You don't have to miss out on the beautiful simplicity of the Caesar salad — which traditionally includes anchovies, Worcestershire sauce (more anchovies), and a raw egg — just because you follow a plant-based diet. A few clever substitutions recreate the rich flavors of this classic salad and dressing, so you can enjoy your own Vegan Caesar Salad at home.
Hello, Salad Season, sit down and get comfy! I’m one of those weirdos who loves salads, and fresh summer produce and crispy, sweet greens with a tangy dressing just make me so happy. So, prepare yourself to see a lot of salads cross this space!
Let’s dig right in to one of my favorite veganized creations: the Vegan Caesar Salad. While I’m a shameless fan of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad, the minimalist nature of the Caesar salad appeals to me nonetheless. It’s a salad that’s perfect for spring and early summer, when greens are at their best!
First, the Vegan Caesar Dressing
When you have a salad as simple as this, the dressing becomes the star of the show. And this vegan Caesar dressing does not disappoint! Instead of salty anchovies, we mimic the flavors of the sea with briny capers, which always add punch to any recipe.
This salad dressing is another example of why I love cashew-based sauces so much: it’s impossibly smooth and creamy and provides the light and savory foundation for a luscious assembly of seasonings. If you’re allergic to tree nuts, you could try this recipe with sunflower seeds or white beans. (I think cooked cauliflower rice would be great, but I don’t have measurements to suggest – you probably need less water than the cashew recipe calls for.)
I recently purchased a Vitamix blender and, whooaaaa, can I just say: Caesar dressing in the Vitamix is ssmmoooothhh. I still love my NutriBullet, but there’s just no comparison in power. Both, however, will create a lovely, creamy dressing for this recipe, but the Vitamix version will be super smooth, too. Also, if you’re not using a mega blender, like the Vitamix or a Blendtec, make sure you soak the cashews for a couple of hours first. This will soften them and make it easier for a less powerful blender to produce a smooth, non-gritty texture.
One of the reasons I love Vegan Caesar Salad is that it helps me get out of my lunch ruts, where it’s really easy for me to live for months on end. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy in those ruts! But, in the summer, I can (and usually do) eat a spinach salad for lunch every. single. day. My dad ate Rice Krispies cereal for breakfast every day for 40 years, so I come by this quirk legitimately. I might have cucumber slices with guacamole, or a bowl of minestrone soup on the side, but, if it’s noon, you have a better-than-average chance of guessing correctly that I’m eating a spinach salad, lol.
So, this salad makes it effortless for me to switch up my greens (we should always vary what we eat so that we’re consuming a wide selection of nutrients). Lacinato kale is my favorite variety of kale, both to grow and eat, and I think it’s slightly sweeter and more approachable for people who are reluctant greens eaters. Lacinato kale grows in long, slender leaves, so you’ll find them in a bunch at the grocery store, rather than in a head. Together, lacinato kale and romaine lettuce create a refreshingly crunchy, greens-friendly base for your vegan caesar salad.
Tips for how to make a delicious, healthy Vegan Caesar Salad
This is one of those busy-family salads where, if you have the dressing made ahead of time, you can toss things together in just a few minutes for dinner or a quick summer lunch.
1. First, chop your greens into bite-sized pieces. As a salad aficionado/nerd, I’m super finicky about how the greens are prepared in a salad (learn more about how to make a great salad). It makes me a little rage-y when a restaurant puts a plate of elephant-ear greens in front of me that require a knife to conquer it. (Or big rings of red onions, or long strips of bell peppers, or whole cherry tomatoes that defy a fork-stabbing and roll around the plate.) Salad should not be an attention hog — you shouldn’t have to laser focus on getting your salad into edible shape. So, chop your greens, and season them well with plenty of lemon juice and a bit of flavorful salt, like pink Himalayan or gray salt. Seasoned greens makes a big difference, especially for salad avoiders, who will be surprised how flavorful salads can be when prepared with care.
2. Parmesan cheese is a big part of a Caesar salad’s personality, so using an equally flavorful vegan substitute will make the salad familiar and delish. This is one of two places where cashews come into play in this recipe. Combined with nutty, cheezy nutritional yeast, plus a few additional spices, vegan Parm seasoning adds a real depth of savory-salty goodness. Many stores sell jarred vegan Parm, but it’s super easy to make your own homemade vegan Parm seasoning.
3. Add a generous amount of homemade Vegan Caesar Dressing. In traditional Caesar salads, anchovies and egg yolks add that super rich umami that they’re famous for. Here, a creamy cashew dressing steps in to create a full bodied textured, while capers add a briny pop. Then, the usual suspects of Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce (vegan, of course), and other spices round out the familiar flavors. My recipe here makes more than you’ll use for the salad, so stash the rest in the fridge and enjoy the leftovers for about a week.
4. Top the salad with a generous sprinkling of the vegan Parm seasoning and a big handful of roasted chickpeas. The chickpeas here replace the classic bread croutons, and do a bang-up job, I must say. I find croutons sometimes strange in a salad: they’re best, I think, when they’re allowed to soak up the salad’s dressing, as in a really good Panzanella. Otherwise, they’re dry and sharp, and sort of out of place. But roasted chickpeas are crunchy and tender, and provide an enjoyable bite — the perfect complement to this crunchy salad.
I love this salad — so simple, with spot on textures and flavors — and I hope you and your family will love it, too!
You don't have to miss out on the beautiful simplicity of the Caesar salad just because you follow a plant-based diet. A few clever substitutions recreate the rich flavors of this classic salad and dressing, so you can enjoy your own Vegan Caesar Salad at home.
- 1/2 heaping cup raw cashew pieces*
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons capers rinsed
- 1 small clove garlic peeled and smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 head Romaine lettuce
- 1 bunch Lacinato kale
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- kosher salt
- 1 recipe Vegan Parm Seasoning
- 1 cup roasted chickpeas (premade or homemade)
Add all of the dressing ingredients to the jar of a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside, or refrigerate if making ahead.
Wash and chop the Romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large mixing bowl.
Remove the central stems of the lacinato leaves and chop. If leaves are large (i.e., mature), you can give them a quick massage with a tiny bit of oil. This will make the leaves satiny and beautifully green (and easier to digest). Add to the bowl.
Sprinkle the lemon juice, zest, and a couple of big pinches of salt over the salad greens and toss. Spoon the vegan Parm over the salad a tablespoon at a time and mix. The particles should be visible on the leaves - two or three tablespoons' worth.
Fold the dressing into the salad, a spoonful at a time. The leaves should be thinly coated. Finally, top with the crunchy roasted chickpeas and serve.
*If you don't have a high speed blender, soak the cashews for at least 2 hours and drain before blending.