If you’ve ever bitten about a Caesar salad, you know it’s delicious and popular, but you might wonder if it’s good for you. Although it’s a salad, it comes with cream sauce, cheese, and croutons.
In this article, we take a closer look at this beloved dish and provide more information about what a Caesar salad is, what its nutritional profile looks like, and how to make it healthier.
The origins of the Caesar salad is a kind of question mark. While there is some mystery about who invented the famous salad, we know the basic elements.
Salads typically include romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a sauce made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic, lemon, egg yolk, and Dijon mustard.
But not all Caesar salads are alike in today’s creative culinary world. Chefs and home cooks have been experimenting with the recipe, reinventing it in ways that simplify the process and, in some cases, make it more nutritious.
Sometimes you’ll see kale and other types of lettuce used alongside or in place of romaine lettuce, or you’ll find toast made with whole-grain cornbread or ciabatta. You may also find toppings, such as avocado, tomatoes, and peppers.
Caesar salad is often served with a protein source such as grilled chicken, blackened salmon, nuts, or fried tofu.
Caesar salad is traditionally made with romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a creamy sauce made with anchovies and egg yolks. You can add variety and nutrients by using lettuce, other vegetables, and lean proteins.
While the nutritional composition will vary based on the ingredients and dressings used, a prepackaged 100-gram (about 1 1/4 cup) serving of Caesar salad provides (
Traditional Caesar salads can be high in saturated fat, thanks to the sauce and cheese. Salads that use “light” dressings are relatively less, but still high in sodium.
Light Caesar dressings reduce calories, so they can be good alternatives to the full-fat versions.
Making your own sauce is also an option, and allows you to choose your own ingredients and flavors.
Adding chicken breasts to a Caesar salad boosts protein. Consider using a “light” dressing to reduce the calorie and fat content. Salad dressing generally increases the sodium content, so keep servings small if you’re watching your sodium intake.
Caesar salad is usually served with its own dressing, which is called Caesar dressing. It’s made with anchovies, garlic, egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and Parmesan cheese.
Several types of Caesar dressing are available, including regular, light, and fat-free. You can also find vegetable dressings made with avocado or other vegetable oils instead of eggs. Homemade dressing is also an option.
Here are the nutritional profiles for 2 tablespoons (about 30 grams) of 3 types of Caesar dressing (
What makes caesar sauce so creamy?
Traditionally, the sauce gets its creamy texture not from any cream, but from the egg yolk, which mixes and emulsifies with mustard and oil.
Using raw egg yolks in traditional Caesar dressing can be a concern when it comes to food safety. That’s why you’ll find that many modern versions don’t use it at all.
Raw eggs can contain salmonella, a bacteria that can be on or inside the egg shell and can make you sick.
If you want to make Caesar dressing with raw eggs but avoid this foodborne illness, it’s best to keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) and cook until the whites and yolks are completely set. It occurs when it reaches about 160°F (71°C) (
Many commercially available Caesar dressings today use plain yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk to create the classic creamy texture. Some versions add other emulsifiers, such as xanthan gum, to prevent the bandage from separating.
The creaminess in this Caesar salad dressing comes from egg yolks emulsified with oil and mustard. To avoid salmonella concerns from raw eggs, some variations instead include yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk to get the same creamy texture.
Choosing a Caesar salad can be a filling way to get some extra greens into your day.
Salads provide an opportunity for more vegetables
Eating enough vegetables every day can be a challenge, but salads make it easier.
Caesar salad can be modified to maximize vegetable intake by adding more vegetables, such as carrots and cucumbers, or increasing the amount of lettuce.
More vegetables means more nutrients, including some essential vitamins and minerals that many Americans lack. These nutrients nourish and nourish your body, and are essential for preventing disease and promoting good health (
Caesar salad can be filling
Caesar salads can be satisfying as a main or side dish. The fiber and water content of lettuce and other added vegetables help you feel full.
Additionally, the crunchy texture of toast and raw vegetables may make salads more enjoyable to eat, according to researchers (10).
Most salads are seen as “healthy foods,” but this is not always the case.
Traditional Caesar salads consist mostly of lettuce and can lack variety
One of the main benefits of salads is that they provide an easy way to eat a lot of vegetables. Vegetables are the best sources of many of the nutrients your body needs — including fiber, vitamins, and minerals — while remaining low in fat and calories.
Adequate vegetable intake is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and other conditions (
It is recommended to consume about 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, which is equivalent to about 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may be most beneficial (14).
However, Caesar salads offer a few assorted greens. While many salads offer a mix of vegetables, the Caesar salad consists primarily of romaine lettuce.
Romaine is often considered healthy, but a lack of variety means you’ll get a smaller blend of nutrients. We recommend adjusting the recipe to add more vegetables if you often eat Caesar salad as a vegetable source.
Consider adding some of these healthy vegetables to your next Caesar salad to help increase your vegetable intake.
It can be easy to overdo it on the seasoning
Caesar dressing is made from egg yolks, salt and oil. These ingredients produce a dressing rich in saturated fat and sodium.
Although there are light and fat-free Caesar dressings, they usually only reduce fat and not sodium.
Of course, enjoying Caesar dressing in moderation shouldn’t pose any health concerns.
Just remember that it can be easy to eat large amounts of it at once, which can lead to an overconsumption of saturated fat or sodium. Consider using smaller portions of the dressing or making your own if you’re watching your intake of these nutrients.
Choose your salad ingredients in a way that can increase the nutrition. Choose a larger portion or a mix of lettuce and add vegetables. Keep your salad dressing at 1-2 tablespoons if you want to keep the saturated fat and sodium low.
It’s easy to make a few simple changes to increase the nutritional value of your Caesar salad.
Make your own salad at home or make pre-made versions
Prepackaged salad kits make making salad at home simple, but consider making an adjustment or two:
- Reduce the seasoning provided or mix it with Greek yogurt to add protein
- Replace the toast with a crunchier topping that is denser in nutrients, such as nuts or seeds
- Buy a bag of mixed vegetables or other vegetables to pair with it
Eat plenty of vegetables
Yes, a traditional Caesar salad contains only one vegetable: romaine lettuce. However, it is your salad, so you can make it any way you want.
Most vegetables taste great with it, such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes.
These vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients that your body needs. At the same time, it is low in calories, which means that it is considered rich in nutrients (
Add a source of protein
Incorporating some protein ensures that your salad is satisfying, thanks to the increased protein it provides (16).
Some lean protein options include:
Make croutons at home
Toast is delicious, but many store-bought varieties are made with refined grains and can be high in saturated fat and sodium. Not to mention that portion sizes can be small – usually 6 to 7 pieces of toast – so it’s easy to overeat.
Try making your own toast using a loaf of wholegrain bread and a little olive oil. You can also skip the bread and use other crunchy toppings, like roasted chickpeas or nuts, instead.
Go light on the sauce
Too much salad dressing can overpower the flavors of the other, more nutritious ingredients in your salad and can contribute more calories, saturated fat, salt, or sugar than you planned.
It’s best to stick to about 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of sauce per 1/2–2 cup (375–500 ml) of salad. And if you need a little extra flavor afterward, consider squeezing lemon juice or adding a bit of lemon peel.
Making simple adjustments like these can help you reduce your sodium and saturated fat intake, which may benefit heart health (
Don’t skip the cheese
Parmesan cheese, the kind traditionally used in Caesar salads, adds flavor and provides a bit of calcium.
Two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese provide 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of calcium, contributing to a goal of 1,300 milligrams per day (
Because the cheese is so delicious, you won’t need much. It’s likely that all you need is a tablespoon or two to make your salad.
Caesar salad can be more nutritious with a few modifications. Consider adding more vegetables, keeping seasoning portions small, making your own toast or using another crunchy topping instead, and adding some lean protein.
The classic Caesar salad can fit into any healthy eating plan, but modifications to make it more nutritious may be a good idea if you eat it often.
Choose a salad dressing that’s low in saturated fat and sodium, and consider using 1 tablespoon (14 grams). Load up on lettuce and other vegetables, and reserve the 1/2 ounce (14 grams) croutons.
You can even replace the toast with a whole-grain version or another crunchy topping like roasted chickpeas or nuts.
If you want to make it a meal, add a lean protein like chicken, salmon, or tofu.
Remember that Caesar salads can fit into your healthy diet without any of these modifications. But if you eat them a lot or are looking for ways to boost their nutritional profile, a few small but tasty tweaks may help.