A Caesar salad is a salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and black pepper. It is often prepared table-side.
History of the Caeser Salad
The salad’s creation is generally attributed to restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States. Cardini was living in San Diego but also working in Tijuana where he avoided the restrictions of Prohibition. His daughter Rosa (1928–2003) recounted that her father invented the dish when a Fourth of July 1924 rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies. Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the table-side tossing “by the chef.” A number of Cardini’s staff have said that they invented the dish. Julia Child said that she had eaten a Caesar salad at Cardini’s restaurant when she was a child in the 1920s. The earliest contemporary documentation of Caesar Salad is from a 1946 Lawry’s The Prime Rib (Los Angeles, California) restaurant menu, twenty-two years after the 1924 origin attributed to the Cardinis.
General Recipe Notes
The original Caesar salad recipe (unlike his brother Alex’s Aviator’s salad) did not contain pieces of anchovy; the slight anchovy flavour comes from the Worcestershire sauce. Cardini was opposed to using anchovies in his salad. In the 1970s, Cardini’s daughter said that the original recipe included whole lettuce leaves, which were meant to be lifted by the stem and eaten with the fingers; coddled eggs; and Italian olive oil. Bottled Caesar dressings are now produced and marketed by many companies. The trademark brands, “Cardini’s”, “Caesar Cardini’s” and “The Original Caesar Dressing” are all claimed to date to February 1950, though they were only registered decades later, and more than a dozen varieties of bottled Cardini’s dressing are available today. Some recipes include mustard, avocado, tomato, bacon bits, garlic cloves or anchovies. Cardini’s Brand original Caesar dressing is somewhat different from Rosa’s version. Many variations of the salad exist; for example, by topping a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, steak, or seafood. Certain Mexican restaurants may improvise on items such as substituting tortilla strips for croutons or Cotija cheese for the Parmesan.
Common ingredients in many recipes:
There are limitless variations. However, some of the more common are:
There is inherent risk of infection by salmonella bacteria occasionally found in raw egg from cracked or improperly washed eggshells. This is a concern with many similar dressings that are emulsified with eggs, though generally the pH level is thought to be acidic enough to kill those bacteria. Nevertheless, later versions of the recipe call at least for briefly cooked coddled eggs or pasteurised eggs. Recipes may omit the egg and produce a “Caesar vinaigrette”. Many variations of this salad exist; yoghurt is sometimes substituted for the eggs to maintain a creamy texture and others call for using mayonnaise, oil and vinegar.
Caesar Salad Recipe
- For the dressing
- 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
- 1 small clove garlic
- salt, to taste
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more
- ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2¼ tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
- freshly ground black pepper
- For the Croutons
- 3 cups torn 2cm pieces country bread, with crusts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- For the Lettuce
- 3 romaine hearts, leaves separated
- For the Cheese
- Parmesan, for serving
- The DressingChop together anchovy fillets, garlic, and pinch of salt. Use the side of a knife blade to mash into a paste, then scrape into a medium bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, and mustard. Adding drop by drop to start, gradually whisk in olive oil, then vegetable oil; whisk until dressing is thick and glossy. Whisk in Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. The dressing can be made 1 day ahead.
- The CroutonsMake your own. Tearing, not cutting the bread ensures nooks and crannies that catch the dressing and add texture. Preheat oven to 190°C. Toss bread with olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing occasionally, until golden, 10–15 minutes.
- The LettuceUse whole leaves; they provide the ideal mix of crispness, surface area, and structure.
- The CheeseCaesars crowned with a mound of grated Parmesan may look impressive, but all that clumpy cheese mutes the dressing. Instead, use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave a modest amount on top for little salty bursts.
- The AssemblySkip the tongs. Use your hands to gently toss the lettuce, croutons, and dressing, then top off with the shaved Parmesan.