Vegan Caesar Salad with Shortcut Roasted Garlic
A dairy and egg-free Caesar Salad that everyone can enjoy. The dressing is every bit as creamy, thanks to a combination of cashews, olive oil and roasted garlic. Also, learn a handy trick to roast garlic in a fraction of the time. A true crowd pleaser! Vegan. <jump to recipe>
Caesar Salad is probably the most universally loved salad. Like a lot of mass-appeal “healthy” foods, it kind of rides the line between healthy and unhealthy. With a Caesar Salad, you can feel good about eating a salad, without eating one of those salads. You know what I mean?! Either way, there’s no denying the combination of crisp Romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons, and a creamy enveloping dressing. It seems to win everyone over - even the veggie skeptics.
During the holidays, potluck-friendly foods become imperative. As a veggie-lover, I feel a responsibility to inject more veggies on the table; but have enough self awareness to recognize that not everyone gets as excited about kale as I do. That’s when a big bowl of Caesar Salad saves the day.
This recipe looks and tastes every bit like a traditional Caesar Salad, but as you might expect, the ingredients have taken a turn for the better. To keep it vegetarian, I skip the anchovies and Worcestershire. There’s also no need for any dairy or egg yolks, thanks to the combination of creamy cashews, roasted garlic, lemon and capers. Because the only thing better than a Caesar Salad, is a vegan version that everyone can enjoy (including all my pregnant lady-friends - woop woop!). To be honest, when bringing this salad to a potluck, I rarely tell the crowd that it’s any “different”. It’s my weird (and unusually satisfying) way of testing how crowd-friendly it is. And thankfully, it’s always passes with flying colors.
In my opinion, roasted garlic is worth its weight in gold. Roasting garlic mellows the flavor and brings out more sweetness from the otherwise sharp garlic cloves. While I have some friends that love them some raw garlic, there’s probably many more people who don’t. So, roasted is definitely the way to go when serving a crowd. Unfortunately, roasting a head of garlic takes a while - somewhere in the ballpark of 45-60 minutes. And I don’t know about you, but I can use all the time I can get during the holidays...which is why I lean on a shortcut version. All it takes is a skillet pan and 15 minutes of your time. Garlic roasts a lot faster when separated into individual cloves. Keeping the skin on prevents it from burning, so it can safely steep in a drizzle of olive oil on the stove. At the end you have softly “roasted” garlic pieces, in a fraction of the time. Once blitzed up in the Caesar dressing, no one will ever know it took took you a quarter of the time.
For those of you interested in adding a protein boost to this salad, I highly recommend giving these marinated tempeh cubes a try. Tempeh gets a bad rap, mostly because it falls into the wrong hands who prepare it in the blandest of methods. You can much better - trust me. The first step is to steam/boil the tempeh to remove its bitter flavor. The next step is flavoring it with an addictively salty/smoky/sweet marinade. They’re perfect sprinkled on top of the salad or can be served on the side as an optional add-in. If you have a Caesar Salad obsession (like I do), then the tempeh addition makes it a much more wholesome dinner or lunch.
VEGAN CAESAR SALAD WITH SHORTCUT ROASTED GARLIC
SERVES 4-6 (VEGAN)
1/4 cup cashews, quick-soaked*
6 cloves garlic (skin on)
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers + 1 tablespoon caper brine**
3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons water
Black pepper, to taste
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
Optional - Smoky Tempeh Cubes (recipe below)
3 cups good bread, cubed (e.g. Sourdough)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out cubed bread on baking sheet and drizzle olive oil on top. Use your hands to toss cubes in olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Shake pan to distribute spices. Bake for ~5 minutes, or until golden brown. Croutons will firm up slightly out of oven.
Heat a skillet over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 6 cloves of garlic (skin on). Let the garlic infuse into the olive oil, giving the pan a good shake every 3-4 minutes. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping the cloves half way. Transfer cloves and oil into a bowl and let rest until cool enough to handle. Use a fork to remove the skin from the garlic. Cloves should be slightly golden brown.
Transfer cloves and infused oil to a high-speed blender. Add soaked cashews, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers, caper brine, dijon mustard and salt to blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. With the blender running on low speed, add water in 1 tablespoon increments until desired thickness. Remove dressing from blender. Season with black pepper (and additional salt, if desired). Put dressing in fridge until ready to serve.
Add Romaine lettuce pieces to a large bowl. Add dressing in smaller batches, tossing as you go until dressed to your liking. Add croutons and Smoky Tempeh cubes (if using). Garnish with more black pepper. Serve immediately.
-*Pour boiling water over cashews, cover and let them sit for 30-45 minutes, until soft. Alternatively, you can soak the cashews in room temperature water for ~6 hours. Rinse and strain before using.
-**This is the liquid in the jar of the containers. Measure 1 tablespoon of capers and 1 tablespoon of caper brine separately (i.e. 2 tablespoons total).
-Dressing keeps well in the fridge. Store extra dressing separate from the lettuce, and dress immediately before eating. Croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
SMOKY TEMPEH CUBES
2 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a skillet pan with 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut tempeh into ½” x ½” cubes. Add tempeh cubes to boiling water, cover pan with lid, and cook for 5 minutes.
While tempeh is cooking, mix together marinade in a medium sized bowl. Strain tempeh, then transfer cubes into marinade. Stir to coat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer tempeh cubes to baking sheet. Reserve extra marinade. Bake for 20 minutes. Re-toss cubes in marinade, until completely absorbed. Return to oven for 5-7 minutes.
-Smoky Tempeh Cubes can be made the night before, if serving with the salad. Alternatively, you can bake the tempeh at the same time as the croutons, as they use the same oven temperature. Put the croutons in the oven when you’re returning the tempeh cubes to the oven for the second time.