheese and homemade croutons but crispy bacon, fresh corn, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. and the most tender, juicy Lemon Basil Chicken all bathed in luscious homemade Caesar Dressing.
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4 Comments

  1. Joshua Hampton says

    Wow. That salad looks beautiful. Nothing really beats homemade caesar salad dressing.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Joshua! and I totally agree – homemade Caesar dressing is the best! It makes the salad!

  2. Candy Harrison says

    My husband and I just made this salad for dinner. It’s fantastic. The combination of ingredients come together in your mouth like clockwork, the marinade for the chicken is delicious, and the dreassing light and fresh (not typical for Ceasar). Truly delicious. We were just telling each other you don’t enouxter a Ceasar salad with so much dimension. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Candy, I am so happy you loved it and so appreciate you taking the time to comment!