Chicken Caesar Salad

5 from 6 votes
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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.

Chicken caesar salad topped with croutons and parmesan and served in a large white bowl.
  • Lemon juice in the marinade tenderizes and flavors chicken, turning it juicy and zestful.
  • Whisking together olive oil, egg yolk, and mustard creates an emulsion that clings the dressing to the greens.
  • Searing the chicken unleashes a flavor burst, perfectly complementing the crisp lettuce.

Why It Works

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.

You’ll learn how to master four essential components of this popular dish: preparing the lettuce, cooking the meat, mixing the anchovy dressing, and making homemade croutons. If you’re in a pinch for time, you can always substitute store-bought ingredients. However, once you taste the difference in this made-from-scratch version, you might not turn back.

Ingredients You’ll Need

All the ingredients you need to make a chicken caesar salad laid out on a table and labeled.
  • Chicken: For a lean protein option, I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts 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.
  • Lettuce: 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 the leaves into half-inch-thick pieces crosswise to make bite-size pieces.
  • Croutons: 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. Cut it into cubes about ¾-inch in size. You’ll need 2 cups. 
  • Dressing: Use whole canned anchovies to make the dressing. Other seasonings added include Dijon mustard, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Mayonnaise gives the dressing a creamier consistency, which helps it cling to the leafy greens.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

How to Make Chicken Caesar Salad

Step 1: Prepare the chicken

For even cooking, use a meat mallet to flavor the chicken to about 1/2-inch thick. If the meat you purchase is very thick, I suggest cutting it into thinner cutlets or pounding it to an even thickness.

Step 2: Season the Meat

Two flattened chicken breasts on a plate that are seasoned with salt and pepper.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. You can add other savory spices, such as garlic and onion powder, paprika, or dried herbs.

Step 3: Cook the Chicken

Chicken breast cooking in a stovetop grill pan with char marks on the surface.

You have a few options. You can cook the chicken on the stovetop using a nonstick pan, stainless steel, or cast iron skillet. Alternatively, make a grilled chicken Caesar salad using an indoor grill pan or an outdoor barbecue. Lightly press on the meat to give it good contact with the hot surface, then do not move the pieces! 

Tips for Perfect Execution: When grilling, let the chicken cook for a few minutes to form a golden brown crust, then flip. Continue to cook until the chicken is no longer pink and reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Depending on the thickness, the process takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

Step 4: Rest, then Slice

Grilled chicken breasts resting on a wooden cutting board.

Don’t be tempted to cut the chicken quite yet! Let the pieces rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute in the meat. Slice against the grain for tender bites. The chicken can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Step 5: Make Homemade Croutons

Cubes of bread in a pan that have been seasoned with oil and spices.

Season and oil.

Homemade golden brown croutons on a sheet pan after coming out of the oven.

Bake until golden brown.

Season the bread cubes with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings for an herbaceous taste. Sprinkle onion or garlic powder for a cooked allium flavor. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast at 375ºF (191ºC) in the oven.

In under 15 minutes, the bread transforms into super crunchy croutons. The pieces will shrink as they lose moisture, yielding just over 1 cup. If you want to meal prep, they store very well for several weeks in an airtight container.

Step 6: Make the Anchovy Paste

Pieces of anchovy and minced garlic on a cutting board.

I use six whole anchovy fillets with salt and minced garlic.

Anchovy paste after cutting and pressing with a knife.

Chop and mash together, and it should yield about one tablespoon.

Anchovies are the characteristic flavor of a Caesar dressing. Yes, you heard me right! The tiny canned fish adds an incredibly savory, umami taste. It should not be skipped!

Quick Substitution: You can also use anchovy paste for convenience, although I recommend finely mincing the garlic before whisking it into the dressing.

Step 7: Make the Caesar Dressing

Mayonnaise, lemon juice, and anchovy paste in a mixing bowl.

Add anchovy paste, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, salt, and black pepper in a bowl.

Bowl of whisked salad dressing ingredients.

Whisk until combined.

Drizzling and whisking olive oil into a bowl of salad dressing ingredients.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while vigorously whisking to create a thickened, emulsified dressing.

Grated parmesan cheese being whisked into a homemade caesar salad dressing.

Mix in the grated parmesan cheese for a nutty and salty flavor.

Ingredient Chemistry: I use a pasteurized raw egg yolk as an emulsifier and thickening agent for my homemade Caesar dressing. But for this version, I use mayonnaise for those who want an alternative. It gives the dressing a creamier consistency, which helps it cling to the leafy greens.

Step 8: Dress the Salad

Pieces of romaine lettuce inside a large serving bowl.

Before serving, in a large bowl, toss the romaine lettuce with ¼ cup of the dressing to lightly coat. You don’t need much to coat the leaves, so add more to your liking.

Step 9: Serving the Salad

Caesar salad with slices of grilled chicken on top.

Top the lettuce 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.

Experimentation Encouraged: Try adding more toppings to each serving with sliced cucumber, tomatoes, sliced avocado, or crispy bacon.

Ingredient Substitutions

The chicken Caesar salad recipe is easy to customize! Try these tasty options:

  • Chicken: Use leftover rotisserie chicken or baked chicken for faster preparation. Cook chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
  • Lettuce: Instead of romaine, try iceberg or bibb. Mix in spring lettuce or spinach. If you want a barbecue-inspired version of this salad, try grilling the romaine for a smoky flavor.
  • Croutons: Don’t let day-old bread go to waste! Sandwich slices or crusty, dense artisan bread like a baguette are great options.
  • Cheese: Add shaved parmesan, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano.

Chicken Caesar Salad

I love making chicken Caesar salad because it's a delicious and satisfying meal that's easy to prepare.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

Chicken

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Croutons

  • 2 cups French loaf, cut into ¾" cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon Italian seasonings, optional

Salad

  • 6 anchovies, canned
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, ½" thick slices

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Chicken – Place one of the chicken pieces between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Use a meat tenderizer and flatten it 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 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) on a meat thermometer, 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 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.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 891kcal (45%)Carbohydrates 66g (22%)Protein 41g (82%)Fat 52g (80%)Saturated Fat 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat 12gMonounsaturated Fat 29gTrans Fat 0.04gCholesterol 85mg (28%)Sodium 2044mg (85%)Potassium 840mg (24%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 7g (8%)Vitamin A 8270IU (165%)Vitamin C 9mg (11%)Calcium 147mg (15%)Iron 6mg (33%)

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.

Recipe Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a chicken Caesar salad contain?

The base of the salad is crisp romaine lettuce leaves tossed with a citrusy anchovy dressing, then topped with crunchy croutons and slices of chicken breast.

How do you make a chicken Caesar salad?

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.

How to substitute anchovies in the Caesar salad dressing

Use Worcestershire sauce, which is made of vinegar, tamarind, a hint of anchovies, and seasonings. Other options include soy sauce or miso paste. Kalamata olives or capers can be finely chopped. Start with ½ to 1 teaspoon at a time, then adjust to your desired taste.

Can you make the salad healthier?

You can swap the mayonnaise for plain Greek yogurt to lower the dressing’s calories. It will be tangier in flavor. You can add a small amount of sweetener to balance the acidity. Alternatively, add 1 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise instead of ¼ cup.

Can you substitute mayonnaise with egg yolks?

A traditional Caesar dressing uses raw egg yolks for thickening and richness. You can use one large pasteurized yolk for ¼ cup of mayonnaise. Pasteurizing means 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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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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3 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Angelina Fertitta Mangano says

    Your recipes are easy excellent and easy to prepare they are similar to the ones that I make.
    You are a great cook.

  2. Hank says

    Your recipes are just amazing!
    I cook about 90% of all our meals and I have made many of your dishes and my wife enjoys and delights in them all! Many thanks!
    I made the Caesar salad tonight and it is by far the best dressing I’ve ever had, it definitely hits ALL the right notes 🕴️🕴️🕴️

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much, Hank! I’m so happy that your family is enjoying my recipes. What will you be cooking next?