Caesar salad always used to be one of my favorite foods. I say “used to be” because the egg & dairy & anchovy dressing doesn’t quite fit into the plant-based diet I’ve been eating for the last 5+ years. And while there are no shortage of vegan Caesar dressing recipes online, most taste like oily garlic water, or they have a million unhealthy ingredients (and still taste like oily garlic water).
Lately, I’ve been working to recreate the most authentic whole-food, plant-based Caesar dressing and this, dear readers, is it. To develop the right flavors, we’re relying upon some vegan magic in the form of cashews and olives… By now, you should know that I use cashews religiously for cream sauces and this is no different: blended cashews will give this dressing the right creaminess and mouthfeel. The anchovies, however, were the hard part – how do you make vegan anchovies? After a little research, I stumbled upon Kalamata olives which add a perfect meaty, briny substitute for the fishes and they totally kick this dressing to a whole new level. With those substitutions out of the way, we can add in the lemon, garlic, and dijon mustard as normal.
The result: my all-time favorite salad dressing. Toss with some crisp romaine leaves and homemade healthy croutons (below) for a truly incredible salad.
Makes: Enough dressing for a few big salads
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 5 Kalamata olives
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Romaine Lettuce
- 3 slices whole-grain bread
The Caesar Dressing
Soak the cashews for at least 4 hours. The longer you soak them, the easier they will blend into the final dressing. When ready to make, drain the soaking liquid and then…
In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except lettuce and bread (cashews, non-dairy milk, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, olives, and a dash of salt & pepper) and let it run for several minutes. Seriously, several minutes. You want the cashews to turn into a creamy sauce with no chunks remaining.
At this point, the sauce will likely be very thick. Slowly add several tablespoons of water at a time and continue blending until it has the perfect salad dressing consistency. Now, give the mixture a taste and feel free to adjust any ingredients. More salt, lemon, or garlic? Another olive? Throw in whatever it needs and blend until the dressing is perfect.
Cover and refrigerate. In a pinch, you can use the sauce as is, but cashew sauces tend to get much better after chilling for several hours. It can be saved (sealed) for several days in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, chop the romaine lettuce and add it to a large bowl with as much dressing as you’d like. Then, use the best kitchen tools you have (clean hands) to toss and evenly coat the lettuce. Garnish with homemade whole wheat croutons (below).
The Homemade Croutons
What’s a Caesar salad without garlicy croutons, right? But rather than the unhealthy & stale chunks of rock you can buy in stores, let’s make our own healthy, rustic, delicious croutons with just a few slices of whole grain bread and a few minutes of time:
- Toast 3 slices of whole grain bread (Ezekiel brand is my favorite) until crispy on the outside.
- Cut a whole garlic clove in half and scrape it across the crisp surface of each slice of bread (both sides) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cut the bread into small squares and add them to a skillet over medium-low heat to for about 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally. This will further crispify the bread so they’re more like crotons instead of toast.
- Finally, allow the croutons to cool at room temperature to fully harden before tossing into the salad