Salads often get a bad rap as “rabbit food” or a diet-friendly substitute for “real food.” I’m here to challenge that misconception by sharing one of my favorite salads of all time! This High-Protein Vegan Caesar Salad is hearty, flavorful, and well-balanced.
The combination of tender massaged kale, creamy tahini Caesar dressing, and crispy roasted chickpeas, this salad is also the perfect satisfying blend of textures.
Ingredients for the Vegan Caesar Salad
- Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. A whole-foods, plant-based substitution for croutons, these Crispy Chickpeas add the most satisfying crunch to our Caesar Salad. They also pack some healthy carbs, extra protein, and fiber. I make these from scratch (it’s easy to do in the oven or air-fryer), but you can also purchase them at the store to save on time.
- Tempeh Bacon. Tempeh is an amazing plant-based source of protein and fiber, and tempeh bacon specifically adds a smokey, savory flavor that takes this salad to the next level. I like to add a full batch of my easy Stovetop Tempeh Bacon to this salad, but you can also purchase it pre-made — Lightlife makes a good one! Feel free to substitute in another store-bought vegan bacon option to save on time.
- Massaged Kale. Feel free to use any salad greens you like — go for romaine if you want something more classic and crisp. I love to use massaged kale as the base for my Casesar salad because it’s very hearty and extra nutritious. Did you know greens actually contain quite a high ratio of protein to overall calories? Massaging the kale helps to tenderize it and remove some of its natural bitterness.
- Hemp Seeds & Nutritional Yeast. An optional topping that serves a similar purpose to grated parmesan! Hemp seeds contains lots of healthy fats (including omegas) and protein. Nutritional yeast is also a great source of protein as well as B vitamins — plus it adds a savory, cheesy flavor that makes this Caesar Salad even more irresistible.
Ingredients for the Tahini Caesar Dressing
- Tahini. I love using a good quality, runny tahini as the base for creamy salad dressings. It contributes the most luscious texture and is packed with healthy fats. It makes a great whole foods, plant-based alternative to mayonnaise.
- Lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Must-have ingredients in any classic Caesar dressing, lemon and mustard add brightness and acidity.
- Garlic. Minced finely or grated with a microplane. A little goes a long way. For something extra special, try subbing in a few cloves of roasted garlic paste.
- Miso paste. Traditional Caesar dressing calls for parmesan cheese. A little bit of miso lends that salty, super-umami backbone to the recipe. In a pinch, sub in a little splash of soy sauce, or some vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce.
- Capers and caper brine. A plant-based substitute for the anchovies that are usually in Caesar dressing. Capers add a slightly oceanic flavor to the salad.
- Black pepper.
- Water. Tahini can absorb quite a bit of water, so you’ll whisk in enough to thin the dressing out to a creamy and pourable consistency.
How to Make This Vegan Caesar Salad
To start, you’ll need to prepare the tempeh bacon and crispy roasted chickpeas according to the recipes provided. These two components are what really make this salad high-protein and satisfying.
Next, it’s time to prepare the tahini Caesar dressing. Combine the tahini, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, miso paste, chopped capers, caper brine, black pepper, and water in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Adjust the consistency with more or less water, as needed.
Now, it’s time to massage the kale. This is a key step, since massaging the kale with a little olive oil and salt helps to soften the tough leaves and make them more tender and flavorful. Simply remove the thick stems from a bunch of kale and either chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then use your hands to massage the leaves for a few minutes until they become slightly wilted and shiny.
Finally, it’s time to assemble the salad. Place the massaged kale in a large bowl and top with the tempeh bacon, crispy roasted chickpeas, hemp seeds, and nutritional yeast, if using. Drizzle with the tahini Caesar dressing and toss to coat.
This salad is not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious. It’s a great way to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet, whether you’re vegan or just looking for a healthier alternative to traditional Caesar salad.
This High Protein Vegan Caesar Salad contains 4 generous servings, and the macronutrient breakdown for each serving is: 420 calories, 24 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates (about 8 of which are fiber), and just under 23 grams of plant-based protein!
In addition to being high in protein, this salad is also packed with other important nutrients. Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet, and it’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Chickpeas are also a great source of protein and fiber, and they’re rich in folate, iron, and other important minerals. A serving of this salad nets you about 24% of your daily recommended value of Calcium and 26% of Iron.
So next time you’re in the mood for a healthy and satisfying salad, give this Vegan Caesar Salad a try. You won’t be disappointed!
High-Protein Vegan Caesar Salad
High Protein Caesar Salad
Tahini Caesar Dressing
- 1/4 cup runny tahini
- juice of 1 small lemon about 1-2 tablespoons
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 small clove garlic minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon white miso paste can sub soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chopped capers
- 2 teaspoons caper brine
- black pepper to preference
- 2-3 tablespoons water to adjust consistency
- 1 bunch kale washed and dried, thick stems removed
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Make the Crispy Chickpeas and Tempeh Bacon
- Ahead of time, follow the recipes for 1 batch of Crispy Roasted Chickpeas.
- Follow the recipe for 1 batch of Stovetop Tempeh Bacon. Prepare the recipe using chopped tempeh.
Massage the Kale
- Chop or tear the kale into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large mixing bowl with olive oil.
- Massage kale with clean hands for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
Make the Tahini Caesar Dressing
- Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. Add water as needed to achieve a pourable consistency. Taste and add extra salt and pepper to preference.
Assemble the Salad
- Add the tempeh bacon to the bowl with the massaged kale. Optionally, add in tomatoes and avocado. Pour in the Tahini Caesar Dressing and toss to coat.
- Top with Crispy Roasted Chickpeas when ready to serve. Optionally, top with a sprinkle of hemp seeds and nutritional yeast.