Every backyard BBQ has a selection of side salads that guests rave about, from classic potato and macaroni to creamy slaw and watermelon with feta and red onion. Your standard Caesar? Not so much. That’s going to change, though, with this fresh take on a grilled Caesar salad to celebrate your next outdoor event.
When you make a Caesar salad on the grill, you add another layer of taste to cold lettuce, softening the leaves and infusing them with a smoky flavor. Homemade grilled croutons complete your grilled Caesar salad recipe—they’re so much tastier than the kind you buy at the store.
Here’s how to put together a grilled Caesar salad that will have guests reaching for seconds.
Start With Romaine
For a grilled Caesar salad that serves four to six people, wash, trim and quarter a head of romaine lengthwise and then brush each piece with olive or canola oil using a grilling basting brush. Shower the romaine with salt and pepper and then lay the cut side on the grates to grill. You can either place them on the hotter direct heat for two to three minutes or sear over direct heat for a minute, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to cook a few more minutes more off the heat. (Two-zone grilling takes a little practice but allows for slightly different flavors and finishes.) Flip the wedges to the other cut side with a sturdy set of tongs and cook for another minute or so and then remove the pieces from the heat to a cutting board or platter.
Grill Some Sourdough
To make the croutons, brush four slices of sourdough or country bread on both sides with oil and sprinkle them with a little salt. If there’s room, grill the bread alongside the romaine until it is golden brown (or cook it after the lettuce is done). Take the bread off the heat. When it’s cooled a bit, rub each side lightly with a peeled garlic clove. Cube the slices or tear them into small pieces and set the croutons aside.
Top With Cheese
Grate between ½ and 1 cup of Parmesan.
Add Veggies for Color
A classic grilled Caesar salad is simply romaine, croutons, grated Parmesan cheese and dressing, but you don’t need to stop there. For extra color and texture, consider grilling ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine or a pint of loose ones in a grill basket. Another tasty addition: Halves of avocado (remove the pit and leave the flesh in its split shell). Treat these add-ons the same way as the romaine and bread slices—brush them with oil, salt and pepper, then grill until the tomatoes are close to bursting and the avocado takes on some color and softens (about three to five minutes for both).
Assemble Your Salad
There are two ways to build your grilled romaine Caesar salad. The first is to roughly chop the lettuce and toss it with the croutons and cheese in a bowl with the optional tomatoes and chunks of avocado. Or you can leave the quartered romaine in large pieces and arrange them on a platter and then scatter the croutons, cheese and veggies on top. No matter which way you go, drizzle your grilled Caesar salad with dressing.
Dress for Success
Grilled Caesar salad typically calls for dressing with the same name (learn how to make a delicious version of it, minus the raw eggs and anchovies). But this super side is equally delicious with ranch, blue cheese or even a simple vinaigrette. You could also scoop the grilled avocado out of its peel and toss the flesh in a blender with a garlic clove, a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, ⅓ cup of olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs. Whirl it for a minute or two until smooth, season with salt and pepper and voilà—a grilled avocado dressing to match your grilled Caesar salad.
Looking for more warm-weather grilling ideas? Check out these surprising foods you can grill for your next backyard party.