I Ate Caesar Salad Kits for a Week and This Is the Best One

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Quick poll for the room: Is Caesar salad a vegetable?

In the grand scheme of salads, Caesar definitely isn’t the most nutritious (although it is the healthiest option at the Costco food court). But it’s the most beloved genre of salad out there, so lettuce run with it. Whether you count a bowl of (E. coli-free) romaine under a sodium-laden umami mountain of creamy dressing, croutons, and cheese toward your daily serving of veggies or not, all hail Caesar!

Speaking of hailing Caesar, I recently took on the task of eating every single grocery store Caesar salad kit I could find and now I have a lot of thoughts.

First, yes, you read that correctly. During The Great Romaine Crisis of 2018, I ate every Caesar salad I could get my hands on (and lived to tell the tale). All of this intrepid risk-taking led to some valuable Caesar salad lessons, including but not limited to the importance of dressing consistency (too gloopy = not good), lettuce size, crouton seasoning levels, and cheese dust ratio.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

Of the Caesar kits I tried (a sampling from the list: Fresh Express’s Caesar Kit, Dole’s Classic Caesar Kit, Dole’s Premium Ultimate Caesar Kit, Trader Joe’s Caesar Salad Kit, and Aldi’s Caesar Salad Kit), only one reigned supreme, and that was the Dole Classic version.

Mouth agape, you’re probably wondering, “But why THIS Dole? Why not the Dole PREMIUM ULTIMATE kit? It’s Premium! And Ultimate!” Well, my friends, let me count the ways. The romaine leaves in the classic kit were the optimal size for fork spearing and had A+ crisp-factor (no limp lettuce to be found). The dressing was tangy, but not burn-y the way lots of other Caesar dressing can be. Perfectly seasoned croutons gave this salad a welcome crunch, and the Parmesan dust didn’t get lost at all — in fact, it became evenly distributed throughout every single bite.

In comparison, nothing about the Dole Premium Ultimate kit was superior. It contained “artisan” croutons that were just plain, dry chunks, accompanied with a dried spice packet that scattered into my bowl like ashes to the wind, never to be seen again. Long story short, don’t pay a premium for the “Premium.”

Although the Premium Ultimate Dole disappointed, none of these salads disappointed me more than the Fresh Express Caesar Kit. While I love leafy lettuce, this lettuce was too leafy. Each bite was huge, messy, and sadly limp. The dressing was also super gloopy (not to be confused with Supergoop-y).

(Image credit: Grace Elkus)

Trader Joe’s is always a bright spot for me, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked their take on a classic Caesar, but I docked points from their kit because not everyone lives in close proximity to a TJ’s. Same with Aldi! (Although, I preferred the TJ’s Caesar to Aldi’s so if you’re going to make a trek, make it a trek to TJ’s.)

What’s your all-time favorite Caesar salad kit?