The Very Best Vegan Kale Caesar Salad
I’m going super earthy on you guys.
And by earthy, I mean that I’m taking a classic salad recipe and completely health-ifying it with some unusual plant powered ingredients that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a Caesar salad. This is a nice way of saying – don’t look at the ingredient list and be weirded out – because they’re used to create a delicious Caesar that will completely transform your kale (and rock your Caesar world).
Let’s break it down:
Instead of the usual oil soaked and fat bomb croutons, we’re using chickpeas to provide the essential hint of garlic and crunchy texture that everyone needs in a caesar. While they roast away in the oven, the chickpeas crisp up to perfection and develop the most delicious savory flavors. Plus, chickpeas are packed with digestive friendly soluble fiber and protein – both of which help to stabilize blood sugar levels in your body.
Cashews provide the creamy texture and slightly nutty taste to our salad. When you soak and later blend cashews they immediately turn into a creamy consistency that can be used to substitute cheese and dairy products in so many recipes. They’re also filled with heart healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. Basically, cashews are this recipe’s secret little weapon.
Hemp seed hearts are another protein packed seed. In fact, they have all 20 amino acids required to form a protein in the bod – therefore making them a supreme source of plant powered protein. They’re also filled with beneficial fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals too. Hemp seeds provide our dressing with a subtly nutty taste that really plays nicely with the cashews and kale.
Nutritional yeast may be the oddest ingredient of the bunch – but trust me, it’s a winner when it comes to flavor and health benefits. Vegans the world over use nutritional yeast as a cheese replacement in many recipes and dishes – seriously. When I first learned about nutritional yeast, I assumed those veg-heads were nuts. How could yeast mimic the taste and flavor of cheese in even the slightest way? But alas, after trying it for myself, I’m hooked on the stuff! Basically, nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that’s filled with vitamins and minerals, including B-12, an important vitamin that many veggie eaters are lacking in. Sprinkling nutritional yeast on top provides our caesar with the essential cheesy flavor and really makes all the other plant ingredients pop!
The King of Greens, kale, is used in place of the typical lettuce found in Caesar salad and adds tons of iron, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your plate too. When the kale gets massaged with the delicious dressing, its bitter taste vanishes and your left with silky smooth leaves coated with goodness.
Kale + Vegan Caesar + crunchy chickpeas = my favorite vegan kale Caesar salad ever. I hope you enjoy it too!
The Very Best Vegan Kale Caesar Salad
1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed and chopped (I used lacinato kale)
1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 5 hours – or overnight (drained & rinsed)
¼ cup filtered water
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons hemp seed hearts
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground sea salt & pepper
2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast – to garnish
Garlic Chickpea Croutons:
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas – rinsed thoroughly if from a can
½ tsp olive oil
Pinch each of garlic powder, paprika, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and cayenne
Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine chickpeas, olive oil, and spices in a baking tray and shake evenly to coat. Roast chickpeas for 30-35 minutes, or until chickpeas become lightly browned and crisped. Make sure to shake the chickpeas every 15 minutes or so, so they don’t burn!
While the chickpeas are roasting, make the Caesar dressing. In the base of a blender or food processor add in soaked cashews, lemon juice, hemp seeds, garlic, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Add in the water tablespoon by tablespoon to achieve desired consistency. Spoon dressing into a jar and place in the refrigerator while you prep the kale.
Wash and chop your kale, removing thick stem pieces. Place kale in a bowl and drizzle with Caesar dressing (not all of it – you’ll have extra!) Using your hands, massage dressing into kale for 1-2 minutes, or until kale leaves begin to feel smooth and silky. Toss in roasted chickpeas and top with nutritional yeast. Serve & Enjoy!
If you have extra chickpeas for the next day, you’ll have to re-crisp them up. Throw them back into a 400° F oven and roast for 5-7 minutes more – making sure to watch so they don’t burn!
P.S. because I’m an oddball, I enjoy putting other toppings on my Caesar salad. Olives, capers, and avocado all work wonderfully!
*The dressing can serve 4-6 easily. Double the amount of kale if you’re feeding a crowd, but no need to double the dressing.