Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar

Friends, it’s recipe time! At a barbecue last weekend—to which I had brought one amazing, reliable salad—I was reminded how much I love cooking and sharing recipes. Several non-vegan people have asked me for this one, so I’m taking the opportunity to create a post!

I adapted this salad from the original recipe, which I found in America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegan for Everybody cookbook. If you have not gotten your hands on this book yet, I highly recommend it—absolutely everything is spot-on and delicious! That said, I’m not much of a recipe follower, so once I had the gist of the ingredients for the dressing, I made this sucker my own. You should feel free to experiment with ratios until you find your favorite version.

There are a couple of ingredients you might not yet have in your fridge, but once you make this recipe, you’ll have them handy for next time. What follows is one of our family’s go-to weeknight dinners. It’s not low-fat, but it’s full of veggies!

Caesar 2.jpg

Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad

Serves 4 as an entree.

1 14-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup (or so) olive oil

1 lb. kale, shredded (do this yourself with a knife or food processor, or buy it already shredded)

1/3 cup vegan mayo (the best kind is Just Mayo, but Trader Joe’s vegan mayo works too)

1 Tbsp capers, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more if you like it really tangy)

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire

2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (depending on how much you like the nootch)

1 tsp black pepper

salt, garlic powder

1 8-oz package tempeh, cut into strips or chunks

2-3 Tbsp of your favorite BBQ sauce

  1. Start your garbanzo bean croutons. Heat 2-3 T of olive oil in a cast-iron pan and add the drained beans. Make sure they’re all touching the surface of the pan (a 10” pan should be plenty). Turn heat down to medium and gently balance a lid over 2/3 of the pan—that’s enough coverage to keep popping beans from flying at your face, while not accidentally steaming the beans (which would turn them to mush). If you have one of those neat mesh pan covers, that would be ideal. Throughout the rest of the prep, occasionally toss the beans around with a spatula, and add a drizzle of oil here and there.

  2. Soak your kale in a bowl of hot tap water. This will take the raw bite out of it without cooking it. I do my soaking in a salad spinner so I can go right to drying it off when the soaking is done. Leave the kale in the water while you make your dressing.

  3. In a blender, add all of the rest of the ingredients, mayo through pepper. Blend until just smooth, then drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into the blender while it is running, blending for just another 30 seconds or so. Blend in a few tablespoons of water if your dressing seems too thick.

  4. Rinse your kale under cold water to stop the wilting, then dry your kale in your salad spinner or by laying it between layers of clean towels. Once it’s mostly dry, combine with your dressing in a very large bowl. Put this large bowl in the fridge and let it sit while you finish off your beans.

  5. Add a generous amount of salt and garlic powder to your beans and continue cooking and tossing until they start to get golden brown and crispy. Taste a couple of times and add more salt if needed. Do not cover the beans or attempt to store them until they are completely cool or they’ll lose their crunch.

  6. While the beans finish cooking, start your tempeh. Brown both sides of the tempeh pieces in a dry or lightly oiled pan—this should only take about one minute per side. Toss with BBQ sauce and set aside.

  7. Time to put it all together! Grab your giant bowl of salad from the fridge, serve in large individual salad bowls, then have each person add the crispy garbanzos and BBQ tempeh.


  • If you prefer romaine lettuce over kale, you can sub chopped romaine and skip the soaking bit—you want your romaine crispy! A combo of the two greens works well, too.

  • A soy-free option: Skip the tempeh and toss some quinoa on top instead during Step 7—super delicious with a lighter feel.

  • A lower-fat version: Skip the olive oil in the dressing and replace it with water. The dressing will be a bit lighter and less viscous, but still very tasty!