Caesar Dressing

The best Caesar Dressing recipe that’s quick and easy – no blender or processor required!

This homemade Caesar Dressing recipe is a creamy, bright, tangy, garlicky, umami explosion of YUM. It will blow any store-bought version out of the water and elevates and enlivens everything it touches from Caesar salad to vegetables, to chicken, to sandwiches to wraps.  Best of all, this Caesar Salad 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.  It doesn’t get any better than this Caesar Dressing my friends, let’s make some!

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pouring Caesar dressing of salad with croutons and Romaine lettuce

WHAT is in CAESAR DRESSING?

A really good Caesar Dressing is unabashedly bold and decadent, packed with garlicky, umami, swoon-worthy flavors.  Traditional Caesar Salad Dressing is made with whole anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, raw egg yolk, freshly squeezed lemon juice, tangy Dijon mustard, spicy raw garlic, salty Parmesan and pepper.  My recipe differs slightly by using sour cream and mayo instead of raw egg and olive oil and the results are hypnotic and extra easy!

Caesar Dressing Recipe

I am so excited to share this Caesar Dressing recipe with you today.  It’s one of those dressings that elicits a “mm mm, this is SO good,” after one taste, let alone after being tossed with the dream ensemble of crisp Romaine lettuce, crunchy sourdough croutons, an extra sprinkle of Parmesan and freshly cracked and black pepper.  Yes, full Caesar Salad recipe coming this week too, get giddy.

This recipe is 1000X better than any store-bought variety!  I know it is extremely tempting to pick up a bottle of dressing at the grocery, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of tasty bottled dressings, but I promise, nothing tastes as fresh and fabulous as your own Homemade Caesar Dressing – 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 Dressing recipe doesn’t use raw egg.  To keep this Caesar Dressing recipe as easy to make as possible, more shelf stable and to eliminate any raw egg concerns, I’ve made it with a mayonnaise and sour cream base as opposed to egg and olive oil.  Mayonnaise is made from emulsifying eggs, oil, and some type of acid, usually vinegar or lemon juice, so all the work is already done for us.   Additionally, the sour cream base adds a wonderfully creamy texture that’s lighter than an all mayo-based dressing. What we end up with is a creamy, briny, tangy, and rich homemade Caesar Salad Dressing that is every bit as delicious as the traditional version, and is extra easy to make! 

This Caesar Dressing recipe doesn’t require you to haul out your food processor or blender to mix it up.  All you have to do is mash the anchovies on the cutting board with the side of your knife then whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, that’s it!

This Caesar Salad Dressing requires just a few pantry ingredients.  Everything you need for this recipe is easily accessible and keeps for weeks either in the refrigerator or in your pantry.  Stir them together and you’re rewarded with restaurant-quality (or better!) Caesar Dressing and Caesar Salads at home.

This Homemade Caesar Dressing isn’t just for salad!    Salad dressings are one of the best ways to add flavor, and this recipe is so hypnotic, you’re going to want to put it on everything!  In addition to salad, you can add it to chicken, wraps, marinades, vegetables, sandwiches, etc.

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

WHO, OR WHAT, IS CAESAR SALAD NAMED AFTER?

It is a common misunderstanding/assumption that Caesar Salad and Caesar Dressing are named after the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar – they’re not.  Instead, Caesar Salad is named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian restauranteur who was born in northern Italy.  

Cardini settled in California around 1910 where he opened up two restaurants. After prohibition, his restaurants took a bit of a hit, so he relocated to Tijuana, Mexico to open up another restaurant.  It is at this third restaurant that Cardini’s daughter, Rose, claims her father threw the first Caesar Salad together when he was running short on ingredients. 

That’s right – the Caesar salad was invented in Mexico by an Italian.

Caesar Dressing Ingredients

Caesar Salad Dressing is only as good as the ingredients and the magic of their proportions.   This easy recipe is so good, it will spoil you forever from being able to use store-bought again.  Here is what you will need (full ingredient measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

Anchovies

Are a key ingredient so please don’t skip!  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.  Because the anchovies are going to be minced and mashed, it doesn’t really matter which brand you use. 

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.  

DO I HAVE TO USE ANCHOVIES?

If you love or even like Caesar Dressing, then I would venture to say you like anchovies, you just don’t think you do.  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, aside from the deliciously deep, nondescript umami base they provide.  So please, embrace the anchovy.

Anchovies are so good because they’re armed with secret weapons glutamic and inosinic acid—two molecules responsible for triggering our sensation of savoriness.  The acids add an irreplaceable depth of flavor and savory sensation. If you omit the anchovies, the dressing will be flat, bland and wanting.   Still, if you are vegan or allergic, I’ve provided some anchovy substitutes below.

showing how to make Caesar Dressing by adding anchovies, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise to a glass bowl

What should I do with leftover anchovies?  

Leftover anchovies can be transferred to a small resealable bag with the extra olive oil, taking care they are completely submerged so they don’t dry out. You can also add olive oil if needed.   Squeeze out excess air by wrapping the bag over and seal. The anchovies can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or frozen for 6 months. To use up the leftover anchovies, whip up a batch of Pasta Puttanesca, add them to pizza, Niçoise toasts, potato salad, etc.

CAN I USE ANCHOVY PASTE?

Whole anchovies will impart the best flavor but you may substitute with anchovy paste if whole anchovies make you squeamish.  Anchovy paste is found in a tube next to the canned anchovies and tuna fish.  Substitute with 1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste.

Do all Caesar dressingS have anchovies? 

Yes, you will discover that virtually all Caesar Dressings have anchovies because it is the base of the umami-rich dressing and enriches it with that “something-something” special. If you’d like to make Caesar Dressing without anchovies, you will find it is difficult to find a spot-on substitute. However, if you must omit them, I’ve included some possible substitutions below:

What can I use instead of anchovies?
  • Anchovy paste:  use 1 ½ teaspoons in this recipe.
  • 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.
  • Fish sauce: Asian 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.
  • 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.  

Sour Cream

Provides the base of the homemade Caesar Dressing, with a little help from the mayo.  By using a majority of sour cream instead of mayonnaise, it keeps the dressing lighter/less mayo tasting but still exquisitely creamy. 

Mayonnaise

Fully from-scratch Caesar Dressing recipes call for olive oil and egg yolk which turn into mayonnaise as they emulsify in the blender.  Instead, we’re going to take the easy way out and use store-bought mayonnaise because we only want ¼ cup.  The mayonnaise adds the depth of creaminess and binds all of the ingredients together.  Even if you don’t like mayo, I don’t suggest skipping because it prevents the dressing ingredients from separating – and your dressing will not taste like mayo! 

Parmesan Cheese

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

showing how to make Caesar Dressing by whisking finely grated Parmesan into a bowl with the dressing

Garlic

Two fresh garlic cloves for that spicy raw garlic kick.  Use a garlic press or mince the garlic finely by hand.  You can of course use more or less garlic. It’s easy to start with less and add more to taste.

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a flavor bomb all packed into one bottle. Just a splash deepens the complexity of the homemade Caesar dressing and makes it taste complete.  Worcestershire boasts intense umami flavor from the anchovies (or vegan versions use soy sauce) mingled with tamarind and vinegar for sourness, molasses and sugar for sweetness, and dimension from the cloves, celery seed, and chili pepper extract.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice cuts through the creaminess of the dressing and highlights the rest of the flavors with its fresh, vibrant pop of citrus without tasting “lemony.”  Freshly-squeezed is always best but you may use bottled in a pinch.

Dijon Mustard

Dijon mustard is a key element in Caesar Salad Dressing, so please don’t skip.  We’re using 1 teaspoon but it makes a big difference even though you won’t be able to pick it out in the final product.  Dijon mustard adds a delicious zesty, tangy zip to the dressing and helps bring all the flavors together.  It also helps with emulsification, meaning it helps bind the ingredients together to make the dressing extra creamy. 

Balsamic Vinegar

Is not traditional, but I love pairing it with lemon juice to help cut through the richness with its fruity tang, mellow tartness and rich, complex sweetness. Use quality balsamic vinegar for the best flavor.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper are all we need to round out this dressing.  I’ve gone conservative with ¼ teaspoon of each, but feel free to use more if you’d like, especially pepper because the dressing will be used to flavor an entire salad. 

showing how to make Caesar Dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl until smooth

Recipe 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 Dressing

You are going to be blown away at how quick easy this homemade Caesar Dressing is to make! Here’s how:

  • Step 1:  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.  It might sound odd, but will make sense once you attempt it.
showing how to make Caesar dressing by mincing the anchovies and then mashing with the side of a knife
  • Step 2:  Add ingredients to a bowl: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a mixing bowl EXCEPT the Parmesan and mix until smooth.
  • Step 3: Add Parmesan and milk.  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.   
  • Step 4: Chill.  As with all dressings, the flavors build and meld once chilled.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR caesar salad DRESSING

  • 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.
  • Use finely grated Parmesan Cheese.  Grate the cheese on the finest holes so it becomes a powder.   
  • Chill the dressing.   Chilling the dressing melds and marries all of the flavors so it tastes exponentially better.  To ensure you have sufficient chilling time, always make the dressing before you begin prepping salad ingredients.  If you only have 30 minutes, pop the dressing in the freezer then transfer it the refrigerator after 30 minutes.
  • Taste the dressing and tailor it to suit your personal preferences.  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.  

WAYS TO USE THIS CAESAR DRESSING

This Homemade Caesar Dressing offers a quick and easy solution to enliven many everyday boring or bland eats.  Try these delectable uses for your dressing:

  • As Caesar Salad Dressing. The obvious use of this dressing is on a big leafy Caesar Salad with Romaine lettuce, crispy croutons and Parmesan cheese. 
  • As Chicken Caesar Salad Dressing. Add chicken to your favorite salad or make my Garden Chicken Caesar Salad with corn, bell peppers and avocados for the best Chicken Caesar Salad ever!
  • As Caesar Pasta Salad Dressing.  Swap the lettuce for rotini, cavatappi, shells or even tortellini and toss with croutons, chopped Romaine lettuce and croutons.
  • As Caesar Potato Salad.  Swap the dressing for Caesar in this potato salad or this loaded potato salad.
  • On a Sandwich, burgers or wrap.  Use it instead of mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich, burger or wraps along with bacon, tomatoes, avocados and lettuce.
  • As a Dip. Dunk raw veggies or roasted veggies such as Roasted Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, etc.  in the creamy dip. You can also drizzle on top of whole roasted Potatoes or Twice Baked Potatoes.
  • As a Marinade. Let chicken marinade in this homemade dressing for up to 12 hours.  I would also reserve some of the dressing to slather on the chicken after it cooks.  You could also use it as a salmon marinade for up to 60 minutes then bake like in this salmon in foil or this baked salmon fillets recipe.
showing how to use Caesar Salad Dressing by adding to a salad

How long is Caesar SALAD Dressing good for? Storage Tips

This Caesar Salad Dressing doesn’t use raw egg so it is good for up to 2 weeks stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You may need to whisk in additional milk to thin before using. 

Can I freeze Caesar SALAD Dressing?

No, unfortunately, Caesar Salad Dressing does not freeze well because the ingredients will make for a funky, grainy texture when frozen and thawed.  

Looking for more SALAD dressing RECIPES?

pouring Caesar Dressing over a salad with chicken

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Caesar Dressing

This homemade Caesar Dressing recipe is a creamy, bright, tangy, garlicky, umami explosion of YUM. It will blow any store-bought version out of the water and elevates and enlivens everything it touches from Caesar salad to vegetables, to chicken, to sandwiches to wraps.  Best of all, this Caesar Salad 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.  It doesn’t get any better than this Caesar Dressing my friends, let’s make some!
Servings: 1 cup
Prep Time: 10 mins

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 whole anchovy fillets, minced then mashed*
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ tsp EACH salt, pepper plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup finely, freshly grated Parmesan cheese (like powder)
  • milk as needed

Instructions

  • 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.

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.
  • Leftover anchovies: should be stored submerged in olive oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or frozen for 6 months. To use up the leftover anchovies, whip up a batch of Pasta Puttanesca, add them to pizza, Niçoise toasts, potato salad, etc.
  • Anchovy paste: whole anchovies will impart the best flavor but you may substitute with anchovy paste if needed.  Anchovy paste is found in a tube next to the canned anchovies and tuna fish.  Substitute with 1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste.
  • 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. 
  • 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).
  • 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. 
  • Storage:  this recipe doesn’t use raw egg so it is good for up to 2 weeks stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You may need to whisk in additional milk to thin before using. 

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8 Comments

  1. Debbie Burgess says

    Made this dressing exactly as written and it was so delicious! Checked off all the boxes for me: garlicky, umami from the anchovy, parm, and Worcestershire sauce, acid from the lemon and sour cream, and creamy from the mayo. Wow! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Debbie for the awesome review, I’m so happy it was a winner. I also love your description!

  2. Christie Gaines says

    OMGosh Jen!!
    This is so delicious and I just made it!!
    I can’t imagine how good it will taste in a couple of hours with our dinner!!
    Thanks for yet another great recipe that my family will love!!!!
    Christie

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so pleased you made it already and loved it! Thanks Christie!

  3. Isaac says

    Made a vegetarian version of this – replaced the anchovies with extra Parmesan – and was just as delicious. The sour cream really makes it so much lighter and fresher!

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased you were able to make it vegetarian with success! Thanks Isaac!

  4. Leslie says

    This is BY FAR the best Caesar dressing I have ever tasted! My first reaction was, “WOW! This is EXCELLENT!”

    I just want to tell you, Jen, that your site has become my goto site for recipes. Almost everything I’ve tried here (and I’ve tried many) has been outstanding. Full of flavor, easy to make, and they all have that special something that people rave about. I have a very happy family.

    You’ve made me excited about cooking again. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Yesssss, thank you so much Leslie, I’m so pleased you loved the dressing! Thank you especially for making my day with your kind words. I’m honored you have made and loved so many of my recipes! xoxo

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