Caesar Salad with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs

published Jun 18, 2020
Caesar Salad with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs

A simple Caesar salad made with garlic butter breadcrumbs and a cheesy anchovy vinaigrette.

Serves4

Prep20 minutes

Cook6 minutes to 10 minutes

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A platter of caesar salad sits on a wood table with a small bowl of breadcrumbs off to the side.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Caesar salad perfectly exemplifies a dish where every ingredient works together to create something great. Savory Parmesan cheese is balanced by tart lemon, salty anchovies are mellowed out with rich olive oil, and the creamy dressing is the ultimate contrast to crunchy romaine.

The only exception? Croutons. The dry, hard-to-eat cubes distract from the deliciousness of the salad and make eating it feel like a chore. In fact, they’re the reason I stopped ordering Caesar salads at restaurants. In my opinion, there’s a far superior way to add texture — one that’s easier to eat and far more delicious.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Why Breadcrumbs Are the New Croutons

Move over, croutons: Breadcrumbs are the better way to add texture and crunch to salads. The Caesar dressing acts as a glue that clings them onto every piece of romaine lettuce, so that — unlike croutons — the breadcrumbs don’t fall to the bottom. It’s like breading for your salad greens! Tossing them into the salad at the very last minute helps keep them crunchy.

It’s the simple upgrade that Caesar salad deserves, and it’s a small swap that will drastically improve any salad you make.

How to Make Your Own Salad Breadcrumbs

Start with plain, unseasoned panko breadcrumbs which are larger, a bit less uniform, and provide more texture and crunch than other store-bought breadcrumbs. Avoid ones that come pre-seasoned in a cardboard canister — those are best for using as a coating or breading. 

Toast panko in a bit of olive oil or melted butter in a skillet until it turns golden-brown. You can add herbs, seasoning, or grated cheese to give additional flavor, or leave the breadcrumbs plain. This recipe toasts them in butter with a generous amount of garlic. It’s the crunchy component that Caesar salad deserves.

Caesar Salad with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs

A simple Caesar salad made with garlic butter breadcrumbs and a cheesy anchovy vinaigrette.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes to 10 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the dressing (yields about 1 cup):

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 2 tablespoons

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 (2-ounce) tin

    anchovy fillets in oil

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

For the salad:

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

  • 6 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 2

    medium romaine lettuce hearts (about 1 pound total)

Instructions

  1. Make the dressing: Finely grate the zest of 2 medium lemons (about 2 tablespoons zest), then juice the lemons (about 1/3 cup juice). Add half of the zest and all of the juice to a blender; reserve the remaining zest for the breadcrumbs.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 (2-ounce) tin anchovies with their oil, 2 garlic cloves, and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper to the blender. Finely grate 8 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups); add 1/2 cup to the blender, and reserve the remaining 1 1/2 cups for the breadcrumbs and salad.

  3. Blend the dressing until smooth, about 20 seconds. With the motor running, remove the inner cap on the lid and slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. After adding all of the oil, continue to blend until creamy and emulsified, about 60 seconds more.

  4. Make the salad. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Finely chop the leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh parsley (about 3/4 cup). Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and stir to coat in butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden-brown, 4 to 6 minutes.

  5. Immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a medium bowl. Add the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and reserved lemon zest, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool until no longer hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the grated Parmesan and use your hands to massage the cheese into the breadcrumbs until it is completely incorporated and no longer visible.

  6. Trim the root end from 2 medium romaine lettuce hearts. Tear the leaves off and place in the largest bowl you have. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss with your hands to evenly coat every leaf. Add 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan and half of the breadcrumbs. Toss to evenly distribute, adding more dressing if needed. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, more breadcrumbs if desired, and a few cracks of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stir to recombine before serving. Leftover breadcrumbs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.