Can I Eat Caesar Salad on the Keto Diet?

Yes, everything but the croutons.

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Photo by: Pamela Joe McFarlane

Pamela Joe McFarlane

With a couple of tweaks, Caesar salad can absolutely be part of a keto diet. Cut out Worcestershire sauce (it has added sugar) and look for Romano over Parmesan cheese (for less carbs per gram) and lose the croutons — but keep reading for some of our clever keto crouton ideas.

Quick Keto 101

If you're already committed to keto, then this is a refresher: It's a diet that is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates. That looks something like this: 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. Keto shouldn't be approached as a lifestyle, rather it's a temporary diet that should be closely monitored by a nutritionist because of possible health risks.

Anatomy of a Caesar Salad

That crunchy, garlicky and unctuous salad can be keto-fied:

  • Anchovies: These salty flavor bombs are packed with heart-healthy, anti-inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids. They're a keeper in Caesar.
  • Croutons: Nope (but keep reading for keto crouton ideas).
  • Egg: Absolutely. That yolk helps bring the dressing together and coats the lettuce. It's 100% keto friendly.
  • Lemon juice and other acids (like vinegar): These are freebies and don't have trace amounts of carbs, and they are essential in balancing the high amount of fat in the dressing.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Skip. It has added sugar and really isn't necessary if your dressing features anchovies.
  • Garlic: Garlic and onions have more carbs per grams than other keto-friendly veggies (like dark, leafy greens). But recipes that call for a small clove add only trace amounts of additional carbs. It's fine to skip if you'd like — your preference!
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Go for it. Extra-virgin olive oil is loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats, which are an essential part of the keto diet.
  • Romano and Parmesan: Both are hard cheeses — Romano has slightly less carbs per gram than Parmesan — and can totally be part of your Caesar experience.

Keto Caesar Salad Recipe

This version has plenty of fat and very minimal carbs. You can up the protein by adding a hard-boiled egg, grilled chicken or shrimp, salmon, or even good-quality canned tuna.

4 anchovies packed in oil, drained

1 garlic clove, halved

1 large egg, at room temperature (see Cook's Note)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon mustard powder, optional

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 hearts of romaine, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan (about 2 ounces)

For the dressing: Soak the anchovies in a bowl of water for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry, then finely chop and mash to form a paste.

Rub the cut-side of the garlic all over the inside of a large wooden salad bowl.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Gently lower the egg into the water, then immediately remove the pan from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the egg under cold water, crack into the salad bowl. Whisk in the anchovy paste, the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard powder, if using, until smooth. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the lettuce and about one-third of the Romano to the salad bowl with the dressing and gently toss. Divide among plates and top with the remaining Romano.

Cook's Note: You can use 1 tablespoon of keto-friendly mayonnaise instead of the egg.

Makes: 4 servings

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Per serving: 320 calories, 32 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 55 g cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar, 7 g protein

Keto croutons

You don't have to go without those crunchy bites. Try these keto-friendly crouton swaps:

Halloumi 'Croutons': Cut cheese into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium high. Cook until the bottoms are well browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Then turn over and cook the other sides until browned as well, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, if you like, and toss to coat. Add to your Caesar salad.

Cheese Crisps

Top your Caesar salad with some of these cheese crisps for that crouton-like crunch.

3/4 cup finely shredded, full-fat sharp Cheddar

1/4 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.

Toss together the Cheddar, Romano and garlic powder in a small bowl.

Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of the cheese mixture about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Spread out each pile and lightly pat down (it's OK if there are gaps). Bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Let the crisps cool for a few seconds on the baking sheet and then use a metal spatula to lift and drape them over a rolling pin to cool completely. (You can also let them cool on the baking sheet for flat crisps.)

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Yield: 10 to 12 crisps

Active Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

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