Have you ever made a vegan kale caesar salad?
Perhaps you’ve made a kale salad, and possibly many vegan caesar salads.
I’m going to show you today how to bring the best of both into one, delicious and healthy salad – that may become your new favorite salad bowl.
Let’s start by talking about kale.
Kale: Shopping for Kale & Preparing
There are several varieties of kale that we find in grocery stores. Most common are the black (dinosaur) kale and curly kale. More info on kale and leafy greens in this post. You may have also seen purple kale.
Which to buy? It’s really your preference. Personally, I opt for dino (black) kale most often. I like the texture and ease of prep. It’s easier to clean and cooks nicely. But curly green kale works really beautifully in kale salads, and in this kale caesar salad. As for purple kale, it has a lovely color but it’s not my favorite. To me, it has a slight floral taste so I prefer the curly or black kale.
How to prep? I like to strip kale leaves away from their heavy stalks. See this video for more:
You don’t have to do this, of course, you can use the stalks. But they can be quite rough and tough to eat, especially when eaten raw such as in this kale caesar. But for cooking, you might choose to use the stalks. Again, your choice!
Raw vs Cooked? In fall and winter I almost always cook kale, just briefly. My favorite way to cook kale is a brief sear in a large skillet, as you can see in this video.
My other favorite way to cook kale is to add it to soups, stews, or hot pasta just before serving. All you need to do is add the rinsed kale to the hot soup or pasta a few minutes before serving. Stir it through to wilt, then serve. That touch of heat softens the kale making it easier to eat and more digestible in the winter months. In the summer, however, as we opt for less cooked foods in general, I use kale in its raw form more often, in salad bowls and especially in this kale caesar salad.
Kale Caesar Salad: The Dressing
You need a good caesar dressing. Full stop.
I’ve created a number of oil-free vegan caesar dressings. The first was nut-based.
Since then, I’ve developed a few other recipes, including nut-free dressings. I have one in my Plant-Powered Dressings ebook, and another in Dreena’s Kind Kitchen.
Today I’m sharing the nut-free oil-free vegan caesar dressing from Dreena’s Kind Kitchen. This one is special because it has a smoky essence – not from liquid smoke. I find liquid smoke is very strong and can overpower other flavors, and taste a little artificial.
The smoky essence in this caesar dressing comes from smoked paprika. I’ve talked about smoked paprika in other recipes. It’s a beautiful spice, and you might never go back to regular paprika once you try it. It’s a must-have spice in your pantry (btw, if you are curious about some of my other ingredient faves, visit this page).
To make this dressing nut-free, I use pumpkin seeds. You can also use sunflower, but I personally prefer pumpkin. These sprouted pumpkin seeds are delicious (and so great for snacks), if you want to try them – or you can use raw pumpkin seeds. Another magical ingredient in this salad: cooked potatoes! I also use them in my very popular vegan ranch. More on that in this video.
Vegan Kale Caesar Salad: Components & Recipe
Finally, I opt to mix kale with lettuce in my kale caesar salads. Kale is quite strong in flavor, and also chewy. To tone down this bitter, strong kale flavor, it’s helpful to mix it with lettuce. Also, try first searing the kale as I show in this video. You can see the kale sauteed here and then in the kale caesar, below.
For add-ins, try classic croutons (I have oil-free croutons in DKK) or try my potato croutons (also in DKK). Or try roasted chickpeas, as you can see in this video.
Let’s get on to this delicious, healthy, oil-free, and nut-free vegan kale caesar!
I hope you enjoy – share your favorite ways to enjoy a vegan caesar salad in the comments. x Dreena
Smoky Kale Caesar (oil-free, nut-free, dairy-free)
- 1/2 cup precooked & cooled red or Yukon Gold potato see note
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds and/or sunflower seeds
- 1 small-medium clove garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast optional
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk
- 3 1/2 – 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce optional
- 2-3 tbsp water if needed
Kale Caesar Salad
- 4-5 cups stemmed and julienned kale leaves see note
- Few pinches coarse ground or regular sea salt
- 4-5 cups julienned romaine lettuce leaves
- Croutons and lemon wedges for serving
- Starting with 31/2 tablespoons lemon juice, combine all the dressing ingredients except the water in a blender (or in a deep cup if using an immersion blender) and puree until very smooth. Add water to thin the dressing if desired. Taste and add additional lemon juice and seasoning as desired. Toss the kale with about 1/2 cup of the dressing in a large bowl. Add a few pinches of coarse salt and let sit for 15–30 minutes to slightly wilt and soften the leaves. Add the lettuce leaves and 1/4 cup more dressing. Use tongs to work the dressing through the salad. Sprinkle with the croutons and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with extra smoked paprika (if using). Serve with lemon wedges. Any remaining dressing can be stored in fridge in airtight container for up to 6 days. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing. Salad serves 4 or more.