Vegan Caesar Salad

vegan caesar saladCaesar salad is one of those ubiquitous menu items. It ranges anywhere from a pre-packaged container of stale croutons and wilted lettuce at the airport to the real good stuff that’s tossed tableside, to order, at the best Italian restaurants. As a result, the legitimacy of any given Caesar is sometimes questioned, let alone a vegan Caesar.

I’m always hesitant to put together a recipe that seeks to omit an inherent ingredient in a classic dish. Look at any Caesar recipe. It may be eggless. There may or may not be anchovies. Some include mustard. But there is almost always going to be parmesan cheese. That’s what makes it so good.

I’m sorry to inform anyone that I haven’t found the magical vegan substitute for parmesan. For many vegans, a popular alternative is nutritional yeast, which I used in this recipe. It’s nutty — and, by definition, nutritious — but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re looking for an exact match. That said, I invite you to suspend your notion of what a “Caesar” salad should or should not taste like — or include. This is just a good, creamy, salty, nutty, tangy dressing with the spirit of a classic Caesar and without the eggs or anchovies. Or the parmesan cheese.

In lieu of croutons, I sometimes use chickpeas for a bit of texture and a touch of protein. I also like to use my focaccia recipe for croutons. I toss cubed focaccia in a little bit of olive oil and baking them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Use 1 head of chopped, crisp romaine lettuce for this salad. This will serve about 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as an entree salad. The dressing recipe makes plenty of dressing, so store any remaining dressing in a glass jar in refrigerator. It will definitely keep for a few days, if not longer (it’s never lasted long enough in my fridge for me to find out). 

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

1 clove raw garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 scallion, white part only

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Blend all ingredients  for dressing in a blender until smooth. Toss romaine with just enough dressing to coat lettuce. Serve right away.

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