Traditional Caesar salad dressing does contain dairy ingredients like Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, and sometimes anchovies. However, dairy-free Caesar dressing alternatives are widely available made with plant-based milks, oils, and egg substitutes.
What is Caesar Salad Dressing?
Caesar salad dressing is a creamy, tangy, and savory salad dressing made from oil, lemon juice, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, mustard, anchovies, and other seasonings. It has a rich, complex umami flavor profile.
The dressing is named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States in the 1920s. According to legend, he invented the Caesar salad at his restaurant in Tijuana in 1924.
Traditional Caesar Salad Dressing Ingredients
Here are the main ingredients found in a classic Caesar salad dressing recipe:
- Olive oil or vegetable oil – The base of the dressing.
- Lemon juice – Provides acidity to balance the richness.
- Garlic – Seasoning and flavor.
- Dijon mustard – Adds tang.
- Worcestershire sauce – Provides depth of flavor.
- Anchovies – Optional, but adds a savory, umami taste.
- Egg yolks – Thickens the dressing and adds richness.
- Parmesan cheese – Provides a salty, nutty flavor.
- Salt and ground black pepper – Seasoning.
The egg yolks and Parmesan cheese are the two main dairy components of traditional Caesar dressing.
Does Caesar Dressing Contain Dairy?
Yes, traditional Caesar salad dressing does contain dairy ingredients, primarily:
Raw egg yolks are a key ingredient in a classic Caesar dressing recipe. The yolks are emulsified into the oil and lemon juice to create a thick, creamy texture. Between 2-3 egg yolks are generally used for a standard batch of dressing.
People with egg allergies or dietary restrictions should avoid Caesar dressing containing raw egg yolks.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese is also a signature Caesar dressing ingredient. It adds a rich, nutty, salty flavor and further thickens the texture. About 2-4 tablespoons of Parmesan are typical for a standard recipe.
Those with dairy allergies or who follow a vegan diet will want to avoid Parmesan cheese in the dressing.
Some traditional Caesar dressing recipes also include anchovies, which originate from fish. Anchovies add an umami, savory flavor to the dressing. However, many modern Caesar dressings omit anchovies entirely or use them sparingly.
If fish and seafood are dietary restrictions, anchovy-free Caesar dressings are widely available.
Dairy-Free and Vegan Caesar Dressing Alternatives
For people who can’t consume dairy products or animal ingredients like anchovies, many dairy-free and vegan Caesar salad dressings are now available or can be made from scratch. Some common substitutions for dairy include:
Non-dairy milks like soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, or cashew milk can be used in place of egg yolks to provide creaminess and texture. The milk proteins and fats mimic the emulsification properties of egg yolks. Silken tofu can also be blended into the dressing for a similar effect.
Nutritional yeast flakes can be used to replace the Parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast provides a similar cheesy, nutty, savory flavor.
Tahini or sesame seed butter is sometimes used along with plant-based milk and lemon juice to make a thick, creamy vegan Caesar dressing base without eggs or dairy.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Some vegan Caesar dressings use extra virgin olive oil in place of egg yolks for creaminess. The oil becomes emulsified into the other ingredients.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Grated vegan Parmesan cheese made from nuts or other ingredients can directly replace regular Parmesan. Brands like Violife, Parmela, and Dr-Cow Tree Nut Cheese offer good vegan Parmesan substitutes.
For a completely plant-based Caesar dressing, anchovies should also be omitted from the ingredient list.
Other Vegan Ingredients
Mustard, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce (use a vegan brand), capers, herbs and other seasonings all work well forflavoring dairy-free and vegan Caesar dressings.
Popular Brands of Dairy-Free Caesar Dressing
Many mainstream and natural food brands now produce their own versions of Caesar dressing without traditional dairy ingredients:
Kite Hill makes a vegan Caesar dressing from almond milk and other plant-based ingredients. It’s sold refrigerated in the produce section at grocery stores like Whole Foods.
Just Ranch recently expanded their line of vegan dressings to include a dairy-free Caesar flavor made with pea protein and almond milk.
Primal Kitchen offers a paleo-friendly Caesar dressing made with avocado oil and nutritional yeast instead of dairy.
Brianna’s makes a dairy-free, vegan Caesar dressing with tofu and vegetable glycerine to replace eggs and Parmesan cheese.
Ken’s Steak House salad dressings now include a creamy plant-based Caesar option made with almond milk.
Newman’s Own Organic Caesar Dressing is made with organic vegan ingredients and contains no egg, dairy or anchovies.
Annie’s natural and organic brand has a vegan Caesar dressing containing no egg, dairy or fish ingredients.
How to Make Vegan Caesar Dressing from Scratch
It’s also easy to make homemade dairy-free Caesar dressing. Here is a simple 5-ingredient recipe:
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight and drained)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, olive oil, mustard, garlic clove and salt and pepper.
- Blend on high until completely smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Add more lemon juice for more acidity, salt for saltiness, or nutritional yeast for cheesiness.
- Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
The cashews and nutritional yeast give this dairy-free Caesar dressing a creamy, cheesy flavor and texture, while the lemon brightens it up. Leaving the cashews to soak softens them so they blend smoothly.
Feel free to double or triple the recipe to make more servings. Just adjust the lemon juice, salt, and other seasonings to taste. Add some capers, crushed garlic, or roasted red peppers to vary the flavor.
Nutrition Facts for Caesar Dressing
Here is how traditional and dairy-free Caesar dressings compare nutrition-wise:
Traditional Caesar Dressing (2 Tbsp)
Since traditional Caesar dressing contains oil, egg yolks, and cheese, it is high in calories and fat. It provides minimal protein and carbs.
Dairy-Free Caesar Dressing (2 Tbsp)
*Ranges approximate; can vary by ingredients
Vegan Caesar dressings are generally lower in calories and fat compared to traditional recipes, since they eliminate egg yolks and cheese. Carb and protein content depends on ingredients used.
Potential Benefits of Dairy-Free Caesar Dressing
Switching to a plant-based Caesar dressing offers a few potential benefits:
- Better for dairy sensitivities or allergies
- Eliminates cholesterol from egg yolks
- Reduced saturated fat intake
- Appropriate for vegan or vegetarian diets
- Environmentally friendlier than dairy-based
The biggest advantage is that dairy-free Caesar dressings accommodate those who can’t or prefer not to consume traditional dairy ingredients. They provide a great option for vegans, vegetarians, paleo eaters, or people with allergies.
Nutritionally, vegan Caesar dressings tend to be lower in cholesterol and saturated fat compared to traditional recipes. They can be part of a healthy, plant-based diet when consumed in moderation.
Environmentally, producing plant-based milk generally has a lower carbon footprint than large-scale dairy production and cheesemaking. So dairy-free dressings are more eco-friendly.
Potential Drawbacks of Dairy-Free Caesar Dressing
However, replacing dairy ingredients with plant-based alternatives does have some potential downsides:
- Difficult to exactly replicate taste and texture
- More processed than whole food ingredients
- Could trigger sensitivities to alternate ingredients
- Higher price point than traditional dressings
- Contains less protein than dairy-based
It can be challenging to perfectly mimic the rich, tangy flavor and creamy texture of a traditional egg and cheese-based Caesar dressing. The results may not satisfy all dairy lovers.
Packaged vegan dressings also tend to be more processed than homemade and contain added stabilizers and emulsifiers. Those seeking only whole, minimally processed foods may want to make their own.
Some ingredients like soy or nuts could trigger sensitivities for those with food allergies. Checking labels for your particular restrictions is important.
The higher cost of specialty vegan ingredients also typically makes prepared dairy-free dressings cost a bit more than regular varieties. However, prices have come down as plant-based options expand.
Nutritionally, non-dairy dressings lack the protein content that eggs and Parmesan cheese provide. Getting sufficient protein from other sources in your diet is recommended if relying on vegan options.
Finding the Best Non-Dairy Caesar Dressing
Here are some tips for finding a satisfying dairy-free Caesar dressing:
- Check labels carefully if you have allergies or dietary restrictions besides dairy
- Look for oil-based dressings for creaminess without eggs
- Seek nut-based or seed-based dressings for protein
- Prioritize non-GMO, organic, and natural ingredients if possible
- Look for added seasoning like garlic, capers, or black pepper
- Try a few different brands to compare taste and texture
- Make your own from scratch to control ingredients
- Store opened dressing in the refrigerator for longest shelf life
With some trial and error, you should be able to find a high quality dairy-free Caesar dressing that satisfies your preferences – whether purchased or homemade. Focus on minimally processed options with natural fats for richness and nuts or seeds for protein.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about dairy in Caesar salad dressing:
Does Caesar dressing have egg in it?
Yes, traditional Caesar dressing contains raw egg yolks as a key ingredient. The yolks help create the dressing’s signature creamy, rich texture.
Is Caesar dressing vegetarian?
Caesar dressing made without anchovies can be vegetarian, but traditionally the dressing contains anchovies and is not vegetarian. Dressings may also contain Worcestershire sauce made with fish.
Can Caesar dressing be made without Parmesan cheese?
Yes, Parmesan cheese can be omitted from Caesar dressing, though it will impact the flavor. Nutritional yeast can substitute for Parmesan to provide a similar cheesy, nutty taste.
Is store-bought Caesar dressing dairy-free?
Some brands of prepared Caesar dressing in stores do not contain dairy, eggs, or other animal products. However, always check the label since many brands use traditional dairy ingredients.
Does Caesar dressing need to be refrigerated?
Yes, all Caesar dressings should be refrigerated after opening to prevent food safety issues from the raw egg yolks or oils going rancid. Unopened shelf-stable dressings can be stored in the pantry.
The Bottom Line
Traditional Caesar salad dressing relies heavily on eggs and Parmesan cheese to achieve its signature rich, creamy texture and tangy flavor. But many delicious dairy-free Caesar dressings can be purchased or made from scratch by swapping the traditional dairy ingredients for plant-based alternatives like cashews and nutritional yeast. With some experimenting, you can find or create a Caesar dressing that suits your specific dietary needs. Just be sure to enjoy it fresh and store any leftovers promptly in the fridge.