Is there a dish more versatile and satisfying than a delicious, salty, crunchy Caesar salad? Maren Epstein, who blogs at Eating Works, has the perfect recipe for this lunch or dinner side or main that was inspired by the real thing. "I wanted to recreate the original Caesar salad that was served in Tijuana, Mexico," she shared with Mashed. That’s right — if you thought Caesar originated in Italy, you’d actually be incorrect. This delicious dish was first created in Mexico. "The waiters make the salad from scratch right in front of you!" Epstein says.
Although her recipe aims to capture the feel of enjoying Caesar salad south of the border, the professionally-trained chef adds her own twist with colorful toppings you may not expect, but may grow to love. Just don’t be intimidated by taking on the task of recreating this yummy dish — Epstein walks us through every step to help make the recipe accessible for home cooks. Yes, even the anchovy and egg steps!
Gather your Caesar salad and dressing ingredients
You will need both some everyday and specialized ingredients for your Caesar salad to come together. So, shop for a baguette, which is best for this recipe when it’s a day old, plus anchovy paste, and then scour your pantry and fridge to make sure you have olive oil on hand, as well as garlic and salt. Epstein recommends coarse sea salt here, in addition to Worcestershire sauce, lemons, dijon mustard, eggs, Parmesan cheese and optionally, raspberries or cherry tomatoes. You’ll also need Romaine lettuce, and the following equipment to create this dish: forks, a large bowl with a wide bottom, a whisk, sheet tray, foil, and salad tongs.
About her suggestion to go with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, Epstein told Mashed, "You could really use any kind of olive oil you like, as long as it’s a high quality." But she notes, "Cold pressed oils are not heated and are therefore less processed."
Prep your croutons for the Caesar salad
Your first step is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You’ll slice the day-old half baguette into 1-inch squares, arranging them on a foil-lined baking sheet (for quick and easy clean up), and brush the bread with olive oil. Simply toast the soon-to-be croutons in the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are deliciously golden brown. As the bread toasts, go ahead and assemble your salad dressing ingredients, as creating your dressing is the next step.
Meanwhile, Epstein notes using a half baguette is ideal for this recipe, as a whole "would create too many croutons." She adds, "For a lot of croutons, half of a baguette is perfect." Aiming for a low-carb salad instead? "Use even less," she advises home cooks.
Now, set the croutons aside and let’s move on to the salad dressing. Do not worry — we got this along with Epstein’s guidance!
Prep your Caesar salad dressing
Your dressing prep starts with placing the garlic, salt, and anchovy paste in a bowl. You’ll use two forks to shred the clove to a paste consistency. We know what you are thinking now — do you have to use anchovy paste? Well, as Epstein told Mashed, "For true Caesar salad, anchovies or paste is essential. It really bumps up the flavor." She adds, "I think the paste is ‘less gross’ than the actual whole fish." But you can use either, according to her.
Next up, add Worcestershire sauce — which Epstein says is a common ingredient in Caesar salad — lemon juice, and dijon mustard. Use a whisk to combine the ingredients. You then prepare to add the egg yolks. Concerned about incorporating raw eggs? Epstein told us, "You can pasteurize the eggs at home by adding acid to them." She recommends either lemon juice or vinegar. According to Epstein, "This increases the cooking temperature to 140 degrees." You’ll simply place the yolks in the microwave and cook them "until the top starts to rise." She advises to next "cook for another eight seconds, and whisk. Repeat this process two more times."
After you have completed this process, add the eggs to your dressing, and whisk the mixture vigorously.
Finish the Caesar salad dressing
To complete the process of preparing your Caesar salad dressing — yup, you did this, at home! — Epstein instructs home cooks to slowly drizzle the remaining olive oil into the bowl. Meanwhile, you will while whisk the mixture vigorously. The goal is to form a thick emulsion with the ingredients. Ultimately, you are aiming to create a salad dressing that should have the consistency of aioli. The fat, or oil, whisked vigorously enough, will help you thicken the dressing until it achieves the desired, mayonnaise-like texture.
Fun fact to consider as you whisk away: Did you know aioli, which is actually completely different than mayonnaise by the way, may have been used by Roman emperors over 2,000 years ago? That’s right, you are infusing your kitchen with a ton of culture and history from multiple countries today as you prepare your Caesar salad. Go you!
Prep your lettuce and plate your Caesar salad
Finally, go ahead and chop your Romaine lettuce hearts for the Caesar salad. The size of the lettuce shreds depends on personal preference. Smaller chops will add up to, well, a chopped salad-like dish, which we personally love!
After prepping your lettuce, place the shreds into the bowl right along with the dressing. Thankfully, this recipe is light on the cleanup! You can add your shredded Parmesan cheese now, which you either grated yourself, or purchased pre-shredded. Both work and no judgement over here. Then, you’ll toss in those impressive and rustic-looking homemade croutons to your own taste. The very last step before enjoying your creation — unless you plan to try out Epstein’s recommendations for some non-traditional toppings — is to gently (key word) toss the salad without bruising the lettuce.
Okay, now dig in. No, wait! Consider adding a few fun ingredients to really spruce up this dish.
Add optional Caesar salad toppings and serve
If you dare, wash and then toss fresh raspberries or, (to go crazy even with) cherry tomatoes into your Caesar salad. We asked Epstein why she chose this particular fruit and veggie for topping the salad.
"I actually added them for the color," she told Mashed, adding, "I thought it was festive!" But there is another reason she combined bright red accompaniments with this meal, beyond just the aesthetic appeal. As the healthy-eating advocate shared with us, "This salty salad is paired nicely with a bit of sweetness from the raspberries or tomatoes."
Go ahead — try it. You can always omit the raspberries and tomatoes next time if this combo isn’t for you. Or, might we say congratulations, as you have just discovered — with Epstein’s help, of course — a fun, new flavor pairing to enjoy every time you have a hankering for something salty and sweet.
This Caesar salad is not only quick to assemble, but is full of that classic flavor we all know and love. The homemade croutons really put it over the top.
- half of day-old baguette
- ¾ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, divided ½ cup for dressing and ¾ for croutons
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 egg yolks (no whites)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
- ¼ cup raspberries
- ¼ cup cherry tomatoes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1-inch squares. Arrange them on a foil lined baking sheet and brush with ¼ cup of olive oil. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Place the garlic, salt, and anchovy paste in a bowl. Using two forks shred the clove to a paste. Add Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and dijon and use a whisk to combine. Next add the egg yolks and whisk vigorously until a creamy mixture is formed.
- Slowly drizzle ½ cup of olive oil into the bowl while whisking vigorously until a thick emulsion is formed. The dressing should have the consistency of aioli.
- Place the lettuce into the bowl with the dressing. Add Parmesan and croutons. Gently toss the salad without bruising the lettuce. And raspberries and/or cherry tomatoes if using. Serve immediately.