This vegan Caesar salad makes a delicious alternative to the classic version! A creamy cashew-based dressing flavors the crisp romaine lettuce leaves, while crunchy chickpea croutons and a nutty parmesan cheese add flavor and texture.
Updated: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated with new photos and additional content.
Whether you are a traditional Caesar Salad lover or not, I'm sure you will agree that this Vegan Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpea Croutons is "out of this world" delicious!
It is packed with nutrition from the greens and tons of flavor from the nuts, seeds, and chickpeas.
If you love chickpeas recipes, you'll love this creamy polenta with chickpeas and mushrooms.
💚 Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Enjoy the flavor of a Caesar salad while also following a plant-based diet.
- Easy to make. It may seem intense, but the different elements don't require much hands-on preparation.
- Perfect to meal prep ahead and use for meals throughout the week.
The ingredient list for making a plant-based Caesar salad might look quite daunting. Remember that there are three main components to the recipe, and many of the ingredients are spices and pantry staples.
Here are the main components of a vegan Caesar salad:
- Lettuce: Romaine lettuce is the traditional lettuce used to make Caesar salad. However, you can also make a vegan kale Caesar salad by adding Lacinato kale. Use a blend of the two or swap it for all kale.
- Roasted Chickpea Croutons: Use canned chickpeas or dry for a more budget-friendly option.
- Vegan Cashew Dressing: Easy to make vegan dressing from scratch or using all-purpose cashew cream.
- Nutty Nutritional Yeast Topping: A nutritious blend of nuts and seeds with a cheesy taste of nutritional yeast.
Roasted Chickpea Croutons
- Chickpeas: Cook a batch of dry beans or open a container - drain, rinse, and dry.
- Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne Pepper gives a great kick but is not a must in this recipe.
- Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil's taste and health benefits are always best, but any oil will do.
- Garlic Powder: Although garlic is used in each component, the taste of it isn't overwhelming in the recipe.
- Sea Salt: Add as little or as much as you want.
Caesar Salad Dressing
- Cashews and sunflower seeds: Soaked cashews will give the dressing its creamy texture. The cashews and sunflower seeds give the parmesan cheese topping texture and flavor.
- Lemon juice: Use fresh lemon if possible for the freshest flavor in the dressing.
- Dijon mustard: Flavors the dressing while also contributing to the texture. You can use other mustards, but the flavor will not be the same.
- Capers: Capers add a bold, savory flavor with a lemony tang and brininess of green olives.
- Garlic: We will be using a combination of fresh garlic cloves and garlic powder. The garlic powder works better for making chickpea croutons, while the cloves taste better in the dressing and parmesan cheese.
Nutty Parmesan Cheese Topping
- Extra virgin olive oil: A healthy oil idea for making salads.
- Nutritional yeast: This dehydrated yeast product is made from the strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same type of yeast used to brew beer and bake bread. The yeast is harvested, washed, and then heated to dry, making it inactive. It is then crumbled into powder and then packaged for use. You can find it these days in most markets or purchase it online.
✅ How to Make Vegan Caesar Salad
There are four main components to this easy salad recipe:
- Fresh Greens
- Roasted Chickpea Croutons
- Caesar Dressing
- Nutty Parmesan Cheese
Let's break each one down and look at what goes into making them.
PRO TIP: Make sure the night before you soak the cashews so they will blend up smoothly when making the dressing.
Step 1: Prep the Lettuce
- Break apart the head of lettuce by hand and tear them into bite-size pieces or use a knife. Save a few whole leaves aside for plating purposes.
- Wash the lettuce well in a salad spinner or bowl of water.
- Use the salad spinner to dry them thoroughly, or let them drain in a colander or on a clean towel.
Step 2: Roast the Chickpea Croutons
- Rinse the chickpeas and lay them out in a single layer on a clean towel to dry.
- Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Move them around gently so they are coated evenly.
- Sprinkle the seasonings over the chickpeas and move them around again. I find it's easiest to rotate them around with my hands.
- Roast the chickpeas until crispy golden brown, stirring them halfway through cooking.
Step 3: Blend the Vegan Caesar Dressing
- Drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Place all of the ingredients for the dressing in a high-speed blender and process until smooth and creamy.
- Add more water if the dressing is a bit thick.
PRO TIP: If you want to add a bit more cheesy flavor to the dressing, add more nutritional yeast.
Step 4: Make the Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Place the cashews and garlic clove in a food processor and blend until fully chopped.
- Add the nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, and garlic powder to the food processor and pulse until blended well.
- Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times.
PRO TIP: Cashew cream is the base for Caesar Salad Dressing and many other vegan recipes. I recommend making a large amount of All-Purpose Cashew Cream to portion out for this recipe (1 cup recommended) and others throughout your week. See the recipe notes below for more details.
❄️ How to Store
For best results when storing leftovers, store each of the elements separately.
- Chickpea croutons: Store in an airtight container at room temperature. They will steadily lose their crispness the longer they sit. Try to use it within 3-4 days.
- Chopped lettuce: Store in the fridge for up to three days. If possible, cut only what you need to extend the life of your greens.
- Dressing and parmesan topping: Store in the fridge separately for up to 7 days.
🍽️ How to Serve
This vegan salad recipe works as a side for meals, or you can also use it as a main dish for a light lunch. Here's a bit of inspiration for how to use it!
- Add more protein: If using it as a main meal, you may want to add more protein to the salad. It would go great with a serving of this roasted tempeh.
- Serve it up with a bowl of this vegetarian potato soup or parsnip and cauliflower soup.
- It works great as a side for your favorite pasta dish, like pasta with nomato sauce or this vegan Italian sausage pasta dish.
🔪 Helpful Kitchen Tools and Gadgets
This dish requires mostly basic kitchen tools, but there are a few special items that I highly recommend.
A salad spinner is a great investment for your kitchen. Not only is it a quick way to dry your greens, but it's also a way to keep your greens fresh longer. They are more likely to spoil quickly when stored wet or slightly damp.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Don't forget to soak the cashews in advance!
- Store leftovers separately, so they last longer.
- Use vegan salad recipes as a main dish or as a side.
- You can make this salad with romaine lettuce or a combination of kale and romaine.
- Make sure your greens are dry! Otherwise, they will water down the dressing.
Nutritional yeast has a rich, nutty flavor that mimics many flavor aspects of cheese.
Nutritional yeast is super nutritious. It is one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, making it a must-have ingredient for vegans and vegetarians. Just one tablespoon delivers slightly more than the daily recommended amount for adults. Not all brands are fortified with it, so check your package.
Vitamin B12 is known to help with our nervous system, blood cell formation, digestion, brain function, and much more. It is also a water-soluble vitamin, so we need to replenish it daily since it isn’t stored in our bodies like fat-soluble vitamins.
🌎 Sustainability Suggestions
Eating more plant-based meals is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint or make positive changes for the planet.
Making the jump to eating predominantly plant-based can seem daunting to most people that have grown up eating animal products or live with people who say they could never give up meat.
Luckily there are many tips and tricks to make the change easier; a great place to start is to check out our post tips for moving towards a plant-based diet!
➕ More Vegan Salad Recipes
If you made this recipe, please leave a star 🌟 rating on the recipe card right below! You can also drop a review in the comment section. Your feedback is appreciated! And don’t forget to tag @themindfulfork so we can see your creations.
Vegan Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpea Croutons
- 1 large head of romaine lettuce or 1 small head of romaine and 1 bunch of Lactino kale
Roasted Chickpea Croutons:
- 1 container 13.4 ounce or can of chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup raw cashews covered & soaked in water overnight
- ½ cup water
- ½ lemon juiced approximately 1 ½ tablespoons
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons capers
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon sea salt & pepper or to taste
Nutty Parmesan Cheese:
- ⅓ cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- sea salt to taste
- Place cashews (for dressing) in a bowl or measuring cup and soak in water overnight. Drain & rinse.
Prep the Letttuce
- Break each leaf apart by hand (or cut) into bite size pieces, setting a few whole leaves aside for plating purposes. Clean in a salad spinner or bowl of water. Dry thoroughly.
Make the Chickpeas
- Preheat oven to 400°. Drain & rinse chickpeas. Place in a clean towel to dry. Remove the chickpeas from the towel and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour olive oil over the chickpeas and move them around gently so they are coated evenly. Sprinkle the seasonings over the chickpeas and shift around again (I find it easiest to just rotate them around with my hands). Roast for approximately 30 minutes, until crispy golden brown, rotating after 15 minutes with a spoon or spatula.
Make the Dressing
- Drain & rinse the cashews. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth & creamy. Add more water if necessary. You can also add nutritional yeast if you desire.
Make the Parmesan Topping
- Place cashews & garlic in a food processor and blend until fully chopped. Add the remaining ingredients (except oil) and pulse until blended well. Add the oil and pulse a few more times.
- Plate greens (or in a large bowl). Top with chickpea croutons, nutty parmesan cheese and a drizzle of the vegan caesar dressing.