Make this lightened up version of the all-time kid-favorite Chicken Caesar Salad for an easy and delicious dinner or school lunch! It takes just 15 minutes, including the time to make the homemade dressing!
When our oldest daughter outgrew kids menus at restaurants, the infamous Chicken Caesar salad became her new 'go to'. Sounds great, right? Well, it started to drive this dietitian mama (who also loves to cook... from scratch, ha!) a little crazy because we were spending over ten dollars for a salad that is made with the simplest of ingredients and is traditionally (at restaurants) known to be high in sodium and saturated fat.
Do I still let her order it? Yes, because we let our kids pick what they want to order when we go out to eat. Do I now make this healthy version of the classic caesar salad quite often? You know it! And, the best part is that she even loves to take this salad to school in her packed lunch!
Why This Recipe is so Great
This is a lightened up version of the classic and infamous Chicken Caesar salad that you can find on the menu of many restaurants in the States.
- Buying pre-packaged pre-washed romaine lettuce and kale will save time.
- Buying romaine hearts and one bunch of kale (instead of using pre-packaged) will cost less but will take a little time to prepare.
- Caesar salad isn't really a 'Caesar salad' without romaine lettuce. This is why I've kept some in.
- Most kids prefer the texture of romaine to kale which is why there is proportionately more romaine lettuce compared to kale in this recipe.
- Using my homemade yogurt-based Caesar dressing reduces the saturated fat and increases the protein content of the classic recipe. Plus, the chia seeds in the dressing add fiber and healthy fats.
- Either store bought or homemade croutons can be used.
- To pack this along in a school lunch, either send the dressing separately to let your kids add right before eating it, or mix it up just before they go to school. The kale helps the salad maintain a nice texture even after it is mixed with dressing.
- Romaine lettuce Caesar Salad isn't Caesar Salad without some good 'ol romaine lettuce! It has a texture that kids love and that people expect from a Caesar salad.
- Kale Either curly or Tuscan (also known as lacinato or dinosaur kale) can be used. I use small pieces of curly kale because the color and texture blend in with romaine lettuce better. Kale is high in fiber and it contains several vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
- Chicken I meal prep my easy shredded chicken recipe and use this as the chicken in my salads. Chicken is a good source of protein.
- Croutons Use store bought if you are in a time crunch or make your own. I make croutons using my air fryer - it's so easy!
- Parmesan Cheese A little goes a long way.
- Healthy Caesar salad dressing I use my homemade yogurt-based dressing to make this salad. To make my homemade dressing, you will need plain Greek yogurt, chia seeds, lemon juice, anchovy paste, parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Otherwise, use store-bought (I've heard good things about Bolthouse Farms Creamy Caesar Yogurt Dressing).
Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make this healthy Caesar salad. For the full list of ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the recipe.
- If cutting and washing the salad greens yourself, do this first: Tear the romaine hearts into pieces using your hands and place pieces in a large bowl. Discard the ends. Then, tear the thick middle ribs of of the kale pieces and tear the kale into small salad-sized pieces. Place into the same bowl as the romaine. Fill the bowl with water. Stir the lettuce and kale mixture gently using your hands. Drain the salad greens using a large colander or salad spinner.
- Whisk together the salad dressing. Set aside.
- Place the washed salad greens in a large serving bowl.
- Top the salad greens with chicken.
- Drizzle the dressing on top of the chicken and greens.
- Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
- Add the croutons. Mix together using salad tongs. Enjoy.
It's important to consider what foods your kids like when planning meals. Of course, we can't always accommodate every request, but we can try to provide options to help our kids feel like they have a say in what they are being served.
Salad dressings are the perfect example of this. Offering various dressing options is an easy way to please your kids without adding more work for yourself.
So, when you make this Caesar salad knowing that one of your kids doesn't like Caesar dressing, try portioning out their serving and offering a different dressing, like mango or strawberry dressing instead.
Expert Tips and FAQs
- If you are using Tuscan kale for this recipe, I suggest squeezing a very small amount of fresh lemon juice (a little of what's left from the lemon when you make the dressing) over the kale to help it soften.
- Salmon or hard boiled egg can be used in place of chicken.
- Leftover simply seasoned grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken pieces can be used in place of plain shredded chicken.
- Spinach can be used in place of kale. Spinach doesn't hold up as well as kale, so I suggest sending the dressing along in a separate container if packing this in school lunches.
Parts of it can be! The dressing, chicken, croutons can all be made ahead of time and stored separately. The lettuce can be washed and rinsed well and stored separately as well. However, washed romaine lettuce will not hold up for long.
This is a very commonly asked question. For an estimate on how many calories are in my version of a Chicken Caesar Salad, you can click on 'nutrition facts' below. Just remember, that whenever you are evaluating the Calore content of a recipe, it's not so much the Calories that should be focused on, but rather the source of calories. For example: saturated fat vs unsaturated fat, the amount of protein, fiber, and added sugars.
More Salads and Dressings for Kids
Did your kids love this homemade Caesar Salad? Please leave a 5-star rating below or a review in the comments section!
Don't forget to snap a pic of their incredible salad and tag @carrots.and.cookies on Instagram so I can see it. Enjoy!
Caesar Salad with Chicken and Kale
- 6 cups romaine lettuce Torn into pieces. ends removed. About two hearts of romaine.
- 2 cups kale Ribs removed and torn or cut into pieces.
- 1 ½ cups chicken breast Shredded or cut into pieces.
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese I use Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese that you can find at Costo.
- ½ cup croutons Use store bought or homemade.
Kid-Favorite Healthy Homemade Caesar Dressing (No Mayo)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt Low fat, plain Greek yogurt.
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice Fresh squeezed.
- ½ tsp chia seeds
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 garlic clove small
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese grated or shredded
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp anchovy paste see notes
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper one to two pinches
- If you are using pre-washed lettuce and kale, skip ahead to step number 2. Tear romaine hearts into pieces and place into a large bowl. To prepare the kale, remove the thick middle rib and either tear (if using curly kale) or use kitchen scissors (if using tuscan kale) to cut kale into pieces. Add kale pieces to the large bowl. Fill the bowl with water and use your hand to agitate the water. Use a large colander to drain the lettuce and kale. Let dry.
- If you are using store-bought dressing, skip ahead to step number 3. While the lettuce dries, make the dressing. Place all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and either use a whisk or an emersion blender to blend all ingredients together. Once dressing is mixed well, set aside. If making ahead, place in a sealed container or jar and store in the refrigerator.
- To make the salad: place the lettuce and kale mixture in the bottom of a large salad or mixing bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Use tongs to toss the salad and dressing together.
- Top the salad mixture with chicken and parmesan cheese. Serve croutons on the side and allow kids top their own salads with them (it's their favorite part!). Serve and enjoy!