Vegan kale caesar salad with smoky tempeh crumbles and pine nut parmesan. This plant-based powerhouse is rich in protein and fiber, and packs all the briny, creamy punch as the classic. Never have I fallen harder for a bowl of greens. Loaded with sturdy kale and smoky bits of tempeh and then set off by a bright and creamy dressing, this is what every kale salad aspires to be.
And if you’re a kale-hater (I know you’re out there!) I just want you to trust me. Embrace the roughage. There’s reason why it’s the most beloved brassica. Let this salad be the recipe the makes you a kale-lover. (Or at least let the dressing work it’s way into your life.)Capers are the silent workhorses of the dressing, adding the quintessential briny bite of the classic anchovy-based Caesar. They contribute the perfect dose of acid and salty tang to really elevate the whole shebang. Tahini also works some serious magic here, lending savory depth and unctuous creaminess, plus a hit of heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Massaging the dressing into the kale with your hands helps break down some of the fibers so the greens are more tender. It also ensures every bit of kale is covered in dressing—necessary for any salad mimicking a Caesar.The smoky tempeh bits are a fantastic stand-in for both croutons and meat, lending heartiness and a blast of umami. If you end up with leftovers, they’re fantastic in stir-fries or tacos.
The pine nut Parmesan is a simple mix of chopped pine nuts and nutritional yeast, lending cheesy flavor and nutty crunch. I usually keep a stash of this on hand to sprinkle over salads and roasted veggies. Don’t let its simplicity fool you—it can instantly upgrade anything in need of some savory swag.Perfect for make-ahead lunches or meal prep, this salad holds up exceptionally well when dressed in advance. The kale soaks up the dressing without turning soggy and sad, and the flavors stay bold.
Guaranteed to become a regular in your weekly rotation, this texture riot of salad is what vegan dreams are made of.
- 2 Tbsp. tahini (such as Soom)
- 2 Tbsp., plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. chopped capers
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 1 large bunch green or purple kale (or 2 small bunches)
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. lower-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- 1 (8-oz.) package tempeh, crumbled
- Pine nut Parmesan: 1 Tbsp. finely chopped pine nuts mixed with 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- Prepare dressing by combing tahini, 2 Tbsp of the oil, lemon juice, garlic, capers, mustard, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and black pepper; stir with a whisk. Whisk in water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to reach desired consistency. Massage dressing into kale in a large bowl; set aside.
- Combine paprika, chili powder, vinegar, tamari, maple syrup, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add crumbled tempeh; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Add tamari mixture; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often to coat tempeh. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Divide kale mixture evenly into each of 4 bowls. Scatter tempeh bits evenly overtop. Sprinkle with pine nut Parmesan, if desired.