Chicken Caesar salad is a tried and true classic. Our version includes warm pan seared chicken, crisp romaine hearts, homemade garlic croutons, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and a garlicky lemon Caesar dressing that will put any bottled dressing to shame. So easy to make and filling enough to be a full meal!
I’ve always loved chicken Caesar salad and would regularly order it in Italian family-style restaurants but wouldn’t make it for myself at home. It always seemed too complicated for a salad.
Until one day I decided to try making it and realized how incredibly easy it is, and that it actually tasted way better when made at home.
These step-by-step instructions will walk you through the process of making awesome croutons, tender and juicy chicken, and the best homemade Caesar dressing so you too can make a perfect Caesar salad with chicken right in your own home.
Chicken Caesar salad process
First, make the croutons
- Preheat your oven to 350f and set the rack to the middle level. In a large bowl toss 3 cups of hearty bread cut into 1-inch cubes (crusty Italian, Ciabatta, baguette, etc) with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
- Spread the croutons out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350f for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.
- The croutons should be lightly brown and crisp but not super crunchy. Basically, they will still have a bit of chew if they weren’t incinerated in the oven, lol!
Then, sear the chicken
- Heat a large stainless steel pan to medium heat. Pat the chicken dry and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and sear the chicken until cooked through (about 3-4 minutes per side).
- Place the cooked chicken onto a plate, tent with foil, and set aside. After 5 minutes of resting slice into pieces.
Finally, make the dressing and prep the salad
- Shred 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I like to use the hole setting that I am pointing to below in pic 1 as it gives a great texture and adheres well to the Romaine lettuce.
- Cut off the bottom 1 inch and top 2 inches of three romaine hearts. Also, remove the outer leaves if they are blemished or at all soft. You want the crunchy crisp interior leaves (hearts) for this chicken Caesar salad.
- Tear the romaine hearts into 2-3 inch long pieces. Rinse and with paper towels thoroughly dry the pieces to keep them crisp and crunchy.
- Mash 6 anchovies and grate 1 clove of garlic. You don’t need to go crazy with this process if you plan to use a food processor or blender, but if mixing the dressing by hand, you will definitely need to grate the garlic and mash the anchovies.
- To a food processor or blender, add the anchovies, garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 2 egg yolks. Drizzle a 1/2 cup of olive oil with the food processor on.
- It won’t take long to emulsify the dressing in a food processor. You can also make your dressing in a wide-mouthed mason jar like I am holding in pic 6 below. A third, more labor-intensive way, is to use a hand whisk. Once you have your dressing, season it with salt and pepper to taste. Anchovies are very salty, so you might not need much extra salt. Note: If the dressing is too thick just add a couple of teaspoons of water and blend or whisk again. Conversely, add more olive oil if the dressing is too thin. Most of the time, too thick will be the problem.
- Dry the leaves off one more time if necessary, then place them into a large bowl and spoon over 3-4 tablespoons of the dressing to start along with most of the croutons and all of the grated cheese. Toss well to coat. If extra dressing is needed, add more to your liking, and toss again.
- You can add the chicken into the bowl and toss or arrange everything in a platter as I did in the pic immediately below. If you want some added texture, shave some Parmigiano Reggiano on top of the platter with a vegetable peeler. You will have plenty of extra dressing for anyone who would like more. Oh and make sure to taste the salad and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed right before serving. Enjoy!
Top Tips for perfect Caesar salad with chicken
- The dressing. A classic Caesar dressing has a few ingredients that make it special: egg yolks, anchovies, lemon, oil, and Worcestershire sauce. For safety reasons, we recommend using pasteurized egg yolks. Or you can add a bit of lemon juice to unpasteurized yolks and gently heat to 135f which will kill bacteria, without cooking the eggs. If you prefer to omit the anchovies, you can do so, but know that you may need to increase the salt used in the dressing as anchovies are quite salty. On the other hand, if you love anchovies, feel free to add some whole anchovies to the top of your salad for extra flavor. We used olive oil for our dressing, but the original Caesar was made using vegetable oil. Feel free to use whichever oil you prefer. If after blending the dressing is too thick, add a teaspoon or two of water to loosen it. Conversely, if the dressing is too thin, add a touch more oil.
- The croutons. We used a rustic Italian bread for our croutons, but any hearty bread such as ciabatta, semolina, or a baguette would work well. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, you can try marble rye, sourdough, or black bread. The trick in making the croutons is to lightly toast them so they still have a bit of chew. Watch closely to not overcook as they can become too hard to chew.
- The chicken. I love a simple pan-seared chicken breast as a topper for Caesar salad. It’s simple to make, requires just a bit of salt and pepper, and pairs really well with the Caesar dressing. However, if you have leftover fried chicken cutlets, you can certainly slice them up and use them here. Another great option is to make a blackened chicken or Cajun-style Caesar salad.
- The lettuce. Romaine lettuce is almost always used in a Caesar salad. I prefer to remove the outer leaves and use the crispier inner leaves but you can certainly use the outer leaves if you like. The most important part here is to thoroughly dry the leaves after you’ve washed them. This will help prevent your salad from becoming waterlogged and soggy.
- Season your salad. No matter what type of salad you make, seasoning is very important. Though the dressing should be seasoned to taste, you might want to add a touch more salt and definitely some cracked black pepper to each plate before serving. This is a good practice for all salad recipes.
More salads you’ll love
- Spinach salad – with crispy bacon, sliced red onion, mushrooms, and a hot honey, bacon, and shallot vinaigrette.
- Roasted fig salad – With mixed greens and gorgonzola in a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Tomato mozzarella salad – With the simplest vinaigrette ever.
- Insalata verde aka green salad – A tower of greens topped with a to-die-for shallot vinaigrette inspired by NYC’s Via Carota.
- Orange fennel salad – Oranges, fennel, and toasted pine nuts topped with lemon juice, flaky sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Radicchio salad – Easy salad with the most delicious fresh orange vinaigrette.
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Chicken Caesar Salad
For the croutons
- 3 cups bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the dressing
- 6 anchovies mashed into paste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 large pasteurized egg yolks
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
For the salad
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets thin sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 heads romaine outer leaves removed and torn into 3-inch long pieces
- 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano thinly shredded (the hole side of a box grater)
- 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano shaved - for finishing
For the croutons
- Begin by tossing the crouton ingredients together. Spread the croutons out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350f for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.
For the chicken
- Heat a large stainless steel pan to medium heat. Pat the chicken dry and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and sear the chicken until cooked through (about 3-4 minutes per side). Place the cooked chicken onto a plate, tent with foil, and set aside. After 5 minutes of resting, slice into pieces.
For the dressing
- Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor. Turn the processor on and slowly drizzle the olive oil through the top and blend until emulsified. Taste test and season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Note: The dressing can be hand whisked or can also be prepared in a wide-mouthed mason jar with an immersion blender.
To assemble the salad
- Place the torn romaine leaves into a large bowl and spoon over 3-4 tablespoons of the dressing to start along with most of the croutons and all of the grated cheese. Toss well to coat. If extra dressing is needed, add more to your liking, and toss again.
- Place the tossed salad into a large platter and lay the chicken strips on top. Sprinkle the remaining croutons over the salad and shave a bit of extra Parmigiano Reggiano ( a vegetable peeler works great!) all over the top. Spoon more of the dressing onto the chicken if desired or serve at the table. Enjoy!
- If the dressing is too thick add a couple of teaspoons of water to thin. If too thin, add a bit more olive oil and blend once more.
- Calorie info reflects using all the dressing. You will most likely not need all of it.
- Makes 4 large dinner-sized portions or ~6 side salad portions.
- If you like whole or pieces of anchovies, only use half for the dressing, cut up the rest into pieces, and serve on top of the salad.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.