This vegan caesar salad is a hearty and satisfying kale salad that is perfect for a crowd! It’s easy to make, nut free, gluten free but tastes just like a classic caesar dressing we all know and love.
I’ve always looooved a good caesar salad. Crunchy croutons, creamy dressing, crispy lettuce, ugh it’s so good. It was my summer lunch of choice during most of my high school years and still is to this day!
Fast forward almost 10 years and I’ve finally nailed the perfect dairy free and vegan caesar dressing that just so happens to be nut free too.
The secret ingredient? Hemp hearts! This is probably not an ingredient you would think to use for a caesar dressing, but trust me, it’s perfect. They’re high in protein and yield such a creamy dressing without having to use any nuts like cashews, vegan mayo or tahini. It’s easy, healthy and has a classic caesar dressing flavor.
First things first…chickpeas! Have you ever tried to make crispy roasted chickpeas that just won’t get crispy? Because same, and it’s annoying! So I have a few tricks for you!
First, and this part is kind of tedious and annoying, but it really helps if you can remove as many chickpea skins as possible. It helps to place the chickpeas between two paper towels and rub them around. This should get many of the skins off, but you’ll have to pick each one off individually.
The second trick is to let the chickpeas cook first then turn the oven OFF to let them crisp up. This will ensure they get crispy without burning.
While the chickpeas are cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Remove the stems of the kale and chop the leaves into very small pieces. If you grab the bottom of the kale stem, you should be able to just run your fingers up the piece of kale and the leaves will pull right off.
As far as chopping goes, I like to use kitchen sheers (basically just fancy scissors) to get the kale into small pieces. This makes for a much more enjoyable eating experience.
Add the leave to a colander and run under warm water. While the water is running, massage the kale with your hands to help break it down. You’ll want to do this for about 1 full minute to wash the kale, but also make it easier to chew and less bitter since it won’t be as tough.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl and dry the kale using a towel.
Vegan Caesar Dressing
To make the dressing, add all ingredients into a high speed blender and process until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. You can add a bit more dijon mustard for more tang, more salt, or even a pinch of red pepper flakes for some spice.
Toss the dressing with the kale, and use your (clean) hands to massage the dressing into the kale. You can definitely use spoons to mix it up if the thought of your hands getting all up in your salad grosses you out, but massaging the dressing really ensures every leaf is well coated.
Toss in the chickpeas, sliced avocado, parmesan and enjoy! This vegan caesar salad makes the perfect side dish or starter before a large bowl of spaghetti.
Does it keep? The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. However, I recommend storing the dressing and chopped kale separately if you won’t be eating it right away. Dress this vegan caesar salad right before it’s going to be severed!
How do I keep chickpeas crispy? You can store your chickpeas in a jar or tupperware container, but they stay crispy for longer if you DON’T seal the top! This helps them “breathe” a bit so they stay nice and crispy. They will stay fresh at room temperature for about 5 days.
How do you massage kale? When you add the dressing to the kale, it helps to use your hands to massage it into the leaves to make sure everything is well coated and kind of “massage” it in a sense. You can toss it with spoons if desired, but hands are easier and ensure every leaf is properly coated.
Does caesar salad have parmesan? Usually! I use the Violife parmesan cheese and grated it over the salad, but you can also use my cashew parmesan or just regular parmesan if you are not dairy free. Traditional caesar dressing usually has egg and anchovy, which is why it’s not vegan!
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Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
- 1 head kale* (any variety, I used curly (about 4-5 heaping cups chopped))
- 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ large avocado
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the drained, rinsed, and dried chickpeas to a large bowl.
- Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and garlic and toss until well coated. Add to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 35 minutes, turn the oven off, and then let sit in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes to crisp.
- While the chickpeas are cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Remove the stems of the kale and chop the leaves into very small pieces.
- Add to a colander and run under warm water. While the water is running, massage the kale with your hands to help break it down.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl and dry the kale using a towel.
- To make the dressing, add all ingredients into a high speed blender and process until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Toss the dressing with the kale, and use your (clean) hands to massage the dressing into the kale.
- Add the chickpeas, sliced avocado, parmesan and enjoy!