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.
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.
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.)
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, unless you’re saving those slices for another Italian favorite, pappa al pomodoro.
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.Print
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.
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
To Make the Dressing:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Toss bread pieces with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
- 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:
- 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.
- Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler to create thin slivers.
- Gently toss the lettuce, croutons, and dressing together in the bowl. Garnish generously with shaved Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: Toasting, No-Cook
- Cuisine: Vegetables
Keywords: salad, Caesar, vegetarian, parmesan
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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:
- House Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes
- Bosc Pear Salad with Dried Currants and Toasted Hazelnuts
- Arugula Dijon Salad with Figs, Pistachios, and Pea Shoots
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.