This is the best homemade Caesar salad recipe because simple and easy to prepare and has all the classic flavors! It's made with crisp romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons, Parmesan cheese, anchovy, egg yolks, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil!
Classic Caesar salad is full of umami flavors from anchovies, Parmesan cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. The bright flavors of lemon juice and the creaminess of egg yolks balance out the umami flavors. To finish, it's all tossed together with crisp romaine lettuce and topped with crunchy croutons and freshly cracked black pepper.
I based this easy recipe on the tableside Caesar salads offered at steakhouses where the salad and dressing are prepared and tossed right at the table. This made it easy to take a mental note of all the ingredients and recreate this simple restaurant-style Caesar salad at home!
The Original Caesar Salad:
According to Wikipedia, Caesar salad was invented by an Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini. It's believed that the original version did not include anchovies or lemon, rather opting for lime. It was prepared and served tableside with whole romaine leaves.
- For the homemade Caesar dressing, add the egg yolks, minced garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, anchovy paste, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper to a mixing bowl. Next, whisk together until combined.
- Then slowly drizzle the extra virgin olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing. If you see separation, keep whisking until combined before adding the oil. It should have a thicker consistency now.
- Add the grated Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and season accordingly.
- For a fancy presentation, lay the romaine leaves in a single layer and top with some croutons and a drizzle of dressing. Continue to build up the layers and top with shaved Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.
Anchovies in Caesar salad:
If you're new to anchovy fillets or anchovy paste, it's salty, briny, and full of delicious umami flavor. If used in small amounts like in Caesar salad, it shouldn't taste overwhelmingly fishy, but rather add depth and flavor. However, if you're sensitive to the taste, start with a small amount and adjust with salt as needed.
- Chicken Caesar salad - Add grilled chicken or other protein like salmon or shrimp for a filling meal.
- Greens - Substitute romaine with iceberg lettuce, butterhead, little gems, or baby kale.
- Pasta Caesar salad - Double the dressing and add a half serving of pasta.
- Make-ahead - Prep and dry the romaine leaves and store them in the fridge. Make the dressing earlier in the day but I recommend consuming it that same day. Double the recipe to make a big batch for a gathering that's perfect for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays!
- 3 romaine hearts - washed and dried
- 3 cups croutons
- freshly ground black pepper
- lemon wedges - (optional) for serving
- 2 egg yolks - pasteurized; See Note 1
- 2 cloves garlic - finely minced
- 1 ¾ Tablespoons lemon juice - freshly squeeze
- 1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste - See Note 2
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese - and extra for serving
- Prep romaine: Separate the romaine heart leaves and wash and dry well. Keep the leaves whole or chop if preferred. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to dress.3 romaine hearts
- Mix: Add the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, anchovy paste, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper to a mixing bowl. Whisk together until combined.2 egg yolks, 2 cloves garlic, 1 ¾ Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Add oil: Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. The dressing should thicken as it emulsifies with the oil. If you see separation, keep whisking until combined before adding more oil.¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add cheese: Lastly, add the Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice and other seasonings to your liking.¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Add the romaine leaves, croutons, and dressing to a large bowl and gently toss together. Portion out servings and serve with extra Parmesan cheese, freshly cracked black pepper, and a lemon wedge. Enjoy!3 cups croutons, freshly ground black pepper, lemon wedges
✎ Recipe Notes
- Egg yolks are traditionally used in classic Caesar salad dressing. I recommend using pasteurized eggs which are eggs that have been heated in their shells to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses. You can read more about the process here. If you prefer not to use egg yolks, you can substitute them with mayo or yogurt, about 1 tablespoon per yolk. Note: Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illnesses especially if you have certain medical conditions or are pregnant.
- Anchovy paste - Substitute with the same amount of anchovy fillets or use a small splash of fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce instead. But start light as it's very salty.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Parmesan cheese is used either grated or shaved. I find it has the best flavor to complement the dressing.
Romaine lettuce is used, specifically romaine hearts. They can be served as whole leaves or chopped.
Grilled or roasted chicken, shrimp, pasta, or different types of lettuce such as iceberg, butterhead, little gems, or even kale.
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