Vegan Caesar Salad

I know I've been saying this a lot, but I don't know that I have ever  tried actual Caesar dressing. I've had a lot of Caesar salads, but knowing that the dressing contains anchovy, I've always skipped it in favor of something else. This salad really intrigued me though, could what I imagine to be, tangy Caesar dressing, be recreated with only vegan ingredients? Could a Caesar salad be successful without the signature Parmesan cheese?

This vegan Caesar salad was so good, all of the ingredients were full of flavor and if I had been served this without being told it was vegan, I would have thought the dressing had dairy in it. The dressing is garlicky, the "Parmesan cheese" is savory, and the chickpea croutons add an nice bite. Dave, who has had a full Caesar salad, weighed in and said this was a very close replica of the anchovy filled, cheesy original.

This was also my first time using nutritional yeast, I was unable to find it at my local grocery store, but I was able to order a large container off Amazon for less than $7. Dave thought it tasted like corn flakes, but mixed with the other ingredients it did have a vague Parmesan taste to it.

Slightly adapted from Oh She Glows.

For the Roasted Chickpea Croutons:
-1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

For the Caesar Dressing (makes 3/4-1 cup):
-1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
-1/4 cup water
-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1 small garlic clove
-1/2 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
-2 teaspoons capers
-1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt and pepper, or to taste

For the "Parmesan Cheese":
-1/3 cup raw cashews
-1 small garlic clove
-1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
-1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-fine grain sea salt, to taste

For the lettuce:
-2 small heads romaine lettuce (10 cups chopped)
-1 package of spinach (chopped)

The night before you plan to make this salad, soak 1/2 cup of cashews in a bowl of water overnight, or for at least a few hours. Drain and rinse.

To prepare the chickpeas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Dry the chickpeas and toss them with the olive oil. Lay the chickpeas out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle on the garlic powder, salt, and optional cayenne. Toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then gently roll the chickpeas around in the baking sheet. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven to cool.

While the chickpeas are roasting, prepare the dressing by adding the soaked cashews and all other dressing ingredients (except salt) into a high-speed blender, and blend on high until the dressing is super smooth. Add water as needed to thin out the dressing while you're blending the ingredients. Add the salt, then taste to adjust the other seasonings as needed.

To make the "Parmesan cheese" Add the dry cashews and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse to combine. Salt to taste (keeping in mind there is also salt in the dressing, do not over salt).

Wash and dry the lettuce/spinach. Chop into bite sized pieces. To serve, toss the lettuce in the dressing, sprinkle on the "Parmesan cheese" and chickpeas. Serve immediately.



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