This Vegetarian Caesar Salad is one of my all-time favourite salads. With crispy, cheesy, garlic croutons, and a creamy dressing without the anchovies, this salad is great as a side or as a main dish.
Before we switched to a vegetarian diet Caesar Salad was one of the few salads I would order at a restaurant. It sometimes came with grilled chicken, but always with anchovies in the sauce and parmesan cheese. I've yet to come across a good vegetarian caesar salad in a restaurant, so I tend to avoid it now when we eat out. My homemade caesar salad, however, is a different thing. I substitute anchovies in the dressing for capers and switch the parmesan to a vegetarian version. I keep with tradition and use romaine lettuce and make my own crispy croutons. And to make this a meal I ditch the chicken and add hard-boiled eggs. This is probably the only salad I can eat all year round.
How to Make Vegetarian Caesar Salad
- Croutons - these cheesy, garlicky croutons are perfectly crispy. Sourdough is my choice of bread here, but any thick sliced bread will do. I add some sliced garlic to olive oil and heat it until the oil takes on the flavour of the garlic. Toss the cubed bread in the oil and grated vegetarian parmesan then transfer it to a lined baking tray.
- Bake - Bake the croutons until they are golden then leave them to cool.
- Dressing - Add the capers, grated cheese, mustard, garlic and egg yolk to a large mixing bowl then whisk it. Next add the mayo, vinegar and lemon juice. Finally, very slowly whisk in the oil and season. You should have a silky, creamy, tangy dressing.
- Assemble the salad - I roughly tear the lettuce and drop that in a large serving dish, add the croutons and give it a little toss. You can add the dressing now or serve it on the side, it's up to you. I like it on the side. Top with boiled eggs, shavings of vegetarian parmesan and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper.
Tip for Making your the Best Vegetarian Caesar Salad:
- Homemade croutons are really great but if you don't have time you can use store-bought croutons.
- Romaine lettuce really is the best lettuce for a Caesar salad. It has a strong leaf that will hold up to the weight of the croutons and eggs. Romaine lettuce won't lose it's crispness as quickly as other lettuce. It also has nice dips and groove in the leaf for the dressing to pool in. When buying Romaine lettuce look out for the freshest, least-wilted lettuce with the brightest colour. Wash the leaves thoroughly in cold water and dry using kitchen paper.
- Vegetarian Parmesan - a lot of people don't realise that parmesan cheese is not vegetarian. Real parmesan is never vegetarian, this is because animal rennet is used to set the cheese during the making process. Stirred into a vat of cultured milk, it causes the milk to coagulate and separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The curds are then turned into cheese. This doesn't bother some vegetarians, which is fine. I prefer to use a non-vegetarian cheese, most stores now sell a vegetarian "parmesan" which is pretty close to the real thing.
- Caesar Salad Dressing - I prefer to whisk my dressing by hand, you can, of course, use a food processor if you wish. Capers (the small ones) add that tangy salty flavour to the dressing which is a good substitute for the anchovies. The dressing does include a raw egg so it is not suitable for young children, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women or immune-compromised individuals. I always use very fresh organic pasteurised eggs to make this dressing. You can leave the egg out if you wish but there may be a little change in flavour.
Storing and Making Ahead
You can make the croutons up to a week ahead of time if you want to. They can be stored in an airtight container. You can also freeze the croutons if you don't use them all. So, let them cool then pop them in a freezer bag, they should defrost fairly quickly, but if you want them warm and crispy then pop in them in a preheated oven 180C/356F until they are warm and crispy.
The dressing really should be made fresh, especially if you are including the egg yolk. You can store any leftover dressing for one day. It must be kept, covered, in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge 10 minutes before you use it then give it a good shake or stir. The dressing cannot be frozen. As with all salads, this vegetarian caesar salad is best eaten fresh. I don't recommend freezing it.
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Vegetarian Caesar Salad
For the croutons
- 5 thick slices of sourdough bread (200g) crusts removed then cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
- ¼ cup vegetarian parmesan (25g) finely grated
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
For the dressing
- 10 capers finely chopped
- 1 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 scant tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk I used the yolk of one large egg.
- ¼ cup vegetarian parmesan (25g)
- ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 ½ tablespoon mayonnaise
- ¼ cup mild/light olive oil (50ml)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
For the salad
- 1 head of romaine lettuce
- 4 large eggs
- Vegetarian parmesan and cracked black pepper for serving.
To Make the Croutons
- Preheat the oven to 180C/ 356FHeat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the sliced garlic to the oil and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.Remove the garlic from the oil.
- Put the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl. Carefully pour the oil over the bread and mix with a large spoon.Add the grated vegetarian parmesan, sea salt and black pepper to the bread then mix everything together.
- Transfer the bread to a lined baking tray then bake for 20 minutes turning once halfway through cooking.Once golden remove from the oven and leave to cool.
To Make the Dressing
- Add the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, grated cheese, garlic and chopped capers in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, whisk everything until you have a paste.Now add the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and mayonnaise and again whisk it all together. You should have a thick smooth sauce now.
- Finally, very slowly whisk in the oil. This should give you a silky-smooth dressing. Season now with salt and black pepper.
To Make the Salad
- Boil the eggs to your liking. For this salad, I prefer them hard-boiled. Once cooled peel the eggs then cut them in half lengthways.Tear the romaine lettuce leaves into large pieces then add them to a large serving dish.Add the croutons to the lettuce then toss well.Top the lettuce with the eggs then add some shaved vegetarian parmesan to the salad.I like to serve the dressing on the side for this so everyone can add as much or as little as they like.
- Nutritional Information - is approximate and is calculated using an online tool. Eggs, croutons and dressing are included. I allow one egg per person if I serve this as a side salad. I add more eggs if serving as a main dish. It does not include any parmesan added to the finished salad.
- Dressing - you may have dressing leftover. This depends on how much you like to use in your salad. I tend to use less so always have some leftover. Because of the raw egg yolk in the dressing I would only keep any leftover dressing in the fridge for one day. When you are ready to use it take it out of the fridge, leave it sit for qbout 10 minutes then give it a good shake or whisk it again. Because of the raw egg yolk, this dressing is not suitable for young children, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women or immune-compromised individuals. I always use very fresh organic pasteurised eggs to make this dressing. You can leave the egg out if you wish but there may be a little change in flavour.
- Croutons - I tend to add all the croutons to this salad but if you do have any leftover they will keep in an airtight container for up to a week. Add them to salads or soups. I used sourdough bread to make these however any thickly sliced bread will work well. If you aren't too keen on garlic you can omit that part.
- Lettuce - traditionally romaine lettuce is used for Caesar salad adn I tend to stick with that. It reall is the best lettuce for the job.
- Can I make this Gluten-Free? Yes, you can use your favourite gluten-free bread to make the croutons or you can buy gluten-free croutons.
- Can I make this Vegan? I haven't tried to make a vegan version of this yet.