I never really liked Caesar salad until I went vegan. The idea of a dressing made with both fish and raw eggs didn’t sit right with me, and I found most Caesar salads to be overly dressed, making it impossible to taste the bright, crunchy romaine.
As a vegan, I’ve tried many different Caesars: raw food versions, legume-based versions, avocado versions. This quinoa chickpea Caesar salad may be my favorite to date, if only because it’s the heartiest and most filling. It’s also the least traditional Caesar I’ve come up with. Croutons are replaced by crispy roasted chickpeas, and quinoa takes the starring role, making this as much a grain salad as it is green salad. The dressing is perfect: a creamy, simple blend of cashews, water, and seasoning. Regardless of how often I make this salad in the future (and I suspect it’ll become a regular, especially when I have friends over), the dressing is here to stay.
So too are the chickpeas, which you don’t have to serve in this salad. They’re totally snack-worthy on their own, and while the Worcestershire sauce is a nice nod to classic Caesar salad flavors, it also is a perfect marinade for the beans before they go into the oven.
Usually I take a “kitchen sink” approach to salad making, throwing in lots of different types of veggies and fixings. I was more restrained when I put this salad together, allowing the romaine, quinoa, and chickpeas to shine. But if you’d like to add cherry tomatoes, shaved fennel, chopped green beans, or bell peppers to this salad, I think they’d all taste great. And while I do love the crunch and freshness of chopped romaine, baby greens or finely chopped kale would also work really well as a base. I’d love to try the salad with shaved brussels sprouts, too!
Quinoa Chickpea Caesar Salad
For the roasted chickpeas:
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce I used Lord Sandy's, but many brands, including Annie's are vegan; if you're allergic to wheat, gluten, or soy, or you don't have Worcestershire sauce at home, you can substitute an extra tablespoon of tamari
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
For the Caesar dressing:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked for at least 2 hours, drained, and rinsed (you can substitute soaked sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, or macadamia nuts)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dulse nori, or kelp flakes or granules
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
For the salad:
- 2 cups cooked quinoa any color is fine
- 4 heaping cups washed and chopped romaine lettuce
- Preheat your oven to 375F. Toss the chickpeas in the oil, Worcestershire sauce, tamari, smoked paprika, apple cider vinegar, agave or maple syrup, onion powder, and garlic powder. Spread them on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, or until lightly browning, stirring halfway through. Set the chickpeas aside.
- While the chickpeas roast, blend all dressing ingredients together in a food processor or blender till smooth.
- To prepare the salad, dress the greens to your liking (you'll have dressing leftover) and divide them onto four plates, topping each bed of greens with a quarter of the quinoa and toasted chickpeas. Spoon extra dressing on top. Alternately, you can mix the greens, quinoa, and chickpeas together in a large mixing bowl and dress to taste, tossing well before dividing onto serving plates. Leftover salad will keep overnight in an airtight container in the fridge.
I love the way the salty, smoky chickpeas and hearty quinoa contrast with crispy greens and a lemony dressing. The dressing offers umami and creaminess without weighing the greens down. This is a perfect salad to make for family and friends: it’s evocative of traditional Caesar flavors while also presenting the recipe in a new way. And it’s a great way to showcase how neatly beans and grains can fit into any salad template.
I really hope you enjoy the salad. And on Thursday, I’ll be back with a quick and easy bowl meal that’s equally perfect for breakfast and lunch. You can expect to see a lot of “express” options between now and the end of this busy semester, and this will be a fun place to start! Hope to see you soon,