Crispy romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons, and salty parmesan get tossed with a creamy Caesar Salad dressing made without anchovies or eggs. This savory, tangy and umami Caesar salad recipe is our absolute favorite. It can easily be made vegan, too!
Table of Contents
What is Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad is named for its creator, Caesar Cardini. As legend has it, a dinner rush in 1924 led to a depleted pantry while there were still hungry guests in the dining room.
Caesar used what he had on hand to create what is now arguably one of the most well known salads in the world. A traditional Caesar salad has crisp romaine lettuce, buttery croutons and parmesan cheese in a creamy, umami dressing.
Fun fact: While it has become standard fare to make Caesar dressing with anchovies, the original 1924 recipe used only Worcestershire sauce to achieve its signature savory flavor. Additionally, the use of lemon only came into play as the recipe migrated north into the US. The original recipe used limes!
Why This Recipe Works
Even though the original Caesar dressing didn’t include anchovies, the ingredient is now considered by many to be an essential component of this well known salad. However, as a vegetarian I needed to find a good substitute that would offer some of the same savory notes as the oily fish.
I found that Kalamata olives are an excellent substitute for anchovies in this Caesar salad dressing recipe. In a pinch you can make do with green or black olives, but I find that the flavor and consistency of Kalamatas is the most true to the dressing I learned in my culinary school.
Caesar dressing is also notable for its use of raw egg yolks, which can understandably cause many folks to be a bit squeamish. To resolve this issue, I opted to use a ready made mayonnaise to emulate the creaminess of the emulsified yolk and oil.
While you can certainly use store bought mayonnaise, I opted to use my own homemade egg free Mayonnaise. Feel free to swap in any brand (or homemade recipe) that you prefer. I have also used a vegan Worcestershire sauce, as most brands contain fish products.
While the homemade dressing is certainly delightful, what really takes this Caesar salad recipe over the top are the homemade croutons. They’re light and crisp thanks to olive oil, which also happens to make them vegan friendly.
Finally, I opted to reach for a vegetarian parmesan cheese to complete this delectable salad. Did you know that most parmesan is made with animal rennet? Be sure to check the label on your cheese; if you are unsure, reaching for a vegan parm substitute is your best bet.
How to Make Caesar Salad
The traditional greens used for Caesar salad recipe are romaine lettuce. It has a lovely crunch with some bitter notes.
I have first chopped the lettuce and then rinsed them. If you prefer, opt to first rinse them and later chop.
- First cut the root part of the the lettuce.
2. Chop or tear the lettuce leaves.
3. Place in a colander or strainer and rinse well.
NOTE: Rinse gently so that the leaves do not bruise, but rinse well enough to remove soil or mud particles.
4. Drain water really well in a mesh strainer.
5. Spread leaves on a large tray lined with paper towels.
6. Pat dry the leaves with paper towels. Set aside. You can also opt to use salad spinner to dry leaves, or chop leaves an hour before and let them dry naturally in the refrigerator.
7. Slice half of a baguette in ½ to 1 inch slices. Then chop each slice in bite sized cubes.
You can use any artisan bread or French bread.
8. Place 2 cups of chopped bread cubes in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper to taste and 1 pinch of salt.
9. Toss and mix very well.
10. Transfer the bread cubes to a baking tray.
TIP: Use parchment paper to line the baking tray for faster clean up!
11. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 15 minutes till golden and crisp. Remove half way and turn bread cubes for even roasting.
12. Set the toasted bread croutons aside.
Make Caesar Dressing
13. Smash 3 medium-sized garlic cloves with a pestle or using the back of a chef’s knife. Chop 4 kalamata olives. Discard the stones.
14. Roughly chop garlic and olives.
15. Place both in a mortar pestle and smash to a smooth or semi fine paste.
16. Add this paste to a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt (or as required) and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.
Go easy on the salt as Dijon mustard, mayo, and Worcestershire already have salt in them.
17. Whisk till smooth.
18. Pour in ½ cup mayonnaise. Add ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
19. Whisk again till smooth. Check taste and adjust the ingredients if required.
Toss Caesar Salad
20. Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add the caesar dressing. Toss and mix with the help of two salad spoons or any two large spoons.
21. Add the toasted bread croutons and ¼ cup shaved Parmesan.
22. Toss and mix again.
23. Serve straightaway. Garnish with some shaved Parmesan and a fresh crack of pepper while serving. Enjoy!
My vegetarian caesar dressing already omits the anchovy that is usually found in other recipes. To make this completely vegan, opt for a vegan mayo, vegan cheese and bread made with plant based products.
You can honestly use just about any bread that you have on hand. I prefer using a loaf of french bread or a baguette so I can control the size of my croutons, but I’ve made them with even pre-sliced loaves with success. If you want a tangier crouton, opt for sourdough. You can also add a bit of fiber and nutrition by choosing a whole grain bread instead.
While I always recommend that you speak with a licensed professional before making any dietary decisions, generally speaking, this vegetarian caesar salad can have a place in a healthy diet. Just note that it is relatively high in sodium and is definitely more of an entrée salad – one serving clocks in at around 450 calories, which is a full meal in our household.
I don’t advise that you dress the salad until you’re ready to eat it. That said, you can clean and cut the romaine, make the croutons and make the Caesar dressing up to one days in advance.
For best results: Keep the romaine wrapped in slightly damp paper towels in the refrigerator to keep them crisp. Dressing should stay in an airtight container. Croutons should stay at room temperature in an airtight bag or container.
Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Caesar Salad Recipe
For Caesar Dressing
- 3 garlic cloves – medium-sized
- 4 kalamata olives or 5 to 6 green or black olives
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce – vegetarian or vegan
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (black pepper powder)
- ¼ teaspoon salt or add as required
- ½ cup Mayonnaise – eggless or vegan
- ¼ cup grated parmesan – vegetarian or vegan parmesan cheese
For Making Croutons
- 2 cups bread cubes or ½ of a french bread or baguette
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic or 1 medium-sized, minced or finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (black pepper powder) or add as required
- 1 pinch salt or add as required
- 3 romaine lettuce hearts or 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- ¼ cup shaved parmesan – vegetarian or vegan parmesan cheese
- few shaved parmesan – vegetarian or vegan, for garnish
- First cut the root part of the the lettuce.
- Chop or tear the lettuce leaves.
- Place in a colander or strainer and rinse well. Rinse gently so that the leaves do not bruise, but rinse well enough to remove soil or mud particles.
- Drain the water really well in the mesh strainer or colander.
- Spread leaves on a large tray lined with paper towels.
- Pat dry the leaves with paper towels. Set aside. You can also opt to use salad spinner to dry leaves, or chop leaves an hour before and let them dry naturally in the refrigerator.
- Slice half of a baguette in ½ to 1 inch slices. Then chop each slice in bite sized cubes.
- Place 2 cups of chopped bread cubes in a large bowl. You can use any artisan bread or French bread.
- Add olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper to taste and salt.
- Toss and mix very well.
- Transfer the bread cubes to a baking tray.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 15 minutes till golden and crisp. Remove half way and turn bread cubes for even roasting.
- Set the toasted bread croutons aside.
Make Caesar Salad Dressing
- Smash garlic with a pestle or using the back of a chef’s knife. Chop kalamata olives. Discard the stones.
- Roughly chop garlic and olives.
- Place both in a mortar pestle and smash to a smooth or semi fine paste.
- Add this paste to a small bowl. Add lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Go easy on the salt as Dijon mustard, mayo, and Worcestershire already have salt in them.
- Whisk till smooth.
- Pour in mayonnaise and add grated Parmesan cheese.
- Whisk again till smooth. Check taste and adjust the ingredients if required.
Make Caesar Salad
- Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing. Toss and mix with the help of two salad spoons or any two large spoons.
- Add bread croutons and shaved Parmesan.
- Toss and mix again.
- Garnish with some shaved Parmesan and a fresh crack of pepper for serving.
- The salad taste best when freshly assembled and tossed. I would not recommend storing this salad in the fridge as the salad leaves can become soggy and loose their crunch. The flavors and tastes also change over a period of few hours.