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Turn a grilled chicken Caesar salad into a crispy sandwich

(Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Nicola Davis for The Washington Post)
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich
Active time:30 mins
Total time:45 mins
Active time:30 mins
Total time:45 mins

When I pull out the charcoal grill on a Sunday afternoon, I often cook a variety of proteins and vegetables, so we can make meals out of them throughout the week. This lineup almost always includes chicken.

I love the smoky flavor the grill delivers, and the poultry is so versatile. I can eat it hot. Or, later in the week, I can mince it into a chicken salad or slice it and toss it with crisp greens or slip it into a quesadilla for a quick meal.

Right now, this dish is my favorite way to eat chicken fresh off the grill because it turns all the delicious parts of the popular chicken Caesar salad into a sandwich you can pick up and bite into.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs — or breasts, if you prefer — get a short, quick marinade in oil, mustard and garlic powder before grilling. You can cook the protein on a grill pan or in the oven, if you prefer.

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Then, romaine or other crispy lettuce is generously tossed with a pungent homemade Caesar dressing. You can use your favorite store-bought brand, if you’re in a hurry, but this dressing is pretty easy to make — and it’s so much better.

It calls for common ingredients you likely have at home, including fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, honey, pepper and olive oil. I like to include mashed anchovies, but that’s optional.

So, you ask, why not just make a salad?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the best bites of the Caesar salad are the ones that include a bit of chicken, a bite of greens and a healthy dose of crunch from a garlicky crouton.

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What makes the sandwich stand a little taller than the salad is that you get that combo in every bite.

To mimic the croutons, right at the end, I like to brush the insides of tender ciabatta rolls with some of the dressing, then grill them on both sides until the bread turns toasty and golden. This way, the rolls can stand in for the croutons — usually a supporting role — in a big, crispy way.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

Storage: Refrigerate the chicken and dressing, separately, for up to 3 days. Leave the dressing at room temperature for about 10 minutes and whisk vigorously to reincorporate.

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For the chicken

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total)

For the dressing

  • 4 anchovy fillets, drained and mashed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Crystal, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the sandwich

  • 8 to 12 large romaine lettuce leaves, washed and broken into bite-size pieces
  • 4 ciabatta rolls
  • Freshly shaved parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
  • Cornichons, for serving (optional)

Step 1

In an airtight container large enough to hold the chicken, whisk together the oil, mustard and garlic powder. Add the chicken and turn the pieces so they are well coated. Cover and marinate on the counter for about 10 minutes or refrigerate up to overnight.

Step 2

Make the salad dressing: While the chicken marinates, in a medium bowl, whisk together the anchovies, garlic, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, honey and pepper until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream, continuing to whisk just until the dressing is emulsified. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired (see Storage).

Step 3

When ready to cook, prepare your gas or charcoal grill for direct-heat grilling or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken, with the marinade still clinging to it, onto the grill or grill pan. Cook without moving the chicken until it develops grill marks, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Step 4

Brush the interior of the ciabatta rolls lightly with some of the dressing and place cut-side down on the grill pan or the hot grill until they are toasted with light grill marks. (You can grill both sides of the rolls if you like.)

Step 5

When you’re ready to build your sandwiches, in a large bowl, toss together the romaine with 1/2 cup of the dressing until well coated. Lay a piece of chicken on the bottom half of each roll, top with a generous portion of the dressed romaine and add the shaved cheese, if using.

Cover with each roll top, and serve with cornichons on the side, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 sandwich)

Calories: 745; Total Fat: 53 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 189 mg; Sodium: 1087 mg; Carbohydrates: 30 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 42 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From recipes editor Ann Maloney.

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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