Is it possible to make a vegan Caesar salad? You bet. Here’s how.

Jan 24, 2018
Photo by Ashley McLaughlin
Cashews, capers and nutritional yeast work together to give this vegan Caesar authentic flavor notes. They replace the traditional egg yolk, anchovy and Parmesan cheese.  

Is it possible to make a good Caesar salad without that dreamy, lemony emulsion of egg yolk, Parmesan and anchovies? Is it even a Caesar without the traditional dressing?

More importantly, can a Caesar salad be – gasp – vegan? 

Here’s a recipe that makes a good case for a Caesar that’s egg-free, Parm-free and anchovy-free. The creamy texture and umami notes are left to two darling ingredients of the vegan pantry: cashews and nutritional yeast. 

The reinvented dish comes via Gena Hamshaw’s cookbook “Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals,” released this week by Ten Speed Press ($24.99). A New York-based nutritionist, Hamshaw writes The Full Helping blog. 

And because some of us want a “full helping” out of a Caesar, and not just a side salad, Hamshaw added a meaty element to the dish – tamari-scented cubes of baked tempeh.

What does tamari have to do with Tijuana, birthplace of the Caesar? Granted, Hamshaw takes artistic license in this salad. But the spirit of the Caesar rests in her reimagined dressing, which exalts the power of the cashew. The flavor notes are all well represented. Even the traditional dressing’s most briny, salty element, the anchovies, have been replaced with capers. Genius. 

Enjoy!  

RECIPE 

The following recipe and author’s note is reprinted from Gena Hamshaw’s newly released cookbook “Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals” with the permission of its publisher, Ten Speed Press.  

Protein-Packed Caesar 

“Everything about this Caesar salad, from the tangy sun-dried tomatoes to the egg-free dressing to the baked tempeh, is nontraditional. Yet somehow the spirit of classic Caesar salad shines through in all of its tart, creamy, salty glory, proving that recipes don’t have to be faithful to be evocative.” – Gena Hamshaw 

Makes 4 servings of salad and 1 1/2 cups of dressing.  

For the tempeh: 

8 ounces tempeh, cut into 3/4-inch cubes 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 

2 tablespoons tamari 

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 

2 teaspoons agave nectar or maple syrup 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for dusting 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

For croutons: 

4 slices whole grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder 

Coarse salt 

For the dressing: 

3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained 

1/2 cup water 

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 

2 tablespoons capers 

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup nutritional yeast 

For the salad: 

1 small bunch Lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into thin strips 

5 cups firmly packed, chopped romaine lettuce 

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed or dry-packed 

Nontraditional touch: The meaty textures in this salad come from tempeh cubes.   Photo: Photo by Ashley McLaughlin
  1. To prepare the tempeh, put the cubes in a shallow glass bowl or container, preferably one large enough to fit all of the tempeh in a single layer. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, tamari, mustard, agave nectar, pepper and oil and whisk until evenly combined. Pour the mixture over the tempeh and stir gently to evenly coat the tempeh. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. 
  2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the tempeh cubes on one lined baking sheet and dust with a grinding of pepper. 
  3. To prepare the croutons, spread the bread cubes on the other lined baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Toss the bread cubes until evenly coated, then spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle with the garlic powder and season with salt. 
  4. Place both baking sheets in the oven. Bake the bread cubes for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and crispy. Bake the tempeh for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. 
  5. To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a blender (preferably a high-speed blender) and process until smooth. 
  6. To assemble the salad, put the kale, lettuce, and sun-dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss gently until evenly coated. Add the tempeh and croutons, pour in the remaining dressing and toss again. Serve right away.