There is a sad moment in the lives of many vegetarians when making the discovery that caesar salads are usually off limits. I know it was in mine. I've also been in the unfortunate position of breaking the shocking news to many other vegetarians over the years. It always hurts.
I hope I'm not shocking anyone right now with this news, but it's probably best that you guys are all informed: most caesar dressing contains anchovy paste.
Hang on for a minute before you get all teary on me! During the last few years things have gotten better. Many restaurants are moving away from the inclusion of anchovy paste. In fact, recently when having lunch at a pub, after having a plate with an unexpected side caesar salad accompanying my veggie sandwich placed in front of me, I was informed by the server that the anchovy paste is more of a "fancy restaurant thing" and your typical pub or grill will serve you a caesar salad that is perfectly suitable for vegetarians. It's still probably best to ask though.
This doesn't help vegans much. I've come across some vegan recipes for caesar dressing that is more of a garlicky vinaigrette. This is nice, but we're still missing out on that classic, creamy caesar. I've wanted to mess around with some vegan versions of this for a while. Then recently I was eating some cooked veggies topped with tahini, when I realized that was the perfect main ingredient for my vegan caesar. I was so right - in fact, the tahini dressing is way better than any eggy, dairy based caesar I've ever had. It's delightfully creamy, but has that toasty, nutty tahini deliciousness that we all love so much. It coated my romaine leaves to irresistible perfection.
Then, of course, there's the whole parmesan issue. I've taken care of that as well with a simple substitution made from my favorite cheesy vegan ingredients: cashews and nutritional yeast.
Wanting to add some protein, I took the salad one step further and subbed out traditional bread croutons for tempeh. Lemon garlic tempeh. The result was a deliciously satisfying and energizing caesar that put its traditional counterparts to shame.
Tahini Vegan Caesar Salad with Lemon Garlic Tempeh Croutons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 8 oz. package of tempeh, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Whisk together first three ingredients and add tempeh. Allow to marinade while you prepare everything else, or longer if you've got the time, tossing occasionally to coat. Cook in nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat, flipping and cooking on all sides until nicely browned.
2 tbsp. raw cashews
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
Dash of olive oil
Dash of salt
Preheat oven to 300. Mix all ingredients together in small bowl, and then transfer to food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to baking sheet and bake 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Tahini Caesar Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. unsweetened, unflavored non dairy milk of choice
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. white miso paste
Blend everything in blender or food processor until smooth. You can add a little water or additional milk if it seems too thick.
To Make the Salads
4 cups chopped romaine
1 batch of each: tempeh croutons, cashew parmesan, tahini caesar dressing
Place romaine in large mixing bowl and add dressing and parmesan. Toss to coat. Divide among two plates and top with tempeh croutons.