Classic caesar salad using crisp romaine lettuce and tossed with a creamy homemade dressing. Briny salt-cured anchovies add the characteristic flavor while eggs create the perfect emulsion for the dressing. Just top with aged Parmesan cheese and crunchy croutons!
The ideal caesar salad has fresh crisp pieces of lettuce and for this recipe, hearty romaine provides just the right structure to capture the robust dressing. The other key essential ingredient is anchovies which provide 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 extra-virgin olive oil. To finish off the salad, I crack fresh black pepper, add some crusty croutons, and a few slivers of dry-aged cheese. You can also add grilled chicken breast to make this an entree.
How to make caesar salad
- Chop the anchovy fillets, garlic, and salt into a paste.
- In a large bowl, whisk the paste together with mustard, egg yolk, lemon juice and zest, salt, and black pepper.
- Slowly whisk in olive oil until a smooth emulsion is created.
- Whisk in the parmesan cheese.
- Toss romaine lettuce with a portion of the dressing.
- Top the salad with grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and croutons.
Don’t skip the anchovies!
A traditional caesar salad recipe features anchovy fillets that are mashed into a paste. I use canned anchovies packed in olive oil and then broken down with a little bit of kosher salt and pungent garlic to enhance its 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.
Big leafy hearts of romaine are an excellent choice because the leaves are firm and crisp. They don’t wilt down when combined with a citrusy creamy dressing. Cut them into bite-sized pieces that are easy to pick up with a fork.
Caesar dressing is a combination of 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. Make sure to slowly drizzle in droplets of olive oil and briskly whisk until a smooth and evenly dispersed dressing forms.
Using raw eggs
Classic caesar dressings use raw eggs, however with food safety concerns around foodborne illness from Salmonella there are options to reduce risk of contamination. For this recipe, pasteurized types of eggs can be substituted for raw. 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 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 not eating right away!
Serving the salad
Romaine is typically tossed in the caesar dressing just enough to lightly coat the leaves. Serve this appetizer or side dish with extra dressing for those who like a stronger flavor. I like to make homemade croutons on a baking sheet using stale bread. It lasts for months in the pantry. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper, and add some freshly grated Parmesan on top.
More classic salad recipes
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 shell of the egg without cooking the inside. In the U.S. 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.
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Classic Caesar Salad
- 6 anchovies, canned
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 8 cups romaine lettuce, ½-inch thick slices
- 1 cup croutons, optional
- 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.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the 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.
- 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 desired toppings like parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, and croutons.
- Serve salad immediately or keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Make sure to refrigerate any unused dressing and do not leave out longer than 2 hours.
- 1 tablespoon (15g) of anchovy paste can be substituted for whole anchovies.
- To substitute the raw egg yolk, use either pasteurized egg yolk or 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.
- Makes about ¾ cup dressing.
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