Photo: Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker
Caesar salad. We’ve all heard of it. We’ve all had one (good or bad). But I’m here to tell you about the way I make the Caesar salad to end all Caesar salads. And you know what? It never has to be the same way twice.
This isn’t exactly a recipe, but more like a bunch of great guidelines—the tools to build one exactly the way you like it! All you need are greens, dressing, protein, croutons and cheese. Here’s how to put them together to make one heck of a salad.
Start off strong by having crisp, fresh greens. I recommend using crunchy, refreshing romaine as the base for your ultimate Caesar salad. But if you’re living dangerously (or just have greens to use up), green lettuce, escarole, spinach or spring greens work well, too! Be sure to rinse whatever greens you choose to use because no one likes grit in their salad.
To make or to buy, that is the question. Of course, the ultimate Caesar salad has homemade dressing. Making your dressing from scratch allows you to play with flavors and keep the unhealthy ingredients in check. Don’t know where to start? Check out this recipe for classic Caesar dressing. (Psst: It’s low-fat!)
Here’s a basic rundown (use low-fat ingredients if you like): In a small bowl, whisk 2/3 cup mayo, 1/2 cup each sour cream and buttermilk, 1 tablespoon each red wine vinegar and stone-ground mustard, and 1-1/2 teaspoons each lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Then stir in 1/3 cup grated Parm, 2 minced anchovies, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Then serve it to a crowd (you and 12 of your closest friends).
Shout out to the vegetarians in the crowd! An easy way to make this recipe veggie-friendly is to sub out the anchovies for 1/2 teaspoon of capers. A quick blitz in the food processor or spice grinder and you’ll be on your way to an ultimate Caesar salad, vegetarian style!
Test Kitchen tip: Make your dressing a day ahead. Allow it to rest for a while in the refrigerator really amplifies the flavors and brings them together. After your dressing has chilled out, toss it with your greens. Aim for a light, even coating on all the leaves, just enough for the dressing to complement, not overpower.
If you’re making this salad as a main, a bit of protein will really round out the nutritional value. Top your tossed greens with slices of grilled chicken, shrimp or chickpeas and you’ll have a filling lunch or dinner.
Have you ever had homemade croutons? No? Welcome to your ultimate salad future. Fresh croutons take your Caesar salad to the next level. These homemade croutons feature garlic and lemon seasonings for an extra burst of flavor. You’ll never buy croutons again after trying this recipe.
Depending on your style, you can either toss the croutons with your dressed greens or simply sprinkle them over the salad. Note that if you’re tossing the croutons, you may need to use an extra drizzle of dressing for even distribution.
The final piece of the Caesar salad puzzle is cheese. Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan is the way to go. Nutty and salty, Parm cuts some of the acidity of the dressing and complements the freshness of the greens.
Obsessed? Thought so. Now, go forth and create your own amazing Caesar salad recipe.