Classic Caesar Salad

5 from 3 votes

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

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons

I imagine there is no salad recipe more universally loved than a Caesar salad. The crunchy lettuce, the Parmesan-spiked creamy, flavorful dressing, and the crisp, chewy croutons. It’s one of the salads we all order out all the time, but it is truly easy to make at home. I will say that this recipe includes one of the best Caesar salad dressings I have ever had, rivaling the ones you might love at a favorite restaurant.

Romaine lettuce is usually the base of Caesar salad. 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. In U.S. restaurants, you will often see the salad offered with optional toppings, like grilled sliced chicken, cooked shrimp, bacon, or steak.

My older son Jack is a full-fledged salad fanatic, which he gets from me! 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 tenders, ice cream, and so on, there was little Jack’s lone vote: salad. Kind of dorky, but adorable. And while he can put away platefuls of salad with a simple vinaigrette, a Caesar salad is what really gets his blood pumping.

A classic Caesar Salad goes with almost any dinner menu. Try it with Crispy Baked Eggplant Parmesan, grilled Balsamic Skirt Steak, or Pan-Fried Pork Chops. And if you are into the flavors of this salad you might also want to try a Caesar Chicken Wrap or Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad.

Large white bowl of Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons.

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

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Caesar Salad Origin

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 combining things like Parmesan, egg yolks, and other ingredients to create a dressing for some lettuce. And so one of the most popular salads was born. And, ultimately destined to become a permanent staple on the menus of a gazillion restaurants in the U.S., from high-end places 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.

(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. Like many famous recipes with not-quite-clear origins, we may never settle on a definitive origin story.)

But the idea that Caesar salad was probably invented by an Italian immigrant in an Italian restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, then became one of the best-loved salads in North America and beyond, is a pretty cool tale.

Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons in a large bowl and a small bowl.

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. Usually, 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 of this recipe. And also leave it out (and the Worcestershire sauce, which also contains anchovies) if you have vegetarians at the table.

Woman drizzling Caesar dressing over a bowl of romaine lettuce.

A Genius Raw Egg Substitution

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

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

Kitchen Smarts

The creamy emulsification of this dressing relies on just a bit of mayonnaise instead of raw eggs, removing any uncooked egg concerns!

Caesar Salad Ingredients

Woman scooping Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons into a small bowl.

For the Croutons

  • Day-old bread – Slightly stale bread is best for making croutons.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic – Very finely minced.

Caesar Dressing

  • Mayonnaise – Adds the creaminess and eliminates the need for a raw egg in the dressing.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice – Using fresh makes a huge difference.
  • Anchovy – Don’t skip this unless there are allergies or true aversions.
  • Garlic – Mince it as finely as possible so it blends right into the dressing.

Salad

  • Romaine lettuce – Caesar salad almost always has romaine lettuce as its base, and I usually use hearts of romaine for extra crunch.
  • Parmesan cheese – If you can grate it yourself all the better – I also love using a vegetable peeler to shave off little thin shards to toss with the salad.

How to Make Caesar Salad

  1. Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread somewhat dry bread cubes on rimmed sheet pan. Mix together 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 on white plate.
  1. Make the 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).
  2. Build the salad: Tear or thinly slice the romaine hearts and place them in a large serving bowl. Drizzle over about 2/3 of the dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle over the cheese and toss again. Add more dressing as needed, but don’t drown it. Top the salad with croutons, if using, before serving.
Adding Parmesan and croutons to Caesar Salad.

Storage

Extra dressing may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I will also eat leftover salad the next day, but that’s not for everyone.

What to Serve With Caesar Salad

Small bowl of Caesar Salad with Garlicky Croutons.

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5 from 3 votes

Classic Caesar Salad

This is the perfect Caesar salad recipe: cheesy, crunchy, with a thick creamy dressing, just like the one you would order in a restaurant, but so easy to make.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 People
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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 1/2 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 tablespoon water

For the Salad

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

Instructions 

  • 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), garlic, salt, pepper, 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

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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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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