Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing is easy and wayyyy better than anything on a grocer's shelf. This recipe will spoil you for any other Caesar dressing!
Let’s talk about getting dressed…er…I mean dressing your salad. Salad dressing is one of those easy-to-make-but I-don’t-know-how/want-to products.
Fear not...making salad dressing at home using ingredients you have on hand is wayyyy better than anything you'll buy in the store. From simple herb vinaigrettes recipes to a (slightly) more energetic Caesar salad dressing recipe, knowing a couple of simple tricks can lead to a wide variety of flavors with which to enhance your greens.
What is an emulsion?
Here’s your word-of-the-week: emulsion…meaning a mixture that doesn’t separate (oh boy, here we go).
We all know that oil and water don’t stay mixed, and you shake a vinaigrette to temporarily combine them. For a more permanent solution (like in classic Caesar salad dressing), look at that salad dressing bottle in your refrigerator. Chances are there is some chemical ingredient listed as an emulsifier, i.e. something that keeps the oil and water in suspension.
Lethicin, a substance found in egg yolks, acts as an emulsifier by attaching a water molecule to one end and a fat molecule to the other, thereby keeping them from separating…that’s why you’ll see it on a Caesar dressing label.
Since good quality mayonnaise is made from egg yolks (usually pasteurized), you can safely use it as a substitute (and you don’t have to separate eggs…win!).
Homemade Caesar salad dressing is made by combining the “wet” ingredients, then slowly drizzling in the oil so the lethicin in the mayonnaise has a chance to grab those fat molecules and keep them in suspension with the water molecules.
If you add the oil too fast, the dressing will “break”, i.e. separate, and you’ll have a tasty, but messier, dressing. If your dressing breaks, you can fix it using this method from Serious Eats.
Helpful tips dressing at home
Over time I’ve discovered some tips for making my homemade Caesar salad dressing:
- I use my Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus food processor because the holes in the lid help to slow the addition of the oil (and I don’t have to chop garlic!)
- Use a combination of olive and canola oil to lighten up the mixture (in texture, not calories)
- Add the olive oil first because, as a heavier oil than canola, the emulsion holds together better
- When adding in the oils, pulse the food processor rather than just let it run so the dressing doesn’t heat up and break
Learn from my experience, Grasshopper!
Another tool I use is this really cool KitchenAid citrus squeezer when I need to juice a lemon. It strains out the seeds so all you pour out is juice. You know, so you're not chasing seeds around the bowl trying to fish them out! I use it quite frequently, like when making lemon curd or Mint Lemon Lime Bars.
The process for making a homemade Caesar salad dressing recipe is easy with the right tools. However, I'll give you instructions to make the dressing by hand as well, don't worry!
Just a few steps needed
My recipe for Caesar salad dressing is adapted from The Splendid Table's Grilled Caesar Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Fried Capers (just the dressing part).
First steps...mincing garlic with salt, adding mayonnaise and anchovy paste, then pulsing in lemon juice & balsamic vinegar. These are all the "wet" ingredients.
By the way, if you don't have (or don't like) anchovies, you can substitute 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or to taste), or just leave it out altogether.
Next, create the emulsion by slowly adding the oils (first olive oil, followed by canola), then pulsing in the parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Using a recipe ratio for salad dressing
What if you just want a simple herb vinaigrette?
I’ve discussed the recipe ratios for scones, pound cakes, and pie crusts before, so you won’t be surprised that there’s an easy ratio for those vinegar-and-oil dressings …1-3 (1-part vinegar to 3-parts oil). The rest is just seasonings. Simple to make, and it comes together in a snap!
This is the best Caesar salad dressing you'll ever have.
My older daughter tells me that I’ve spoiled her for Caesar salad in restaurants or from a jar, that’s how good this homemade Caesar salad dressing is!
So don’t reach for a bottled salad dressing…invest in some good quality vinegars and oils, and let your imagination run free. You’ll be able to pronounce everything that goes into what dresses your salad, and your taste buds will definitely thank you!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for salad dressing and other emulsion sauces
Did you know that salad dressing is a form of an emulsion sauce? There are temporary and stable emulsions, and they add a layer of flavor to your dishes. Give these a try!
- Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing - a semi-stable emulsion that'll spoil you for store-bought dressing!
- Easy Homemade Hollandaise Sauce - a stable emulsion that lends its lemony butter goodness to any dish
- White Wine Herb Vinaigrette - a temporary emulsion that's super simple to make
- The Best Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing - the name says it all
- Old-Fashioned Homemade Peanut Butter - all you need is peanuts and a few minutes with a food processor. You won’t believe how easy it is to make!
Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp anchovy paste, or 4 anchovy fillets, minced (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise, see Recipe Notes
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice, or more to taste, freshly squeezed (from 1 lemon)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, (3-1/2 oz, 100g)
- ½ cup canola oil, (3-1/2 oz, 100g)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1 oz, 30g)
- ¼-½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- Juice the lemons (I like this citrus press).
Using a Food Processor
- Place salt and garlic cloves in a small food processor. Pulse until the garlic is minced.
- Add the anchovy paste, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar, and pulse to combine. Taste for salt, garlic, and lemon juice balance.
- Starting with the olive oil, begin adding the oil through the lid at a slow stream, pulsing the processor on/off to avoid heating and breaking the emulsion. Stream the canola oil after all the olive oil has been added.
- Add Parmesan cheese and black pepper; pulse to combine. Adjust seasonings if needed.
- Place salt and garlic (and anchovy fillets, if using) on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, carefully smash ingredients together until mixture becomes a thick paste and is thoroughly blended. Transfer paste to a small bowl.
- Add anchovy paste (if using), mayonnaise, lemon juice, and vinegar to the paste, and whisk until blended.
- Add oil (first olive oil, then canola oil) in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth.
- Whisk in parmesan cheese, and season with black pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a glass jar and serve. Dressing can be stored in the refrigerater for up to 1 week.