Classic Caesar Salad

4.83 from 17 votes
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Easy Caesar salad recipe with a creamy homemade dressing. Briny salt-cured anchovies add characteristic flavor, while eggs create the perfect emulsion for the dressing. Just top with aged Parmesan cheese and crunchy croutons!

Caesar salad served on a white plate with homemade dressing on the side.

The ideal Caesar salad has fresh, crisp pieces of lettuce. Hearty romaine provides the proper structure for this recipe to capture the robust dressing. The other critical essential ingredient is anchovies, which bring a unique flavor. It’s an umami-packed cured fish that shouldn’t be skipped.

The luscious dressing texture is achieved without being too heavy by combining Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, and olive oil. To finish the salad, I add freshly cracked black pepper, crispy croutons, and a few slivers of dry-aged cheese. You can also add grilled chicken to make this an entree.

Key ingredients

Ingredients to make this caesar salad recipe.
  • Lettuce: Use romaine lettuce for crunchy pieces sturdy enough to be coated in the rich dressing.
  • Anchovies: Use canned or jarred anchovy fillets packed in olive oil. They will be chopped up to make a paste. For convenience, use anchovy paste sold in tubes.
  • Flavoring: Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, salt, and pepper season the dressing. The more intense ingredients also add dimension and balance the richness of the eggs.
  • Eggs: Raw pasteurized eggs emulsify the dressing and add richness.
  • Olive Oil: Use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for a fruity taste. The oil thickens the caesar dressing, helping it cling to the lettuce.
  • Cheese: Use a hard-aged cheese like Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano.

Prepare the lettuce

Big leafy hearts of romaine are an excellent choice because the leaves are firm and crisp. The lettuce leaves don’t wilt down when combined with a citrusy creamy dressing. Cut the romaine into bite-sized pieces, about 1/2-inch in size, that are easy to pick up with a fork.

Make the anchovy paste

Don’t skip the anchovies! A traditional Caesar salad dressing recipe features anchovy fillets mashed into a paste. I use canned anchovies packed in olive oil and then broken down with kosher salt and garlic to enhance the flavor. The bones are tiny and edible, crushed with a few swift chops.

An easy, time-saving tip is to use anchovy paste instead of the whole fish. They are typically sold right next to each other at the grocery store. I use 1 tablespoon of paste for every six anchovies.

Make the Caesar dressing

Whisking parmesan cheese into caesar salad dressing.

My homemade Caesar dressing combines anchovies, Dijon mustard, raw egg yolk, lemon juice, minced garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper. The key is creating an emulsion that will help evenly disperse the flavors onto the lettuce.

The lecithin in the egg yolks is a strong emulsifying agent that helps the lemon juice and oil mixture stay uniform. Slowly drizzle in droplets of olive oil and briskly whisk until a smooth and evenly dispersed dressing forms. The last step is to whisk in the salty parmesan cheese. Now you’re ready to make the Caesar salad!

How to make Caesar salad

Once you’ve prepared the lettuce and Caesar dressing, it’s time to assemble the salad. Toss the romaine leaves with just enough Caesar dressing to coat them lightly. I like to make homemade croutons on a baking sheet using stale bread to add to the salad for extra crunch.

Right before serving, add freshly cracked black pepper for a hint of spiciness, just like at restaurants, and freshly grated Parmesan on top. Serve this appetizer or side dish with extra dressing for a more robust flavor.

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make Caesar salad, there are different ways to make the popular appetizer even more exciting! Try these delicious variations:

  • Lettuce: Other types of lettuce can be used, like green or red leaf, or you can even grill romaine for a smoky flavor and toasted texture. I also enjoy kale Caesar as an excellent way to switch things up.
  • Cheese: Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, or grana padano are classic options, or try Pecorino Romano made with sheep milk if you want to try crumbled cheese, feta, or Cotija for a Latin twist.
  • Toppings: Switch up the flavor of the croutons. Garlic and butter are my favorite! Alternatively, fry up tortillas for crunch. Add pumpkin seeds or nuts like walnuts or almonds.
  • Protein: Make it a chicken Caesar salad, or top with grilled shrimp or carne asada for a heartier entree.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What are pasteurized eggs?

Eggs in the shell, liquid or powdered egg products that have been pasteurized to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria on the egg’s surface without cooking the inside. In the United States, the requirement is to treat the eggs at a minimum of 140ºF (60ºC) for 3 ½ minutes, then cooled. These products are great options for recipes like Caesar dressing and homemade mayonnaise.

What are anchovy substitutes?

Various anchovy substitutes can be used for this Caesar dressing recipe. Substitute with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or miso paste. Use finely chopped kalamata olives or capers for a savory and salty flavor. Start ½ to 1 teaspoon at a time, then adjust to your desired taste.

Where was Caesar salad invented?

The original recipe was invented in the 1920s by Cesare Cardini. The Italian chef had a restaurant called Caesar’s in San Diego. He moved the restaurant to Tijuana, Mexico, during prohibition to avoid legal issues. The salad is said to have been created on a busy holiday in 1924. He ran out of ingredients to make his insalata mista, so instead, he created the Caesar salad with local shop and pantry ingredients.

Caesar salad with homemade croutons on a white plate.

Recipe Science

Use pasteurized eggs for Caesar dressing

Caesar dressings use raw eggs. However, with food safety concerns around foodborne illness from Salmonella, there are options to reduce the risk of contamination. Pasteurized types of eggs should be used. At the market, you can find them in the refrigerated section. Look for brands like Davidson’s Safest Choice. Another option is to substitute 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup of store-bought mayonnaise for one egg yolk. This will give a slightly more opaque and creamy dressing. Keep the dressing and salad refrigerated if you are not eating right away!

Classic Caesar Salad

Classic caesar salad made with romaine lettuce and tossed with a creamy homemade dressing. Topped with aged Parmesan cheese and crunchy croutons.
4.83 from 17 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Course Salad
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, ½" thick pieces
  • 6 anchovies, canned
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup croutons

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Lettuce – If using a head of romaine, cut into ½-inch chopped pieces. Add lettuce to a salad spinner. Rinse well with cold water. Spin until the leaves are dry. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
  • 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 the fish into a paste.
  • Make the Dressing – In a medium bowl, whisk together the anchovy paste, mustard, egg yolk, lemon juice, zest, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil until a thickened, smooth emulsion forms. Whisk in the parmesan cheese until the dressing is smooth.
  • Assemble the Salad – Add romaine lettuce to a large bowl and ¼ cup of dressing, gently toss to combine. Add more dressing to your liking or serve on the side. Top the salad with croutons, parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Dressing Yield: ¾ cup
  • Substituting the Egg Yolk: Add 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup of mayonnaise instead of the egg yolk, depending on the desired creaminess level. 
  • Using Anchovy Paste: 1 tablespoon (15g) of anchovy paste can be substituted for whole anchovies. Finely mince the garlic to add to the dressing.
  • Storing: The lettuce and dressing can be stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Make sure to refrigerate any unused dressing and do not leave out longer than 2 hours.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 people
Calories 324kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 10g (3%)Protein 5g (10%)Fat 30g (46%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Cholesterol 52mg (17%)Sodium 579mg (24%)Potassium 264mg (8%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 8280IU (166%)Vitamin C 7.3mg (9%)Calcium 95mg (10%)Iron 1.7mg (9%)

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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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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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Greg L says

    Wow. Just absolutely not true that a real Caesar salad has anchovies. The inventor himself has said as much. So this should be called a Caesar salad with anchovies.

  2. Stanley R Leacock says

    The only true Caesar Salad with anchovies and egg dressing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was born and raised in the San Franciso bay area as well and outside of California and the East Coast you can find a conglomerate of and atrocious attempts of “chefs” attempting to make a Ceaser Salad. Thanks, Mrs. Gavin for publishing true culinary delights.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I hope you enjoy this recipe! I love the addition of the anchovies, it makes such a flavor difference. I’m from the east bay area!

  3. Kathy says

    Original Caesar Saald does NOT contain Dijon Mustard! Dijon changes the flavor entirely and is NOT authentic to a real Caesar. “DRY” mustard is the correct ingredient. The dijon ruins it!

  4. Dreighton Rosier says

    Grilled shrimp and grilled salmon are excellent toppings for Caesar Salad. Maybe other fish too but I do shrimp and salmon regularly. Tuna anyone?