Plant-Based Caesar Salad

Spring is slowly creeping up, and I’m starting to slowly phase out of hot soups and gumbo, and into some warmer weather favorites. 

I’m in California, so it’s already starting to get pretty warm, and so begins me not wanting to be over a hot stove every night. Caesar Salad is one of my all-time favorite meals– it is deceptively easy, and it’s a great way to have salad for dinner, even for people who don’t usually love salad for a whole meal. It has enough salty and fatty flavors that you kind of forget that you’re eating a ton of fresh lettuce. Or, of course, it’s a wonderful side for any kind of pasta dish.

You can, of course, buy pre-made vegan Caesar dressing from a ton of different brands these days– Daiya, Annie’s, and Follow Your Heart are all fantastic, just to name a few. However, if you’re like me and kind of get a kick out of making everything “from scratch,” it can be easy to make your own dressing.

For this recipe, the ingredients list calls for blended and soaked cashews, or just typical vegan mayonnaise. If you choose vegan mayo, you’ll get a very traditional fatty and full flavor from your final result– it will taste like your own American-style bottled dressing. However, if you want to go for full homemade-style or a more healthy and whole version, blended cashews can be a great base. While the flavor might need a bit more manipulation and have a “healthy” taste, it can be delicious and have a pretty good punch of healthy fats and protein. 

The other little trick that can make this recipe – and most salads – great is taking the time to crisp the lettuce. Even if you already have fresh and crisp lettuce, bathing the lettuce in iced water with lemon juice for a few minutes will give the salad a brightness and crunch that is unbeatable. Or, on the other hand, if your lettuce has started to wilt or brown at all, this will revive it! If your lettuce has been wilting for only a day or two, try submerging it in ice water with lemon juice before you throw it out! This seriously gives a whole new life to lettuce.

This couldn’t be an easier dinner for when you want something delicious, a little fatty & salty, and filling– but you really don’t want to cook. You can easily make an extra batch or two of croutons and dressing, too and then you can have everything ready for a future super-quick meal. 


Caesar Salad

Dressing:

Blended, soaked cashews or vegan mayo (1c)
Fresh, minced garlic (2 oz)
Lemon Juice & zest (from 1 lemon)
Salt, coarse (to taste)
Black Pepper, ground (1 tbl, or to taste)
Vegan Worcestershire (2 tsp)
Capers (~10 ind., or to taste)
Olive Oil (1 tbl)

To make the dressing, simply place all ingredients together into a food processor, blend, and viola! Season to taste– you do not want this dressing to be bland! It should have a sharp bite and full flavor. If the flavor seems too dull, start by adding more lemon juice and garlic incrementally before adding more of the other ingredients. 

Lettuce:

Submerge in ice water w/ lemon juice for ~5 minutes

Chop the lettuce however you like, although a large rough chop is best for Caesar Salad, and then submerge your lettuce into ice-cold water with lemon juice. Allow the lettuce to sit in the water for just a few minutes, no more than ten; This will make your lettuce extremely crisp, which is essential to a great Caesar Salad.

Croutons:

Stale bread, diced – ½ loaf
Olive oil
Salt
“Italian Seasoning” – any combination of dried basil, rosemary, thyme, or oregano.

Preheat your oven to 375. Place all of the diced bread onto a sheet pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, and then sprinkle with olive oil and seasonings. Lightly toss your croutons while on the pan, very lightly so they don’t crumble or break, and then add a splash more oil and seasoning. Bake for about 5 minutes, but keep your eye on them because they will burn quickly!

Parmesan:

Follow Your Heart Parmesan
or
Miyoko’s Parmesan
or
Raw Cashews blended with garlic, coarse salt and lemon zest.

I love Follow Your Heart and Miyoko’s; I can trust that all of their products will be great, and haven’t ever been wrong yet. However, if vegan parmesan isn’t accessible for any reason, a great grated parmesan can be made by blending raw cashews, raw garlic, coarse salt and lemon zest together in a food processor.

The homemade parmesan is delicious, plus healthier and cheaper than store-bought. However, store-bought is faster— whatever you do, you gotta include some kind of parmesan.

Final Step:

Once all ingredients are ready – croutons cooled, dressing chilled and lettuce removed from water – lightly toss all ingredients together!

Once plated, top with extra croutons and black pepper, for a traditional Caesar Salad taste.

Thanks for reading!

~ Chef G.

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