Chicken Caesar Salad

published May 25, 2024
Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe

The homemade dressing and juicy strips of chicken are really what make this a hit.

Serves4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of a chicken caesar salad in large white bowl, topped with cheese
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Kelli Foster

I’ve eaten a lot of chicken Caesar salads over the years, and I’ve tried many of the variations out there (I’m looking at you, Brussels sprouts Caesar and grilled salmon Caesar). In doing so, I’ve learned what makes a really great, memorable salad — and what’s totally OK to avoid. A rich and creamy, super-savory dressing (of which there’s just enough to coat the greens without making them soggy or heavy); crunchy, golden croutons; and tender, juicy strips of chicken are all non-negotiables in my book. 

This recipe isn’t trying to reinvent a classic salad that’s already great. Instead it leans on a couple of smart tips and key ingredients, resulting in a great version you’ll want to make again and again.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Anchovies pack this salad with so much flavor. It doesn’t taste fishy, I promise. Using the oil gives the croutons a little extra flavor while the fillets are blended into the dressing for maximum flavor and richness.
  • It’s all about how you toss it. To avoid messing up your beautifully assembled salad when tossing the whole thing with dressing (this is a huge pet peeve for me), I call for tossing the lettuce and some of the croutons with about two-thirds of the dressing. The remainder can be drizzled over top of the assembled salad.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Kelli Foster

Key Ingredients in Chicken Caesar Salad

  • Bread. Making Caesar salad definitely calls for homemade croutons, and sourdough bread or ciabatta are both great options. You’ll want to start with an uncut loaf. 
  • Oil-packed anchovies. You’ll use the entirety of a two-ounce tin. The oil is used to coat the bread for the croutons, and the fillets get blended into the dressing. 
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast. This cut is a classic choice for chicken Caesar salad. You’ll need one-and-a-half pounds, which is about three medium pieces.
  • Lemons. You’ll use the juice for the dressing. The acidity is a nice balance to the saltiness of the anchovies and Parmesan cheese.
  • Parmesan cheese. This gives the dressing a rich, creamy texture. You have the option to grate your own or use store-bought. When making Caesar dressing, I personally prefer to grate my own. 
  • Olive oil. Because this is used for the salad dressing, as well as the croutons and chicken, this is a time to use a good-quality olive oil
  • Romaine lettuce. This crunchy lettuce is a classic base for Caesar salad. You’ll want to pick up two medium heads of romaine lettuce for about 1 1/2 pounds total (these are larger than skinnier hearts of romaine, often sold in multi-piece bags).

How to Make Chicken Caesar Salad

  1. Make the croutons. You have the option to cut or tear the bread into small, bite-size pieces. What you choose is a matter of personal preference; both work great. It’s most important that the pieces are all about the same size to ensure even cooking. Toss the bread pieces with oil from the anchovies, olive oil, and salt, and bake until lightly browned all over.
  2. Cook the chicken. Pound the pieces of chicken to 1/2-inch thickness. Pat dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Sear in a large skillet until browned on both sides and cooked through. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  3. Make the dressing. In a blender, process the lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese, anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard, and black pepper until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until emulsified.
  4. Assemble the salad. You’ll want to grab an extra-large bowl for this part. Toss the chopped romaine and about half of the croutons with about 2/3 of the dressing. Top with sliced chicken, the remaining croutons, dressing, and more Parmesan cheese. 

Helpful Swaps

  • You can always swap in your favorite bottled Caesar dressing in place of homemade. You’ll need about 2/3 cup. 
  • Same goes for the croutons. If you don’t have the ingredients, don’t feel like making your own, or simply have a brand of store-bought croutons you really, really love, go ahead and use those. You’ll need about 4 cups. 
  • While boneless, skinless chicken breast is a popular choice for chicken Caesar salad, boneless chicken thighs will also work just fine. You’ll use an equal amount of boneless thighs (likely about 6 medium pieces), and cook following the same instructions. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

  • I recommend eating chicken Caesar right after it’s made, or at least on the same day. That’s when it’s at its best, tastes freshest, and the lettuce is the most crunchy. If you do want to save leftovers for the next day, store in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  • Both the croutons and dressing can be made ahead of time. The croutons can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a sealed container at room temperature. The dressing can be made up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

What to Serve with Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe

The homemade dressing and juicy strips of chicken are really what make this a hit.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces

    uncut sourdough or ciabatta bread

  • 1

    (2-ounce) tin oil-packed anchovy fillets (not drained)

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3)

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup finely grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 2 teaspoons

    Dijon mustard

  • 1

    clove garlic

  • 2

    medium heads romaine lettuce (about 12 ounces each)

Instructions

Make the croutons:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400℉.

  2. Cut 6 ounces sourdough or ciabatta bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut or tear the bread into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups). Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil from 1 (2-ounce) tin oil-packed anchovy fillets (about 2 tablespoons), 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Toss to combine, rubbing the bread with your hands so the pieces are well-coated. Arrange into an even layer.

  3. Bake until lightly browned all over, tossing every 5 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes total. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Meanwhile, cook the chicken and make the dressing.

Cook the chicken:

  1. Working with 1 piece at a time, place 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large resealable bag. Pound to an even 1/2-inch thickness with the flat part of a meat mallet or a rolling pin. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season all over with 3/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Working in batches if needed, add the chicken breasts in a single layer and cook until deeply browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean cutting board. If needed, add 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining chicken.

  3. When cool enough to handle, cut the chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Make the dressing:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to a blender as you complete it: Juice 2 medium lemons until you have 1/4 cup; finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup lightly packed) if needed, or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated; add 5 of the anchovy fillets (save the remainder for another use), 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  2. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. With the motor running, remove the inner cap on the lid and slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Continue blending until creamy and emulsified, about 1 minute more.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Trim and coarsely chop 2 medium romaine lettuce heads (about 14 cups). Place in a large bowl and add half of the croutons and about 2/3 of the dressing. Toss until evenly coated. Top with chicken, remaining croutons, and remaining dressing. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The croutons can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The chicken can be cooked up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. The dressing can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.