Gretchen’s table: Taking chicken crust Caesar salad pizza from social media trend to table reality

Canned chicken mixed with egg and grated Parmesan serves as the base for this Caesar Salad Pizza that's gone viral on TikTok. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

I’m often slow to pick up on viral trends, as my twin daughters like to remind me. So for better or worse, I’m woefully late on the chicken Caesar pizza recipe that’s been making the rounds on TikTok and Instagram. But like much of America, I wanted to make it as soon as I saw a picture of the dish, despite the fact it would mean buying something I’ve always avoided in the grocery store: canned chicken.

My distaste for the product is both textural (it’s so mushy!) and the fact that canned chicken tastes suspiciously like something else I can’t stand unless it’s smothered with mayonnaise, pickle and onion — canned tuna.


I’ve loved Caesar salad ever since I first had it way back in the mid 1980s, when I was working as a paralegal on an oil deal in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The fancy restaurant inside the fancy hotel the law firm put us up in made the crisp Romaine salad table-side, and for a girl who grew up on iceberg lettuce and bottled Italian dressing, it was nothing short of amazing. I felt so sophisticated!

I’ve made Caesar salad many times over the years since, with both a classic dressing and lazier versions that substitute mayonnaise for raw egg yolk and olive oil. So when one of my daughters sent me the TikTok, I figured, “Why not?” but with a caveat. I’d make it first with canned chicken and then a second time with fresh to see if there was any discernible difference.

Both pies turned out great, but in my opinion the “real” chicken crust had a definite edge. Sure, it took a little longer to prepare since I had to cook the breasts before chopping them up in a food processor (I poached them in salted water.) But it resulted in a crispier crust and also had a lot more chicken flavor. Fresh chicken also was a little cheaper than canned meat.

If you can’t bear the thought of using tinned anchovy fillets in the dressing, which are what give a Caesar salad its unique, umami flavor, substitute 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or Worcestershire sauce. I pulsed both the canned and the fresh chicken a few times in a food processor for a smoother crust.

Caesar Salad Pizza

PG tested

For crust

20 ounces canned chicken, drained, or 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast

1 egg, beaten (2 eggs if using fresh chicken)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Generous pinch (or two) of red pepper flakes

Generous pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For salad

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice 1/2 lemon, or more to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or to taste

1 or 2 canned anchovy fillets

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

I small head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces (about 10 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make crust: Place chicken in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times until it is finely chopped. Add beaten egg (2 eggs, if you are using fresh cooked chicken), Parmesan, minced garlic and red pepper. Stir well to combine then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place chicken mixture on baking sheet topped with a parchment paper. Using your fingers, shape mixture into a circle or rectangle that’s about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Smooth with an offset spatula.

Bake in the preheated oven until starting to brown on the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.

While crust is cooking, prepare dressing and salad.

In small bowl or jar, whisk together dressing ingredients until well blended. (The anchovies will dissolve.) Taste, and add additional lemon, mustard or salt and pepper if it is not tangy enough.

Place torn lettuce into a large bowl and sprinkle generously with the shaved Parmesan. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently until lettuce is evenly coated, but not drenched.

When pizza crust is finished cooking, place salad on top crust, and add additional shaved Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

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