Chicken Caesar Salad – With Classic or Pesto Dressing Plus Homemade Croutons
The first time I saw my husband making his signature Caesar salad at a restaurant where we both worked, I was pretty impressed. Why? He wasn’t known to embrace cooking, yet here he was making this delicious salad right in front of the customers. Frank’s Caesar salad became one of the most requested salads at the restaurant. It morphed into many variations, including an easy chicken Caesar salad recipe, which I’m sharing today.
What’s not to love about a piece of juicy grilled chicken atop a crunchy salad of Romaine lettuce, Parmigiano Reggiano, and homemade croutons? A meal in a bowl!
I’m sharing two dressing recipes for my chicken Caesar salad recipe. One is the classic recipe using raw egg, and the other uses mayonnaise as the binder. Either one is delicious and so much better for you than anything store bought.
First, let’s start with grilling the chicken.
Simple Grilled Chicken Breast
I’ve learned how to cut a whole chicken and simply save the breasts for this chicken Caesar salad recipe. After skinning and boning, I cut each breast in half again. Sometimes I’ll pound the chicken out. That way, the chicken cooks evenly all the way through.
- 1 boneless, skinless, chicken breast per person, cut in half if necessary
- Olive oil
- Seasoning salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Dry breasts with paper towels. If desired, pound out to flatten to even thickness.
- Brush olive oil on both sides, then sprinkle seasoning salt and pepper again on both sides.
- Heat grill to medium-high. Cook over direct heat, uncovered, four to six minutes per side. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees.
- After breasts cool, slice on the diagonal.
- To make a chicken Caesar salad recipe, lay the sliced breasts on top of the prepared salad. One breast per person should be sufficient.
Tip: Try seasoning the breasts with lemon pepper along with the salt. This gives a citrus tang.
These can be made a couple days ahead. Store covered at room temperature, or freeze up to three months. Make as little, or as much as you like.
- Good quality Italian or French bread
- Olive oil
In the Oven:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut or tear bread into bite-size chunks.
- Place in bowl and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat. A little goes a long way. Err on the side of less, not more.
- Pour onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once.
Under the Broiler:
Quick and easy, but requires watching.
- Place croutons on a baking sheet a couple inches from the broiler. Watch closely as they brown on the top.
- Stir to expose the bottoms of the croutons and repeat until they are golden brown.
- Broiled croutons seem to have a softer center than oven baked.
Classic Caesar Salad Dressing
This is as close as I can get to my husband, Frank’s salad. (He doesn’t use a recipe.) Since we get fresh eggs daily from our flock, I have no problem with using raw egg.
- 1 large egg yolk
- Up to 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 2 to 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard or up to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 oz. shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (save for sprinkling on top of salad).
- Place everything but oil, salt, pepper, and cheese into a blender or food processor. Puree.
- With machine running, slowly add oil and blend well.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Can be made two days ahead with egg included, or one week ahead minus the egg. Just blend the egg in right before serving.
Don’t like to use raw egg yolk? Substitute one tablespoon or so of real mayonnaise.
Who Should Not Eat Raw Eggs?
Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised.
Whole Anchovies vs. Paste
One-half teaspoon of anchovy paste equals two anchovy fillets from a tin. The paste is slightly saltier. Once opened, store in the refrigerator, up to two months.
Pesto-Laced Caesar Salad Dressing
This is one of our favorites and makes good use of my homemade pesto. Store-bought pesto works well, too.
- 4 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise made with olive oil or your favorite mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup pesto or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Up to 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or up to 2 oil-packed anchovies, drained (optional but good)
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Up to 1/4 cup water
- Shred enough cheese to make 1/4 cup. Shred rest of cheese and set aside.
- Combine 1/4 cup cheese, mayonnaise, pesto, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, anchovy paste, Worcestershire, and pepper with a whisk, blender, or food processor.
- Add enough water to thin dressing out to your taste.
- Adjust taste and add more of any ingredient if necessary.
- Keeps in the refrigerator, covered, up to a week or so.
To Assemble Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe
Put Romaine lettuce in large bowl. Romaine is the preferred lettuce because of its sturdy structure.
Add enough dressing just to coat. Don’t overdo on the dressing.
Depending upon how much lettuce you have, you may wind up with extra dressing, which can be refrigerated.
Divide salad among plates. Sprinkle with cheese. Lay sliced chicken on top, add croutons, sprinkle with more cheese and drizzle with a little more dressing.
Surprise Ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce
For those of you who won’t touch an anchovy, guess what one of the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce is? If you guessed anchovies, you guessed correctly.
Change it Up!
Not a fan of grilled chicken? Substitute a fried chicken recipe or a roast chicken recipe. Even deli-roasted or poached chicken is yummy. You just can’t go wrong with this chicken Caesar salad recipe!