Classic Caesar Salad is exactly that. Classic. Minimal ingredients give maximum flavour which makes it perfect as a starter or side dish. Make sure this classic makes it into your repertoire.
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Whilst Caesar salad feels like it should be an old Italian classic, it was actually invented in Mexico by Caesar Cardini in 1924. Admittedly Cardini was an Italian immigrant!
I don’t know quite how quickly its popularity spread across the US but what I do know is that when I toured the US in the early noughties, there wasn’t a menu where it didn’t make an appearance. It was quite difficult to find a vegetable sometimes but you are never more than 3 feet from a salad bar!
It used to be that Caesar salad was prepared by the waiter table side, much like the 70’s penchant for making a spectacle of a Crepe Suzette. I think nowadays it is better prepared in the kitchen. But I have otherwise kept to a fairly traditional recipe without great embellishment. And so this salad makes for a great simple side or accompaniment.
How to Serve Classic Caesar Salad
Caesar salad can either be served as a small and simple salad as a side or starter. It would pair lovely with my Spaghetti Carbonara too.
The recipe can be doubled for a main course portion or simply used as a base for a more fully loaded main course salad.
It doesn’t matter whether you serve it on a plate or in a bowl, as individual portions or as a large help yourself bowl in the middle of the table.
What is important is that the lettuce is tossed in the dressing last minute. Romaine is a fairly robust leaf but it will give in to sogginess if left to stand for very long. This is a salad where the crunch is essential.
Make Classic Caesar Salad into a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
The Caesar Salad is the star in one of my Everyday Americana Feasts. The recipe is doubled in quantity, Roast Chicken is added and the whole thing is topped with a runny Poached Egg. It is a whole feast on one plate! As a crispy variations, sometimes I swap out the roast chicken for Oven Fried Chicken Thighs.
For something totally different, I love the idea of serving it with my Baked Camembert with Garlic, Maple & Thyme. The tartness of the salad would be a foil to the creamy cheese and you could use the croutons for dipping too. A.Mazing!
Don’t forget to head over to the Big Americana Feast post for all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my other feast collections and all my Americana inspired recipes.
Ingredients for Classic Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad Dressing
As with most of these things, the homemade version is a million times superior to the shop bought.
Try my Caesar Salad Dressing as your first port of call. The recipe given will make enough to make 5 of these side salads but it is incredibly difficult to make less. It keeps well and won’t be going to waste anytime soon.
The bread used for making the croutons does ideally want to be white. I used a thick slice from a ‘cutty’ loaf rather than ready sliced. Make sure to cut the crusts off. I have also used my Chilli and Oregano Soda Bread as an alternative.
You could use ready made croutons but it does only take a couple of minutes to make them fresh. The outcome will be a little less likely to crack your fillings.
The alternative to frying the croutons is to make them in an airfryer. But still add the olive oil or they won’t have much in the way of flavour.
Romaine lettuce is the traditional base for a caesar salad. As it is readily available in supermarkets and not expensive, there isn’t much reason to deviate. But if you only want a smaller amount, I find that little gem lettuces have a similar amount of crunch to them.
Parmesan is again the traditional ingredient and you really do need that strong salty flavour to make caesar salad. But a similar alternative will also work well like pecorino or any of the generic varieties called ‘Italian hard cheese’.
What is important is that you use the whole cheese and don’t buy ready grated or flakes. The flavour is a world apart. It doesn’t matter if you thinly slice it or grate it however.
You can find more of my favourite recipes using garlic in my collection of The Best Garlic Recipes.
Moving away from this recipe will change the salad away from being a Caesar salad quite quickly and as there are so few ingredients, that can happen quite quickly!
Saying that, there is nothing wrong with using the recipe as a building block for adding other ingredients. Chicken is a common classic as is crispy pancetta. I’ve also made versions topped with a poached egg and my Roasted Garlic Mushrooms.
Make it Vegetarian
This is a difficult dish in that there is no obvious meat or fish in the salad but there are quite a few hidden non-vegetarian ingredients.
Caesar Dressing contains anchovies and Worcestershire sauce which is also made from anchovies. Obviously not suitable for veggies. I would suggest that the anchovies are omitted from the recipe and that the Worcestershire sauce is replaced with dark soy sauce. Whilst the taste won’t be identical the soy will provide some of the umami that you will lose from the lack of anchovies.
The lovely Choclette over at Tin & Thyme has suggested that miso would make a potential substitute for some of the umami lost from the anchovy. She’s absolutely right, this is a fab idea.
Parmesan is also not suitable for vegetarians as the cheese is made with animal rennet. Most of the supermarket varieties of ‘Italian hard cheese’ are however suitable. Just check the label.
Make it Vegan
Whilst replacing the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce will ensure that the dressing is suitable for vegetarians, the recipe will still contain egg.
You can substitute each egg yolk for 1 tbsp Dijon mustard and continue the recipe as normal. This will obviously change the flavour of the dressing a little but the mustard will allow the dressing to come together and emulsify. I would however suggest adding the soy sauce after the dressing has come together.
The Parmesan will also need to be entirely substituted for a vegan alternative. There are many good versions now available in supermarkets.
Make it Allergy Friendly
My Classic Caesar Salad is free from nuts.
Egg Free: To ensure that the dressing does not contain any eggs, follow the instructions given to use mustard as an alternative in the vegan alternatives paragraph above.
Dairy Free: Substitute the Parmesan cheese for a vegan alternative.
Gluten Free: Make the croutons using gluten free white bread.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for Classic Caesar Salad
Using a speed peeler to shave the Parmesan from the side of the block will allow good sized shavings that aren’t too heavy on the tooth.
The dressing can be prepared up to 4 or 5 days in advance and stored in the fridge. The croutons can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an air-tight container.
The salad itself should ideally only be assembled just before serving. Sitting for no more than 15 minutes won’t make too much difference.
Leftover Caesar Salad
Any elements from the salad that have not been used can be stored for a couple of days and either made into the salad at a later time or used separately.
Classic Caesar Salad Tips
Toss the dressing with the lettuce leaves but not the croutons. The croutons go an odd shade of soggy when you soak them in dressing.
Serve the salad as soon as possible after dressing.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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Classic Caesar Salad
- 15 g White Bread
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
- 10 g Parmesan
- 70 g Romaine (Cos) Lettuce - 70g = ¼ Lettuce
- 4 tsp Caesar Salad Dressing
- Cut 15g White Bread into rough cm cubes.
- Add the bread to a small frying pan with 1 tsp Olive Oil.
- Fry on a medium heat turning the cubes until they are golden brown all over. Leave aside to cool.
- Shave 10g Parmesan and set aside the slices.
- Remove any core from 70g Romaine Lettuce and roughly chop into large slices.
- Toss the lettuce leaves with 4 tsp Caesar Salad Dressing until fully coated.
- Pile the lettuce onto the serving dish.
- Scatter over the fried croutons.
- Top with the Parmesan shavings and serve.