Caesar salad has a peculiar history with multiple theories on its origins, but is generally understood to combine romaine, croutons, and parmiggiano-reggiano with a garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and/or anchovy-spiked, raw egg yolk- (or—as is more commonly substituted given today’s salmonella woes—ready-made mayonnaise)-enriched dressing, that even the veggie-averse can come to love.

Tradition points to a particular way of manual preparation done tableside—but for the rest of us mortals, there’s pre-made caesar dressing that’s ready to pour onto lettuce or even used as a dip, sandwich-filler, sauce, or marinade. Of the numerous brands (both local and foreign) available at the supermarket, which bottle should you add to your shopping cart?

American Garden

This American brand offers a dressing that’s notably thick, holding its shape (and staying put on a spoon when the spoon is inverted)—which makes it a tad tricky to mix into a salad, but great for dipping into. Though full-on rich and creamy, you still get a mild but balanced mix of parmesan-y nuttiness, umami from anchovies, and slight mustard-y tang. Amidst the creaminess you’ll find bits of what seems to be pickle relish—an odd addition that brings to mind Thousand Island dressing, but which still help brighten up the otherwise too-fatty mix.

Clara Ole

This local version’s take is thinner than American Garden’s, still holding its shape when dolloped but almost leaning toward vinaigrette category. For all its relative thinness though, it packs a strong, straightforward punch of saltiness and vinegar-y piquancy that you don’t need much to give your veggies (or other dip-ins) flavor. Though lacking on the creaminess and on the parmesan, you get a good umami depth from the surprise addition of fish sauce (likely meant to take the place of anchovies).

Dizon Farms

Dizon Farms’ is also on the runny side but carries a much fuller feel than Clara Ole’s; it’s easy to mix into salads, clinging onto lettuce just enough without completely engulfing them. More mellow in flavor, the nutty, milky taste of commercialized parmesan comes through prominently, along with a whisper of sweetness. It’s well evened out with a mustard-y tanginess to brighten, occasional bits of pepper, and just enough creaminess to round out the mix.

Kewpie

This Japanese mayo brand goes a different route with their caesar dressing. It’s the thinnest of the lot, being loose and runny that a member of the team likens it to yogurt drinks and finishing with a slightly starchy, powdery mouthfeel. Past the hint of tang and pepperiness at the front, it’s on the sweet side, with a prominent milkiness that we associate with powdered milk. Perhaps this is meant to play the part of the cheese, but we find it to be in need of more saltiness or acid for balance.

Ladies’ Choice

Ladies’ Choice offers the best of both worlds, with a thick body that fronts a fatty creaminess (as with American Garden), while packing in a good wham of tang and saltiness (as with Clara Ole’s). Though lacking in parmesan, it’s notably eggier-tasting, with umami from anchovies providing ample depth. Summed up, you get a savory, creamy mix that goes with everything from crisp lettuce, burgers, or even salty fried fish.

The Verdict: Ladies’ Choice

Ladies’ Choice’s great balance of creaminess and potency makes it a great, versatile dressing you’ll want to use on everything from your salads and beyond. Coming close (if a creamier mix is what you’re after) is American Garden’s decadent, fatty mix. Also worth noting, however, is Dizon Farms’ with its creamy and parmesan-heavy but nonetheless bright profile.



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