Vegan Caesar salad

Alternatives to egg, bacon and Parmesan add tons of flavour!

I love salad. I often describe it as one of my ‘desert island foods’ (meaning something I could eat every single day were I to be stranded and have to exist on a very limited diet). Caesar salad has long been a favourite thought with the increasing number of recalls associated with Romaine lettuce in North America, I’ve pretty much switched over to kale full-time. The vegan twists in this recipe are very straightforward. Dijon mustard acts as a good emulsifier in the dressing, so no need for an egg yolk. My coconut ‘bacon’ bits are flavourful and crispy, making it easy to pass on conventional bacon, while vegan ‘Parmesan’ is a super tasty concoction that adds a nutty, cheesy flavour to the salad. Note that if you want to make this recipe even easier, you can skip the step of infusing fresh garlic in olive oil and instead combine equal portions (1/3 cup or 90 mL each) of roasted garlic olive oil and regular good-quality olive oil. I encourage you to try the toasted panko (breadcrumbs) instead of croutons – you get more crunch in every bite!


  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon / 15 mL)
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) good-quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) panko or other dried bread crumbs (use gluten-free if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white wine or rice vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 cups (2 L) washed, chopped fresh kale or Romaine leaves
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) vegan ‘Parmesan’ (see recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) coconut ‘bacon’ bits


  • Put the minced garlic and the olive oil in a small saucepan placed over medium heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat slightly. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until garlic has softened. Strain the oil into a clean glass measure or jar and set aside. Discard the cooked garlic.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of the garlic-infused oil to a small frying pan. Sprinkle the panko over top then place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 – 4 minutes, until panko is toasted and golden brown. Transfer toasted panko to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare dressing by putting Dijon, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in a 1 cup (250 mL) glass jar with a tight lid. Cover and shake vigorously to blend well. Add remaining garlic-infused oil, about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) at a time, covering and shaking well after each addition. After all the oil has been added, taste and adjust lemon, vinegar, salt or pepper to suit your preferences.
  • Note that garlic oil, toasted panko and salad dressing can be prepared up to 1 day ahead.
  • When ready to assemble salad, place washed, chopped kale in a large bowl. Drizzle about 2/3 of the dressing over the kale, then, with very clean hands, thoroughly massage the dressing into the kale to tenderize it, making it less chewy. (If using Romaine, simply drizzle the dressing over the chopped leaves then toss gently to coat). If leaves seem dry, add a bit more dressing (about a tablespoon / 15 mL) at a time and toss again. The goal is to have the greens thoroughly coated without leaving a puddle of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
  • When kale or Romaine is dressed to your liking, sprinkle toasted panko, vegan ‘Parmesan’ and coconut ‘bacon’ bits over top and serve immediately.

Serves 3 – 4; recipe can easily be multiplied.

Vegan ‘Parmesan’

In a food processor, pulse the following ingredients until they have the consistency of cornmeal (finely ground but not powdery):

  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) raw cashews
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) nutritional yeast flakes (available at health food stores)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) garlic powder

Leftover vegan ‘Parmesan’ can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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