We make some sort of Caesar Salad pretty much every single week! It started off as Tyler’s obsession, but it quickly became mine as well. We usually make The Best Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad for date nights in because we can make it without thinking or looking at a recipe, which gives you plenty of time for catching up.
But once in a while we step up our game and make some sort of variation like this Creamy Basil Chicken Caesar Salad or today’s Mexican version. It’s hard not to add fun ingredients into the mix when you’re overflowing with summer produce. The fresh flavor of tomatoes is a welcome pairing to the chipotle dressing and salty cojita cheese.
And speaking of cojita, it’s a Mexican cheese you can usually find in your regular grocery store in the ‘fancy’ cheese section. I kinda got burned though because they didn’t have a price listed, so I just threw it in my basket only to find out later it was $8 for a small round. Next time I think I’ll just use the sheep’s milk feta I usually use in this salad that I’ve been able to get lately at Costco for a super great deal.
In place of croutons, I added in some toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch, and they add to the savory factor along with the creamy avocado. The chicken is simply seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika. I used to use chili powder, but I like the smoked paprika better because it’s emphasizes the chipotle flavor in the dressing without adding too much heat.
The main idea for all the salad ingredients is to make it bite sized for ease of eating. When I’m creating a bowl for presentation or photos, I almost always lay a few sliced ingredients on top to make it prettier. But when it comes time to eat it, I just use a pair of scissors to cut it all up into bite sized pieces.
I have used plain grilled chicken in this salad before when I’m running behind. And while it’s still good, I do recommend taking a minute to toss the chicken breasts with the spices listed for an even bigger flavor boost.
The dressing (like any good Caesar) has a raw egg in it which I’ll leave up to your judgement if you’re comfortable with that. The purpose of the egg is to make it creamy and thicker, but without the egg it’s more of a vinaigrette. The usual substitute for the raw egg is to add mayo for the creamy thickness. Personally it’s not my favorite, but it’s ok in a pinch.
I hope you enjoy this spin on the classic Caesar! It’s so packed with flavor and freshness, that we find it utterly addicting!
- 2 heads of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced and washed, 12-14 cups
- 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 pound
- ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced or cubed
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup crumbled cojita cheese, or feta cheese
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1 pound
- 1 Teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 Teaspoons cumin
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1-2 Teaspoons olive oil
- 1 egg, see notes
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon chipotle in adobo, or ground chipotle to taste
- 1 Teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
- ½ Teaspoon sea salt
- ½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¾ cup olive oil
- Preheat a grill over medium high heat until it reaches a steady temperature around 400ºF.
- While the grill heats, prepare all the salad ingredients and place them in a large serving bowl.
- For the chicken mix together the spices with just enough olive oil to make a paste before tossing the mixture with the chicken breasts until they're thoroughly coated. The purpose of the olive oil is only to make the spices easier to combine with the chicken. You can leave it out, and just use spices but it's harder to get the chicken coated evenly.
- Place the seasoned chicken on the grill and grill for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. I had 2 chicken breasts weighing 1 pound and it took 20 minutes to cook.
- While the chicken is grilling, make the dressing by adding the egg, Dijon mustard, garlic, chipotle, smoked paprika, parmesan, sea salt, black pepper, and lime juice to a blender. Blend the mixture on low to combine. Then with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, increasing the speed to 5-6 on a Vitamix. Continue to drizzle the olive oil until it's completely gone and the dressing is emulsified and slightly thick.
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the grill to slice or cube it.
- Toss the salad with the chicken and dressing, or serve with the dressing on the side.
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