Mexican Caesar Salad

This recreation of the Mexican Caesar Salad at El Torito Restaurant has crispy romaine lettuce and a tangy cilantro and pepita dressing with a touch of heat.

Mexican Caesar Salad with Cilantro-Pepita Dressing
Mexican Caesar Salad with Cilantro-Pepita Dressing

Did you know that the original Caesar salad has its origins in Mexico?   Developed by Caesar Cardini, in Tijuana Mexico, it was a desperation salad that came together during a rush in his restaurant, from whatever ingredients he could pull together.  My Mexican Caesar Salad pays homage to these roots with the same bright and refreshing elements of a classic Caesar salad with a Mexican twist!

How do I make this Caesar Salad?

  • Roast the jalapeño (or Serranos if you can’t find a jalapeño). If you don’t want any spice in your dressing, and I respect that choice, just skip this part. You can either pan roast the pepper in a very hot pan until browned on all sides, or you can put it under a broiler, turning often, until nicely browned. Remove the stem and some or all of the seeds inside, depending again on how much spice you want.
  • Toast the pepitas The pepitas will also be toasted in a dry pan on the stove over medium heat. Shake them and stir them around and they’ll start to make popping and hissing sounds and quickly start browning. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. When done I take them immediately out of the pan and onto a plate so they can cool before adding to the other ingredients.
  • Make your dressing Place all of the dressing ingredients into the bowl of your food processor, except the cilantro, mayonnaise, and milk. Give it a good buzzing, until everything is fully chopped. Add in the mayonnaise and milk. More buzzing until everything is combined. Then add in the cilantro and let it go! For an even creamier, more rich dressing, add in a mashed avocado at this point and blend it in. Delicious!!
  • I like to serve this on a half head of romaine lettuce for each person, drizzle the dressing all over and garnish with store bought tortilla strips (found in the salad dressing aisle of your Mega Market, or you can fry your own), more shredded cotija cheese, more pepitas, and some jalapeño slices. It’s fun to slice into this, like a salady steak, or, you know, you can put it all in a bowl like regular salad eating people. I’m a rebel.
  • Sometimes I even serve this salad with a combo of romaine and kale, especially when I’ve added avocado to the dressing. However you decide to serve it, it’s sure to become a regular on your salad rotation. Enjoy!

Want more refreshing salads?

Mexican Caesar Salad

Mexican Caesar Salad

This recreation of the Mexican Caesar Salad at El Torito Restaurant has crispy romaine lettuce and a tangy cilantro and pepita dressing with a touch of heat.
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Course: Dinner, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 roasted jalapeño (or 2 roasted serrano peppers) I’ll tell you more in the directions.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated cotija cheese (plus extra to sprinkle on top of the salad)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3 tbsp toasted pepitas (plus extra for garnish)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro (mostly the leaves), or about 3/4 cup.
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 avocado mashed (optional)
  • Fried tortilla strips for garnish

Instructions

  • Roast the jalapeno pepper in a very hot pan until browned on all sides. You can also put it under a broiler, turning often, until nicely browned. Remove the stem and some or all of the seeds inside, depending on how much spice you want.
  • Toast pepitas in a dry pan on the stove over medium heat. Shake them and stir them around until they start browning. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. When done, remove them from the pan and onto a plate so they can cool before adding to the other ingredients.
  • Place olive oil, jalapeno, garlic, cotija, lime juice, pepitas, salt, and pepper into the bowl of your food processor, and pulse until everything is combined.
  • Add mayonnaise and milk and mix thoroughly.
  • Add cilantro and run processor until dressing is smooth.
  • Toss chilled romaine with dressing and garnish with tortilla strips, more cotija cheese, and pepitas.
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