Caesar salad has always been one of my go-to dishes when I’m entertaining. I pull out all the stops and make from-scratch dressing, homemade croutons, and crispy baked garlic-pepper chickpeas. Prior to going vegan, my tried-and-true Caesar recipe was mayo-based (sometimes I would cut it with nonfat Greek yogurt if I was on one of my health kicks). These days, cashew cream is my base of choice for most creamy dressings and sauces.
There are a fair number of ways to veganize Caesar dressing, and I’ve tried most of them. Run a quick Google search and you’ll come upon variations using everything from vegan mayo to hummus, hempseeds, and silken tofu. Although I do love me some vegan mayonnaise, I like the idea of using whole foods when possible, especially when the result is just as good (if not better) than the more processed alternative.
As is my philosophy with most of the recipes I share here, please view this as a template and customize as you see fit. I’ve outlined a few tweaks and substitutions you can make to craft your perfect Caesar experience:
Can’t eat cashews?
You can use blanched slivered almonds (the kind without the skins), soaked overnight and blended until smooth. The dressing will be a little less creamy, but it’ll still taste great.
If you can’t have nuts, you can try this with soaked hulled hemp seeds or raw sunflower seeds, although the flavor will be less neutral.
You can also use pureéd silken tofu, but you’ll need to adjust the proportions of other ingredients to balance out the flavors. Stay tuned and I will post another set of Caesar dressing recipes for those who can’t (or prefer not to) consume nuts.
For that umami
Traditional Caesar dressing calls for anchovy paste and parmesan. To achieve that savory, slightly “funky” depth of flavor in this recipe, I use a combination of capers and white miso paste. If you’re short either of those ingredients, I’ve also used a scant tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce or a heaping tablespoon of nutritional yeast with good results. You’ll just need to adjust the salt accordingly.
Garlic is also a key player in Caesar dressing. You can use one or two raw cloves (noting that if you have leftovers, the garlic flavor will intensify overnight). If you enjoy the flavor of garlic but the fresh stuff is a little too potent for you, sub in a teaspoon or so of garlic powder.
If you’re feeling really fancy, roast a head of garlic and use that instead. If you’ve never tried roasted garlic, you’re missing out. About 45 minutes in the oven makes the flavor more complex and a little sweet, and tempers the bite of the raw stuff. I’d be lying if I said I’d never used a full head of roasted garlic in a batch of Caesar dressing.
To add brightness
Mustard and lemon juice brighten up the flavor of this dressing. If you’re a lemon connoisseur, you can even add a teaspoon or so of the zest. For a slightly unconventional Caesar, try adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to add more tartness and a bit of sweetness to round everything out.
Creamy Vegan Cashew Caesar
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight or boiled for 10 minutes
- 1 tablespoon Dijon or spicy brown mustard
- 1 heaping tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- juice of 1 lemon about 2 tablespoons
- 1-2 cloves raw garlic
- 1/2 - 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt optional – taste it first
- black pepper to preference
- In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients and purée until smooth. If you prefer a thinner dressing, you can add in an extra tablespoon or so of water. You can leave it on the thicker side if you'll be using it as a dip. (This dressing will also thicken slightly when stored in the fridge.)
- Miso paste is already quite salty, so taste your dressing and add extra salt if you like. I usually add an extra pinch or so. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.