Caesar salad is a STAPLE must-have in any salad rolodex, and this recipe is the most perfect vegan kale caesar to add to your repertoire. The tender kale is the perfect carrier for the savory caesar dressing and the leaves are hearty enough to not be weighed down by the creamy texture. The creamy homemade vegan caesar is the perfect traditional caesar dupe and its much healthier and cleaner than its former egg, dairy and anchovy-based counter parts. Take this salad to any summer cookout and it is sure to be the star of the show. The icing on the cake is the perfectly grilled tofu that even meat-eaters will love. Read on for my tried and true tofu tips.
What You Need to Make this Kale Caesar Salad:
- Kale: For this salad I love to use curly kale. Lacinato or dinosaur kale will also work, but the curly leaves really grip onto the tasty dressing.
- Palmini Hearts of Palm Rice: This ingredient is key to add a healthy grain-like heartiness made from 100% hearts of palm. The rice-like texture adds a lot of volume and texture to your bowl.
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Chickpeas: You can leave these raw, or roast them in the oven for some extra crunch!
- High-Protein Super Firm Tofu: This variety of tofu is the ticket to success for firm, meaty, grillable tofu. The only difference between super firm and extra firm tofu is that super firm has less water, so the texture is incredibly dense, durable and does not need pressed.
- Coconut Aminos, Soy Sauce, or Tamari
- Persian Cucumbers
What Makes this Caesar Dressing Vegan?
Traditionally, caesar salad is made with anchovies… cheese… mayonnaise… and raw egg! Shocking right?! Then to think of pouring that combination over your delicate nutrient-rich veggies?! I can’t even. But I CAN with this recipe. It it 100% vegan and made with clean plant-based ingredients you’re going to love. The combination results in the perfect copy-cat caesar flavor and the texture is just as creamy. To make this creamy vegan dressing you’re going to need:
- Tahini: This creamy paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is the perfect savory base for this caesar dressing. Make sure to look for varieties of tahini that are very runny in texture. Alternatively, some brands can be very hard and also very bitter. It should be pourable right out of the jar without an inch of oil sitting on top.
- Lemon Juice
- Nutritional Yeast: This deactivated yeast is great for adding the cheesy Parmesan flavor to your caesar dressing. You can find it in most stores in the spice or baking sections. It is also full of nutrients and totally gluten free and vegan. A 2 tbsp serving contains 8g protein, 4g fiber, and is high in Vitamin B12, folic acid, other B vitamins, potassium, and zinc. I also love it sprinkled on popcorn! Yum!
- White Miso Paste: This paste comes from fermented soybeans and also adds a phenomenal cheesy and umami flavor.
- Garlic Powder
- Dijon Mustard
- Maple Syrup
Is this Vegan Kale Caesar Salad Healthy?
Heck yes it is! Any time you construct a recipe with mostly whole, plant-based ingredients you are set up for success, but especially compared to traditional caesar salads – this recipe is the obvious stand out. Besides the dressing, which is full of nutrients and free of animal-based saturated fat, the kale provides an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Can I Make This Kale Salad Ahead of Time?
One of my favorite things about this salad is that it can totally be made ahead of time. Because the kale is so hearty, you can even dress the salad in advance and it will only get tastier the next day! If you’re going to keep it in the fridge for multiple days, I would wait until right before serving to add the dressing and toss.
How to Get the Perfect Meaty Grilled Tofu:
If you don’t love tofu yet, trust me – you’re about to. While my heart will always be held by pan seared or crispy oven baked tofu, this recipe is for the grill lovers. You’re going to get perfect grill lines, the smoky BBQ grilled flavor, it only takes 6 minutes to cook, and there is no pressing needed! Follow the steps below and you will be eating PERFECT grilled tofu on this vegan kale caesar salad in no time.
- Step 1: Buy the right tofu. This recipe calls for high-protein super firm tofu and I’m not accepting ANY substitutions. Okay, okay, you can substitute with extra firm if needed, but you won’t be as happy with the results. High-Protein Super Firm tofu is SO meaty and firm. Because of this, the texture is very similar to chicken and totally satisfies the meaty craving. Plus, it holds up really well on the grill and you won’t have any crumbling or breaking.
- Step 2: Marinate. This step is actually optional. I like my tofu pretty plain, and enjoy pairing it with sauces or dressings to add flavor, but if you want an extra punch, marinating for at least 15 minutes is key.
- Step 3: Add a little oil. This step is also technically optional if you avoid oil, but a small amount of oil will go a long way to prevent sticking on the grill!
- Step 4: Grill! That’s right. There are really no tricks. Buy the right tofu. Marinate if ya want. Grill! I like to heat my grill to 375, place the slabs at an angle on the grates, grill undisturbed for 3 minutes, flip to the second side, and repeat! You will end up with the meatiest, tastiest tofu with a great flavor and STUNNING grill lines.
- 1 bunch curly kale spines removed, finely chopped
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 12 oz Palmini heart of palm rice rinsed and drained very well
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 persian cucumbers chopped
- 14 oz chickpeas drained (optional to roast or buy pre-packed crispy roasted chickpeas)
Marinated Grilled Tofu
- 16 oz high protein super firm tofu sliced into four 1/2" slabs
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos, tamari, or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
Vegan Caesar Dressing
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tbsp white miso paste
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 lemons juiced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Begin by preheating your grill to 375 and lightly oiling the grates.
- Add the soy sauce, olive oil, garlic powder and paprika to a shallow dish or reusable bag and stir with a spoon to combine. Add in your slabs of tofu and gently coat. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
- While tofu is marinating, add all of the ingredients for the dressing to a medium jar and whisk with a fork to combine. Season to taste with additional lemon or nutritional yeast if desired, and add up to 3 tbsp of water, 1 tbsp at a time, to achieve desired consistency. Water may not be needed at all, as texture and thickness of tahini can vary greatly. Set aside.
- Once your grill is preheated, remove the slabs of tofu from the container, letting excess liquid drip off. Transfer to the grill and let cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Flip and repeat on the second side. Remove from grill and place on a plate to cool for 3-4 minutes.
- Add kale to a large mixing bowl and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Use your hands to massage the leaves for 30 seconds until tender. Drizzle dressing over salad, reserving about 4 tbsp to drizzle on top of tofu after plating. Toss the kale and dressing to evenly coat. Add in the heart of palm rice and toss again. Distribute between 4 serving bowls and top with remaining salad ingredients.
- Place the grilled tofu on top of each salad and drizzle with remaining dressing.