Kale Caesar Salad is the quintessential Caesar Salad these days, and my crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside Polenta Croutons make it even better.
Kale Makes a Great Caesar Salad
As a registered dietitian, I’m more aware than anyone of how the public is becoming increasingly health conscious. At the same time that we want more nutrient dense foods, we also want to continue to enjoy the classics.
Kale is a great substitute for romaine in Caesar Salad, because this hearty green holds up to the pungent Caesar dressing, while providing us with plenty of fiber and vitamins (A, C & K among others).
How to Make Caesar Dressing
There are several different ways you can make a successful Caesar Dressing. You can use a blender, a food processor, or make it in a bowl like me.
The reason I chose to do everything in a bowl, is because the mixture wasn’t a large enough volume to catch in my Vitamix. I have a nice, little food processor which would work, but there’s no detachable piece that would allow me to stream in olive oil while it’s blending.
So down below I included step-by-step photos of the process. Finely chop some garlic. Gather your garlic and anchovies, and top with a pinch of salt to act as an abrasive. Then, use your knife to mash and scrape and chop until you form a rough paste.
Add the anchovy garlic paste to the bowl along with egg yolks and dijon. Whisk and slowly drizzle in your oil, starting drop by drop at first. Increase your oil stream as the mixture thickens. Finish it off with lemon juice, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
For a creative take on the crouton, I made Polenta Croutons. I love fried leftover polenta, and had the idea to make this Kale Caesar Salad with polenta croutons for months and months.
Using store bought polenta makes this recipe quick and easy. If you happen to have leftover polenta, definitely use that to fry up for this salad.
If you’re interested in my recipe, check out this Creamy Parmesan Polenta. For the purposes of this recipe, I would omit the cream at the end so the polenta holds together better when frying. You can cook polenta in broth, in half broth and half milk, or just in water.
To fry the polenta successfully, it should be cold straight from the fridge, particularly if it’s homemade. The store bought version seems to hold together well enough if you start off cold or room temperature.
Place the cubed polenta in about ¼ inch of oil and fry about 3-4 minutes per side or until crispy on the outside and creamy in the center. When it’s done frying, I like to sprinkle a little extra salt and cheese on top. It’s so good!
More Salad Inspo
- Spring Vegetable Salad with Buttermilk Poppy Seed Dressing
- Herbed Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Yogurt
- Farro, Beets and Goat Cheese with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Orange and Fennel Salad with Radicchio
- Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Pistachios
- Kale and Apple Salad with Blue Cheese and Glazed Walnuts
- Golden Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Spread and Pesto
- Kale Salad with Spiced Maple Cashews, Dates & Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
- Shaved Cucumber Salad with Feta Yogurt Dressing
- Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing
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This Kale Caesar Salad is dressed with the best Caesar Dressing and delicious, fried Polenta Croutons, which are easy to make with store bought polenta.
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped (8–9 cups, loose packed, chopped kale)
- 1 ½ cups cubed, store-bought polenta, or leftover, homemade polenta*
- Neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, for frying
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 5–6 oil packed anchovy fillets*
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil*
- 4 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
- 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiana reggiano (4 tbsp if grated with microplane)*, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt
- Make garlic-anchovy paste: Place minced garlic and anchovies on a cutting board. Sprinkle with salt to act as an abrasive. Finely chop mixture and scrape with back of knife to form a paste like consistency.
- Make dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together anchovy garlic mixture, egg yolks and Dijon. Place a dish towel under the bowl to stabilize it. Drizzle in oil starting drop by drop, while whisking constantly. Drizzle in olive oil more quickly once mixture starts to thicken. Continue to whisk until you have a thick and creamy emulsion.* Stir in lemon juice and cheese. Thin out with a few drops of water, as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Fry polenta: Heat ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet. Carefully add cubed polenta to pan, making sure not to overcrowd pan as they will stick together. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden and crispy on the outside. Transfer to a baking rack or paper towel lined dish to drain. Season with salt and parmesan cheese if desired.*
- Serve: Toss kale in enough dressing to coat. Separate onto serving dishes. Top with polenta croutons and additional parmesan cheese, as desired. Enjoy.
If you’re using my homemade polenta recipe, omit the cream. Allow it to set up overnight in the fridge and cut into cubes before frying.
Use fewer anchovies for a less strong flavor. You can also substitute with 2 to 3 teaspoons of anchovy paste. If you want to leave out the anchovies, try adding in a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce.
For a lighter flavor, use half extra virgin olive oil and half lighter oil, such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil.
Parmesan cheese grated with a microplane is much less dense compared to store bought grated cheese, or cheese blended with a Vitamix. In any case, add as much cheese as you like!
If you’re emulsion breaks, try adding a few drops of water to the dressing, and continue to rapidly whisk until it comes back together.
Using cold polenta straight from the fridge usually holds it shape best when frying. Be more cautious with homemade polenta, as store bought polenta tends to be very stiff to start.
Fry just enough polenta for what you plan to eat that day as they do not store or reheat well.
The Caesar dressing will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: Toss, whisk, fry
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: ¼ of salad and dressing
- Calories: 430
- Sugar: 1g
- Sodium: 570mg
- Fat: 37g
- Saturated Fat: 6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 31g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 19g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 10g
- Cholesterol: 102mg
Keywords: kale caesar salad, healthy caesar salad, caesar salad with kale, polenta croutons, kale salad with croutons