This is how much my older son Jack loves salad: when he was in nursery school, they took a poll in his class to see what everyone’s favorite food was, and charted the results. Amongst all the ballots cast for pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream and so on, there was little Jack’s lone vote: salad. Kind of dorky, but adorable.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

And while he can put away platefuls of salad with a simple vinaigrette a Caesar salad is what really gets his blood pumping.

This is the perfect Caesar salad recipe: cheesy, crunchy, creamy, just like the one you would order in a restaurant, but so easy to make.

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How to Make Caesar Salad

Make the Croutons, if using:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.   Spread somewhat dry bread cubes on rimmed sheet pan. Mix together a bit of olive oil, garlic and salt in a small bowl, then drizzle over the bread cubes, and toss to coat the bread. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bread is golden and toasted.

Parmesan Croutons / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Make the Caesar Dressing:

In a blender or food processor combine mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies (if using), salt, pepper, garlic, and water and process until blended (or just shake everything up in a tightly sealed jar).

Make the Caesar Salad:

Tear or thinly slice the romaine hearts and place in a large serving bowl (you should have about 8 cups). Drizzle over about 2/3 of the dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle over the cheese and toss again until everything is evenly mixed. Add more dressing as needed, but don’t drown it. Leftover dressing may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Top the salad with croutons, if using, before serving.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

Origin of Caesar Salad

I was surprised to find out that Caesar salad originated in Mexico. The story goes that restaurateur Caesar Cardini invented the recipe in Tijuana in 1924. Apparently during a busy service rush while they were running low on ingredients, Cardini started combing things like Parmesan, egg yolks, and other ingredients to create a dressing for some lettuce, and one of the most popular salads was born, soomeday to become a permanent staple on the menus of a gazillion restaurants in the U.S., from high end place, to fast food joints.

The salad is still served at Caesar’s in Mexico, prepared to order tableside. And the family has a trademark on their “authentic recipe” bottled dressing, which is actually quite good. But nothing beats homemade, and every time I make Caesar dressing from scratch I realize just how uniquely great it is.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

And of course there are different versions of how the salad came to be, one involving Caesar’s brother Alex, another involving an employee named Livio Santini. A like many famous recipes with not quite-clear origins, we may never settle on a definitive origin story.

But the idea Caesar salad was probably invented by an Italian immigrant in an Italian restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, then to become one of the best loved salads in North America and beyond, is a pretty cool tale, and one day I’d like to find out the real story for sure.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

What is in Caesar Salad?

Caesar salad almost always has romaine lettuce as its base. Often crunchy croutons are added, as well as generous amounts of Parmesan cheese. The dressing usually contains oil, egg yolk, more Parmesan, anchovies, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon or lime juice (apparently lime in Mexico, but usually lemon in the U.S.).

Other ingredients, like capers, might also be added, and in the U.S. in restaurants you will often see the salad offered with optional toppings, like grilled sliced chicken, cooked shrimp, bacon, or steak.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

Anchovies in Caesar Salad Dressing

It’s hard to talk about a Caesar salad without embarking upon a conversation about anchovies. Some people hate them, but what’s more relevant is that many people THINK they hate them. Sure, sucking down an entire tiny and slightly hairy fish is an acquired taste for most, but when an anchovy is very finely chopped and becomes part of a sauce or a dressing all it’s doing at that point is adding a slightly salty, slightly briny note, a richness of sorts, a depth, and no one would know it was there until you leaned over and said, “Hey, how about those anchovies? Delicious, right?”, at which point they would decide they no longer liked what they were eating.

Having said that, if you are at all worried that the mere presence of an anchovy in your kitchen might ruin everything, just leave it out in this recipe.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

A Genius Raw Egg Substitution

The other hot button is raw eggs, which are not an issue in this Caesar salad recipe, which takes its lead from an ingenious Caesar dressing created by Brooklyn restaurateur Frank Falcinelli which relies on mayonnaise, which have cooked eggs built right in. Brilliant.

You can top this Caesar salad with some sliced chicken, or a piece of salmon or tuna, or some poached or grilled shrimp for a restaurant-ey entrée.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

What to Serve with Caesar Salad:

Other Salad Recipes:

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Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

This is the perfect Caesar salad recipe: cheesy, crunchy, creamy, just like the one you would order in a restaurant, but so easy to make.
Yield: 6 People
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the Croutons (Optional)

For the Caesar Dressing

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice depending on how lemony you like it
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 anchovy rinsed and very finely minced or ½ teaspoon anchovy paste, plus optional additional whole anchovies for topping individual portions
  • 1 garlic clove pressed through a garlic press, or very, very finely minced into a paste
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 garlic clove pressed through a garlic press, or very, very finely minced into a paste (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon water

For the Salad

  • 4 hearts of romaine lettuce or 2 full heads, rinsed and dried
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Make the croutons, if using: preheat the oven to 350°F.   Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet with sides. Mix together the olive oil, garlic and salt in a small bowl, then drizzle over the bread cubes, and toss to coat the bread. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bread is golden and toasted.
  • Make the Dressing: In a blender or food processor add the mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies (if using), salt, pepper, garlic, and water and process until blended (or just shake everything up in a tightly sealed jar).
  • Make the Caesar Salad: Tear or thinly slice the romaine hearts and place in a large serving bowl (you should have about 8 cups). Drizzle over about 2/3 of the dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle over the cheese and toss again until everything is evenly mixed. Add more dressing as needed, but don’t drown it. Leftover dressing may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Top the salad with croutons, if using, before serving.

Notes

Vegetarian Note

Leave out the Worcestershire sauce (it is made with anchovies), and skip the optional anchovies.

What Can the Kids Do?

If you’re making the croutons, they can toss the bread with the garlicky olive oil. They can add all of the ingredients for the dressing to the blender or jar, and they can shake if you’re mixing this by hand. They can tear lettuce, and even cut it depending on their knife skills.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 213.05kcal | Carbohydrates: 10.77g | Protein: 5.72g | Fat: 16.85g | Saturated Fat: 3.48g | Cholesterol: 7.78mg | Sodium: 521.88mg | Potassium: 213.74mg | Fiber: 1.99g | Sugar: 1.85g | Vitamin A: 6633.62IU | Vitamin C: 4.29mg | Calcium: 156.28mg | Iron: 1.39mg

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