Did you know that original non-vegan caesar dressing contains anchovies and raw egg yolks? I did. That’s exactly why I never ate a ‘real’ caesar salad in my life… And I realized this as I was in the middle of my first attempt at making caesar dressing while asking myself, “what does vegan caesar dressing even taste like?” I asked my partner to describe caesar dressing to me and I got “creamy and, uhm, good.” That’s a great starting point if you ask me.
I was never really a big salad person until I got to college. I would turn my nose up at salad and say something snooty like, “Do I look like a rabbit to you?” One time I was staying at my aunt’s house and she told me that I couldn’t leave the table until I ate my salad. So I sat there the whole night. I would not have wanted to be my parent, that’s for sure. Conversely, my sister has personally sampled every form of caesar salad in Southern California, and probably the entire west coast. I dedicate this salad to her- who has flirted with veganism this past year- and I hope she can at least agree that this is caesar-ish enough to pass as a caesar salad.
Caesar -ish Salad
For the dressing (makes about 3 cups)
- 1 16 oz. can of chickpeas, unsalted, not drained or rinsed (just dump the whole can in!)
- juice from 2 large lemons
- 1 nori sheet
- 1/3 cup sunflower oil
- 1 T garlic powder
- 1 t dijon mustard
- 1 & 1/2 t salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 1/3 loaf of day-old french bread, cut into bite size pieces
- italian seasoning
- canola oil (for drizzling)
- 3 romaine hearts (or your favourite green- I also like to add some lacinato kale sometimes)
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup prepared vegan parmesan
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- On a baking tray lined with parchment or a silicon mat, drizzle oil over bread and toss it around. Sprinkle italian seasoning over it. And toss it in the oven (don’t worry if it’s not preheated yet, it’ll be fine). Check periodically and remove them when they’re golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- Chop and wash your romaine hearts.
- Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. I use the highest speed for this because the chickpeas take a little while to smooth out completely. You can thin it out with a little water if needed.
- In a big salad bowl, toss the romaine, parmesan, and croutons with about 2/3 cups of the dressing (or however much you want).
I’m happy to say that I fully embrace salads as an adult. I actually crave them sometimes, especially this one! The crispness of lettuce, crunchy croutons, and something creamy to tie it all together. It’s like a little party in my mouth. So I totally get why there are all those women laughing at their salads in those stock photos. Salad can be fun!
Like I said, there’s fish in caesar salad. So I tried to recreate that flavour (or what I think that flavour would be) in my vegan caesar dressing by adding something else that comes from the ocean.. nori! (Nori sheets are the seaweed wrappers used in sushi rolls, in case that word sounds unfamiliar) You can pick up nori from international markets, or even your local grocer if they have a variety of foods (I found mine at Safeway!).
Other non vegan things in caesar salad include a dairy-based dressing, a bunch of cheese, and some store bought croutons (that also usually contain milk ingredients). That’s a lot of veganizing! I think this salad came together very well as a vegan caesar. But knowing that there are so many substitutes, I will label this as specifically vegan caesar without hesitation, or Caesar-ish if you will. And it’s good. I hope you love it as much as I do!