Healthy Vegan Caesar Dressing with Hemp Hearts
What’s yummier than a creamy, tangy, vegan Caesar salad dressing? Made with hemp hearts, not cashew nuts, and with no added oils, this healthy vegan Caesar dressing recipe takes just 5 minutes to make, with 6 simple ingredients (not including salt and pepper!). Amazing with a classic romaine or kale Caesar salad or even a slaw!
I could eat salads everyday. but I’ve got to be honest: I never liked traditional Caesar salads.
The anchovies in a classic Caesar dressing were a no-go, obviously, because I went vegetarian in my teens. And I’ve always wanted more from my salads than just romaine and croutons. As a plant-based and gut health-focused registered dietitian, I’m always trying to incorporate more plants into my diet, so if it’s a salad, give me VEG! I’ll take my bread in sandwich form, thanks! Well, unless it’s a Panzanella salad (for which I will gladly overlook my bread-in-salad disdain because I am not a monster).
But a vegan Caesar salad, with plenty of tang, hearty greens, and maybe a bit of crunch? Well, I can’t get enough.
I could eat a kale Caesar every day of my life and be a verrrry happy human. So I thought it was high time I make you my favourite creamy, tangy, dairy free Caesar salad dressing.
Is Caesar dressing vegan?
Unfortunately for plant-based folks, classic Caesar salad dressing is not. The popular sauce gets its creaminess from an emulsion of egg yolk and parmesan cheese. The parmesan and the anchovies give it plenty of umami too. But these animal products are not actually necessary for a delish dressing. Yep, you can make a Caesar dressing that’s vegan!
There are a lot of different plant-based ways to create a creamy base for a dairy-free Caesar dressing: I’ve seen recipes made from cashews, hummus, tahini and even mayo. To make a vegan Caesar dressing that’s oil free, I use hemp hearts to achieve a similar creamy texture and nutritional yeast for the umami. I’ve used sunflower seeds before, an idea that comes from another vegan salad dressing recipe I like to make, but the hemp hearts really work for this plant-based Caesar dressing.
There are more ideas for plant-based dressings in my newest Good For Your Gut cookbook, which is especially useful if you’re interested in what types of dressings can aid our gut health!
Can I make vegan Caesar dressing nut free?
You bet. I didn’t use nuts in this one. Instead, I use hemp hearts as the base because I’ll take any excuse to add these nutrient-dense super seeds into my day. Responsible for making this dressing extra creamy, hemp hearts have the added benefit of belonging in the category of iron-rich foods. So for everyone asking about how to increase iron intake on a plant-based diet, this is THE dressing for you.
Hemp hearts blend up surprisingly well, even if you don’t have a high speed blender — and they require zero soaking. So, all you need to do is blend them up with the rest of the ingredients and in a few minutes, you’ve got dinner! Or a side dish, however you want to rock it.
What are hemp hearts?
I make a lot of recipes with hemp hearts because because they are so dang nutrient-dense!
Hemp hearts come from the shelled seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, but contain no THC or CBD. These highly nutritious, soft round centres have a mildly nutty flavour and are rich in two essential fatty acids that help fight inflammation: alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). They also contain great levels of vitamin E and many minerals (think: phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc!)
How to make vegan Caesar dressing with no cashews?
As I mentioned above, this recipe doesn’t use cashews like many other vegan Caesar dressings do thanks to hemp hearts. And it comes together in just 5 minutes with 6 basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry:
- Lemons: fresh lemon juice adds a fresh tangy acidity to the dressing and brightens the flavours.
- Hemp hearts: hemp creates plenty of creaminess with a slight green + grassy flavour note
- Dijon mustard: rich and creamy, Dijon adds tang and helps emulsify the dressing
- Nutritional yeast: adds plenty of umami ‘cheesiness’
- Garlic powder: to keep the vampires away and create a rich flavour
- Maple syrup (or sugar!): just a tiny bit to balance out the flavours and bring it all together
All you’re going to do is place the ingredients in a bullet or blending jar (no soaking!), add a bit of water, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Easy peasy.
How to make a vegan caesar dressing without capers?
I see a lot of vegan Caesar salad dressings with capers in them. This can add an extra tangy note to mimic the original, which some like, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea! So in my recipe I keep it simple with just those 6 basic ingredients: lemon juice, hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and some maple syrup. But adding a tad more salt and an extra squeeze of lemon juice might give your dressing that additional kick found in capers! IF that’s what you’re looking for 😉
Ways to use this vegan Caesar salad dressing
I love using this dressing for a kale caesar. Just massage the dressing into washed and torn kale leaves. Massaging the dressing into the kale leaves ensures it’s well-coated and helps soften the kale to make it more pleasant to chew. Add some roasted chickpeas for extra protein + crunch! Tired of salads? Try it the following ways too!
- Use it in your potato salad or pasta salad!
- Drizzle it over grilled or roasted vegetables or some crispy baked tofu
- Add it to a wrap or sandwich
- Use as a dip for freshly-chopped seasonal veggies!
More Vegan Dressing Recipes
- My potato salad has an amazing Avocado Ranch Dressing
- The creamy Ginger Cashew Dressing on my snap pea salad is amazing
- You’ll want to drink this Ginger Sesame Dressing from the spoon
- Lemon tahini vinaigrette more your thing?
- 5 Min Spicy Vegan Mayo with Nutritional Yeast
Healthy Vegan Caesar Dressing with Hemp Hearts
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons
- ⅓ cup hemp hearts, (learn about the benefits of hemp hearts!)
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup, or pure cane sugar
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- Immersion blender or small blender
- Place the lemon juice, hemp, nutritional yeast, water, Dijon, salt, garlic powder, maple syrup and pepper in a blending cup or bullet. Blend 1-2 minutes until smooth. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as you like.