A recipe for healthy chicken caesar salad, featuring easy baked chicken breasts, simple homemade caesar dressing, and croutons.
I’ve loved Caesar salad for as long as I can remember. It was always one of my favorite restaurant treats growing up, and if ever given a choice between the grand Caesar and the house…you could bet your bottom dollar, this gal was going Caesar all day long.
In fact, I can still remember when produce companies started coming out with bagged Caesar salad kits. I was in high school at the time, already doing the family grocery shopping, and was completely infatuated with them.
Up until I came across a cooking show in which a chef featured an easy homemade Caesar dressing, restaurants, store-bought dressing and salad kits were the only ways I had known to enjoy a classic Caesar.
A homemade version had just never crossed my mind, and before that episode, I had no clue what made up a classic Caesar dressing. However, there was one ingredient I had heard whisperings of, one I was not excited to use, and one that may have been the reason I never looked into a homemade version before — anchovies.
As it turns out, those whisperings? They were true, and those notorious little fishies were indeed a key component in my beloved Caesar dressing. All that was left…was to get over it. After all, I’d loved Caesar salad for a lifetime, so just maybe those anchovies weren’t so bad after all.
WHAT GOES IN CAESAR DRESSING
Once you get past that whole anchovy thing, Caesar dressing ingredients are pretty commonplace and easy to find. In fact, you just about make the anchovies go away altogether and sub in anchovy paste for filets.
USE ANCHOVY PASTE FOR CAESAR DRESSING
Anchovy paste is not only easier to work with than filets, but it lasts longer as well. You can usually find it in one of two places at the grocery store: The international aisle, with the tubed tomato pastes, or in the canned seafood aisle near the jars of anchovy filets.
MAKE EASY, CREAMY CAESAR DRESSING WITH A MAYONNAISE BASE — NO EGGS NEEDED
Real-deal, made from scratch Caesar dressings begin with an emulsification of egg yolks and oil, which in turn creates a homemade aioli, also known as mayonnaise.
For an easy, creamy Caesar dressing, start with store-bought mayonnaise as the base, and we’ll spruce things up from there.
COMMON CAESAR DRESSING INGREDIENTS
Aside from mayonnaise and anchovies, other common ingredients that go into Caesar salad dressing are freshly squeezed lemon juice for brightness and acidity, dijon mustard and Worcestershire for complexity and depth of flavor, and a little olive oil to loosen things up a bit.
Parmesan is optional, but in my humble opinion, an added bonus and the perfect pairing for that briny anchovy paste.
HOW TO MAKE A CREAMY CAESAR DRESSING
The easiest way to make a homemade caesar dressing is in the bowl of a food process, fitted with a paddle attachment. However, if you do not have a food processor, you can still easily make this dressing at home.
To make Caesar dressing in a food processor, simply combine all ingredients in the bowl, and process until smooth.
Otherwise, grab a bowl and a whisk — add all ingredients, minus the olive oil, to the bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly, drizzle in the olive, whisking constantly until emulsified. Annnnd, done. How easy was that?
Now that we’ve got the dressing basics covered, I’m thinking there’s only one thing that could possibly make this Caesar salad even better.
Perfectly cooked chicken breasts, anyone?
HOW TO COOK CHICKEN FOR A CAESAR SALAD
The easiest way to cook chicken for caesar salad is to bake it.
The best way to bake flavorful, juicy, and succulent chicken breasts is to first pat it dry, then drizzle it with oil and season it well. I use my TAK House Seasoning, a simple mixture of Kosher salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder for chicken. You can get that recipe here.
Then, the chicken goes on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. The rack allows air to circulate both on top and underneath the chicken, promoting even cooking. The chicken is cooked for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts, at 375°. For my perfectly cooked chicken breasts recipe, click here.
To easily shred the chicken for a salad, once it’s cool enough to handle, cut the chicken at a 1 1/2″ bias going against the grain. Then, pull the chicken apart by hand, and VOILA! Perfectly shredded chicken for your Caesar salad.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
You’ve got the creamy, Caesar dressing down, you know how to cook the chicken, and you’re basically already a pro. All that’s left is to throw in crisp, chopped Romaine, croutons, and a little shaved Parmesan for good measure.
It’s a restaurant quality salad at home, except better.
Making chicken Caesar salads at home is not only far more cost-efficient, but I can guarantee you that the creamy Caesar dressing you’re about to whip up in your own kitchen will far exceed the quality of any store-bought or restaurant dressing. Plus, you won’t be running the risk of dry chicken breasts, cause you’ll be using an easy, and trusted fool-proof method for perfectly baked, shredded chicken.
Then, there’s the added bonus of quantity: You can eat on this bad boy for days straight, and not get tired of it. Just store the ingredients in separate containers, and assemble just before eating. Now, not only do you have a delicious salad to last for days, you’ve got make-ahead lunches/dinners prepped as well.
Is it too good to be true? No friends, chicken Caesar salad at home…really can be and actually really is that good. Please, enjoy.
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2-3 teaspoons TAK House Seasoning recipe at TheAnthonyKitchen.com
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
- 3 Romaine lettuce hearts, washed, roughly chopped and dried
- 1 1/4 cup seasoned croutons
- 1/2 cup shaved parmesan
- Generous pinch Kosher salt
- Pinch black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°. Have ready a rimmed sheet pan topped with an oven-safe baking rack. The rack should fit snugly inside the pan.
Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture, allowing for the oil to better adhere to the breast. Drizzle olive oil evenly over chicken and rub in on both sides. Season each side of chicken with a 1/2 tsp of TAK House Seasoning, totaling 1 tsp of seasoning/breast. Evenly massage seasoning onto breasts. Place chicken atop of rack.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut at a 1 1/2" bias going against the grain. Then, pull the chicken apart by hand into bite-size pieces.
In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients minus the olive oil. Process until smooth. With the motor running, remove the feed tube and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside until ready to use.
Combine lettuce, chicken, croutons, and Parmesan in a large bowl. Add desired amount of dressing, and toss to combine. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy.
Dressing recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.
EXTRA TIPS FOR A PERFECT CAESAR SALAD:
HOW TO CUT ROMAINE FOR A SALAD:
Remove the dark green outer leaves until you reach the heart. Set dark green leaves aside and reserve for another use, if desired.
Cut the hearts in half, leaving the root intact. Place halves cut-side down on the cutting board. Make two lengthwise cuts, starting about a 1/2″ above the root and cutting all the way to the tip of the leaves, as to cut each half into thirds. Then, cut into 1″ strips and transfer to a salad spinner or colander.
Rinse under cool water and dry.
HOW TO SHAVE FRESH PARMESAN:
Using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan into small strips.