Hearty and filling, Vegetarian Kale Caesar Salad makes a nourishing side dish or a satisfying lunch. Topped with creamy vegetarian Caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese and Sourdough Croutons, this recipe is an anchovy free variation on the classic. Add protein with crunchy Garlic Chickpea Croutons for a tasty finish! This recipe is vegetarian and easily egg free. Looking for a vegan version? Try my Vegan Caesar Salad with Kale.
A Vegetarian Take on Caesar Salad with Kale
There’s many variations on Caesar salad, but they all include a few key components: a punchy creamy dressing spiked with briny flavors, greens du jour (the original with Romaine), Parmesan, lemon wedges and croutons. Simple ingredients make a delicious classic. What’s not to love?
You may be wondering, is Caesar salad vegetarian? The traditional recipe is not, incorporating Worcestershire sauce or anchovies to deliver, in part, its assertive flavor. However, to keep this recipe vegetarian we’re including ingredients that taste similar to the traditional but is fish free, optionally egg free and lightened up with a bit of Greek yogurt.
This Kale Caesar Salad Is:
- Make Ahead Ready
- Texture Rich
- Optionally Egg Free
- Ready in About 15-20 Minutes
A Salad Inspired By…
This Vegetarian Caesar Dressing recipe is inspired by Rafaella Sargi who first showed me how to use Yogurt in Caesar dressing. You can find Rafaella’s Caesar Salad Dressing recipe on her blog. Also, one of my favorite restaurants, Adrift in Anacortes, WA, introduced me to Kale Caesar. They make a tasty version that has a noticeable garlic punch, with a hint of spice.
Many Caesar dressing recipes include dijon mustard. Dijon not only offers flavor but also helps in emulsification. However, I found that omitting this ingredient and adding apple cider vinegar instead (a tip from Rafaella), produced a preferred crisper, cleaner taste to the dressing.
Ingredients for Vegetarian Caesar Dressing
There’s a bit of flexibility in the ingredients, primarily salt, garlic and heat, so taste, taste, taste as you go and adjust. Here’s what you’ll need to whip up the dressing (see recipe card for details):
- Plain Greek Yogurt – We’re using full fat, unsweetened yogurt for it’s tang, flavor and to lighten the recipe.
- Mayonnaise – For an egg free approach and because I love its flavor, I use Vegenaise, but you can use your favorite mayo for this recipe.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use a good quality olive oil. I like California Olive Ranch.
- Capers – These pack a briny, salty, slightly acidic and flavorful punch, used here to replace anchovies or Worcestershire sauce.
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice – Each brings it’s own acidity and flavor, offering a clean, bright finish to this recipe.
- Fresh Garlic – A must in any classic Caesar salad, we’re using 4-5 plump cloves to make this dressing pop! Add more to taste.
- Tabasco – Adds just a hint of heat and interest. Adjust to taste!
Ingredients You’ll Need for the Salad
Since kale is the main component of this salad, choose two varieties. This will add texture and flavor variation to your salad. I like one bunch of lacinato kale and one bunch of curly kale. Since kale has a chewy texture, we’ll give it a good massage to tenderize it and make it more enjoyable (more on that in a bit). See recipe card for details:
- Kale – You’ll need two bunches or about one pound. There are several varieties to choose from:
- Lacinato Kale or Dinosaur Kale – one of my favorites, it’s tender with a delicate flavor, and has a lighter chew than other varieties.
- Curly Kale – a chewier kale with flavor that leans bitter. The leaves are curly and have craggy edges.
- Red Russian Kale – a beautiful kale with dark frilly leaves and purple veins. It’s flavor is sweeter than curly kale, and chewier than lacinato. This is a tasty, moderate kale.
- Parmesan Cheese – Buy a wedge of Parmesan and use a veggie peeler to get those long and wide Parmesan strips for the salad. Grated Parmesan will also be incorporated into the salad.
- Sourdough Croutons – One of the best parts! Enjoy this salad with Homemade Sourdough Croutons and/or Garlic Roasted Chickpea Croutons for a bit of added protein!
- Lemon Wedges – A squeeze of lemon just before enjoying the salad offers a nice hit of acidity. Plus it’s part of the drama of enjoying a Caesar salad. Go on, give that lemon a squeeze!
Quick Guide: How to Make Vegetarian Kale Caesar Salad
Easy to whip up, you can make Caesar dressing in a blender, or food processor in just about 10 minutes. Here’s how to make this tasty salad (see recipe card for details):
- First, in a blender, add the yogurt, mayo, olive oil, capers, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Blend until all the ingredients are emulsified, thick and creamy. Chill until ready to use.
- Next, remove the ribs/stems from the kale and cut into bite size pieces. Pour the dressing over the kale, then give it a two minute massage. Add the grated parmesan, a drizzle of more dressing as needed desired and toss.
- Last, transfer the kale to a serving bowl, top it with shaved Parmesan, crunchy croutons, and lemon wedges.
Over time, you’ll see separation in the dressing, so you’ll either whisk it or run it through the blender again just before pouring it over the salad.
How to Tenderize Kale
Kale can be tough and fiberous, but there’s ways to make it more palatable and tender for eating. Since we’re enjoying raw kale in this salad, we’ll massage it to tenderize its chewy texture. It’s simple to do:
- First, you’ll remove the ribs/stem of the kale.
- Next, cut the kale into bite size pieces. This is a good time to wash the kale in a salad spinner. Dry it as throughly as possible with the spinner.
- Last, place the kale into a large mixing bowl, pour about half a cup of vegetarian caesar dressing over the kale, set a timer for two minutes, and massage the kale, rubbing the kale leaves with your hands. This breaks down the cell walls and tenderizes the leaves.
Your kale is now ready to be enjoyed!
What to Serve with Kale Caesar Salad
A classic for good reason, the question is what not to serve with Kale Caesar Salad. A little black dress of the salad world, It goes with everything! Here are some serving ideas:
- Lemon Garlic Orzo with Roasted Veggies
- Sourdough Pizza Crust
- Gluten Free Pizza
- Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
- Spinach-Ricotta Pesto Lasagna
- Creamy One Pot Pasta with Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce
Customize Your Kale Caesar Salad
Add Protein: This salad is tasty with added protein on top, from halved Hard Steamed Eggs like in this Deviled Egg Salad, to Crispy Chickpeas Croutons.
It’s Gooood with BBQ: Topping this salad with BBQ Tofu or BBQ Cauliflower is delicious and mouthwatering.
Try Different Greens: Swap the kale for Romaine lettuce (no massage needed) or shaved Brussels sprouts for a tasty variation. Try a combination of Romaine and spinach for a tender and nutrient packed salad.
Use as a Dip: Okay, not a salad, but the dressing is excellent as a dip. Enjoy with Crispy Oven Fries, or Sourdough Pizza Crust. To make it richer, you can toss in a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Yum!
Stuff It: We love this salad stuffed into Sourdough Pita Bread sprinkled with crunchy Chickpea Croutons. Perfect for picnics, lunch or dinner.
- Make Ahead: The dressing can be made up to three days in advance. The salad can be assembled up to a few hours in a advance, but the kale tends to get soggy the longer it sets with dressing on it. So, massage the kale and finish the salad just before serving for freshest texture.
- Egg Free: This veg Caesar salad is easily egg free depending on type of mayonnaise used in the recipe. To keep this egg free, use Vegenaise or other egg free mayo of choice.
- Parmesan Cheese: Look for vegetarian friendly Parmesan cheese (one that does not use rennet in production). BelGioioso, Organic Valley and Stella are vegetarian friendly. For more information, check with your preferred cheese maker.
More Salad Recipes to Try
- Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
- Classic Caesar Salad by Foolproof Living
- Apple Cranberry Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
- Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad
- Nectarine Pistachio and Goat Cheese Salad
- Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chickpeas and Quinoa
Vegetarian Kale Caesar Salad Recipe
For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup (135 grams) Plain Greek Yogurt whole milk, I use Nancy's
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) Mayonnaise I use Veganeise
- 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons Non Pareil Capers
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 4-5 Plump Garlic Cloves adjust to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt adjust to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 4-6 dashes Tabasco adjust to taste
For the Salad:
- 2 bunches Kale about 1 pound, two varieties like lacinato and curly
- 2 cups (115 grams) Sourdough Croutons
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) Grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) Shaved Parmesan
- 1 Lemon sliced into eight wedges
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper for serving
For the Dressing:
- To a blender (I use Vitamix) or food processor, add the yogurt, mayo, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Blend until all the ingredients are emulsified, thick and creamy. Adjust salt and Tabasco to taste. There should be just a hint of heat from the Tabasco – not over powering.
- To Store: Pour into a lidded Mason jar and chill in the fridge for up to a week* or until ready to pour over the salad.
For the Salad:
- Remove the ribs/stem from the kale, discard the ribs. Cut the kale into bite size pieces. Wash the kale in a salad spinner or alternatively, wash the kale in a large bowl, strain and pat dry. Dry the kale as throughly as possible.
- Transfer the kale into a large mixing bowl, pour about half a cup of dressing over the kale, set a timer for two minutes, and massage the kale, rubbing the kale leaves with your hands. You'll notice the leaves get softer and break down a bit while you massage. Taste for tenderness and massage a bit more if desired.
- Toss with more dressing as desired and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Transfer the kale to a large serving bowl, top with shaved Parmesan, and sourdough croutons. Add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper to the salad and serve with lemon wedges on the side. Serve within about 30 minutes for best texture. Store salad leftovers in a lidded container in the fridge. Enjoy within 24 hours.
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