Liven up Your Weeknight Dinner With This Roasted Veggie Caesar Salad

In this twist on the classic Caesar salad, a garlicky, savory vinaigrette is paired with crisp leaf lettuce, salty Parmesan cheese, and a medley of sweet roasted vegetables that’s perfect for a light summer dinner.

Overhead of sheet pan roasted vegggies caesar salad
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I love making Caesar salad for guests when I host dinner parties. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that’s relatively easy to assemble. But as with many of the dishes I make, I enjoy incorporating my own twist on the standard version. A traditional Caesar salad is all about the balance of the garlicky, savory dressing with crisp lettuce, salty Parmesan cheese and crunchy croutons. It is near perfect in its simplicity, but when those elements are combined with sweet, roasted summer vegetables, the classic salad is transformed into a robust, eye-catching dish that's perfect for a light summer dinner at home, a fancy dinner party, or a casual cookout. 

Close up of salad
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In this fun, reimagined Caesar, I’ve taken the core elements of the classic salad and adjusted them slightly: Instead of crunchy romaine, I use tender leaf lettuce, and I swap the classic egg-emulsified Caesar dressing for an easy and light Caesar vinaigrette that doubles as a marinade for the vegetables. This is all tossed together with a medley of hearty roasted vegetables that includes broccolini, cremini mushrooms, red bell pepper, and onion. Here are a few tips for making my roasted vegetable Caesar salad at home.

Tips for a Savory and Satisfying Roasted Vegetable Caesar Salad

Choose vegetables that cook at the same rate and add a variety of flavors to the salad. When developing this recipe, I tested a variety of vegetables to land on the ones I've included in my recipe below. While roasted zucchini and tomatoes were delicious on their own, their high moisture content made the final salad too watery. I also tried versions with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they were too substantial and filling for the summery salad I was looking for, and the tender, fluffy potatoes didn’t provide the crisp texture that was lost without the romaine. 

After many batches of roasting, I selected a mixture of broccolini, red bell pepper, yellow onion, and cremini mushrooms. This blend of vegetables provides a balance of complex flavors when roasted—the broccolini and mushrooms get toasty and slightly charred while the natural sweetness of the onions and peppers is enhanced. When these veggies are tossed with lettuce, the Caesar vinaigrette, and shaved Parmesan, you get an alternative to the classic Caesar that is perfect for a light summer meal.

Skip the classic emulsified Caesar dressing and make a vinaigrette instead. The recipe starts by making a homemade Caesar vinaigrette. I say vinaigrette instead of dressing because it uses only mustard as the emulsifier instead of egg yolk, which is used in classic Caesar salad dressing. It makes for a lighter vinaigrette that can be used two ways: to season the chopped vegetables before roasting and to dress the salad before serving. Not only do I prefer the lighter flavor of this vinaigrette with the final dish, there's also a practical reason to skip the egg yolk: Since some of the vinaigrette is tossed with the vegetables before they are cooked, including egg yolk would result in cooked egg clinging to your roasted vegetables—not what you want in a salad!

Overhead of whisking seasoning together
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Preheat the baking sheet for better browning on the vegetables. Roasting deepens the vegetables’ flavors and brings out their sweet, savory notes. The cooking process concentrates the flavor by evaporating moisture, converting its complex carbohydrates to sugars, then caramelizing those sugars. This is the Maillard reaction—the series of chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in food are transformed by heat—and it helps produce complex, bittersweet flavors. To ensure this process occurs, and that the Maillard reaction produces a well browned flavorful exterior at the same rate as the interior of vegetables turn tender-crisp, get your rimmed baking sheet hot in the oven before adding the vegetables to jump-start the browning. The broccolini florets, chopped mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions are small enough that, assuming you don't overcrowd the baking sheet, they will sizzle and sear on contact with the hot baking sheet.

Substitute tender leaf lettuce for the classic romaine. The lettuce selection here is important. I wanted greens that could hold up to a pungent dressing and the roasted summer vegetables, but without the crunch of romaine, to allow the texture of the roasted vegetables to shine. I found that baby green leaf lettuce is perfectly crisp yet tender. I have a preferred local brand of greenhouse-grown baby greens that I use, but I recommend looking in your grocery store or local farmers market for lettuce that is substantial enough to not get lost in the roasted vegetables, yet not so hearty (like kale or escarole) that it overpowers the salad. Gem lettuce and baby romaine are great options for this salad.

Don’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese. For a salty, savory bite, whisk grated Parmesan into the vinaigrette and also finish the salad with larger shards of cheese. I recommend using a vegetable peeler to shave long, thin pieces of salty Parmesan cheese onto the tossed salad. The cheese is more than just a garnish. It’s a substantial bite that ties together the pungent Caesar vinaigrette with the sweet and slightly toasty roasted vegetables. The final salad may not look like a classic Caesar, but I’d argue that it might taste even better than the original.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 500℉ (260℃). Set a rimmed baking sheet in the oven while the oven preheats.

Overhead view of sheet tray with tinfoil
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Place anchovies and garlic in a small pile on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Roughly chop the anchovies and garlic, then use the side of a chef's knife to mash the mixture into a paste, about 2 minutes. 

Overhead view of mashing anchovies
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Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk to form an emulsion. Whisk in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Remove 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to a small bowl and set aside; reserve the remaining vinaigrette (about 2 tablespoons) in the large mixing bowl.

Whisking oil and ingredients together
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Add broccolini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion to the large mixing bowl with the reserved 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and toss until well coated. 

Overhead view of vegetables in a bowl
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Carefully transfer the coated vegetables to the preheated baking sheet in an even layer and roast until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned around the edges, 18 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let the vegetables cool slightly on the sheet tray at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Two image collage of sheet tray veggies before and after being roasted
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In the now-empty large mixing bowl, combine the lettuce and the cooled roasted vegetables. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of the reserved dressing and toss well to coat. Transfer mixture to a serving platter and top with shaved Parmesan and Caesar bread crumbs, if using. Drizzle with more dressing, if desired. 

Two image collage of tossing and topping salad
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Special Equipment

Kitchen scale, rimmed baking sheet, aluminum foil

Notes

You can double this recipe if desired. Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Split the vegetables among the two baking sheets and rotate racks from upper to lower position halfway through cooking.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The Caesar vinaigrette and roasted vegetables can be prepared up to two days ahead. Store the vinaigrette and vegetables in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. Remove the vegetables and vinaigrette from the refrigerator 30 minutes to an hour before assembling the salad. Toss the vegetables and lettuce with the dressing just before serving.

This Savory Caesar Dip Will Jump-Start Every Party

Thick, cheesy, and briny all at once, this Caesar dip pairs the assertive garlicky anchovy flavor of Caesar dressing with the texture of a cream cheese-based dip. Scoop it up with crunchy vegetables, chips, or salty crackers.

Dipping a chip in the caesar dip
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I’m a lover of all snacks—salty, crispy, crunchy, and especially creamy ones like this dip, which is perfect for scooping up with crudites, crackers, or chips. If you’re like me and enjoy the consistency and texture of a cream cheese-based dip, and also love the assertive garlic and anchovy flavors of Caesar dressing, this Caesar dip will be right up your alley. 

Overhead view of dip
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It has all the elements I appreciate in a good dip: big and bold flavors, a thick consistency so it won’t fall off a chip or veggie, and enough salt and acid to make you want to come back for just one more bite. Here are a few tips for making a creamy, garlicky Caesar dip that’s easy to throw together for your next party, or just to snack on all on your own at home.

4 Tips for a Thick, Delicious Caesar Dip

Mince and mash the garlic and anchovies before processing. While the dip is blended in a food processor, I found in testing that it wasn’t enough to simply rely on the machine to properly incorporate the minced garlic and anchovies. Instead, the best way to incorporate those key ingredients without creating pockets of sharp raw garlic and anchovies was to first mash them together with a bit of kosher salt. The abrasive salt helps break down the garlic and anchovies into smaller pieces than if you just minced them. When mincing, use the sides of your chef’s knife to press and smooth the mixture into the cutting board in between cuts until the mixture forms a fine paste that will blend evenly when mixed into the dip. 

Achovies and garlic on cutting board
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Use a trifecta of creamy ingredients. This recipe calls for mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese for the richest, creamiest dip possible. On top of the silky texture each of these three ingredients has, they each add a slightly different tangy note for a flavor that’s both nuanced and cohesive. I tried a version without cream cheese, but I found it lacking the sturdy texture that sets this dip apart from something closer to Caesar dressing. For the best flavor, be sure to use full-fat versions of all of these ingredients. 

Soften the cream cheese before using. Once the ingredients are selected and prepped, making the dip is pretty standard: Blitz everything until smooth in a food processor. But to ensure the final product isn’t lumpy, it’s important to start with softened cream cheese. Leaving the cream cheese on the counter for just 15 minutes is enough time to soften it properly, ensuring it’s completely smooth when blended. 

Chill the dip before serving. Sure, you could dive into this Caesar dip right after blending it, but I recommend refrigerating the dip for at least 30 minutes before serving. If you have time, chill it even longer—a couple of hours or overnight. This extra time allows the sharp and assertive flavors in the dip—raw garlic, anchovies, lemon zest—to meld, enhancing its Caesar flavor-profile. It also allows the dip to chill and thicken slightly to create an ideal scooping texture, perfect for clinging to your veggies, crackers, or chips.

Place anchovies and garlic in a pile on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Roughly chop and mash the mixture with the side of a chef’s knife to form a paste, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to the base of a food processor and add the lemon juice, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and pulse until well combined.

Four image collage of making anchovie mixture
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Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, and Parmesan and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape the edges and bottom of the bowl and blend until well combined, about 15 seconds.

Overhead view of mixing dip ingredients
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Transfer the dip to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. Stir before transferring dip to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Serve with vegetables, lettuce and/or chips.

Overhead view of garnishing dip
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Special Equipment

Kitchen scale, food processor

Notes

This recipe was tested with Philadelphia brand cream cheese, which topped our Serious Eats cream cheese taste test, but it will work with any brand of full-fat cream cheese.

You can easily double this recipe, if desired.

The longer the dip rests in the refrigerator, the better the flavors will meld. Consider refrigerating overnight.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For optimal flavor, it's best enjoyed within two days, but can be safely stored for up to four days.