This chicken caesar salad features lean seasoned protein seared until tender and paired with romaine lettuce, creamy dressing, and crunchy croutons. It’s an easy and delicious option for lunch or dinner.
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I’ve taken my classic caesar salad recipe and loaded it up with juicy chicken breast to make it a heartier entree. The process only takes a few extra minutes to season and cook the poultry. The good news is you can meal prep various parts of the recipe, saving you time until you’re ready to serve.
There are four essential components to this popular dish that you’ll learn how to master. Preparing the lettuce, cooking the meat, mixing the anchovy dressing, and making homemade croutons. You can always swap out for store-bought ingredients if you’re in a pinch for time. However, once you taste the difference in this made-from-scratch version, you might not turn back.
Selecting the type of chicken
For a lean protein option, I use boneless skinless chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper to enhance the savory taste. It’s all you need! I use about 8-ounce pieces for quick and even cooking. Larger pieces start to dry out at the tapered ends.
If the meat you purchase is very thick, I suggest cutting them into thinner cutlets or pounding them out to an even thickness, about half an inch. The salad base is also great to use if you have leftover rotisserie chicken or baked chicken for faster preparation.
Cooking the chicken
You have a few options. For cooking the chicken breast on the stovetop you can use a nonstick pan, stainless steel, or cast iron skillet. Otherwise, use an indoor grill pan or an outdoor barbecue for grilled chicken. Just make sure to lightly press on the meat to give good contact with the hot surface then do not move the pieces!
When grilling, give it a few minutes to let the golden brown crust form, then flip. Continue to cook until the chicken is no longer pink and reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). The process takes about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Crunchy and crisp romaine lettuce is ideal for a caesar salad. The dark leaves are tender and as you get closer to the root end, the lettuce rib gets light green in color, thicker, and crisper. Romaine adds a refreshing texture, and the firm leaves hold up better to the creamy citrus dressing. It won’t wilt as quickly!
Cut them into half-inch thick pieces crosswise to make them easy to pierce with a fork. If you want a barbecue-inspired version of this salad, try grilling the romaine for a smoky flavor.
Making homemade croutons
When I have the time, I love using my homemade crouton recipe to make a light and crunchy topping for salads. I recommend a French loaf for the easiest to-shatter crumb. However, don’t let day-old bread go to waste. Sandwich slices or a crusty dense artisan bread like a baguette are great options. Cut them into cubes about ¾-inch in size. You’ll need 2 cups.
Season the bread cubes with extra virgin olive, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings for an herbaceous taste. You can also sprinkle onion or garlic powder for a cooked allium flavor. Baking at 375ºF (191ºC) for under 15 minutes transforms the bread into super crunchy croutons. The pieces will shrink as they lose moisture, yielding just over 1 cup. They store very well for several weeks in an airtight container if you want to meal prep.
Salad dressing ingredients
The characteristic flavor of a caesar dressing is anchovies. Yes, you heard me right! The tiny canned fish adds an incredible savory, umami taste. It should not be skipped! I use six whole anchovy fillets chopped down into a paste with salt and minced garlic. It will yield about one tablespoon. For convenience, you can also use anchovy paste. Just finely mince the garlic before whisking it into the dressing.
Other seasonings added include Dijon mustard, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. In my classic caesar salad, I use a pasteurized raw egg yolk as an emulsifier and thickening agent, but for this version, I use mayonnaise for those who wanted an alternative. It gives a creamier consistency to the dressing, which helps it cling to the leafy greens. Make sure to slowly drizzle in the olive oil while vigorously whisking to create a thickened, emulsified sauce.
Serving the salad
Before serving, toss the romaine lettuce with ¼ cup of the dressing to lightly coat. Top with the sliced chicken pieces, the croutons, freshly cracked pepper, and parmesan cheese. I like to serve the extra dressing on the side for guests.
Serve this with
Crisp romaine lettuce leaves for the base of the salad. It’s tossed with a citrusy anchovy dressing, then topped with crunchy croutons and slices of chicken breast.
Cook the chicken breast first so that it has a chance to cool down when added to the salad, which prevents the romaine from wilting. Wait to toss the lettuce with the creamy anchovy dressing until ready to serve. Add the croutons, shaved or grated parmesan cheese, and chicken pieces.
To make the dressing lower in calories, you can swap the mayonnaise with plain greek yogurt. It will be tangier in flavor. If needed, you can add a small amount of sweetener to balance the acidity. Alternatively, add 1 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise instead of ¼ cup.
How to substitute mayonnaise with egg yolks
Mayonnaise contains egg yolks and oil, making it a suitable swap for egg-based dressings. However, traditional caesar dressing uses raw egg yolks for thickening and richness. For a safer exchange, use one large pasteurized yolk for ¼ cup of mayonnaise. Pasteurizing means that egg producers have destroyed harmful bacteria on the shell when treated at a minimum of 140ºF (60ºC) for 3 ½ minutes.
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Chicken Caesar Salad
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 pieces
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups French loaf, cut into ¾" cubes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon Italian seasonings, optional
- Prepare the Chicken – Place one of the chicken pieces between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Flatten to an even thickness, about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining piece.
- Mix the Seasonings – In a small bowl, combine ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Evenly season both sides of the chicken breast with the mixture.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, and heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken and press down into the pan for maximum contact. Cook until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Rest then Slice – Rest the chicken for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, slice the meat against the grain. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the Croutons – Heat the oven to 375ºF (191ºC). In a medium bowl, combine bread cubes, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning (if using). Spread into a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Bake for another 2 to 4 minutes until golden brown, dry, and crunchy. Cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes.
- Make the Anchovy Paste – On a cutting board, chop the anchovy fillets, minced garlic, and ¼ teaspoon salt together. Use the side of the knife to help mash into a paste.
- Make the Caesar Dressing – In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the anchovy paste, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil until a thickened, smooth emulsion forms. Whisk in the parmesan cheese.
- Dress the Salad – Add romaine lettuce to a large bowl and ¼ cup of dressing. Gently toss to combine. Add more to your liking or serve on the side.
- To Serve – Top the salad with sliced chicken, more parmesan cheese, black pepper, and croutons.
- Dressing Yield: Makes about ¾ cup of dressing
- Using Raw Egg Yolk: A classic caesar uses raw egg yolk. Substitute the mayonnaise with 1 pasteurized large egg yolk.
- Using Anchovy Paste: 1 tablespoon (15g) of anchovy paste can be substituted for whole anchovies.
- Storing: The undressed salad and dressing can be covered and stored separately in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store croutons in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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