Easy Vegan Kale Caesar Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

This Caesar salad recipe features an umami-loaded dressing and crispy chickpeas for all the best salad flavors.

The signature of a good Caesar salad is an umami-loaded dressing that packs a punch. The combination of dijon mustard, capers, and nutritional yeast mimics the deeply savory flavor that is otherwise achieved by anchovies. Feel free to use store-bought vegan Parmesan to cut down on time, but we also included a homemade recipe if you feel like making your own.

Kale Chickpea Caesar Salad

Prep Time: 45 minutes (includes soaking time for the cashews) | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

Crispy Chickpeas:
One 15.5 ounce can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed well 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Caesar Dressing:

1/2 cup raw cashews, about 2 1/4 ounces 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (1 large clove) 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon capers, drained well
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad Assembly:

12 ounces curly kale, stems removed and leaves ripped into bite-size pieces, about 12 lightly packed cups total
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping (see “Notes and Tips” for homemade recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Crispy chickpeas are the star of this vegan Caesar salad recipe.

Preparation:

  1. For the Crispy Chickpeas​: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Add the drained chickpeas to a large paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Move the chickpeas around on the paper towels to remove any excess water. Transfer the chickpeas to a medium bowl. Remove the paper towels and line the baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Add the chickpeas back to the baking sheet.
  2. Bake in the oven until the chickpeas are completely dry, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with granulated garlic, black pepper, and salt, gently stirring to coat the chickpeas. Continue to bake the chickpeas until browned and crispy, about 30-35 additional minutes, making sure to rotate the baking sheet once at the 15-minute mark. Remove from the oven, and allow your chickpeas to cool on the baking sheet.
  3. For the Caesar Dressing:​ Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cashews, turn off the heat, and cover the saucepan with a lid. Allow the cashews to sit in the hot water until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the cashews and rinse with cold water.
  4. Add soaked cashews to a blender along with garlic, dijon mustard, capers, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/4 cup water, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. If the dressing is too thick, blend in additional water to loosen it up (adding a teaspoon at a time). Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.
  5. For the Salad Assembly:​ Add the kale to a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Use your hands to massage the salt, lemon juice, and olive oil into the kale until the kale starts to slightly wilt, about 2 minutes. Add half of the crispy chickpeas, half of the Caesar dressing, vegan parmesan, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper to the kale. Toss to combine.
  6. Transfer the salad to a large platter, drizzle with some of your remaining dressing, sprinkle with additional vegan parmesan cheese, and top with remaining chickpeas. Serve immediately.

Notes and Tips:

  • To make homemade Vegan Parmesan Cheese: Add 1 cup raw cashews (about 4 1/2 ounces), 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion, and 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic to a food processor. Blend until very finely chopped and crumbly (similar to the texture of grated parmesan cheese). Season to taste with additional if needed. Yield–about 1 1/4 cups.
  • Massaging the kale with olive oil, lemon and a touch of salt helps to tenderize the kale while also adding flavor to the greens.
  • Adding the cashews to boiling water softens the nuts in a short amount of time, but alternatively, you can also soak the nuts overnight in room temperature water.
  • Getting oven-roasted chickpeas crispy can be tricky but by taking the extra step to dry out the chickpeas in the oven before tossing them with olive oil and seasonings, your chickpeas are guaranteed to come out nice and crunchy.