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Chicken & Bacon Caesar salad with amazing dressing

Ah, the old classic - Caesar Salad. Traditionally this salad is the amazing Caesar salad dressing, cos/romaine lettuce and croutons. For this recipe though, we bulk it out a bit and make it a more substantial and nutritionally complete meal, by adding chicken and bacon to the recipe.

This dish was invented by an Italian immigrant to Mexico, named Caesar Cardini. The story goes that on July 4, 1924, during a particularly busy night at his restaurant, Caesar had to make do with the ingredients he had on hand due to food shortages. With limited supplies, he made a salad using the ingredients he had - cos/romaine lettuce, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice.

The salad was an immediate hit, and its popularity grew after Hollywood celebrities visiting Tijuana tasted and raved about it. Soon, it became a staple at Cardini's restaurant and gained popularity across the United States.

Over the past 100 years, the recipe has seed some alternations, most notably with the addition of anchovies to the dressing. It's also quite frequently bulked out in the same manner as this recipe - with chicken, and to a lesser extent, bacon.

Make no mistake - with this rich and tangy dressing and parmesan cheese, this is not a healthy meal. If you're watching your calories, exercise constraint when dressing the salad.

What is Chicken Caesar Salad?

This recipe is a Caesar Salad, which is made with cos/romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, garlicky croutons and a flavour packed egg mayonnaise featuring mustard, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies and more. To make it a more complete meal, we add chicken and bacon.

Chicken Caesar Salad ingredients

For the salad & croutons

  • Cos/romaine lettuce - the core of this salad is the use of cos/romaine lettuce. I prefer to use baby lettuces, and making the standard recipe you'll need 3 baby lettuces, 2 medium or 1 large. I prepare my lettuce by removing the stem, then quartering the lettuce and separating the leaves. If you're using a larger lettuce, you should instead slice every 2-4cm (1-1.5") up the lettuce after quartering so you get bite sized pieces. If you don't want to use cos, feel free to substitute whichever lettuce leaves you like - but the salad should be made with firm lettuce. Iceberg, for example, works well.
  • Chicken - I use chicken tenders because I find it the perfect size for the salad. Tenders do often have a bit of tendon attached - I find it easy to pull this off after cooking. You could also use chicken breast, but make sure to butterfly it or pound it thin. Legs and thighs are too fatty given the richness of the dressing, so avoid in this instance.
  • Bacon I use shortcut bacon because I think there is enough fat in the dressing to help keep the fat content down.
  • Garlic, Extra virgin olive oil, bread (or bread stick), dried herbs are used for the croutons. You can use whichever dried herbs you like - my suggestion is one or more of thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano - my preference though is to use a good Italian seasoning blend.
  • Eggs - I like to serve with a soft boiled egg on top of the salad.
  • Parmesan cheese is dusted over the salad after serving.

For the dressing

The ingredients here are classic to Caesar salads. Anchovies are a modern addition but are regularly used to add umami and saltiness. The dressing consists of:

  • Egg - yolks only, whites don't go near emulsions.
  • Olive oil - preferably avoid extra virgin or use a neutral oil, because EVOO has a strong flavour.
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic
  • Dijon mustard
  • Lemon
  • Anchovies - leave out if you want but they do bring a lot to the dressing which is why they're so commonly used. Don't use pickled anchovies - you want the kind that come in oil.
  • Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper - add last and adjust to your taste.

How to make Chicken Caesar Salad

I suggest making the dressing first. The reason being that the flavours develop while it sits in the fridge.

Making the dressing

The written recipe provides instructions for making the dressing using a stick blender. You can use a blender, food processor or do it by hand with a whisk.

  1. Blend together the egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, anchovies, lemon juice until well combined and there are no lumps.
  2. Add oil - slowly drizzle in the oil while running the blender. As the oil gets thicker, you'll likely need to increase the speed of your mixer.
  3. Add parmesan and adjust seasoning - stir through the parmesan cheese and then adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Making the salad

  1. Prepare the lettuce - remove the stem, and then cut into quarters (1). If you're using a large lettuce head, cut each quarter every 2-4cm (1-1.5"). Separate the leaves and place into a salad spinner (2). Use the salad spinner basket to thoroughly wash the lettuce, and then spin dry.

  2. Cook the chicken and bacon - working in batches, cook the chicken (1) and bacon (2). As each batch comes out, cut it up into bite sized pieces (3) and place on a plate.

  3. Make the croutons - preheat your oven to 190C. Cut your bread into cubes about 2-3cm in size and place in a baking dish or tray (1). Add all the the oil, herbs, minced garlic (2) and stir to combine (3). Bake for about 20 minutes, turning half way through, until the croutons are golden (4). Remove from the oven and set aside.

  4. Make the eggs - bring a pot to the boil and lower the eggs in using a slotted spoon or spider (1). Cook for 6 minutes for soft boiled 8 minutes for set yolks and 10 minutes for hard boiled. When cooked to your liking, drain the water, refresh with cold tap water and add ice (2).

  5. Assemble salad - add the chicken, bacon, lettuce leaves and croutons to a large mixing bowl (1). Add most of the dressing (2; you can always add more!) and stir well to combine (3). Serve top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and peeled egg, cut in half (4).

How can I make this low calorie friendly?

I said in the introduction that despite this being a salad, it IS NOT low calorie friendly. If you're watching your calorie intake, you can absolutely make this healthier:

  • Use a very lean cut of bacon with all fat removed (or omit entirely)
  • Reduce the amount of parmesan cheese you grate over
  • Rather than the dressing in the recipe, use my healthy Greek yoghurt Caesar salad dressing instead.

Which cut of chicken?

I've written the recipe with chicken tenders (aka tenderloins). The reason for this is that they don't need to be flattened, they're tender and cut into the perfect size just by slicing.

If you prefer you can use chicken breast, but make sure you butterfly or pound the breast out so that it is a uniform thickness so that it cooks evenly.

I would suggest against using legs or thighs, because the salad is already very rich from the dressing and cheese. It doesn't need any more fat.

Can I make this ahead?

Absolutely. Make everything and store separately in the fridge - combine and dress just before serving.

How to keep leftovers?

Ideally keep the left overs separate and without dressing. The salad - dressed or undressed - will last in the fridge for 3-4 days, but take note of the use by date for the bacon, eggs and chicken.

How do I make this a lighter meal or side?

You can take the salad back to its roots - don't use chicken or bacon. The majority of the richness in the dish comes from the dressing, so the less dressing you use the lighter it will be.

Chicken & Bacon Caesar salad

5 from 1 votes
Prep Cook Total
10 mins 30 mins 40 mins
Serves 4
Caesar salad is a classic for a reason - its amazing dressing! This salad takes it up a notch by featuring chicken and bacon, making it a complete meal.
Salad
  • 500g chicken tenders or breasts if you prefer - see note 1
  • 6 slices of shortcut bacon or 10 streaky bacon rashers, if you prefer
  • 3 baby cos lettuces or 1-2 large heads, aka romaine lettuce, see note 2
  • 2-4 eggs give half to 1 egg per person
  • Parmigiano reggiano, to serve
Dressing
  • 2 egg yolks at room temperature, see note 3
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil - don't use pickled anchovies, see note 4
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or any other neutral oil, avoid extra-virgin, see note 5
  • 40g finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano aka parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Croutons
  • 200g bread of choice, cut into 1-2cm cubes see note 6
  • 4-5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tsp dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano or basil or a mixture, I like to use an Italian seasoning mix
Steps

Dressing

Notes: The dressing recipe features raw eggs. If you're pregnant or concerned about the risk of consuming raw eggs, check the notes section and substitute store bought mayonnaise.

I use a stick blender to make this, but you can also use a whisk or a regular blender. If using a whisk, make sure the garlic and anchovies are a paste and it's easiest to have someone hold the bowl while you drizzle the oil in slowly - don't stop whisking because you increase the likelihood the emulsion will split.

  1. Combine ingredients - add the egg yolks, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and the anchovies to a large blending jug or mixing bowl. Set your stick blender to a low speed and process until well combined and there are no lumps.
  2. Emulsify - begin drizzling the in the oil. You will need to increase the blender speed as it emulsifies and gets thicker. Don't stop until all the oil is incorporated.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese and stir through.
  4. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add salt slowly because there are a lot of salty ingredients in the dressing.

Croutons

  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 190C.
  2. Mix - In a large baking dish or tray, add all ingredients and mix well to combine.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring the croutons every 5 minutes or so until they're golden.
  4. Remove from the oven and place aside until you're ready to serve the salad. Try not to eat too many 🙂

Salad

  1. Cook chicken - heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and cook the chicken in batches. Place aside to cool, and then slice. If using tenders as suggested, remove any tendon attached prior to slicing because it is chewy and unpleasant to eat.
  2. Cook bacon - using the same pan, cook the bacon, in batches if you need to, until the bacon is cooked. Slice the bacon and place aside.
  3. Prepare lettuce - while cooking the chicken and bacon, you can prepare the lettuce. Remove any tatty exterior leaves and then cut the lettuce into quarters. Separate the leaves, and then thoroughly wash them - cos/romaine tends to have a lot of internal dirt because of how it grows, and no one wants to eat a gritty salad. Make sure to spin well so the salad isn't wet.
  4. Cook eggs - I like to have this with soft boiled eggs, but feel free to poach or fry if you'd prefer. To make soft boiled eggs, half fill a pan with water and bring to the boil. Using a spider, spoon or tongs, lower the eggs into the water. Boil for 6 minutes, carefully drain the water and replace with water from the tap and add ice to stop the cooking process. When the eggs are cool, peel them and slice in half.

Serve

  1. Place the lettuce, chicken, bacon and croutons into a large bowl. Add your desired amount of dressing and stir well to combine, making sure that all ingredients are well dressed.
  2. Put the dressed salad into a bowl, place the halved eggs in and grate some extra parmesan cheese over the salad.
Notes
  1. Chicken - I like to make this using chicken tenders (aka tenderloins). I find the size and texture to be perfect for a salad. They are a little more expensive than chicken breast, so if you'd prefer to use chicken breast you can. The tenders often have a tendon attached which should be removed when you slice them up because it is chewy and unpleasant.
  2. Lettuce - Cos/Romaine lettuce is the traditional lettuce used for a Caesar Salad, however feel free to substitute any crunchy lettuce you'd prefer, such as iceberg. Make sure the lettuce is thoroughly washed and dried.
  3. Dressing egg yolks - when emulsifying eggs with oil, they should be at room temperature. This reduces the likelihood that the emulsion will split and will result in a smoother texture. There are health risks associated with usage of raw eggs, so if you'd prefer to not use raw eggs and make a mayonnaise, feel free to remove oil and eggs from the dressing and add 1 cup of store bought mayonnaise after blending the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Anchovies - These are crucial in the taste of the dressing. They don't taste fishy, they provide umami and salt. Leave them out if you want, but the dressing taste will suffer. If you do leave them out, substitute 1-2 tsp fish sauce or add an extra 15g parmigiano reggiano. If you're making the dressing using a whisk, make sure that these are made into a paste with the garlic - you don't want lumps in the dressing.
  5. Oil for the dressing - don't use extra virgin olive oil because it will taste too strong. I like to use regular olive oil, but use any other neutral oil like canola, sunflower or grapeseed.
  6. Bread - use whichever type of bread you like. I like to use a baguette cut into 1cm cubes. Avoid sliced bread like you'd use for a sandwich because it's too thin, but you can use it in a pinch.
  7. Dressing the salad - don't dress the salad until you're ready to serve. The dressing will cause the lettuce leaves to wilt.
  8. Leftovers - Ideally keep leftover salad undressed until you want to eat it. Both the dressing and salad will keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, but make sure to take into account the use by date of the chicken.
  9. Healthier dressing - If you'd rather a healthier version of the dressing, you can try my healthy Greek yoghurt Caesar salad dressing.

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