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Homemade Caesar Salad using whole heads of romaine

Best Ever Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (w/Homemade Caesar Dressing & Parmesan Croutons)

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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 4 Caesar Salads


If you’re a fan of Caesar Salad, (like Chili’s Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad circa the late 90s and early aughts), I think you’ll love this homemade grilled chicken Ceasar Salad recipe. Each component is incredibly simple to make from scratch — homemade Parmesan and herb-coated (featherlight) crispy croutons, umami-rich Caesar salad dressing, and tender grilled chicken thighs (or breasts).


Homemade Caesar Dressing Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy filets in oil
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • a pinch of kosher salt (or coarse sea salt)
  • 2 large egg yolks (from extremely fresh eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (30g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard (3g)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (30g)
  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil (or other vegetable oil) (100g)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese (or Parmesan or Grana Padano)
  • 1 teaspoon Worchestershire Sauce (optional) (5g)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 large head of Romaine Lettuce, or Romaine lettuce hearts, chopped *see note below

Grilled Chicken Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) (about 1 pound), (450g)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (10g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Homemade Croutons Ingredients

  • 2 cups stale bread, sliced, chopped, or pulled apart
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (30g)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese (or Parmesan or Grana Padano) (15g)
  • a few sprigs of fresh oregano, or dried Italian spice blend to taste (optional)
  • salt to taste

*Using only romaine hearts (and not the dark green outer leaves) keeps the salad crisp after you’ve added the dressing and topped it with the warm chicken slices. I’ve used both the whole romaine and just the hearts depending on what was available (as you can see from the photos in this post) and both are delicious, but the hearts yield a much crispier and sturdier salad that holds up much better when dressed.  If you do use the whole romaine lettuce, let the sliced chicken cool to room temperature before topping the salad which will help prevent it from wilting too much. 


  1. Season the chicken. Add the onion powder, paprika, smoked paprika, and extra virgin olive oil to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken thighs (or breasts (if using) and massage the seasoning mixture into the meat and set aside while you make the salad dressing. 
  2. Make the croutons. Turn the oven on to 375°F/190°. Pull apart the bread to create craggy edges using a knife to help break it apart. Place the bread into a medium bowl, add olive oil, Parm, and herbs (if using), and add salt if necessary. Toss everything together, add it to a baking sheet in a single layer and place it into the oven (even if it’s not fully preheated yet.) Bake the croutons until golden toasty brown and fragrant tossing occasionally if needed for about 15 minutes in a fully preheated oven (and about 20 minutes if the oven wasn’t fully preheated when the croutons were added). 
  3. Make the anchovy-garlic paste. On a cutting board, add the anchovies and finely chop. Smash the garlic clove, add a pinch of coarse salt, and use the knife blade to smash and scrape the garlic-salt mixture until it forms a paste. Add the anchovies and mash and scrape until you have a smooth garlic-anchovy paste and scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.
  4. Make the dressing. Whisk 2 large egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard until combined and slightly creamy. Add the extra virgin olive oil drop by drop into the mixture while constantly whisking to begin the emulsification process. Then gradually whisk in 1/2 cup vegetable oil until the mixture is thick and glossy. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan and Worchestershire Sauce (if using). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice, if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  5. Pan-sear the chicken. Heat a grill pan over high heat and season one side of the chicken with salt (and pepper if desired). When the grill pan just begins to smoke, add the chicken thighs in a single layer (salted side down in contact with the pan) and season the tops with salt. Do not move the chicken once it hits the pan. Allow them to cook for 8 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown with grill marks. Flip the chicken over and continue cooking until juices run clear and the meat is cooked through, or about 4 to 5 minutes more depending on the thickness of the meat. Remove the meat to a platter and allow it to rest while you toss the salad.
  6. Assemble the salad. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the romaine to a large mixing bowl and top with desired amount of Caesar dressing and toss until the lettuce is well-coated. Add a handful of croutons and toss if desired adding more dressing as needed. You may serve the grilled chicken on top of the dressed salad, or toss the sliced chicken in a little more dressing to get it nicely coated before topping the salad and serve it immediately, Enjoy!


  • If you’re pregnant do not consume this salad dressing or raw eggs of any kind.
  • Substitute chicken or turkey breast for the chicken thighs if you prefer.
  • Substitute grilled shrimp for a seafood Caesar salad.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Mix & Stir
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1/2 to 1/4 of the dish
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