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Two bowls of Caesar salad with two bowls of dressing, superimposed on a bright blue backdrop. Photo illustration. Lille Allen/Eater

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Which Caesar Salad Recipe Is Worth Hailing?

Can you make a great Caesar salad at home? We tested four recipes to find out. 

I believe that the Caesar salad is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially in combination with either, though ideally both, french fries and a martini. The ideal circumstances for this, to me, are alone at a bar in a somewhat populated but not terribly busy restaurant. With restaurant costs creeping up though, I’ve had to abandon this habit slightly. So why not try to make a better Caesar salad at home?

To put this experiment to the test, I compared a few popular Caesar salad recipes from around the internet, each made with distinctly different techniques, to see whether the classic version is worth doing, or whether it can be unseated by a somewhat simpler alternative.

Classic Caesar Salad Recipe

Sue Li and Chris Morocco, Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit’s recipe is for the purists: It’s quite specific about how a Caesar should be. Good, I like an opinionated recipe! The most classic of the ones I tried, it begins with a paste made with six anchovies and raw garlic, into which you emulsify egg yolks with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and oil that’s initially added drop by drop. The emulsification process always stresses me out slightly — what if it doesn’t come together? — but I was pleased to find that it produced a glossy, thick dressing, even if I was somewhat shocked by the total amount of oil the recipe calls for (two tablespoons of olive oil followed by a half cup of canola).

The recipe specifies that you should hand-toss the dressing with whole — not chopped — cold romaine leaves. It also calls for shaved strips of parm, not grated, because “all that clumpy cheese mutes the dressing.” And while it asks for homemade croutons — as some of the other recipes did — with shaggy torn edges, I tested every recipe with store bought for the sake of ease and consistency.

The result did indeed taste like a classic Caesar salad. The egg yolk base was rich but not so rich that it muted any other flavors, and I liked its consistency, with the caveat that it was definitely more of a dressing than something that could also double as a dip. I liked the visual intrigue of the whole lettuce leaves, especially for a special occasion meal, nice weeknight dinner, or occasion when I can eat with my hands, but in terms of sheer everyday functionality (i.e., desk-eating), I’d prefer chopped lettuce. Shaved parm is always a nice textural touch, and I liked the variety it added.

Who this salad is for: People who have strong opinions about the classics and don’t feel the need to take shortcuts.

Lazy Day Caesar Salad

Andrea Nguyen, Viet World Kitchen

I don’t always have a can of anchovies on hand, but I do always have a bottle of fish sauce. For that reason, I was drawn to Andrea Nguyen’s simplified Caesar salad recipe, which starts with a base of mayo instead of an oil-egg-acid emulsion. To this, Nguyen adds the usual suspects, but substitutes fish sauce for the anchovies. Her recipe, like Bon Appétit’s, calls for whole romaine lettuce leaves, along with grated, not shaved parm that Nguyen tosses around the leaves and sprinkles over the salad.

I liked the texture of this dressing, which was smooth and loose without being runny. Of the four recipes I’ve tried, it offered the sharpest flavor thanks to the fish sauce, which has a punch that anchovies lack. Upon first taste, it was slightly strong, but its bold, slightly citrusy notes were perfectly offset by the lettuce and cheese. Though I thought that I preferred shaved parm on a Caesar salad, I really liked the finely grated parm’s powdery texture here. It coated the lettuce evenly, giving each bite a savory balance. And since the dressing doesn’t use raw yolks (unlike the Bon Appétit recipe), I’d feel much more comfortable making a big batch to leave in the fridge.

Who this salad is for: People who want a more pantry-friendly option, have an aversion to eating raw egg yolks, and like the fermented funk of fish sauce.

Caesar salads from Love and Lemons, Bon Appétit, AllRecipes, and Andrea Nguyen.

Caesar Salad

Jeanine Donofrio, Love and Lemons

Love and Lemons is a vegetarian blog, so its Caesar salad recipe is anchovy-free. The dressing employs two major swaps: It relies on Greek yogurt instead of mayo or emulsified eggs for the base, and uses capers in place of anchovies. Along with chopped romaine leaves and shaved parm, the full recipe calls for decidedly non-traditional radishes and chickpeas, both of which I omitted in order to better compare all the dressings here on a more even playing field.

If you’re health-conscious, this recipe has a couple of things working in its favor: It contains less oil than the other recipes I tried, and Greek yogurt, unlike mayo, is high in protein and low in cholesterol. Unfortunately, this recipe was also the least satisfying. It was clear that substitutions had been made: The dressing didn’t have the glossy, creamy texture I appreciated in the other recipes, and made with the specified measurements, tasted overwhelmingly like yogurt. If I made it again, I would increase the amount of garlic, lemons, Dijon, and capers. (I could see the Greek yogurt base also translating to an anchovy-based sauce, if you care about cholesterol and protein but aren’t vegetarian.)

Who this salad is for: Vegetarians, the health-conscious, and people who care about their protein gains.

The Last Caesar Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Britt Brouwer, AllRecipes

This recipe is straightforward and happens in a food processor. The caveat to its ease is that you’re supposed to let the dressing sit in the fridge for an hour before serving. I did, but can’t say I noticed that it made a huge difference.

The recipe’s dressing calls for half-and-half, an ingredient that does all the heavy lifting here. This was the creamiest dressing I tried, with a smooth, thick texture that most resembled store-bought, bottled Caesar and could also be a dip. But what this recipe had in creaminess, it lacked in punch. Its dressing calls for a scant two anchovies (Bon Appétit’s calls for six), though more anchovy flavor is supplied by the addition of some Worcestershire sauce. All of the mayo and dairy in the dressing was so heavy that none of the other flavor elements stood out, and I particularly noticed the absence of black pepper in the dressing (you just add it on top at the end). In all, I wanted more oomph.

Who this salad is for: People who love creamy dressing and people who say they like Caesar salad but don’t want to acknowledge that they’re eating anchovies.

Winner: Andrea Nguyen’s Lazy Day Caesar Salad

Dare I say that I prefer a Caesar that starts with mayo over egg yolks? Maybe that’s controversial, but it’s true: I find it more appealing in terms of both texture and practicality, so long as it’s balanced with enough flavor, something this recipe does extremely well. I also liked its sheer simplicity, and think its ease will appeal to most people. I always like another way to use fish sauce, which I find has even more depth of flavor than canned anchovies. And regardless of those who insist that cheese “should” be shaved, I really enjoyed it grated here. All in all, Nguyen’s recipe is what I want in a Caesar salad: a confident burst of savoriness and sharpness that keeps me coming back for more.


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