The Ingredient Swap You Shouldn't Be Making With Caesar Salad

Of all the unique salad recipes in the world, there's nothing quite as classic as a Caesar salad. Crisp lettuce, heaps of Parmesan or other hard cheeses, crunchy croutons, and that signature dressing. Sure, there are ways to add flavor by grilling heads of romaine lettuce or making a lighter dressing by substituting Greek yogurt for mayo, but the core salad components tend to stay the same. The combination makes a flavorful, yet light side dish for hearty Italian meals and seafood, or with some grilled chicken for protein, even a main course.

Arguably, trying to elevate a Caesar salad detracts from its inherent appeal, but there are salad swap options for people looking to mix it up. That said, if you're thinking of switching from the traditional romaine to spinach, a popular salad option for its raw nutrients, think again. Spinach and other soft greens, like arugula and butter lettuce, are great options for tons of salads and might boast interesting flavors and lots of vitamins, but they don't provide the crunch a Caesar calls for.

Caesar swap dos and don'ts

A satisfying crunch is one of the quintessential elements of a good Caesar salad. As long as you achieve the right texture, you can also experiment with different colors, like vibrant, violet radicchio, or red leaf lettuce. Try a milder option like green leaf lettuce, or add a kick of flavor with escarole. Or, for a delightful twist on the classic Caesar salad, try raw broccoli slaw to recreate a gorgeous green and crave-able crunch.

Now that we've covered crunch, it's important to address taste. Named for its tangy dressing, a Caesar salad needs to complement the rich, pungent ingredients poured atop its leaves. Powerful flavors like garlic, Dijon mustard, and anchovy paste can easily conflict with more flavorful greens like peppery arugula or earthy spinach. Similarly, the creamy emulsification of olive oil or mayonnaise can be too heavy for gentler greens, resulting in a salad that feels more like soup. Like mild, textured romaine, slightly bitter radicchio and escarole have the appearance of ruffles, allowing for more nooks and crannies to capture thick dressing, and ensuring a balanced, flavorful forkful. So if you want to toss up this classic salad, be sure to include crunch and flavors reminiscent of a satisfying Caesar.