A Classic Caesar Salad Is Always in Style

Caesar salad is one of the classics. A standard salad on restaurant menus, it’s also one that my relatives used to always serve at family gatherings.

Vertical top-down image of shredded lettuce in a creamy dressing topped with shaved cheese and bread cubes in a white bowl next to wooden spoons, with text on the top and bottom.

For some, this might sound like a plus! But when I was a kid, I used to hate it.

In theory, the idea seemed fine enough. Lettuce, croutons, cheese, and dressing – pretty basic, right? However, I used to dislike the dressing so much.

It was years before I deigned to try this particular dish at a restaurant, so I simply didn’t realize what I was missing. You see, the wonders of Caesar dressing made from scratch were completely unknown to me, because my family always used the store bought stuff.

Vertical top-down image of a white bowl and white plate on top of a floral towel with shredded lettuce, bread cubes, and shaved cheese.

After trying a fresh and flavorful, expertly made restaurant version that didn’t come out of a bottle, and then mixing up a batch of my own Caesar dressing from scratch at home, I came to realize that this makes all the difference in the world.

It’s creamy and umami-rich, garlicky, cheesy, and made with anchovies. I like to use raw egg yolk in mine because I think it enhances the flavor and texture, but you can use mayonnaise if you prefer. You want the dressing to be creamy, but not overly thick, just right for lightly coating those romaine leaves.

(And hey, if a thicker consistency is more to your liking, nobody’s stopping you – just add another teaspoon or two of grated Parmesan to thicken things up.)

Vertical image of a large white bowl with Caesar salad.

Speaking of romaine, there’s a little bit of fine-tuning that can be done to get the other elements of the salad just right too, on your quest for Caesar perfection.

For the lettuce, I like to use tender romaine hearts instead of the whole head. The center leaves are tender and a little sweeter than the bigger outer ones.

When it comes to the croutons, making them from scratch is so much better than buying them from the store. Croutons are so simple to make at home, super crunchy and flavorful when they’re freshly made, and this is also an excellent way to use up slightly stale bread.

Vertical image of shredded lettuce with a creamy dressing topped with bread cubes and shaved cheese on a white plate next to a metal fork on a tan floral towel.

Finally, there’s the Parmesan cheese. Always use fresh, high-quality aged Parmesan and skip the pre-grated stuff. I finely grate what I need for the dressing when I’m ready to use it, and then I use my trusty vegetable peeler to make thin shavings for garnish.

I like to keep my salad ultra simple, but you can change things up and make it more of a meal by adding your protein of choice. Grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon are fantastic options to serve on top, or you could even use tofu if you’d like.

Also, think about pairing this salad with your favorite soup. I love to serve it with a tomato basil soup or a hearty chicken noodle, and with a big hunk of crusty bread on the side, it’s pure perfection.

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Horizontal image of a large white bowl filled with a green salad topped with shaved cheese and toasted bread cubes, next to wooden spoons on a blue surface.

Classic Caesar Salad


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Description

A classic Caesar salad is fantastic with dinner or topped with chicken for lunch. Skip the store bought dressing and croutons, and make them from scratch.


Ingredients

Scale

For the Dressing:

  • 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained (or to taste)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)
  • 2 large egg yolks (or 1 tablespoon mayonnaise)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste 
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Croutons:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups crusty country style bread torn into 1” pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:

  • 3 hearts romaine lettuce (8 cups chopped)
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese

Instructions

To Make the Dressing:

  1. Combine anchovy fillets, minced garlic, egg yolk or mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and olive oil in a food processor and process until blended well. 
  2. With the food processor on, slowly add the olive oil and then the vegetable oil in a thin stream, and continue to process until thoroughly emulsified.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste. Taste to see if you want to add more black pepper, salt, or lemon juice. If it’s too acidic for you, you can add a little more extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

To Make the Croutons:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Toss bread pieces with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan.

To Make the Salad:

  1. Remove any tough outer leaves from the hearts of romaine and discard. Gently tear the remaining inner, more tender leaves into large bite-sized pieces. Place in a large wooden salad bowl or your choice of serving bowl.
  2. Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler to create thin slivers.
  3. Gently toss the lettuce, croutons, and dressing together in the bowl. Garnish generously with shaved Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Toasting, No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Vegetables

Keywords: salad, Caesar, vegetarian, parmesan

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients

Horizontal image of measured ingredients in small glass bowls on a gray surface.

Drain the anchovy fillets well. This recipe calls for 6, but you can adjust this quantity up or down to suit your tastes.

If you haven’t tried a classic Caesar dressing made from scratch with real anchovies, I recommend that you use all 6 the first time you make it. You will be surprised by the flavor of the finished product, I promise!

Peel and mince two small cloves of garlic. Again, you can add more or less depending on your personal preference. I love garlic, so I often use a bit more!

Grate 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, and shave about 3 ounces more for garnish. I like to use my vegetable peeler to make long, thin slivers.

Horizontal image of a glass bowl with shaved cheese.

Tear enough crusty country style bread into 1-inch pieces so you have about 3 cups total. I used a small loaf for this, but you may need less depending on the size of the loaves at your local bakery or grocery store.

If you prefer a more uniform look, you could slice the bread for the croutons instead, using a bread knife.

Horizontal image of a metal bowl full of shaved green lettuce next to a wedge of cheese.

Remove the outer leaves if you were only able to get full heads of romaine rather than hearts. Roughly chop or tear the rest into large bite-sized pieces. You should have about 8 cups total. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed.

Note that you can replace the egg yolks with mayonnaise if you don’t wish to eat raw egg.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Step 2 – Make the Dressing

Horizontal image of a food processor with a creamy white mixture inside.

Add the drained anchovy filets, minced garlic, egg yolks (or mayonnaise), lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and olive oil to a food processor. Process until well blended.

Leave the processor on low speed (or just keep it on, if your appliance doesn’t offer variable speeds) and slowly add both types of oil in a thin stream. Continue processing until thoroughly blended and emulsified.

Pour the dressing into a bowl and whisk in the grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper to taste. I like to start with a 1/4 teaspoon, and add more until it’s to my liking, generally adding about 1/2 teaspoon total.

Taste and season with additional salt or lemon juice to taste. Or if it’s too acidic, you can add more extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

Step 3 – Make the Croutons

Horizontal image of toasted bread cubes on a metal baking sheet.

Place the pieces of bread on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to distribute the seasonings evenly.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the pan. Be sure to keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn.

Step 4 – Assemble and Serve

Horizontal top-down image of a large white bowl filled with shredded lettuce topped with shaved cheese and toasted bread cubes, next to wooden spoons on a blue surface.

Add the croutons to the bowl with the lettuce. Give the dressing a final whisk, and drizzle it on top. Toss to coat.

Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Can I Make This Salad Ahead of Time?

This salad is a fantastic option to make ahead of time, whether you are packing it for lunch during the week, or serving it for dinner to the whole family.

Horizontal image of a large white bowl filled with a green salad topped with shaved cheese and toasted bread cubes, next to wooden spoons on a blue surface.

Prep the lettuce (making sure to dry it completely), make the dressing, and toast the croutons in advance. Then store each of the components separately until you are ready to eat.

The lettuce and dressing should be stored in separate airtight containers, and they will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store the croutons at room temperature (I just leave mine on the counter) in an airtight container or bag. Combine everything just before you are ready to serve.

For more salad inspiration, try these Foodal favorites next:

Do you like to eat your Caesar salad on the side with a steak dinner, or maybe you prefer to enjoy it as a main meal with chicken or shrimp on top?

Share your favorite serving suggestions in the comments below. And be sure to come back and rate the recipe once you try it yourself!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lori Jo Hendrix on February 28, 2015. Last updated on Thursday, February 18, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

45 thoughts on “A Classic Caesar Salad Is Always in Style”

  1. That looks absolutely delicious! It takes a bit of preparation though so I think I’d make it for a celebration dinner rather than an everday meal. It’s good to have a definitive recipe for Caesar salad, they seem to vary so much.

    Reply
    • Hi missbishi,

      It is actually quite easy to prepare, I think you will be surprised.

      Enjoy!

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  2. Yup, I love caesar salad but hate anchovies so I usually leave them out when making it. Like the article said, I do add mushrooms, just to replace the anchovies’ aesthetic. The salt is more than enough to flavor the dressing and put another salty ingredient might ruin the whole thing.

    Reply
    • Hi TommyVercetti,

      Maybe you can try with just one anchovy and leave out the salt? You might be surprised. Are you adding the Worcestershire sauce to your recipe?

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  3. Excuse my ignorance but does anyone know some crazy clever variations on a Caesar Salad? What I mean by that is I’m aware of the regular steak, chicken, or shrimp added to the salad but are there a few more interesting ingredients to play with?

    Reply
    • Hi JoanMcWench,

      You can add smoked salmon or gravlax, both are delicious and something different from the ordinary additions.

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
      • I like shrimp in it, but salmon sounds like a great choice as well. I like most types of fish and seafood, so I can’t really go wrong. Well, I’m sure some items are better choices than other for this particular dish, but yeah, salmon or shrimp sounds excellent.

        I will probably have to go light on the anchovies though. I don’t really dislike them but so salty.

        Reply
  4. Gotta love a well made ceasar. Oftentimes when I go to Italian places, the lettuce is not too crisp and the croutons are meh. Will definitely have to think about making it at home

    Reply
    • Hi queenbellevue,

      A caesar salad definitely has to be served fresh, directly after adding and mixing the dressing in. Sometimes they sit around for a while in restaurants. This is a great reason to make them at home.

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  5. I love this salad minus the anchovies as a vegetarian, because it is healthy with flavor. I’m not a salad fan and this is the only one I can eat as it’s simple and has no tomatoes in it, which I hate, as it makes a salad go soggy.

    I also use wholemeal garlic croutons to make it feel healthier.

    Reply
    • Hi Bella,

      Yes, this salad is heart and full of flavor and I was thinking perhaps you could try extra garlic or a little extra sea salt in place of the anchovies and perhaps an organic vegan Worcestershire sauce. Thinly sliced mushrooms would also be nice and not make the salad soggy if you like mushrooms.

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  6. I detect a real passion for anchovies here, hehe!! I love caesar salad, but I don’t think I’d want some anchovies in my salad. I know, I know, it’s worth a try. Despite the assurance that the salad would be ultra delicious with some anchovies in it, I still would like to have mine without them. There’s something about anchovies that just don’t sit well with my taste buds.

    Reply
  7. The Ceasar salad is my favorite of all, but I’ve never had it with anchovies in the dressing. I guess I fall in the I-don’t-like-anchovies club. There is just something about them that doesn’t appeal to me. I think it’s the saltiness. The dressing actually sounds pretty good though. Maybe one day I will give in and try it.

    Reply
    • Hi Nids,

      You can always add a little extra worcestershire sauce instead or just do the dressing without, it’s still tasty. But I do recommend trying at least just one anchovy. Let us know if you do!

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  8. That is my favorite salad by far. I do enjoy other kinds of salads I feel like I’m eating healthy when I bite into it. The crunch of a fresh salad just makes me happy. I must admit that all the extra little goodies that are on this particular salad makes it my all star.

    Reply
    • Hi karmaskeeper,

      Thank you! The caesar is my favorite as well. Especially if the croutons are well done and the dressing is not too sour. Enjoy!

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  9. Can i add mayonnaise and ketchup to my liking maybe?…looks amazingly delicious and am sure it is 🙂 …the weekend looks heavenly, i really don’t know what to cook up but this salad is definitely on the menu 😉

    Reply
    • Hi dianethare,

      Mayonnaise absolutely, ketchup I am afraid if you added it the dressing would taste more like Thousand Island dressing. You can serve this salad with just about anything. It would be great with fish.

      Regards,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  10. I’ve been focused on Greek Salads lately, and had forgotten how much I love Caesar Salads. I’ve made them before, but it’s been a while, and even then, I never added anchovies. I will have to look for them, are they in the same spot as canned sardines? This sounds like a nice rustic version, and the crusty bread sounds delicious.

    Reply
    • Hi Diane Lane,

      Oh you’re going to love the Caesar salad dressing with anchovies. Sometimes anchovy fanatics even put a few whole ones on top of the salad. Me, I can eat them whole I love them so much which reminds me, I am starving right now!

      Yes, you can find them in the tinned fish section with tuna, sardines, etc. Sometimes they will be in a little flat tin, other times in a small glass bottle. I prefer the little tins if I can find them. 😉

      Thanks,

      Lori H.

      Reply
  11. With the weather warming up here in the UK, I’m looking for some good salad recipes – no suffering over a hot stove for me in the warmer months!!

    Caesar salad is not something I’ve ever made myself; it seems a bit long winded, but you’ve made it sound simple. I may just give it a try as nothing beats homemade, and I don’t want to buy any shop bought dressings (especially) this year, as I’m trying to avoid all processed foods.

    Reply
    • Hi Portia88.

      Uggg tell me about it, hot weather and hot stove, not a good mix. You will be surprised, this is really easy and so much better than store bought. This is also a great dish for when you have guests. Enjoy!

      Regards,

      Lori Jo

      Reply
  12. My favourite salad of all time is caesar salad. There is a restaurant that I always go to where I tried it because my sister told me to and I loved it! Then one day I ordered it in another restaurant thinking it would be the same, but it wasn’t. It didn’t taste the same. I have to add that I was something like 13 so for me to order something other than a plain cheese pizza! I ended up finding out there was anchovies after I took a bite and asked my mum to taste it. I ended up eating her dinner and she ate the salad.

    Since then I only eat caesar salad in the first restaurant I tried it. I have tried to like anchovies a few time as I know tastes change as you get older but even after 7 years of trying it I just can’t seem to enjoy them. Apart from the anchovies this receipe looks quite simple so I might actually take a leap and test it out for myself !

    Reply
    • Hi Cazala26,

      I have the same problem with restaurants. Some have amazing caesar salads and some I don’t like at all, more the latter than the former.

      Try the recipe with just one anchovy and if you still do not like it try it without and maybe a little extra Worcestershire sauce.

      Regards,

      Lori Jo

      Reply
  13. This looks delicious. Whenever my husband and I go out to eat, he always, always, always orders a Caesar salad. Without fail. He is very picky about his salads though…it has to have the right dressing-to-greens ratio, the chicken has to be perfectly cooked and it just has to be perfect. I think this would be a fun way to surprise him with his very own, homemade “gourmet” salad! Thank you, I’ll add this to his Father’s Day dinner 🙂

    Reply
  14. Hi Michelle,

    I am just like your husband, a salad has to be perfect and freshness and proportions are key. This will make a perfect addition to his Father’s day dinner!

    Reply
  15. I’m not a big fan of salad, but if I eat one it has to be simple and I love them with croutons. This salad is just that, simple. I also love having salads as an appetizer before I eat spaghetti.

    Reply
  16. I am in love with this salad!! I could eat it every day for lunch!! It’s so delicious! I often order it in restaurants and people think it’s because I am on a diet or something like that and that I want to lose some weight..but that’s not the reason at all! I order it because I love it more than anything else:D

    Reply
    • Hi Heda,

      Absolutely! This is not one of those salads you solemnly order because you want to lose weight, it’s the kind you order because it is incredibly delicious!

      Have you tried making it at home yet?

      Reply
  17. Cesar Salad is my favorite type of salad ever. It just never gets old. This version of the salad looks AMAZING! The anchovies though, might be a little to intense for me! I have never tried anchovies in a Cesar Salad before, and I’m not the most adventurous lady in the world LOL. I might try the recipe with them someday. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for such a yummy recipe.

    Reply
    • Hi MichelleVL,

      I feel the same way. In some restaurants it is all I order and I always make it for friends when they come over.

      Now are you eating these when you go to restaurants or making them at home because if you are eating them in restaurants I assure you that you have been eating anchovies all along, hehehehe. Either way, try it with just one at least! They really do add a nice depth and saltiness to creamy dressing.

      Yes, please let us know how it goes. Have fun!

      Reply
  18. This my most favorite salad to date. I especially love this salad alongside a fresh bowl of pasta. I have been really interchanging the Caesar dressing for a homemade version only I use olive oil and vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper. This salad is universally delicious, and with some dried cranberries can be considered heavenly.

    Reply
    • Hi sheebah7,

      Pastas and Caesar salads are a match made in heaven. A simple salad of just extra virgin olive oil with vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper are surprisingly delicious! I love having these for lunch. I never tried the dried cranberries, thank you for the tip! I can imagine the sweetness mixed with the tartness to be a delicious combo and very easy to make.

      Reply
  19. I am a huge fan of Caesar salad, but definitely a big NO THANK YOU on the anchovy front. I cannot abide anything about anchovies – even the smell turns my stomach.

    Reply
    • Hi ukfoodiegirl,

      Hehehehe. That’s okay. Have you tried this recipe yet without the anchovies? If so please let us know how you liked it!

      Reply
  20. I love Caesar Salad, it’s my all time favorite, I always have to remind myself not to have a second helping. I love it with smokey barbecued chicken, it is absolutely delicious. Have you tried adding some thyme and rosemary? it will take you to heaven.

    Reply
    • Hi HealthAndVitality,

      Are you talking about fresh or dried thyme and rosemary?

      Thank you for sharing your variations!

      Reply
  21. I haven’t tried a Caesar salad that I disliked, but the anchovies and sodium content on this one give me pause. I’ll probably make it per instructions here just to try it, and then modify it to my taste and needs after that. I like to at least try something, with few exceptions, before I decide if I like them.

    Reply
    • Hi nytegeek,

      I don’t really worry about the sodium content as I don’t eat them daily or have any high blood pressure problems or retaining water problems.

      Let us know how you like the original recipe and then how you modify it after that.

      Enjoy!

      Reply
  22. At times, the old man and I decide we just want something light for dinner and decide to eat salads. There is nothing better than a caesar salad after a long hot day! On occasion we will add baked chicken, or bacon bits. We will use them as a side item as well, especially if we decide to grill steaks that night.

    Reply

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