This Kale Caesar Salad is healthy, fun to make and downright delicious! It’s the perfect side dish to any meal and one that absolutely everyone is going to love! It can easily be made vegan but is incredibly delicious either way!
This homemade Kale Caesar Salad is crunchy, delicious and full of flavour. It’s a perfect meal or side dish for those hot Summer months. Chopped kale leaves pair perfectly with smoky roasted chickpeas, an easy homemade hemp seed parmesan “cheese” and a creamy made from scratch caesar dressing. It’s light, refreshing and can be a complete meal in and of itself! But don’t rule it out as a killer appetizer or side dish, either, as you can serve it with almost anything. It may be simple but trust me, this Kale Caesar Salad takes your taste buds on a ride they don’t want to miss!
It’s no secret. I’m a salad kinda gal. I just am, ok? From Broccoli Salad to Potato Salad to a good ol’ Green Salad, I just love ’em all! Don’t get me wrong, I love me some French Fries or Mashed Potatoes, too. But salad? Put that in front of me and it’s game over. What’s better? Making salads! You can do anything with them! And this Kale Caesar Salad proves exactly that!
It’s got it’s own homemade creamy caesar dressing that you, YES YOU, whipped up yourself. Forget the store bought stuff because this dressing is tangy, has a nice peppery bite and is perfectly creamy. It pairs incredibly well with the crunchy and delicious oven roasted chickpeas which take the place of regular croutons in a classic caesar salad. And, to finish things off, it’s even got a homemade vegan version of parmesan “cheese” that once again, you, YES YOU, easily whip up yourself! This simple but flavourful Kale Caesar Salad will bring out the inner chef you didn’t even know you had! And trust me… you’re going to impress everyone, including yourself!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO WHIP UP THIS KALE CAESAR SALAD
It may seem like an overwhelming amount of ingredients at first glance. But, since you can basically break this Kale Caesar Salad down into three different parts, this recipe is simple to make and easy to follow. And the best part is that it can be made completely vegan!
Let’s start with the Ingredients for the Easiest Vegan Parmesan “Cheese” you will ever make!
This two ingredient “Parmesan Cheese” is simple to make and takes this Kale Caesar Salad to a whole other level. And all you need are Hemp Seeds and Nutritional Yeast. The hemp seeds add a nutty flavour and crunchy texture. They’re also a great source of plant based protein and omega fatty acids and contain all nine essential amino acids! The nutritional yeast is where the “cheese” taste comes from. It, too, is high in protein, low in fat and provides a large variety of vitamins and minerals. Simply pulse the two in a food processor or blender a few times and voilà, two ingredient, two second vegan parmesan “cheese” is born!
Next up, let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make the Smoky Crunchy Chickpeas aka the “croutons”. Which, by the way, you can totally enjoy as a snack all on their own. Yeah, THAT good!
- Chickpeas: For convenience, I like using canned chickpeas but if you have the time, you can used fresh, soaked and cooked chickpeas instead. Either way, make sure you drain the chickpeas and dry them as much as possible before adding any liquids, oils or seasonings. This will ensure they come out as crunchy as possible! Recipe Note: Don’t worry if some of the skins come off the chickpeas while patting them dry with a paper towel. This won’t affect the overall taste of the chickpeas and in fact, will make them crunchier.
- Olive Oil: Adds flavour and helps to coat the chickpeas so the seasonings stick better.
- Liquid Smoke: Has the same role as the Olive Oil here. Liquid smoke is a unique ingredient that is exactly what it sounds like! It’ll add an irreplicable smoky flavour to the dish!
- Smoked Paprika, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper: The seasonings that will ultimately send the roasted chickpeas over the top. The smoky, garlicky flavour is perfect for this Kale Caesar Salad.
And finally, the ingredients for the Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing that quite literally ties it alllllllll together.
- Lemon: Adds tanginess, acidity and a little bit of zing to the dressing. Juicing a fresh lemon will give you the best results.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Kind of a sweet, fruity flavour that also adds tanginess and acidity to the dressing. Although I like using Apple Cider Vinegar for its health benefits (i.e. reduces cholesterol, improves cardiovascular health, controls the blood sugar level), you can use white or red vinegar instead if that’s all you have on hand.
- Capers in Brine: For a tangy, salty pop of flavour. Using both the capers and the brine they come in adds flavour and also helps to thin out the dressing.
- Tahini: Adds a smooth, nutty flavour to the dressing. Responsible for making this vegan caesar salad dressing creamy AF.
- Olive Oil: For flavour and texture. Helps the dressing achieve a creamier texture and thicker consistency. Also plays an important role in tenderizing the kale leaves making them more palatable and easier to eat.
- Dijon Mustard: Adds a smooth saltiness and tang to the dressing. Also acts as an emulsifier eliminating the need to add raw egg as called for in a traditional caesar dressing. While I don’t recommend using regular mustard, you can try it with honey mustard (if not vegan) or even whole grain mustard instead, if that’s all you have on hand. Recipe Note: If vegan, make sure to check the ingredients for the dijon as not all dijon mustards are vegan.
- Nutritional Yeast: A popular ingredient in vegan cooking. Adds a nutty, “cheesy” flavour to the dish. You can typically find nutritional yeast in the baking and/or dry goods aisle of the grocery store. If not there, check the health food aisle, the bulk food aisle or the spice section.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Adds a bold, smoky and savory flavour to the dressing. Recipe Note: Omit to make this Kale Caesar Salad vegan.
- Garlic: To achieve that much loved garlicky flavour common in a classic caesar salad. Fresh is best but if all you have on hand is garlic powder, use 1/4 tsp instead of 1 clove.
- Water: Used to thin out the dressing to your desired consistency. For a thinner dressing, add more water. For a thicker dressing, add less. PRO TIP: Add the water, 1 tbsp at a time (NOT all at once like I [foolishly] do in the video), until you reach your desired consistency.
- Salt and Pepper: A little salt and pepper adds flavour and helps balance and intensify the rest of the ingredients.
Annnnnd, Kale is the final but perhaps most important ingredient of the salad! I mean, you could technically use another green in its place if you really want to or don’t have any kale on hand. But then we wouldn’t be able to call it a Kale Caesar Salad, now would we? Besides, kale is an anti-inflammatory vegetable that is high in vitamins A, C and K and packed with minerals such as potassium, zinc and calcium. I used a curly kale but you can use lacinato or purple kale instead.
See. That wasn’t so bad, now was it?!
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE FOR KALE CAESAR SALAD (KEY TIPS)
- Ensure the kale is chopped into similar, bite sized pieces. As a self-proclaimed salad connoisseur, trust me when I say there is nothing worse than an uneven salad where the pieces barely fit in your mouth. Take the time to chop [any salad you ever make] properly and everyone will thank you.
- Discard the stem of the kale. The stem has tough and stalky fibres that’ll make it hard to chew and provide a slightly bitter taste. However, sometimes, I choose to keep a *tiny* amount in for extra texture and added crunch but this is totally optional and based on preference. EXTRA TIP: There’s no need to even use a knife when preparing the kale for this salad. Simply use your hands to gently rip/tear the kale leaves off the stem and into your desired size.
- Use a salad spinner to ensure no water remains on the kale after it is washed. Believe me, friends, this step makes the world of difference!
- Blend the dressing in a food processor or blender to ensure the ingredients get evenly distributed and well combined. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender.
- Use water to adjust the consistency of the dressing. Start by adding 1 tbsp at a time until you reach your desired consistency. For a thinner dressing, you’ll need up to 4 tbsp of water.
- To easily dry the chickpeas, line a baking sheet with paper towel. Spread the chickpeas on top, then, using another paper towel pat them dry as you roll them around the pan.
- When cooking the chickpeas, arrange them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. It’s okay if they touch a little bit but they definitely don’t pile them on top of each other. The parchment paper helps prevent sticking and makes for easy clean up!
- When roasting the chickpeas in the oven, rotate/shake the pan halfway through to promote even cooking and browning on all sides. Keep an eye on the chickpeas in the last few minutes of cooking to ensure they don’t burn. The chickpeas are done when they’re crunchy all over but not burnt.
- To save on time and for convenience, try to multitask when making this Kale Caesar Salad. You can make the dressing and prepare the kale at the same time as the chickpeas are roasting. Go you!!! You got this!
- Toss the salad reaaaally well to make sure the vegan parmesan cheese, the roasted chickpeas and the creamy dressing all get nicely combined. The perfect bite of this Kale Caesar Salad is a taste of all three components at the same time!
- Let the salad sit for at least 5 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to mingle and the kale to soften. I like throwing it in the fridge so it can chill at the same time.
- To make this salad 100% vegan: Eliminate the worcestershire sauce in the dressing as it’s traditionally made with anchovies or fish sauce. Be sure to check the ingredients on the dijon mustard as not all of them are made vegan. If you can’t find a vegan version, either eliminate it or substitute it with whole grain mustard instead.
- Have leftovers? Fret not! Unlike many other salads, the kale benefits from sitting in the dressing as it will tenderize and soften the tough and fibrous leaves. EXTRA TIP: Leftover salad makes a great Kale Caesar Wrap!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes! Unlike traditional caesar salads that are high in saturated fat and sodium, this Kale Caesar Salad recipe is in fact healthy. First we got the salad base which is made up of entirely kale. Kale is packed with several essential vitamins and minerals and has many health benefits. Chickpeas are rich in vitamins, minerals and high in protein and fibres. Like kale, they offer a wide range of health benefits (i.e. improves digestion and aids in weight management). Finally, the salad is complete with many healthy and natural ingredients such as hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, tahini and apple cider vinegar.
I love using curly kale (aka the most common type of kale) for this Kale Caesar Salad. However, you may use dinosaur kale (lacinato kale), purple kale or russian kale instead, if you prefer.
Unlike other salads which will wilt and become soggy as they sit in dressing, this Kale Caesar Salad is different. It will be good, tossed in dressing, for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge. The leaves will tenderize and become more palatable as they sit in the dressing without risking the kale losing its crisp over time. However, with that being said, the salad is still best fresh and I wouldn’t recommend intentionally making it days in advance. However, with that being said, feel free to roast the chickpeas and make the parmesan up to a few days in advance.
Recipe Note: The vegan parmesan “cheese” and the roasted chickpeas don’t need to be refrigerated. If you have any leftovers or want to eat this salad another day, simply store them separately on the counter in airtight containers until ready to use.
For the Creamy Caesar Dressing
- 2 tbsp Tahini
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard*
- 2 tsp Capers, plus 1 tsp Brine
- 1 tsp Nutritional Yeast
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce*
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp Water*
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
For the Vegan Parmesan "Cheese"
- 3 tbsp Hemp Seeds
- 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast
- 1/4 tsp Salt
For the Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
- 1 (15 oz) can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Liquid Smoke
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Pat the chickpeas dry with a paper towel. Try your best to get as much of the water off as possible* Add them to a bowl with the olive oil, liquid smoke and chickpea seasonings and toss well to combine. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 30-45 minutes, tossing and rotating the pan halfway through. The chickpeas are done when they're crunchy all over but not burnt. Keep an eye in the last few minutes of cooking to ensure nothing burns.
- Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stems and rip or chop it into similar bite sized pieces (I like using my hands for this). Wash, dry well and add to a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
- In the body of a food processor or blender, add the ingredients for the vegan parmesan cheese - hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and salt. Pulse a few times until it's blended but still a little crumbly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
- In the body of a food processor or blender (no need to wash it out after the parmesan), add all the ingredients for the caesar dressing except the water. Blend until smooth. Add the water, 1 tbsp at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and set in the fridge to chill until ready to use.
- To assemble the salad, add the vegan parmesan cheese and smoky roasted chickpeas to the chopped kale. Drizzle with as much dressing as you desire and toss well to combine. For maximum flavour, let the salad sit for at least 5 minutes before serving (I like sticking it in the fridge to chill at the same time!)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 291Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 808mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 7gSugar: 4gProtein: 11g
Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.
LOVE KALE? TRY MY HEALTHY & DELICIOUS KALE CHIPS
MORE WAYS TO LOVE ON SALADS