While we all love traditional Caesar salad, this homemade Mexican Caesar Salad Dressing takes us in a deliciously fiery direction. This flavor explosion is an ideal side dish to your next Mexican food party, or as the main dish for dinner tonight if you add Sweet and Spicy Mexican Shrimp.
Legend has it that the traditional Caesar salad we all know and love (looking at you with heart eyes, anchovies) was the creation of an Italian-American chef named Caesar Cardini in his restaurant in....New York City? Chicago? San Francisco?
Negative, ghost riders...Tijuana, Mexico.
So before I get too far into this week's salad creation, tip of the hat to the unexpected home country of the original version of our favorite fish-forward salad. God bless you and your tasty salads, Mexico!
Ingredients needed for this dressing:
For the croutons:
For the salad:
- leaf lettuce (washed and torn into bite sized pieces)
- pickled red onions
- pumpkin seeds
- cotija cheese (or feta)
- Homemade croutons (above)
- Sweet and Spicy Mexican Shrimp
Full ingredient list and measurements included in the recipe card below.
1. Make dressing
Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and mix for 30-40 seconds or until well combined.
Add salt and pepper to taste and for more heat, add a bit more hot sauce from your can of chipotles in adobo sauce. If the dressing has too much heat, add another spoonful of sour cream. Salt, black pepper and lime juice can also be added to help balance the flavors.
2. Make croutons
Cut 2 cups of stale bread into bite-size pieces and add to a large bowl. Combine 2 tablespoons of neutral oil with 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning. Toss bread pieces in the taco seasoned oil until thoroughly coated.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to a cast iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add seasoned croutons in a single layer in the heated pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.
3. Build salad and serve
Wash lettuce and dry in a salad spinner or with a paper towel. Place dried lettuce into the base of a wide bowl. Layer on 3 tablespoons each of pumpkin seeds and pickled red onions, 2 tablespoons of crumbled cotija, homemade Mexican croutons, and Sweet and Spicy Mexican Shrimp, if serving.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Absolutely. You can use full fat sour cream or light sour cream in this recipe. If using yogurt, I recommend Greek yogurt, but even nonfat Greek yogurt will give the necessary texture.
Cotija has been tough to come by in Lisbon, even at the small Mexican grocery store I frequent. Feta, queso fresco and parmesan cheese are all adequate substitutes. None are a perfect replica, but they each provide delicious salty umami flavor in their own right.
Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or the brine from your Quick Mexican Pickled Onions will all make a tasty dressing.
Traditional Mexican flavors like ground cumin and dark chili powder would add depth of flavor without heat. If you have a mild taco sauce that your family enjoys, that would also do the trick.
Literally anything will work. I've used ciabatta, sourdough and focaccia.
The possibilities are endless! Roasted red pepper strips, charred corn kernels, creamy avocado slices, canned black beans or garbanzos, and crunchy tortillas straight out of the bag.
You can use it over grain bowls, as a sandwich spread, or as a dip for your veggie tray full of carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes and cauliflower.