This yummy vegan kale caesar salad, with smoked tofu “croutons” and a nut-free caesar dressing comes together in just 15 minutes, meaning it’s ready anytime you have a craving! Super nutrient-dense, gut-friendly and so easy to make.

vegan kale caesar salad in wooden bowl

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I’m one of those people who loves salads SO much I would happily eat one every single day. Needless to say, I take my salad recipes pretty seriously: it’s got to have flavour (no wimpy dressings!). And plenty of texture, like my kale and quinoa salad (which is the top recipe on my site right now)!   

I want a salad that works as equally well as a side or a meal, because I LOVE a meal-sized salad. And this vegan kale caesar is ALL of those things, plus it takes only 15 minutes to make so you’ll have it ready before you even get the urge to call for take out.

As far as plant-based recipes go, a good kale caesar is one of this dietitian’s very favourite things. In my opinion, kale is so much more satisfying than lettuce because of its hearty texture that – bonus! – won’t wilt overnight in the fridge. If you’ve tried the Brussels sprouts caesar in Good For Your Gut book, you’ll love this yummy variation that comes together even faster!

This vegan kale caesar salad is vegan, gluten free, nut-free and yes, even low FODMAP (with one tiny modification!) so it’s as allergy- and gut-friendly as it is delicious!

vegan kale caesar ingredients
This salad couldn’t be simpler! Just kale, some smoked tofu, vegan Parmesan and a yummy dressing.

All you need is a few simple ingredients for this epic salad:

When I say simple, I mean simple! This salad has just 3 ingredients, plus a yummy hemp caesar dressing.

  • Kale: I like to use curly kale here, as its texture holds the caesar dressing really well. Don’t love chewing through tough kale? Scroll down for the ultimate kale salad hack.
  • Smoked tofu: I think the smoky flavour of smoked tofu goes really well in caesar salad, and it adds a wonderful boost of plant-based protein to help fill you up! Smoked tofu is precooked, but I love the extra texture that comes with panfrying if you have a couple of minutes.
  • Vegan parmesan: If you have a favourite brand of vegan parmesan, use that, or make my super simple (5 min!) almond parmesan for a whole food option.
  • Hemp caesar dressing: my nut-free vegan caesar dressing comes together in less than 5 minutes with just a bullet or immersion blender and it’s punchy enough to stand up to the rich flavour of kale.

Why is kale so good for you?

Kale is pretty much a wellness cliche at this point, but with good reason: kale is a powerhouse veggie, absolutely packed with nutrition benefits.

Kale has a ton of vitamin C and vitamin A carotenoids which support healthy skin, eyesight and the immune system. It also boasts a surprising amount of minerals: 1 cup (250 mL) of raw kale contains about 100mg of plant-based calcium for strong bones, and 1 mg each of energizing iron and copper.

Have you heard that cruciferous veggies like kale are not good for your thyroid? You might want to read more about nutrition for hypothyroidism.

How to make this 15 minute vegan kale caesar salad

This is a seriously fast recipe. No cashews to soak. No chickpeas to roast. Just a few simple steps – and 15 minutes – separate you from this delicious and satisfying salad

Prep the kale: pull the leaves off the stems (you can save the stems for another recipe), wash, dry and tear or chop the kale into small pieces

Blend the dressing + parm (if using!): Blend up the vegan caesar dressing in a bullet or with your immersion blender and blitz the almond parmesan (if using) in the food processor. Making the almond parm only adds 5 minutes to the prep!

Cook the smoked tofu: Just dice the smoked tofu into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes and quickly pan fry in a nonstick skillet. If you want to save time, you don’t even need to cook the tofu, but I like the warmth and crispness a quick pan fry adds here! 

Assemble the salad: massage the kale, then toss with the dressing in a medium salad bowl and top with smoked tofu and vegan parmesan. That’s it!!

This salad will serve 2 as a hearty main course or 4-6 as a side dish.

The secret to a tender – never tough, never bitter – kale caesar salad?

Have you ever eaten a kale salad that is kind of tough and bitter, and wondered, why do people like this? Well, massaging kale will make it ALL make sense. 

Kale is a wee bit high maintenance because it needs to be massaged in order to soften its tough cell walls and it even tempers bitterness! You can massage kale with a drizzle of oil, or lemon juice, or even salad dressing. Just work the liquid into the kale until it wilts in volume by about half and looks dark green and glossy.

What to serve with this vegan kale caesar salad

I will happily munch this salad as a meal all on it’s own, but this kale caesar will also make a wonderful side dish for my Buffalo White Bean Burgers, Vegan Alfredo Pasta or a Vegan “Egg Salad”

Tips, Tricks and Suggestions

  • Because it’s made with kale, this salad keeps really well, even dressed! Store it in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. If the dressing looks thickened and dry, just drizzle over a bit of oil – or lemon juice – and toss to refresh.
  • Yes, this salad would also be super delicious with actual homemade croutons for some extra crunch! Pine nuts, chopped walnuts are also good.
  • Just don’t love mature kale? You could use prewashed baby kale for a more tender leaf, bagged kale slaw or even crispy romaine. One note: the dressing is designed to be BOLD to stand up to kale…so you might want to use a little less lemon juice to start if you’re dressing romaine.
  • Low FODMAP? This recipe is totally low FODMAP as long as you omit the garlic powder in the vegan parmesan and the garlic in the dressing.

If you try this recipe, please take a minute to leave a star rating and review! It helps others find the recipe, and is a 100% free way to support the work I do here. Thank you!!

vegan caesar salad in women bowl with jar of parmesan

More quick, nourishing vegan salad recipes

vegan kale caesar salad in wooden bowl

15 Minute Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Smoked Tofu

This yummy vegan kale caesar salad, with smoked tofu “croutons” and a nut-free caesar dressing comes together in just 15 minutes, meaning it’s ready anytime you have a craving! Super nutrient-dense, gut-friendly and so easy to make.
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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch curly kale, destemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 package smoked tofu, cut in 1 cm (½ inch) cubes
  • ½ cup vegan parmesan, store-bought or homemade!
  • 1 batch vegan caesar dressing

Optional, for crunch!

Equipment

  • immersion blender or bullet blender, for dressing
  • Food Processor or bullet blender, if making homemade parmesan

Instructions 

  • If you haven't already, blend up the caesar dressing and vegan parmesan (if you're making your own)
  • Massage the kale: In a large salad bowl, drizzle kale with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of oil, lemon juice or caesar dressing. Using hands, massage liquid into kale until the kale wilts and softens to about half the original volume.
  • Panfry the tofu: heat 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of oil in a medium nonstick pan over medium heat. Add tofu and cook until the tofu is heated through and golden on one or two sides, about 3-4 minutes total.
  • Assemble the salad: Toss kale with caesar dressing and top with cooked tofu and vegan parmesan.

Notes

This recipe will serve 2 as a hearty main dish or 4-6 as a side dish!
Want to save time? Smoked tofu is precooked so you don’t actually need to cook it.