Who Invented The Caesar Salad?

By Ellie Smith

3 weeks ago

The story behind the beloved dish


It’s a staple on menus all over the world – but who actually invented the Caesar salad? As the perennially popular dish celebrates its 100th anniversary, we delve into its history.

The Surprising History Of The Caesar Salad

When Was The Caesar Salad Invented?

Contrary to popular belief, the Caesar salad wasn’t created by Julius Caesar. It was actually first made by a chef called Caesar Cardini in Tijuana, Mexico back in 1924. Born in Italy, Cardini spent time living in California before deciding to make the move to Tijuana to avoid Prohibition. There, he opened his own restaurant, Caesar’s Restaurant, which is thought to be the birthplace of the dish in question.

As the story goes, it was the weekend of the Fourth of July, and the restaurant was busier than usual. This meant Cardini was short on ingredients in the kitchen, so had to whizz up a salad using what he could find: lettuce stalks, olive oil, egg, croutons, parmesan cheese and Worcestershire sauce. According to a later interview with Cardini’s daughter, the salad was originally intended to be eaten as finger food – the idea being to use whole lettuce leaves, which could be dipped in the dressing. 

Others argue the salad should actually be credited to Caesar’s brother, Alex, who allegedly toyed with the construction of the dish a few years later, adding key ingredients such as anchovies.

Regardless of whose idea it was, the Caesar salad quickly soared in popularity, and soon enough it was being served across America. By the ‘50s, the dish was being served in the renowned Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and it went on to spread throughout Europe.

Caesar salad

Unsplash

In one of her books, American chef Julia Child writes: ‘One of my early remembrances of restaurant life was going to Tijuana in 1925 or 1926 with my parents, who were wildly excited that they should finally lunch at Caesar’s restaurant. Tijuana, just south of the Mexican border from San Diego, was flourishing then, in the prohibition era… Words spread about Tijuana and the good life, and about Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, and about Caesar’s salad.’

She adds: ‘In Europe, Caesar’s Salad was also beginning to make an appearance. The legend attributes the salad’s debut across the ocean to Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson (mistress and ultimately wife of Prince Edward VIII of Wales, former King of England). Mrs. Simpson often visited and partied in the San Diego and Tijuana areas in the 1920s. It is said that Mrs. Simpson met the Prince of Wales there, at the Hotel Del Coronado. During this time, Mrs. Simpson visited Hotel Caesar’s Place and became fond of Caesar’s Salad and was sometimes an overbearing guest demanding that Caesar himself toss his salad at her table-side, creating quite a fuss.’

Fun fact: in 1948 Caesar Cardini decided to capitalise on his creation and launched a signature dressing, Cardini’s Original Caesar Dressing, which you can still buy across America.

What Is A Caesar Salad?

Variations differ slightly from place to place, but the fundamental ingredients of a Caesar salad are:

  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • Shaved cheese (usually Parmesan)
  • Homemade croutons
  • Optional: chicken breast, eggs

The dressing is usually made using garlic, anchovies, parmesan, Dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.