Can I Eat Caesar Salad and Caesar Dressing When Pregnant?

Caesar salad is something that sounds simple, but when you’re pregnant, it raises several questions. It’s got anchovies in it, and some fish need to be checked. It’s usually got cold, cooked chicken, so there’s that, too. Finally, there’s the dressing – which, traditionally, contains raw egg. Is it safe for pregnant women, then?

Can I Eat Caesar Salad and Caesar Dressing When Pregnant? Caesar salad, if freshly made, is safe for pregnant women to eat. Caesar Salad Dressing is only safe in pregnancy if the dressing is pasteurized because it usually contains raw egg.

Since there are so many questions around Caesar salad, I’ve done my best to answer them all here.

Most importantly, I’ve put together a list of all the Caesar salad dressing brands that are safe in pregnancy, so you can enjoy it without worrying about the ‘raw egg’ issue. Plus there’s a pregnancy-safe caesar salad dressing recipe for you to make at home.

Is Caesar Salad Safe To Eat When You’re Pregnant?

First, let’s address the salad itself – before we get to the dressing.

Ready-made caesar salads (also known as caesar salad kits) carry a small risk of bacterial contamination, as all pre-prepared salads do. These are the salads you buy bagged or in plastic clamshells. Popular brands include Fresh Express, Dole, and Taylor Farms.

The safest option is to prepare and wash salad yourself. If you want the convenience of a pre-chopped, bagged salad or pre-prepared kit, give it an extra wash when you get it home, or avoid it and make it yourself.

Here’s a useful article with tips and guidelines on how to wash salad properly when you’re pregnant (and why).

Romaine lettuce, the type most commonly used in Caesar salad, has been the subject of several recalls in the past few years. The most recent recall in 2019 involved E Coli. contamination in romaine lettuce from California, affecting 167 people (source: CDC).

You can still eat romaine lettuce as part of a healthy pregnancy diet, but it’s better to choose fresh lettuce, then wash it thoroughly and prepare it yourself.

Croutons are safe to eat in pregnancy, as are bacon bits, and so is parmesan cheese. If you like eating cheese, you’ll probably want to check out this ultimate list of which cheeses are safe for pregnant women.

caesar salad with bacon topping

Caesar Salad Toppings and Pregnancy Safety

In its original form, Caesar salad is just romaine lettuce and croutons, with a dressing (covered below) with parmesan shavings. Adding chicken, shrimp and salmon is a later addition. If that’s how you like your Caesar, there’s more info for you here:

If your Caesar salad contains chicken, treat it like you would a cold cut or deli meat – there’s a complete guide to that here.

If your Caesar salad contains shrimp, then take a look at my pregnancy guide to eating shrimp.

If you prefer your Caesar salad with salmon, then you might find this ‘everything you need to know about eating salmon when you’re pregnant‘ article useful, too.

Then it’s time to look at the many questions surrounding Caesar salad dressing…

Is Caesar Salad Dressing Safe for Pregnant Women?

Whether Caesar salad dressing is pregnancy-safe or not depends on if it contains raw egg.

The other ingredients (oil, parmesan, anchovies and so on) in caesar salad dressing are usually fine for pregnant women to eat.

It’s the salmonella risk from raw eggs that you have to look out for. So how do you tell?

Is Caesar Salad Dressing Made With Raw Eggs?

Freshly made, traditional Caesar dressing often contains raw egg. Fresh Caesar dressing made in this way should be avoided by pregnant women, due to the risk of salmonella.

Here’s what’s meant by “freshly made”:

  • Homemade Caesar dressings usually follow the normal, raw-egg route and should be avoided (don’t worry though, you’ll find a pregnancy-safe Caesar dressing recipe later in this article)
  • If you’re in the UK and using Lion Mark eggs, you CAN use them raw and have traditional, freshly made dressing when you’re pregnant. This applies to the UK, and Lion mark eggs only. For more on this, see my guide to eggs in pregnancy.
  • Restaurants that make their own dressing are also likely to stick to the traditional recipe and make their caesar salad dressing with raw or semi-cooked egg. Always ask first when eating out.

Not all Caesar dressings HAVE to be made with raw egg, it’s just that the traditional recipe calls for it.

Bottled, commercially-made Caesar dressing that is shelf-stable (i.e. not in the fridge when you buy it) is usually safe for pregnant women to eat as the eggs will have been pasteurized. I’ve specified brands below.

Is Store Bought Caesar Salad Dressing Pasteurized?

Store-bought, bottled Caesar salad dressing is usually safe for pregnant women. This is because it either doesn’t contain any egg at all, or the eggs in the recipe will have been pasteurized.

This isn’t often stated on the label. However, if the Caesar dressing is shelf-stable (i.e. you buy it off the shelf and NOT from a fridge), then it will be sterilized or pasteurized, and usually safe for you to have in pregnancy.

Be aware that some stores do sell ‘fresh’ dressing that may contain raw egg. This dressing will always be found in the fridge, as it has to be kept under cold refrigeration. Always check the label on fresh, refrigerated dressings and avoid those with raw, unpasteurized egg.

To help you out when you’re shopping, I’ve listed many popular dressings below, and whether they are safe in pregnancy.

chicken caesar salad

Which Brands of Caesar Salad Dressing Are Pregnancy-Safe?

Here, I’ve listed many popular brands of Caesar salad dressing and whether or not they’re pregnancy safe, so you don’t have to spend endless time reading labels or worrying the next time you shop!

  • Panera Bread – I reached out to Panera Bread and they confirmed that Panera Bread Caesar Salad dressing is safe for pregnant women as the eggs are pasteurized, salted and frozen before being used in their in-store dressing. The “At Home” bottled dressing is also safe.
  • Cardini – does contain egg, but it’s pasteurized so is safe in pregnancy.
  • Ken’s – contains egg yolk, but is pasteurized and is pregnancy-safe.
  • Trader Joe’s – Doesn’t contain any egg, so is OK for pregnant women.
  • Costco (also called Kirkland) – contains eggs, but they’re pasteurized so therefore safe.
  • Outback Steakhouse – I contacted Outback and they confirmed that their Caesar dressing doesn’t contain raw or unpasteurized egg, so it’s safe in pregnancy.
  • Texas Roadhouse – I reached out to Texas Roadhouse about their Caesar Salad Dressing and am waiting for them to get back to me.
  • Newman’s Own – Newman’s own Caesar dressing is safe for pregnant women (it doesn’t contain any eggs at all).
  • Marzetti – Marzetti has two types of Caesar, a fresh refrigerated version and a shelf-stable, bottled dressing. I contacted them and they said “We do not use raw milk or eggs in our products. The milk and eggs used are always pasteurized before mixing with the rest of the ingredients; however, the final product is not pasteurized.”

    This means Marzetti dressings are safe for pregnant women, but keep it in the fridge and use it within the specified date on the pack.
  • Sweetgreen – the Caesar dressing at Sweetgreen is made with mayo, rather than egg on its own. I reached out to Sweetgreen and they confirmed that their mayo is made with pasteurized, free-range eggs, so their mayo (and Caesar dressing) is pregnancy-safe (source: Sweetgreen).
  • Kraft – Kraft’s bottled Caesar dressing does contain egg, but it’s pasteurized so is fine to eat in pregnancy.
  • Renee’s – The Renee’s brand is actually part of Kraft (covered above). They have confirmed that Renee’s caesar dressing contains only pasteurized eggs and cheese, so is fine for pregnant women.

Does Caesar Salad Dressing Have Anchovies in it?

Originally, the anchovy ‘flavor’ in Caesar dressing was only from Worcestershire sauce, which is made from anchovies.

However, these days, you’re far more likely to find actual anchovies in Caesar dressing – it’s pretty common. The type of anchovies usually found in Caesar dressing are safe for pregnant women to eat.

If there’s another reason you can’t eat anchovies, such as an allergy, then check individually as it varies a lot from recipe to recipe.

caesar salad with dressing

A Pregnancy-Safe Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe

If you’re a keen home cook and you want to be able to enjoy Caesar salad (and a proper dressing) made at home when you’re pregnant, you can!

This is my go-to pregnancy-friendly caesar salad dressing recipe that I swear by, since it tastes just as good as the versions with egg in them.

The key is to switch the egg for commercial mayo containing pasteurized egg, so you still get the creaminess and texture, without the salmonella risk. There’s a list of recommended pregnancy-safe mayo brands in this article.

This recipe makes around 1 cup of dressing and takes ten minutes or so.

Ingredients:

2 minced garlic cloves (3 if you like it garlicky)
2 whole anchovy fillets from a tin, minced finely, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 cup good quality commercially-made mayo (e.g. Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar (use more lemon if you don’t have it)
1 teaspoon good quality dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Whisk the whole lot until it’s well combined. It should be the texture of creamy yogurt. If it’s too thick, add a couple of drops of water to loosen it.

Season it generously – it usually needs a hefty grind of black pepper, depending on how you like it. Enjoy!

Help! I Ate A Caesar Salad When Pregnant, Now I’m Worried

I understand that you might just realize you’ve eaten a Caesar salad, plus dressing, and now you’re worried or paranoid that you might have done something ‘wrong’.

Please don’t worry, or panic – the odds are vastly in your favor that the dressing you ate used pasteurized eggs. Check it against the list above to see if the brand or restaurant is named.

If you had homemade or restaurant caesar dressing made in-house, then it could be that it had raw egg in it. However, the chances of contracting salmonella are still very small.

The best thing you can do is remain calm and take proactive action: monitor yourself for any symptoms out of the ordinary, for example, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or a high temperature (source: MedicineNet).

These usually manifest within 72 hours, so if it’s been longer than that, you’re probably going to be fine. If you do feel unwell, contact a medical professional straight away, just to be on the safe side. Salmonella can be dealt with and recovered from swiftly and carefully, even when you’re pregnant.

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Gina Waggott, Medically Reviewed by Janet Gordon RD, MBDA

Gina is the owner and founder of Pregnancy Food Checker. She holds a Certification on Nutrition and Lifestyle during Pregnancy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a Diploma in Human Nutrition. Articles are medically reviewed by Janet Gordon RD, MBDA, a Registered Dietitian specializing in maternal health, including diabetes and obesity in pregnancy.

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