RECIPES:
Nov 8, 2021

Spicy Caesar Salad

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
This twist on the classic is made with homemade spicy caesar dressing, a mixture of kale, romaine and buttered breadcrumbs.

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While caesar salad in a creamy tangy salad dressing topped with cheese and croutons is a classic, I love this twist made with a creamy, spicy dressing and buttered breadcrumbs in every bite. This recipe is based on the little gem salad from Jon & Vinnys in Los Angeles. It’s one of my favorite recipes that comes together with ingredients that I typically keep stocked in my pantry. 

I don’t enjoy most store-bought creamy caesar dressings – they typically don’t have the best flavor and aren’t made with fresh ingredients. You can make this dressing up to three days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Make extra breadcrumbs and dressing to easily make additional salads. Trust me, you will want more! 

Spicy Caesar Salad Recipe

What’s in This Dressing?

This spicy caesar dressing gets its signature burn from the addition of Calabrian chilies while lemon juice and Worcestershire brighten it up. 

  • Egg yolks
  • Calabrian chili
  • Sour cream 
  • Garlic 
  • Shallot
  • Anchovy 
  • Lemon 
  • Worcestershire
  • Oil (I use a combination of neutral oil and olive oil) 
Spicy Caesar Salad Recipe

Key Ingredients in This Recipe 

Romaine

I like to slice the hearts of romaine for easy eating. I prefer salads that don’t require a fork and knife. This is especially good for side salads or when entertaining. 

Kale

Be sure to remove the thick ribs from the middle of the kale stems. They can be very tough and add an unpleasant texture. I use Tuscan kale, also called dino kale because it has a better texture for salad. I like to then lay the leaves on top of each other and roll them together then thinly slice the kale into thin, even strips. This cut is a chiffonade. 

Egg yolks

Egg yolks help to emulsify the salad dressing (as they would a mayonnaise or aioli). If you are uneasy about cooking with raw egg yolks I recommend using the freshest eggs you can find from a reputable company (local eggs would be best). You can also look for pasteurized eggs. Raw egg is not recommended for infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Calabrian chili

Calabrian chilis give this salad dressing the spice. They are little red Italian chili peppers that pack a punch, and once preserved in oil (as used here), they are smoky, salty, fruity and spicy all at the same time. Find Calabrian chili paste at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or online from Williams Sonoma or Amazon. 

Worcestershire

This fermented condiment adds a lot of concentrated flavor – a little goes a long way. The flavor of Worcestershire comes from a mix of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract and chili pepper.

Anchovy

Don’t count out anchovies, even if you aren’t a fan. You can’t necessarily taste the anchovy flavor but they provide a briny, umami flavor that rounds out the caesar dressing. Oil-packed anchovies are traditionally used, I also like using the anchovy paste that comes in a tube – it lasts longer and can be kept in the fridge for easy use.

Oil

I use a combination of extra-virgin olive oil and a neutral oil like vegetable oil in this recipe. The olive oil’s distinct olive flavor can overwhelm the other ingredients in the dressing if used on its own, so it’s combined with a mild oil. The vegetable oil can be swapped with another neutral oil like grapeseed oil. 

Plain breadcrumbs

I love making my own breadcrumbs out of leftover stale bread. Simply add bread to a food processor or blender and pulse until ground. Make the breadcrumbs ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

How to Make Spicy Caesar Salad Recipe

How to Make Spicy Caesar Salad

For the spicy caesar dressing:
  1. Combine the base ingredients. Add the egg yolks, sour cream, Calabrian chili paste, garlic, shallot, anchovy, lemon juice and Worcestershire in the base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until blended.
  2. Slowly add the oil. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil, followed by the vegetable oil through the top hole while the machine is running.
  3. Thin the sauce. Whisk in water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin the sauce if needed.
  4. Store dressing until ready to use. Add dressing to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
For the toasted breadcrumbs:
  1. Melt butter. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the butter and allow to melt.
  2. Toast the breadcrumbs. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic powder and onion powder, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside to cool.
For the salad:
  1. Toss greens in dressing. Add the romaine and kale to a large mixing bowl or salad bowl and toss with ⅓ cup of the dressing.
  2. Assemble and serve. Add half the cheese and half the breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe 

Substitutions 
  • Substitute the oil-packed anchovies with 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste if needed.
  • While I like using a combination of kale and romaine in this recipe, one or the other can be used. Try swapping with another crisp green like little gem lettuce. 
Serving suggestions 
  • Add grilled chicken to this salad for a more complete meal.
  • Add quinoa or another grain to create a bit more filling salad. 
  • While I like how uniformly the grated Parmesan is distributed among the lettuce though it can also be garnished with shaved Parmesan. 

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out these:

Spicy Caesar Salad Recipe

Spicy dressing for salad
Print Pin
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the spicy caesar dressing:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

For the toasted breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

For the salad:

  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed and shredded
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan

Instructions:

For the spicy caesar dressing:

  • Add the egg yolks, sour cream, Calabrian chili paste, garlic, shallot, anchovy, lemon juice and Worcestershire in the base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until blended.
  • Turn the food processor on and slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil, followed by the vegetable oil through the top hole while the machine is running.
  • Whisk in water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin the sauce if needed.
  • Add dressing to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

For the toasted breadcrumbs:

  • Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the butter and allow to melt.
  • Add the breadcrumbs, garlic powder and onion powder, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

For the salad:

  • Add the romaine and kale to a large mixing bowl or salad bowl and toss with ⅓ cup of the dressing.
  • Add half the cheese and half the breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and serve immediately.

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