The perfect blend of creaminess, crunch, and flavor in a salad exists with my Vegetarian Caesar Salad. With delicious, crispy croutons and a homemade Caesar dressing that's both tangy and savory, every bite is a delight. Plus, this recipe is not only gluten-free but also easy to make from scratch, ensuring that you get all the benefits of a healthy and satisfying Caesar salad recipe without sacrificing flavor.
Salads really do it all. Countless health benefits, super versatile in flavor and texture, convenient with quick prep and minimal cleanup, and both refreshing and light, leaving you satiated but not overly stuffed.
This homemade caesar salad dressing makes for easy meal prep for lunches or weeknight dinners while still offering you versatility with toppings. I highly recommend pairing it with my Tofu Nuggets (Baked + Crispy), which are also simple to prepare and adds a healthy serving of protein. Another equally as delicious salad is my Healthy Vegan Dill Dressing. It seriously slams, every time!
In this post, I share the following:
- How to get crisp, clean lettuce without a salad spinner.
- How to make this dressing nut-free.
- Two methods to ensure even dressing distribution, preventing overly swamped or, worse, dry bites!
Use this section to jump to areas of interest within the post.
This recipe uses minimal and common ingredients for ease and full flavor. I've added an allergy-friendly alternative to cashews that brings more flavor for those that love a tangy light dressing. This salad also uses vegan parmesan and homemade croutons for extra texture!
For the creamy Caesar dressing:
- Cashews or vegan mayo - I like to leave an allergy-friendly alternative when I create a recipe that includes nuts. For this recipe, vegan mayo substitutes the cashews. It leaves the dressing slightly thinner but really packs a tangy flavor beloved in caesar dressings.
- Capers - the face made when discovering that caesar salad dressing has anchovies blended inside, barf. Well, to each their own. I'll pass and add cute capers instead! They really hold the flavor of this dressing. The briny and saltiness work perfectly here.
- Dijon mustard - adds a tangy creaminess.
- Lemon juice - the bold acidity that lightens up the dressing while offering an evenness to the tangy, salty flavor.
- Garlic, onion granules, salt, black pepper, olive oil - use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and roasted garlic for best results.
Toppings for a classic Caesar salad:
- Beyond romaine lettuce leaves, you'll need vegetarian parmesan (I love Violife, but whatever you have available) and crunchy croutons, which I'll show you how to make homemade using whatever bread you have!
See the recipe card for full instructions with quantities.
As mentioned, the nut-free alternative is plain vegan mayo. Avocado mayo works best, and you don't want to use a brand that adds flavor to its mayo. Chosen brand found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans, etc., is an excellent vegan avocado mayo.
Wash, dry, and chop the lettuce. Place in the fridge to chill for a bit until needed. Check out my FAQ below if you don't have a salad spinner.
Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a blender, scraping down all sides until creamy and smooth. FYI: Cashew-based on the left, and mayo on the right. Next, make the croutons and grate the vegan parmesan cheese.
Place the washed and chopped lettuce in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the salad dressing along the sides of the bowl for an even coating. This prevents clumps from sitting on the lettuce as you mix. See my top tip below!
Add in the croutons and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Give the bowl a shake and stir. Serve immediately!
Hint: This salad dressing can be doubled or tripled for easy meal prep. Store the dressing in a separate container or jar and add to chopped lettuce just before serving.
You'll need a blender to pulverize these ingredients into a creamy salad dressing! You'll need a baking tray, parchment paper, and an oven to make croutons.
Store extra salad dressing in an airtight jar or container for up to 5 days, refrigerated. This dressing should be prepared fresh, but you can freeze it for up to 1 month in a sealed container.
Top tip for adding the dressing:
I've been a salad-eating vegan for a while and often witness restaurants add the dressing by simply drizzling it over top in chaotic swipes as if it means nothing to them. This might lead to a few good flavorful bites, but often, the dressing slides down to the bottom, and too many dry bites make the salad taste awful.
Here are two methods to prevent uneven dressing:
(1) Add just the lettuce to the bowl. Drizzle the dressing around the perimeter of the mixing bowl, not on the leaves. Then toss and mix the salad dressing with your clean hands.
(2) Add the lettuce to a bowl. Drizzle the dressing around the perimeter of the mixing bowl, not on the leaves. Cover with a plate or lid, and give a ten-second shake in all directions, flipping upside down a few times.
*Dressing does not stick to wet lettuce, so ensure your lettuce is fully dry before adding any dressing. Wash and dry the lettuce first, wrap the leaves in a towel, then add it to the fridge for a quick chill before dressing.
How can I wash lettuce without a salad spinner?
While a salad spinner is ideal, we can go MacGyver. Cover at least ¾ of the uncut lettuce with water, then toss with your hands. Lift out the greens, discard the water, and repeat once more. Place the leaves in the middle of a towel, roll it up, hold both ends, and swing ten times overhead to force the water into the towel. Place in the fridge until ready to use; this can be 1-2 days ahead of time if needed.
What are some good protein sources to add to a Vegetarian Caesar Salad?
🥗 Hemp seeds
🥗 Extra-firm tofu, cubed and pan-fried
🥗 Tofu Nuggets (Baked + Crispy)
🥗 Sliced toasted pine nuts
What can I use instead of anchovies in Caesar dressing?
Capers! They have an amazing olive, lemony flavor that translates well. Use the non-pareil that's soaking in water for the best results.
more delicious salads to check out
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Vegetarian Caesar Salad
- ½ cup cashews (Soaked overnight or 30 minutes in hot water covered) See notes for a nut-free alternative.
- 3 tablespoons capers, non-pareil soaked in water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, preferrably roasted
- 1 tablespoon onion granules
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup filtered water
- 2 heads crispy romaine lettuce (Washed, dried, and chopped)
- 1 cup vegan parmesan cheese, grated
- 4-6 slices bread, cubed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt & black pepper, ground
Wash the lettuce:
- Tear the lettuce leaves off by hand, inspecting the leaves. Wash and dry the uncut lettuce leaves (see notes for the best method). Then wrap them in a towel and place in the fridge to chill until ready to use. This eliminates extra moisture and renders the greens crisp and fresh - divine!
Make the croutons:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Cut sliced bread into cubes and place on the baking tray. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until desired crunch level has been achieved. Once done, remove from tray and place in a bowl until ready to use.
Make the dressing:
- Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a blender or food processor, scraping the sides down as you go until the liquid is smooth.
Assemble the salad:
- Choose a salad bowl. You want one that's a little too big for your salad (that gives you room to toss without spillage).
- Add the greens making sure the leaves are completely dry. Cut with either a knife or rip with your hands into bite-sized pieces. Season with a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper over the leaves. Toss with your hands or salad spoons.
- Add the dressing around the perimeter of the bowl, not on the leaves. Then you have two options: (1) toss and mix the salad with your hands or (2) cover the bowl with a plate or lid and shake for ten seconds in all directions, tipping it upside down a couple of times.
- Sprinkle in the vegan parmesan cheese and croutons, and give the salad another quick toss with salad spoons. Taste and sprinkle with another pinch of salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve right away!