Christmas Recipe: Mexican Caesar Salad

Everyone else is posting cookie and candy recipes, but for me, Christmas Eve means Mexican food- and has for the better part of the last decade. I make this salad once a year, and I make a bucketload- enough to feed 30-40 people each year on Christmas Eve. If I showed up with anything else, they might toss me out. The recipe is originally from El Torito Restaurant, and trust me when I say it’s the real deal. You can halve the recipe if you need less than a vat. Even feeding 40 people, I’ll only use half. (I dole the rest out to grateful friends)

Welcome to the kitchen of Little House… Now lets make some food!

El Torito’s Mexican Caesar Salad

The cast of characters:

  • 2 medium Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (or one can Hatch diced mild chiles)
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas (green raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 ounces light olive oil or other mild salad oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp grated Cotija cheese (crumbly Mexian cheese, cannot be substituted- becoming widely available)
  • 2 medium bunches of cilantro
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup water

The very first thing you have to do is roast your pepitas. This is a fun little thing, because they puff up and pop when you heat them- and their flavor is terrific. When you start, they will be flat and firm, and add them to a dry pan over medium heat:

Shake them and watch carefully- like all nuts/seeds, they’re likely to burn if you’re not careful. It only takes a couple of minutes- and they’ll start to pop and puff up, and look like this:

Place all of the above ingredients except cilantro, mayonnaise and water in a food processor. Thus:

Give it a whirl, pulsing until it’s well combined and uniform. Then, add the cilantro- yes, all of it- but only handfulls at a time, or you might have a mess. But keep adding and pulsing until it looks like this:

Then, in a large separate bowl, combine and whisk together the mayonnaise and the water until smooth, and then add the contents of the cilantro-ladden food processor:

Combine until it looks like this:

Then bottle in canning jars and refrigerate. It tastes best after its sat in the cold for a day or two, and will keep a week in the fridge. It never lasts that long at my house…

To make the salad, quantities are variable, depending on the crowd:

  • Romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • Extra grated Cotija cheese
  • Roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • Extra roasted pepitas
  • Corn tortillas, julienned and pan-fried in vegetable oil until crisp

Et voila! Assemble to your liking, and enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Christmas Recipe: Mexican Caesar Salad

  1. Thanks so much for posting – this looks fabulous.
    One question- do you roast your own red peppers ?

    Merry Christmas!!

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. We went to CA this past spring for a week, and I must have eaten this salad like 3 times that week at El Torito. I LOVE IT! Thank you SOOOOO much. Merry Christmas, Tracy.

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  4. I just made this tonight and my family and I loved it – even my dad who usually hates cilantro! Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I have loved this El Torito salad for 20 years but don’t have one where I live, so having this recipe is awesome!!

  5. I have to tell you how much I love this recipe! I’ve been making it for the last few years and I never get tired of it! In fact, I put it on all kinds of things besides salad – I put it on top of my baked chicken, mix it into white rice, dunk Triscuits and Wheat Thins in it, etc. Thank you for this great recipe! (Especially now that I live in an area that doesn’t have El Torritos.)

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