This 10-minute caesar dressing recipe is perfect for tossing with crisp romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, and crunchy croutons. The authentic flavor comes from anchovy fillets, eggs, and high-quality olive oil.
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It’s tempting to grab a bottle of caesar dressing from the grocery store to make a quick salad. But if you can resist, the recipe is easy! Here’s my step-by-step guide for making restaurant-quality caesar salad dressing at home—the perfect pairing for fresh greens, pasta, sandwiches, or wraps.
The sauce’s creamy and savory flavor comes from egg yolks and cured anchovies. They help the sauce cling to crispy pieces of lettuce, delivering a boost of umami flavor. I have plenty of ingredient substitutions, so there is no excuse not to try making this famous condiment yourself.
If this is your first time making anchovy paste, it’s easy to master. It’s salty and savory, but it won’t make the sauce taste fishy, so don’t skip it. Look for canned or jarred anchovies, not fresh. These tiny fillets, delicate bones and all, have already been cooked and preserved in oil and salt.
Canned versions allow you to chop them up and eat them as is. They may be sold as “flat fillets of anchovies” on the packaging.
Make the anchovy paste
Grab your chef’s knife, anchovy fillets, salt, and minced garlic. Use the side of the blade to scrape the fish against the board, creating a fine paste. The garlic helps flavor the paste and masks some fish odor. Coarse salt granules help break up the protein—measure one tablespoon of the paste to add to the dressing.
Substituting the fillets with anchovy paste
If you want to save a little prep time, grab a tube of anchovy paste. Food manufacturers have ground down the fillets, then seasoned them with olive and salt. You’ll need one tablespoon for the dressing. The garlic is missing, so finely mince the amount called for in the recipe to mix it in.
Make sure to taste before adding additional salt, as you don’t know how much is already in the product.
Use pasteurized egg yolk
A classic caesar salad uses raw egg yolks. I use one large yolk in my recipe. The fat in the yolk helps to thicken the dressing and add richness. The lecithin in the yolks also helps to emulsify and stabilize the sauce for a more extended period. It’s essential only to use eggs that have been pasteurized. In the United States, this means treating the eggs at a minimum of 140ºF (60ºC) for 3 ½ minutes, then cooled.
The pasteurizing process reduces the risk of foodborne illness from Salmonella. I only use pasteurized eggs from the grocery store, not any that are freshly laid or from the farmer’s market. If you are pregnant, immunocompromised, or serving the dressing to children, skip the egg yolk, and use store-bought mayonnaise, between 1 to 4 tablespoons.
Caesar dressing flavoring
The base of the salad dressing is eggs (or mayonnaise) and anchovies for the deep umami flavor. I add acid, oil, and cheese to balance and complement the main components. Dijon mustard, lemon zest, and freshly squeezed juice provide a tangy element.
A high-quality extra-virgin olive oil thickens the dressing, giving a fruity, slightly pleasant bitter taste. Some salt, pepper, and aged grated parmesan cheese boost the umami taste of the cured fish.
How to make caesar dressing
It’s important to thoroughly mix the thick ingredients before adding the olive oil. The homemade or prepared anchovy paste is very dense. It’s combined with the egg yolk, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth.
Now you can slowly drizzle in the olive oil while constantly whisking to break it into tiny droplets. This process will thicken the dressing consistency. I wait to add the parmesan cheese since it’s slightly coarse and easier to disperse once the emulsion has formed in the dressing.
Serve this with
- Chicken caesar salad or wrap
- Homemade croutons
- Romaine lettuce or kale
- Grilled romaine
- Use the dressing to make a pasta salad
Substitute with Worcestershire sauce, which is made of vinegar, tamarind, a hint of anchovies, and seasonings. To skip the fish altogether, look for a version without the anchovies. Other options to give the umami flavor are soy sauce or miso paste. Kalamata olives or capers can be chopped finely for a savory, salty flavor. Start with a small amount of either substitute, ½ to 1 teaspoon at a time, then adjust to your desired taste.
My version is low in carbs and gluten-free. I use raw egg yolks, cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, and homemade anchovy paste to create a thickened, creamy texture. If using store-bought mayonnaise, look for keto-friendly products.
For a lower-calorie caesar dressing, swap the egg or mayonnaise with plain greek yogurt. It will be tangier, but that can be balanced with a little sweetener if desired. The mayonnaise can also be reduced from ¼ cup to 1 to 3 tablespoons.
Substituting raw eggs with mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is a comparable option if you are hesitant about using raw egg yolks in the caesar dressing. It’s made from egg yolks, oil, and seasonings, which will get you the same creamy mouthfeel, and emulsified dressing. I recommend adding ¼ cup of mayonnaise for the 1 large egg yolk. You can reduce it to as low as 1 tablespoon for a lighter consistency.
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Homemade Caesar Dressing
- 6 anchovies, canned
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 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 scrape and mash into a paste.
- Make the Caesar Dressing – In a medium bowl, whisk together the anchovy paste, egg yolk, lemon juice, zest, mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil until a thickened, smooth emulsion forms. Whisk in the parmesan cheese.
- Recipe Yield: About ¾ cup
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Dressing Lettuce: The recipe makes enough dressing for 8 cups of lettuce.
- Substituting the Egg Yolk: Add ¼ of mayonnaise instead of the egg yolk.
- 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 dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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