Wow, has it ever been a minute since I published a non-cocktail recipe — let alone a salad or bowl! Remember that post I published back in January about sharing things as I feel inspired to, rather than sticking to my very rigid, previously very balanced, editorial calendar? Scaling back on extremely time consuming content in order to get our SPACE REFRESH series off the ground (did you know I test my recipes 3 – 7 times on average and that can translate to over 30 hours of work?)? These changes resulted in a steady stream of cocktail recipes during the first half of 2018 (they’re a blast to create also relatively simple to test!) — one of which landed me my first Style Me Pretty Living feature, so I guess it all worked out! And while my adventures deep into cocktailing this year have been a lot of fun, sometimes you just need to dry out a bit and eat a kale salad — you feel me?!
If you follow along with my Insta Stories, you’ll know I’ve been eating this Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Gluten Free Croutons almost weekly since I first whipped it up back in April. In the process, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tested this recipe and it’s since become one of our favourite salads! The best part? There’s no marinating or planning ahead (I’ve really been focusing on keeping it simple lately!) and it can be on your table in 15 minutes. It’s a nutritious, protein packed, plant based spin on a classic that eats like a meal — and I promise no one will know it’s vegan (in a blind taste test, it was praised by meat eaters!). I’m also sharing my secret for flavourful, tender, raw kale! If you’re looking for quick, healthy meal options to add to your summer rotation (or #MeatlessMonday!), I cannot recommend this contemporary spin on traditional caesar salad enough!
VEGAN KALE CAESAR SALAD WITH GLUTEN FREE CROUTONS
Full disclosure: if you’re not a plant based eater, there may be a few ingredients in this recipe that worry you — namely tofu, nutritional yeast and raw kale. But I promise if you keep an open mind and stick with me, they combine to create the most delicious, nutritious caesar -inspired salad you’ve ever tasted! In fact, I made this salad as a side for Adam’s birthday dinner — and he said it was the best caesar salad he’d ever had. After we were finished our meal, he was shocked when I told him it was vegan!
This recipe was actually inspired by a salad I enjoyed at Blue Star Diner back in April. It wasn’t on the menu, but was offered as a side option to my entrée. To be honest, as a salad lover, ceasar salad has never appealed to me — it’s the least healthy of all the salads and I love my meals to be as delicious and loaded with vegetables as possible! But a vegan version? I was intrigued.
Upon first bite, I knew it would be something I wanted to recreate at home. Of course, I had no idea what exactly what was in Blue Star’s version, but I let my palette be my guide as I worked to recreate it! My Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Gluten Free Croutons includes a couple of add ons theirs didn’t (croutons and tofu!), but the idea wouldn’t have come to me unless we chose Blue Star for dinner that night. As someone who prefers to eat at home most of the time, I’m very selective when I do dine out. That said, enjoying delicious food that someone creates is so inspiring — whenever I enjoy an incredible meal I’m always itching to get back into the kitchen and allow the experience to enrich my culinary endeavors!
So, let’s get to the recipe, shall we? My Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Gluten Free Croutons is a nutrient-rich powerhouse — combining superfood kale, a tahini-based, vegan spin on traditional caesar dressing, protein rich chickpeas, tofu and pepitas, lots of capers and nutritional yeast (for that cheesy, vegan taste!), topped off with gluten free croutons (but feel free to use your favourite regular bread if you don’t need a GF recipe). This is a super simple, crowd-pleasing recipe that can be on your table in 15 minutes — perfect for quick summer dinners or lunches!
Yield: 1 – 2 servings
VEGAN KALE CAESAR SALAD
• 4 large kale leaves
• 1/2 cup chickpeas
• 1/4 block (approximately 1/2 cup) extra firm tofu
• 1/4 cup pepitas
• 1/4 cup tahini
• 1/4 cup water
• Juice from 1 lemon
• 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
• 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
• 1/2 tsp garlic powder
• 3/4 tsp 100% pure Canadian maple syrup
• 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1 tbsp capers + brine
GLUTEN FREE CROUTONS
• 1 slice grainy, gluten free bread
• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
• 1/8 tsp nutritional yeast
• 1/8 tsp garlic powder
• 1 tbsp capers
• 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
• Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1. Begin by setting your oven to the highest Broil setting.
2. Wash and roughly chop kale. Add to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Cut bread into cubes. Add to a baking sheet and season with extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan pink salt, tsp nutritional yeast and garlic powder. Broil for approximately 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
4. Making the dressing by adding all ingredients to a Vitamix (or similar) and blending until smooth and creamy.
5. Now, my secret for tender, favourful raw kale! It may sound strange — but you have massage your kale in dressing to help break down it’s fibrous nature. Simply pour a tablespoon or so of dressing onto your kale and (with clean hands) begin to massage it. Give it a minute or so and the kale should appear softened and slightly greener — that’s how you know you’ve tenderized it!
6. Prep your tofu by removing it from the package and pressing the water out between a dish towel. Once the majority of the water has been extracted, cut tofu into quarters. Crumble 1 quarter into your mixing bowl and refrigerate the rest for future use!
7. Add chickpeas, pepitas and the rest of your dressing to your bowl. Toss to combine.
8. Add Gluten Free Croutons to your bowl, along with all garnishes. Toss to combine.
9. Serve and enjoy immediately!
Note: I’ve added some edible Creeping Bellflowers to these salads for a colourful garnish! Calgarians, these are considered an invasive species (they’re all over our inner city alley!), so if you see them, pull them, bag them and toss them — or use their edible flowers in your summer salads and cocktails. They’re mild and lightly sweet, but mostly just pretty!
SUGGESTED BEVERAGE PAIRINGS
Keep it extra healthy with a glass of kombucha over ice — my personal favourite as of late! Crisp wines and dry rosé also work well.
- 4 large kale leaves
- 1/2 cup chickpeas
- 1/4 block extra firm tofu
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup water
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp 100% pure Canadian maple syrup
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp capers + brine
- 1 slice grainy, gluten free bread
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1/8 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Begin by setting your oven to the highest Broil setting.
Wash and roughly chop kale. Add to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Cut bread into cubes. Add to a baking sheet and season with extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan pink salt, tsp nutritional yeast and garlic powder. Broil for approximately 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
Making the dressing by adding all ingredients to a Vitamix (or similar) and blending until smooth and creamy.
Now, my secret for tender, favourful raw kale! It may sound strange -- but you have massage your kale in dressing to help break down it's fibrous nature. Simply pour a tablespoon or so of dressing onto your kale and (with clean hands) begin to massage it. Give it a minute or so and the kale should appear softened and slightly greener -- that's how you know you've tenderized it!
Prep your tofu by removing it from the package and pressing the water out between a dish towel. Once the majority of the water has been extracted, cut tofu into quarters. Crumble 1 quarter into your mixing bowl and refrigerate the rest for future use!
Add chickpeas, pepitas and the rest of your dressing to your bowl. Toss to combine.
Add Gluten Free Croutons to your bowl, along with all garnishes. Toss to combine.
Serve and enjoy immediately!
I've added some edible Creeping Bellflowers to these salads for a colourful garnish! Calgarians, these are considered an invasive species (they're all over our inner city alley!), so if you see them, pull them, bag them and toss them -- or use their edible flowers in your summer salads and cocktails. They're mild and lightly sweet, but mostly just pretty!
MORE SEASONAL SALADS , BOWLS & STIRFRYS
Vegan Fiesta Buffalo Tofu Bowls with Tahini Lime Crema
Nectarine Basil Salad with Pineapple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls with Citrus Ponzu + Sriracha Aioli
Spring Vegetable Stirfry with Coconut Ginger Tofu (Wild Rose D-Tox Friendly!)
Mediterranean Rainbow Buddha Bowls
Are you a ceaser salad lover? If you are, I hope you enjoy this lightened up, plant based, nutritious spin on a classic! And if you’re not, my Vegan Kale Salad with Gluten Free Croutons may just convert you!
As always, if you try this recipe please let me know how it worked out for you — I love your feedback! Feel free to leave me a comment, or tag me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’d love you to hashtag #justinecelinarecipes in your recreations so I can find them — browsing my feed and stumbling on your beautiful recreations is one of my favourite feelings! I also have a Pinterest board for my recipes if you’re looking for more heathy, plant based recipes. Thanks for stopping by for this yummy kale salad today, friends!
This recipe was featured in the Food Bloggers of Canada’s 15 Ways to Celebrate Caesar Salad roundup.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored and contains my genuine thoughts, ideas and recommendations. JustineCelina uses affiliate and referral links, which allow me to receive a small commission when you make a purchase through one of my links. Thank you for supporting the brands and businesses that support JustineCelina!
Ahhh your photos are so gorgeous!! I love the colour palette, the blush pink, gold and pastel hues compliment the food so beautifully 😀 thank you so much for this recipe! xx
Thank you so much! This was actually a super quick shoot but I wanted to keep things simple to compliment the recipe — and I was also hungry. Had these for dinner straight afterwards. 😉
Justine, I think I might put that dressing on everything! Great with kale! I love how you added capers for some extra punch!
You and me both, Elaine! We eat this salad a couple of time a week. It’s so tasty and the dressing is really versatile. Thanks for stopping by!
This sounds really good. I love the tip about massaging your kale! I always wondered how the restaurant’s kale caesers were so much more tender than mine!
Corinna | Friendly Pantry
I know if sounds so strange (and it feels weird at first, too!), but I promise the kale massage is a game changer! Haha. I’m looking forward to checking your blog, Corinna! Love the name. 🙂
I love kale caesar salad and your version sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try it out this weekend.
I would absolutely love your feedback, Kirsten! It really is so tasty. A fast favourite around here!
This sounds SO TASTY! Love how straight-forward & simple the ingredients are; I can see why you have been making this often! Looking forward to trying this recipe out soon!
It really is! Thanks for the recipe love, Jess! I would love your feedback if you try it — we always have the ingredients on hand, with the exception of a fresh kale run here and there. Let me know how you like it!
I have so much kale growing in my garden right now, I can’t wait to try this recipe! I never grow romaine, (why who knows lol), but kale is always there. I think it’s because I can also freeze it well, and then use it in recipes throughout the winter months. Anyways, I should try and eat some fresh to eh!
I hope you try it, Markus! I would love your feedback if you try it. Please report back!
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