The (It Can’t Be!) Vegan Caesar Salad

Caesar salad always used to be one of my favorite foods. I say “used to be” because the egg & dairy & anchovy dressing doesn’t quite fit into the plant-based diet I’ve been eating for the last 5+ years. And while there are no shortage of vegan Caesar dressing recipes online, most taste like oily garlic water, or they have a million unhealthy ingredients (and still taste like oily garlic water).

Lately, I’ve been working to recreate the most authentic whole-food, plant-based Caesar dressing and this, dear readers, is it. To develop the right flavors, we’re relying upon some vegan magic in the form of cashews and olives… By now, you should know that I use cashews religiously for cream sauces and this is no different: blended cashews will give this dressing the right creaminess and mouthfeel. The anchovies, however, were the hard part – how do you make vegan anchovies? After a little research, I stumbled upon Kalamata olives which add a perfect meaty, briny substitute for the fishes and they totally kick this dressing to a whole new level. With those substitutions out of the way, we can add in the lemon, garlic, and dijon mustard as normal.

The result: my all-time favorite salad dressing. Toss with some crisp romaine leaves and homemade healthy croutons (below) for a truly incredible salad.


Makes: Enough dressing for a few big salads


  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 5 Kalamata olives
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • 3 slices whole-grain bread


The Caesar Dressing


Step Zero

Soak the cashews for at least 4 hours. The longer you soak them, the easier they will blend into the final dressing. When ready to make, drain the soaking liquid and then…

Step One

In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except lettuce and bread (cashews, non-dairy milk, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, olives, and a dash of salt & pepper) and let it run for several minutes. Seriously, several minutes. You want the cashews to turn into a creamy sauce with no chunks remaining.

Step Two

At this point, the sauce will likely be very thick. Slowly add several tablespoons of water at a time and continue blending until it has the perfect salad dressing consistency. Now, give the mixture a taste and feel free to adjust any ingredients. More salt, lemon, or garlic? Another olive? Throw in whatever it needs and blend until the dressing is perfect.

Step Three

Cover and refrigerate. In a pinch, you can use the sauce as is, but cashew sauces tend to get much better after chilling for several hours. It can be saved (sealed) for several days in the refrigerator.

Step Four

When ready to serve, chop the romaine lettuce and add it to a large bowl with as much dressing as you’d like. Then, use the best kitchen tools you have (clean hands) to toss and evenly coat the lettuce. Garnish with homemade whole wheat croutons (below).


The Homemade Croutons


What’s a Caesar salad without garlicy croutons, right? But rather than the unhealthy & stale chunks of rock you can buy in stores, let’s make our own healthy, rustic, delicious croutons with just a few slices of whole grain bread and a few minutes of time:

  1. Toast 3 slices of whole grain bread (Ezekiel brand is my favorite) until crispy on the outside.
  2. Cut a whole garlic clove in half and scrape it across the crisp surface of each slice of bread (both sides) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the bread into small squares and add them to a skillet over medium-low heat to for about 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally. This will further crispify the bread so they’re more like croutons instead of toast.
  4. Finally, allow the croutons to cool at room temperature to fully harden before tossing into the salad



Leave a Reply
  1. Andrew! Are you psychic? No, really? Yesterday at work a bunch of my co-workers got Caesar salads for lunch and yum. I got all pouty with my brown bag lunch. Want Caesar salad! But vegan please.

    And you bring it. Thank you. I’ll be having this for lunch today, and maybe dinner, and late-night snack…

    • Haha, yes! That’s exactly it. I knew you had been wanting a Caesar salad, so I made one! Just for you 🙂

  2. Andrew, you are a genius. You have made me so happy today! I am pretty sure my life will never be the same. (Thank you).

    • Genius?! I don’t know about that, haha, but I understand – a good vegan Caesar salad can be forever life changing 😛

    • As Gail said below, silken tofu can be a good substitute, but since nuts are the primary ingredient here, it would be a totally different recipe without them and I cannot guarantee how it would turn out.

    • As Gail said below, silken tofu can be a good substitute, but since nuts are the primary ingredient here, it would be a totally different recipe without them and I cannot guarantee how it would turn out.

  3. Just a suggestion, silken tofu works in other salad dressing recipes. Might try that if you are OK with tofu but not nuts.

  4. I just KNOW I will love this salad. You are batting perfect so far. Have you heard or tried any vegan paramzan cheezez?

    • Thans, Fany! I hope you love it. 🙂 I haven’t experimented much with traditional-style cheese recipes but that’s something I’d love to get into soon.

  5. Andrew please tell me you are working on a cookbook, I need that in my life. Going to make this tomorrow and knowing you this will be excellent,
    I have tried nearly all your recipies and not one of them has been horrible. I can’t say that for the other million vegan bloggers out there.
    good work and get a cookbook going, id pay good money for that.

    • That’s so nice of you, Al! I work hard to make sure all my recipes turn out well. At the moment, I am not working on a cookbook but there have been talks and we’ll see what happens in the near future 😉

  6. I was so excited to try this recipe! I was making a roasted vegetable salad over romaine & thought a caesar dressing would be perfect. I try to limit my use of nuts so I used a can of cannellini beans instead.

    WOW!!!! It was awesome!!!

  7. There are foods as well I miss as vegan. I have an oil phobia so salad dressings have always been a issue. but, tell me, why do so many vegan recipes call for cashews? I’m not allergic to anything, however nuts are just an added bunch of calories that I would like to live without. It would be a perfect world if you could have a substitutes in your recipes for the nuts.
    thank you for all your goodness!

    • Hi Caren, well nuts are’t *just* a bunch of calories, they add a ton of flavor and creaminess in a whole-food way that is much healthier than animal products. They do have calories, but this salad dressing has a fraction of the calories in a typical Caesar dressing with 1/2 cup of oil and eggs.

      As others have said, you may try silken tofu or cannelloni beans instead.

  8. Andrew thank you!! I haven’t made a Caesar salad yet either because the dressings do NOT look good. This looks fantastic and since Sunday is cooking day, the ingredients are going on my grocery list so I can have this as a precursor to dinner tonight!

  9. Wow! This salad was the bomb. I have already passed your website along to some others. Everything I have tried has been delish, but I will be making this salad very often. I too had lightened up on the salads because of the dressing issue, but this solves that issue. Thanks!

  10. Do you think dressing would work with roasted cashews? I’m allergic to raw nuts, but i’d like to try this recipe.

    • Hmm, possibly. I haven’t tried it and the flavor would definitely be different, but if they’re dry roasted (with no oil or seasoning), I imagine it might work.

  11. Hi Andrew!
    Can’t wait to try your recipe!

    How long would the croutons keep if it were to be made ahead of time? And what would be the best way to store them? Many thanks!

    • Hmm, that’s a tough question because I would suggest leaving them out so they don’t get soggy, but that would definitely shorten their lifespan… my best recommendation would be to just make them as you’re serving the salad (or at least the same day).

  12. Actually people concerned with calories shouldn’t be, this is a lot less calorific than traditional Ceaser Salad. Plus you still need calories in your diet even for weight loss. Let’s be honest, eating something that is less than 200 calories isn’t going to fill you for long. Eating greens in a salad with a nice good fat dressing not only tastes better but if better for you. It’s full of protein and fat and fibre. You need all 3 of them. I don’t believe in super low fat diets, you’ll just end up hungry and miserable. Fat does not make you fat unless you eat too much of it. It’s all about balance.

    Anyway more on to the salad itself. I really loved it. It’s simple and it tastes fantastic. The only thing I didn’t really enjoy about it was it was way too garlicky for my tastes, I found 3 cloves to be really overpowering to the point of where It’s taste overwhelmed everything else. I love garlic when I cook with it but Raw can be very strong. I used 2 large cloves and it was too strong. I’ll try it again with 1 and see of it is then. I want to keep it in for flavour and the health benefits so I’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks Again


    • Thanks for the comment, Shaun! I would tend to agree that having some fat (especially from a whole food like nuts) along with veggies is a great fit, as it helps absorption and some fat is necessary.

      I’m glad you like the salad! It’s true that raw garlic can be overpowering, and I guess it all depends on how big the cloves are. 🙂

      • Thanks Andrew, I really love your site by the way. I’ve been a Vegan for almost a year now and I’m always on the look out for recipes that fit my diet. This one is defiantly a keeper. Being Vegan, it’s almost impossible to hit your calorie needs from eating vegetables alone depending on the type. So a nice whole food salad where the dressing serves as the main ingredient is very important for me.

        Great thing about this salad is it’s nut based instead of just being an oily salad which is all fat, with nuts you get the added benefit of them being protein rich.

        I put around 1/4 cup of this on a single salad and it seems to be enough for me. I also sprinkled on some nutritional yeast which tasted great, I mean to be honest I put it on just about everything anyway.

    • Hi Carrie! For this, I actually used soy, but almond would work great as well. Usually when I refer to non-dairy milk it’s either soy or almond. If the recipe is really specific and calls for one or the other, I’ll often specify that.

  13. You say blend everything except lettuce & bread & then list all the others EXCEPT the garlic cloves. Are the cloves just to be used on the croutons, or are they to be blended in with the salad dressing mix! Thanks!

    • Ah, I see why that’s confusing. So, several cloves of garlic into the sauce itself and then use *another* clove (which is not really listed in the ingredients) to scrape across the bread.

  14. Hi, I followed the recipe exactly and it came out tasting very heavy on the olives. So much so that it was basically olive cream sauce, and I am not a big olive fan (and neither is my husband) so not good. Cashews are expensive and I don’t like wasting food so I made some additions to salvage the dressing: one cap full of apple cider vinegar, some extra lemon juice and mustard, several extra garlic cloves and several handfuls of nutritional yeast. I added these gradually and was finally able to cover some of that heavy olive taste and make what I thought was a decent dressing though I’m not sure how much like actual ceasar dressing it tasted like. If I try this again I will reduce the olive content by a lot, maybe using only two. Unless: Can anyone suggest a good olive substitute?
    Nobody else reported having this problem so I am curious if other people just didn’t mind the olive taste as much or what? Like I said, I followed the recipe to a T, so it was not a mistake on my part.
    The consistency and creaminess, however, was lovely.

    • Hi Betty, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s bizarre to think that 5 olives would come through so strongly in comparison to the cup of cashews, but if you don’t like olives, it’s probably more noticeable. Interestingly, a family member made this the other day and felt like it wasn’t flavorful enough so she added even more olives. I guess it just comes down to our own preferences. Glad you were able to salvage it.

    • It’s hard to say exactly when it might go bad, that could depend on a lot of factors, but you should get 3-4 days minimum in the fridge.

  15. I am not a vegan, just avoiding dairy due to infant nursing sensitivities. In my recipe search I came upon this on Pinterest and decided to give it a try. It was fabulous! I have tried at least 3 authentic Caesar recipes as my restrictions are only due to the cheese on the salad, but was never satisfied! I had the salad two days in a row and am craving it again! I made it with half romaine/half kale mixture! This recipe makes a TON of dressing, so I may cut the recipe in half next time! I loved that it wasn’t oily and had the perfect tang! About to check out more of your recipes!

  16. What can the cashews be substituted for? Nut sensitivity, peanuts especially , but need to avoid all! Building meal plan for my 4 weeks of hypoallergenic diet in the hopes of getting my histamine levels down! No dairy, gluten, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers). I’m also sensitive to many fruits, so a restricted restricted diet!

  17. Hi. Full disclosure. Not a vegan, but understand the substitutions. So, to the best of my knowledge Worcester sauce is a pretty common if not vital component to a proper Caesar. If it doesn’t violate the vegan rule why did you leave it out?

    • Hi Dan, good question. Worcestershire sauce actually has anchovies and it’s really not that significant a part of the dressing, in my opinion. Especially because the Kalamata olives & brine give it that anchovy-like taste.

  18. Would it ruin the recipe to cut out the olives completely? I am not an olive fan and I’m scared the flavor is going to turn me off.

    • Hmm! That might be tough because the olives are really central to the flavor. You can try, of course. Maybe even add some capers for the same brine-like thing without the olive flavor.

6 Pings & Trackbacks

  1. Pingback:Forkified | 33 vegan comfort food recipes that may be better than the originals

  2. Pingback:The Dangerous World of Organic Vegan Foods

  3. Pingback:Et kig i det veganske køkken

  4. Pingback:Happy Healthy Halloween in 2014! - Oy Vegan!

  5. Pingback:The Vegetarian Plate | The Blueprints

  6. Pingback:Good Ol' Organic Caesar SaladGood Life Organics

Leave a Reply to Andrew Olson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Orange Vanilla Bean Chia Pudding

The Perfect Veggie Burgers