Lets just get this out on the table first and foremost: yes, I know. Vegan caesar salad seems redundant, to say the very least.
Needless to say, I did not seek out a recipe for a vegan version of Caesar salad. I would rather eat things that taste good and happen to be vegan – rather than try to force a non-vegan dish to be vegan. However, while poking around for good recipes I stumbled across this Caesar salad recipe on (yet again) 101 Cookbooks. Normally, I would have passed over this recipe – because, lets be honest – vegan Caesar doesn’t necessarily sound all that appetizing. But, in glancing at the recipe the ingredients in the dressing immediately stood out: garlic, almonds, lemon, and capers. I decided that I didn’t care if this salad tasted like Caesar salad or not, I just wanted a dressing made from that combination of ingredients.
I don’t expect many (or any?) of you to make this recipe. I assume that when you want homemade Caesar salad, you’ll make the normal version. But, if raw egg and anchovies freak you out a little (I’ll admit it…they scare me a little too), this recipe is a great (and tasty) alternative to the traditional Caesar. The key ingredient in this recipe is the capers (and the caper brine) as they give the dressing that delicious briny flavor (i.e. the anchovy flavor) you’re looking for in a Caesar salad. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the vegan caesar. And, it tasted surprisingly like real caesar salad (you definitely walk away from this salad with insane garlicky-caesar breath)! I asked Nich if this is a recipe that we should continue to make post-Lent and he gave a hearty YES. So, there you have it, folks. My husband would eat vegan Caesar salad even after Lent is over. I think that means this recipe a winner.
(vegan) caesar salad
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks (who adapted it from Veganomicon)
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds (I used almond meal, as I had some on hand. Almond meal is just finely ground almonds, and for this recipe you’ll be processing almonds in the food processor, so this does the work for you!)
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup silken tofu (or the softest tofu you can find. I used Silken brand ‘soft’ tofu and it worked perfect and cost $1.50)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon capers
4 teaspoons caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (I didn’t have any powdered on hand so I used about 1 Tbl of Dijon Mustard)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Garlic Rosemary Croutons:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
5-6 pieces French or Italian bread, stale and torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Sourdough that had gone stale)
Salt & Pepper
2 Tsp Finely Chopped Rosemary
1 large head romaing lettuce, chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper
Handful or two of spinach and/or arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (*optional, but I think the addition of spinach and arugula makes the salad much more interesting)
For the dressing: Pulse the sliced almonds in a food processor or blender until crumbly (Or use almond meal and skip this step!) Place the ground almonds/almond meal into an airtight container that you’ll be using to store the finished dressing. Blend the garlic, silken tofu, and oil in the food processor or blender until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard, and pulse until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and whisk to combine. Cover and allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1-1.5 hours.
While the dressing is chilling, prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary in a large bowl. Add the torn bread and toss to coat each piece with the oil mixture. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown (be careful not to burn!). Toss the croutons once or twice during the baking process.
To assemble the salad, place in a large bowl 2 to 3 cups of lettuce/greens per individual serving (amount depending on whether it’s a side or an entree). Ladle on 1/3 cup of the dressing (or more or less to taste), and use kitchen tongs to toss the greens and coat them with dressing. Add the warm croutons and toss again. Sprinkle with a little freshly cracked pepper. ** Note: I just eyeballed the proportions of dressing to lettuce. Start by tossing a little dressing over the amount of salad mix you want to use and add more until it is to your liking. Also, I tossed a few extra capers and slivered almonds onto the finished salad for extra texture and flavor – delish!