No salad is quite as satisfying as a Caesar salad, with its creamy texture and umami-packed, punchy flavor. But if you’re vegan or on a restricted diet, Caesar is probably the last salad dressing you reach for. Traditional recipes call for egg, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, and often Worcestershire sauce, none of which fit a vegan diet.
This dressing makes some clever swaps so you can enjoy the flavors of Caesar dressing without eggs, dairy, or fish. It’s satisfyingly creamy, cheesy, garlicky, and tart. Regardless of whether you follow a vegan diet or not, you’ll enjoy it immensely.
Plus, it’s easy to make. All you’ll need are a few ingredients and a blender. You can adjust the thickness to suit your tastes and purposes—a bit thinner for tossing with greens, thicker for using as a dip or for slathering on sandwiches or wraps.
It’s quick, too. Peel some garlic, juice a lemon, blend it up with the remaining ingredients, and you’re done!
What Makes This Dressing Vegan?
There’s no need to soak cashews or seek out hard-to-find ingredients to make this vegan dressing. It emulates the classic with basic ingredients that you’ll likely find in your local supermarket.
In traditional Caesar dressing, an egg-based emulsion creates the creaminess, much like in homemade mayonnaise. Here, the eggs are replaced with tahini, a naturally thick and creamy sesame seed paste. It adds a slightly nutty flavor to the dressing without overpowering it.
Nutritional yeast steps in effortlessly for Parmesan cheese, and soy sauce steps in for Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies. Or, if you can find it, use vegan Worcestershire.
A Little About Tahini
You’ll find tahini in most grocery stores, with a wider selection of brands at Middle Eastern markets. You can also order it online. When you look at the label, the sole ingredient should be sesame seeds.
Much like natural peanut butter, tahini tends to separate as it sits. Give a new jar a good stir, really incorporating the oil into the paste, and give it a quick stir before every use.
Also like peanut butter, when a liquid is added to tahini, it becomes thicker rather than thinner. This is because tahini is made up largely of carbohydrates, and when a little liquid is added, the molecules are drawn to it, making clumps. Enough liquid needs to be added to pass a threshold, causing the tahini to loosen up and thin out.
Keep adding warm water to the dressing a little at a time until you get the consistency you’re looking for. You’ll likely need to add a splash of warm water to leftover dressing, as it can thicken in the fridge. Luckily, it’s a very stable dressing that’ll stay creamy—you can add water at any point without breaking the emulsion.
The Secret Ingredient: Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a go-to ingredient in many vegan households. Even though I don’t eat vegan for every meal, I love the stuff and always have some stashed in my pantry. While it may look like fish food, the flakes are incredibly nutritious and they smell and taste very similar to Parmesan cheese.
In this recipe, nutritional yeast adds umami and cheesiness that is key to Caesar dressing. If you’re making a Caesar salad, I recommend sprinkling some on top before serving, too.
You can find nutritional yeast in a few different sections of the grocery store, either near the breadcrumbs and spices, in the health food section, or in a bulk bin.
Equally Delicious Variations
This dressing is easy to tweak to suit your tastes by adding more or less lemon or vinegar, more or less garlic, plus anything else you want to experiment with. Here are a few variations that are also incredibly delicious.
- Roasted garlic: Swap the cloves of garlic for an entire head of roasted garlic. Squeeze out the roasted garlic into the blender. This is my favorite variation—it gives the dressing a slightly more mellow, rich garlic flavor.
- Spicy: Add up to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste, or several dashes of hot sauce to give the dressing a kick.
- Capers: Add a spoonful of capers. It won’t be quite as creamy, but it’ll have a nice briny flavor.
Ideas for Using Vegan Caesar Dressing
The obvious use for Caesar dressing is on a salad, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Use it as a dip for crudité or slather it on sandwiches and wraps. Replace the dressing or spread in these recipes with vegan Caesar dressing:
Vegan Caesar Dressing
If the dressing is too thick for tossing a salad, adjust the consistency by adding a splash of water (about 1 tablespoon) and give it a really good stir to incorporate.
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup tahini, stirred well
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or caper brine
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup warm water, divided, plus more as needed
Combine the ingredients:
In a blender, add the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, vinegar or brine, olive oil, mustard, soy sauce or Worcestershire, agave or maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons warm water.
Secure the lid on and blend on medium-high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons warm water while blending, adding up to 2 additional tablespoons as needed to reach the desired consistency.
For dressing a salad, it should be thin enough that it easily drips off a spoon. For a dip or spread, it should be thick like sour cream.
Taste and serve:
Taste the dressing and add more salt and black pepper as needed.
Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Before serving, give it a stir. If it is too thick upon chilling, stir in warm water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until the dressing loosens.
I do not recommend freezing this dressing—it tends to separate when defrosted.
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