Surprise! Your New Favorite Caesar Salad is Vegan

May 28, 2015

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: If you think it's impossible to recreate the saltiness and creaminess of a Caesar salad without anchovies or Parmesan, this recipe will prove you wrong. 

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Nearly every food lover I know has a favorite Caesar salad recipe. It may be served at a neighborhood Italian restaurant, or it may be a recipe that was passed down by a family member. It may be found online, in the pages of a cookbook, or in the words of a roommate or a friend. It might be deconstructed, or rustic, or refined. But there’s always a favorite.

This is my favorite Caesar salad. It’s a favorite because I happened to love Caesar salad before I went vegan and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to recreate the recipe without eggs, or mayonnaise, or anchovies, or Parmesan. As it turns out, I could. 

This recipe proves that there really is nothing that the magical combination of cashews and nutritional yeast can’t do. Here, they provide a cheesy, savory flavor and a creamy texture. To replace the characteristic hints of anchovy, I use either dulse or kelp flakes (both of which are easy to find at health food stores). Like most seaweeds, they’re salty and full of umami; still, they’re mild enough to be palatable even to seaweed haters. Just to keep things interesting, I use a mixture of dinosaur kale and romaine—trendy meets old-school

And of course, there must be croutons. I like to use polenta croutons, which are crispy on the outside and tender in the center—a nice twist on croutons as usual. I like how dense they are and the way they turn a side dish into a hearty, substantial salad that’s perfect for an easy lunch. They’re a little more time-consuming to make than regular croutons, but their versatility makes up for it: Pile them onto a bowl of soup, toss them with some roasted cherry tomatoes for a lovely summer appetizer, or better yet, use them in a non-traditional panzanella. Think of them as “garnish with substance,” and then see if you don’t get hooked. 

Vegan Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons

Serves 4

For the salad:

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons kelp or dulse granules (find these at a health food store)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon mellow white miso
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided
1 bunch dinosaur kale, stems removed, washed, dried, and cut into ribbons
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut into ribbons (alternately, you can use two heads of romaine and omit the kale)

For the polenta croutons:

3 1/2 cups water
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal (polenta)
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • louisez
  • Millie | Add A Little
    Millie | Add A Little
  • lindsay | please pass the peas
    lindsay | please pass the peas
  • Gena Hamshaw
    Gena Hamshaw
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


louisez June 8, 2015
How long can the dressing keep? I should say, how long does this fabulous dressing keep? Thanks.
Gena H. July 31, 2015
It will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days!
Millie |. May 29, 2015
This looks insane Gena! Especially love the polenta croutons!
lindsay |. May 28, 2015
I make a vegan Caesar that uses kalamata olives in place of anchovies in the dressing, but I'll have to try this one too. Do you think it would work with dark miso? I don't have any white miso on hand.
Gena H. May 28, 2015
Hi Lindsay! Yes, dark miso will work fine.