Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing
I road-test a vegan version of the classic Caesar salad.
The best way to go about eating right is to take great care with your food and use fresh ingredients. So for those of us who will be putting more salads on the schedule, that means both fresh, seasonal produce and the underrated pleasure of homemade salad dressings – which are easier than you think!
Here’s a quick recipe you can make at the beginning of the week and use to dress lunch and dinner salad. You probably have almost all of the things you need right in your kitchen already.
The only thing that’s a “maybe” for the average pantry is the anchovy paste. And before you worry, write it off or decide it’s too weird, I want to add a note of encouragement!
Rather than a fishy taste, anchovy paste adds what is called “umami,” or savoriness, to many dishes — especially sauces. If you eat pasta at restaurants, then chances are nearly 100% that you have eaten anchovy paste in the sauce that comes with that pasta. If you’ve had a Caesar salad at a restaurant, you ate some anchovies there, too. But that’s ok! All I mean to demonstrate is that it’s a key background flavor that does a lot of good for your food, without being scary.
Think of it just like tomato paste, or Worcestershire sauce! It comes in a tube and is good for a very long time and in many applications, so I recommend picking one up and adding it to dressings, tomato sauces, and more. You won’t even know it’s there, except that your sauces and dressings suddenly have a little more oomph.
If you are making this ahead, don’t dress your lettuce all at once or it will become slimy and gross after a few hours. Ideally, you’d dress the salad right before you eat it – and if you’re like me and bring your lunch in plastic containers, that makes your life all the more easier because with lids on tightly, those plastic containers are perfect shakers for dressing salad.
If you choose not to use the anchovy paste, please keep in mind that omitting it will up the acidity of the dressing, so consider reducing the vinegar and/or mustard.
Here’s what you need for dressing for about 4 entree salads:
You can either make this in a food processor or whisk it like crazy. The point is that you need to create an emulsion – since the oil will never truly dissolve into the rest of the ingredients, we must whip the crap out of it so that it’s in such tiny pieces that it resembles being actually dissolved. It won’t last forever – if you save this dressing for another day, you’ll have to remix – but it will last long enough to dress and eat your salad.
In the bowl of your food processor or in a high-walled bowl, add the garlic, mayo, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and anchovy paste. Have the olive oil at the ready. Pour slowly as you whisk like heck, or turn the food processor on as you pour the oil slowly into the slow drip feed on the top of the food processor lid. Either way, mix until the mixture looks uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
Add this dressing to a salad with croutons, tons of freshly-grated Parmesan and a piece of grilled or pan-seared chicken and you’ve got an entree. Skip the chicken and you have a totally easy side salad to bring with your sandwich at lunch or snack on before your main dinner dish.
Either way, dress the salad immediately before plating – add chicken, croutons and cheese after plating.