Caesar Salad

Do a little research into the background of the caesar salad and you’ll find that it is named not for some illustrious Roman emperor, but for Caesar Cardini, a Mexican chef working in Tijuana in the 1920s, who would dramatically serve it up table-side. (At least that’s how the story goes.) Fast forward to this century and you have what is probably the most popular restaurant salad in the country, with plenty of variations around the theme of romaine lettuce, garlic, Parmesan, and croutons. What follows is my she-can-cook-a-lot-better-than-I-can friend Suzanne’s recipe, family size. I love Suzanne’s caesar salad, and have been a frequent guest at her house when it has happened to have been served (lucky!) She makes her own croutons from scratch, from baguette slices that have been brushed with olive oil, toasted, and then roughly chopped. This she does while the garlic has been soaking in olive oil in the serving bowl, a great way to infuse the oil with garlic.

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Caesar Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 for a main course or up to 8-12 for a side salad.

If you have a concern about the raw eggs called for in this recipe, you can use pasteurized eggs, or you can coddle the eggs first by immersing them in boiling water for 1 minute, before cracking them open. If you don't have anchovies available, add a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce to the dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, smashed, then minced
  • 1 baguette, preferably a day old, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup freshly juiced lemon juice (plus more to taste)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or 1-2 anchovies, smashed and minced
  • 2 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper (1/4 teaspoon or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 small heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed, patted dry, wilted outer leaves discarded

Method

1 In a very large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and garlic. Let sit for half an hour.

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2 While the oil is sitting, make the croutons. Spread the baguette slices out over a baking sheet (may need to do in batches), lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Brush or spray with olive oil (or melted butter, or if you want garlicky croutons, dip pastry brush in the garlic infused oil you have sitting in step 1). Broil for a couple of minutes until the tops are lightly browned. (Note: do not walk away, these can easily go from browned to burnt.) Remove and let cool.

The steps up until this point can be made ahead.

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3 Add anchovies and eggs to the oil garlic mixture. Whisk until creamy. Add salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Whisk in half of the Parmesan cheese. Taste, add more lemon juice to taste. The lemon should give an edge to the dressing, but not overwhelm it.

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4 Using your hands, tear off chunks of lettuce from the heads of lettuce (do not use a knife to cut). Add to the oil mixture and toss until coated. Add the rest of the Parmesan cheese, toss.

5 Coarsely chop the toasted bread and add (with the crumbs from the chopping) to the salad. Toss. Serve immediately.

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Links:
Ruhlman's chicken-fried pork belly ceasar
Filipino Pantry Chicken Caesar Salad from Burnt Lumpia
Chicken Caesar Salad made with a buttermilk dressing, from Cafe Fernando
Caesar Salad Club Sandwich from Noble Pig
Caesar Salad with Shrimp from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry

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35 Comments

  1. jonathan

    Really? The whole egg? Not just the yolk(s)? That’s a new one. For me, the difference between a good Caesar and a great Caesar is the garlic croutons. I like to cube day-old Italian loaf, infuse some olive oil long, low and slow heat with lots of sliced garlic (remove when brown), turn up the heat and then saute the cubes until golden. They absorb the oil and when bitten into give you a nice textural crunch followed by a shot of delicious garlic oil. Save me.

  2. Stacey Snacks

    Elise,
    This is close to my recipe for Caesar Salad.
    Nice and simple.
    I don’t like mustard or Worcestershire sauce in my dressing.
    It is everyone’s favorite, and I never tell them there are 6 anchovies in my recipe!

  3. Cheryl

    I make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and then toss the croutons first. They hold the dressing that way.

  4. Susan

    I love Ceasar Salad and this recipe looks really good. I like the idea of the broken croutons. One thing I do when I don’t have anchovies is to toss a couple of Kalamata olives in each serving. It adds just enough of that briny flavor to the dressing. Thanks, Elise.

  5. Mark

    You have it right, Caesar Cardini, an ITALIAN chef working in Tijuana invented the Caesar salad.

    Although your recipe sounds delicious, it is not the original Caesar salad, but a variant thereof. The original Caesar contained no egg and no anchovies.

    From what I read, Cardini was Mexican, but born in Italy. ~Elise

  6. Crystal

    You can also substitute fish sauce for anchovy paste, if you cook Thai dishes you should have some on hand.

    Great idea! ~Elise

  7. CJ McD

    @Susan-
    If you don’t have anchovies, you can use a little fish sauce as a substitute too. Same flavor profile.

  8. Tao

    Is it safe to serve eggs uncooked?

    Good question. There is a risk of salmonella, which is why many recipes that traditionally call for uncooked eggs use pasteurized eggs or coddled eggs. There are many of us who work with raw eggs anyway, but if you have a concern, you should consider alternatives, and look up the issue online (I’m no expert). ~Elise

  9. Gloriana

    Made this to accompany tonight’s dinner. Thumbs up all around. Another great recipe from a great site. Thanks, Elise!

  10. Angelia McGowan

    Looks very good, I love to make caesar salad also. I add cherry tomatoes, because i love tomatoes so much and I especially like to add anchovies up on top, delicious!

  11. Tao

    Elise,
    Do you know how many cups of parmasean is equivalent to approximately 4 ounces?

    About one cup grated cheese. ~Elise

  12. Jennifer Hess

    This is very much like the Caesar my former mother-in-law taught me to make years ago, though she only used the yolks in her dressing. She would also mash the anchovies into the egg yolks before blending them into the oil. Infusing the oil with the garlic makes such a difference.

  13. MAg

    I always add more anchovies. Some day I asked a Ceasar salad in a restaurant ( Monterrey Mexico) I ask the waiter add extra anchovies, he said The Cesar Salad doesn´t have anchovies…
    I asked his name, was Pedro, well I said then the Salads name is Pedro not Cesar.

    Hah! Only good old Pedro had a point, actually. The original caesar salad didn’t include anchovies, that was a later addition (because they’re so good!) ~Elise

  14. Candie

    I use grey poupon mustard and a little Worcestershire instead of eggs. Too many people are allergic to the egg. Also add fresh lemon to zest it up! Wash & pinch lettuce, wrap it in a clean town and refrigerate until time to serve.

  15. Alecia

    We love to do homemade caesar. I like the sounds of this dressing, less ingredients to fuss with – I will try it! We like to grill our romaine. Had it that way in a restaurant a while back and so we tried it at home. Before tearing the leaves, wash and dry the heads and then put on the grill for a few minutes until the outsides have a bit of color, you’ll have to watch them and rotate them. The grilling adds a unique smokey flavor and sometimes we throw in some grilled shrimp too.

    What an interesting idea! Thank you for the suggestion. ~Elise

  16. zoe maya

    @Tao and Elise (about raw eggs)

    Eggs are actually completely pure on the inside, the salmonella risk only lies on the shell of the egg, where residue may be left over from the farm. By scrubbing and washing your eggs (or coddle in the boiling water if extra worried) you erase the salmonella risk.

  17. Linda in Washington State

    Hi Elise,

    In my pre kids days (those were the yummy days when I didn’t have to cook sigh lol),I worked at a restaurant that made and served Caesar salad tableside. >. They used red wine vinegar along with the lemon juice. They coddled the egg before using only the yolk in the dressing. I personally prefer adding lemon zest along with the lemon juice to a light salad or pasta dressing.
    A few drops Worcestershire sauce can be used instead of anchovies to make this dressing.
    I am not a big anchovies fan.

  18. Roz

    Hi Elise,

    You are so kind for sharing this recipe….absolutely one of my all time favorites! There is a little book called something like “In Search of the Caeser Salad” and it has the original recipe served in Tijuana, Mexico. If you can find a copy it is full of many variations in addition to the original recipe. THIS SOUNDS DIVINE and I thank you!

    Roz

    Hi Roz, wow, a whole book just on caesar salad? Had to look for it and I did find it here on Amazon: In Search of Caesar: The Ultimate Caesar Salad Book. ~Elise

  19. Tao

    I usually don’t like caesar salads but made it for my boyfriend and looooved it! it was so good! thanks!
    ps. and thanx for the advise for the raw egg!

  20. Jeff

    A very nice, simple recipe, thank you for sharing!

    To note on egg contamination risk, the mention above about salmonella being hosted only on the shell of the egg is no longer correct (though it was correct some years ago).

    While early salmonella outbreaks were often due to external contamination, pursuant sanitary regulations have practically eliminated that as a risk, but internal contamination is still present in some eggs.

    The risk is low in any case, but pasteurized or locally sourced eggs are generally a safer bet. The CDC provides a nice summary at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salment_g.htm

  21. CJ McD

    When feeling unsure about the safety of the fresh eggs I have on hand, I often substitute a tablespoon of mayonnaise as an emulsifier. Yields a good textura result and does not interfere with flavors for those squeamish about raw egg. Just don’t use more.

    Great idea, especially in this case, since all mayo is is egg, oil, and vinegar/lemon juice. ~Elise

  22. pat

    Amazing, loved this recipe. I made it tonight after looking at this Caesar salad recipe this morning. I did everything except I used my magic bullet to mix the dressing. The Caesar was wonderful. I used my old frozen rolls and bread to make the croutons and just tossed them in a bag with the olive oil garlic mixture, then threw them on a aluminum foil sheet pan. Low min and checked.
    The best all time favorite.
    Thank you
    Can not wait to pass this on.

    So glad you liked it! ~Elise

  23. chefpaulo

    Elise,
    I concur with all above posters who use only the yolks. I recall this from childhood when Caesar salad was a novelty and to have it prepared tableside was a real treat.

    Regardless of Caesar’s (Cardini)original recipe, anchovies are a must in this house. And the Parmesan must be freshly shaved – no powdered blasphemy from a green cardboard shaker.

    CP

  24. Daniele

    Thanks for this tasty hint. I had only eaten the MacDonald variety and never had done any research on the recipe (I was lazily thinking that the salad was named after being a rather “rich” salad…).

    A very simple, personal variation:

    - Mix Roman lettuce, grated carrot and pickles cut in small cubes
    – Dress with a vinaigrette of olive oil, apple vinegar and salt
    – Prepare a toasted sandwich with fontina cheese, cut it into small squares and toss upon the salad.

  25. Marion Olson

    Two really brilliant ideas here – easy croutons and that tablespoon of mayo!

    I almost never bother to make croutons because those ones from the store are so easy, even if they’re not as good as homemade. But broiling the bread and then crunching it up and throwing the crumbs into the salad works for me. As to the freshness of the raw egg, the mayonnaise makes it a moot point. What a great idea!

    Anchovy paste is a sneaky substitution for those who don’t like those teeny little “bones” in their food. It’s not quite as good for those of us who love the punch of biting into the little devils, but it puts the flavor in food with a little more subtlety of texture for those who really don’t!

  26. Hannah

    I have tried a few homemade Caesar Salad recipes and they have not turned out quite as good as I was hoping, so I am anxious to try this. Thank you for sharing.

    I have previously used the anchovy paste, but I’d like to use anchovies. I am not a big fish person, though, so when you say 1-2 anchovies smashed and minced, is it as simple as opening a can of anchovies and chopping them into bits, or do you use fresh anchovies, need to de-bone, etc.? Thanks for any advice.

    You open a can, pull out one or two skinny anchovy fillets, and chop them up. Put the open can with the remaining anchovies in a small plastic container, or cover them with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator until your next use. They will last for a couple months refrigerated because they are salt-cured and packed in oil. ~Elise

  27. Becky

    Elise – your photos are beautiful and I love your recipe. The history is so intersting. I definitely thought the Caesar was straight from Italy.

  28. Randi Lynne

    I made this for the first time tonite. My husband and good friend said they had never had a Caesar Salad dressing that good, even at a restaurant. I made a loaf of homemade bread so I skipped the croutons, but the dressing to me is the best part anyway. It was delicious. Thank you so much for this great recipe!

  29. Christine

    Hi! This recipe (and site) is great. I use this all the time to make caesar salad wraps– delicious!

    Why is it that can you use worcestershire sauce as a substitute for the anchovy paste? Does that apply only to this caesar dressing recipe, or could I substitute worcestershire for anchovy paste in a recipe for a spinach dip?

    One of the main ingredients in worcestershire sauce is anchovies, which is why you can sometimes use it as a substitute. You could try it with your spinach dip recipe, and see if you like it. ~Elise

  30. Jonathan

    Delicious! An outstanding salad, and with a little sautéed chicken it makes a perfect dinner salad. And, while others have pointed it out, the photos are amazing, better than professional-grade. Thanks for the recipe!

  31. Angie

    This is so delicious! Just the right amount of tangy, too. Thank you very much for this recipe, as well as others on your site. I’ve tried many of them and have never once been disappointed. Thanks again!!

  32. Katie K.

    Dayum. This salad is good. I made it for a dinner party. This was definitely a crowd pleaser!! Thanks so much. Your recipes are delicious.

  33. Michael

    Excellent! SO simple, SO delicious and SO much better than the dressings with dry mustard, mayo and others. Thank you for this recipe!

  34. gibi p george

    great recipe, same as my one, this is simple.

  35. Madhu

    My first attempt at Caesar salad and it was tasty! Subbed Worcestershire sauce and a stale loaf of garlic bread, toasted with garlic butter and chopped. I’m going to make and keep some garlicky olive oil for next time…Thank you for putting up the recipe with lovely pictures !

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