Vegan Cobb Salad with The BEST Dressing
This easy vegan Cobb salad recipe features the best tangy red wine vinaigrette dressing and salty, smoky, marinated tempeh bacon! With loads of chopped veggies, it’s a great nutrient-packed lunch or dinner.
I LOVE an entrée salad. Eat More Plants Cookbook has a ton of ‘em. In my opinion, there is nothing better than tucking into a big bowl of veggies that is packed with texture AND flavour. Something salty, something sweet, something creamy AND something crunchy. So chopped salads are a big thing around here…particularly ones that come with plenty of plant-based protein. So creating vegan salad recipes that are truly satisfying is a way of life for me. And this easy Cobb salad, which takes just 20 minutes of hands on time, fits the bill to a T.
The dietitian in me says that if you truly want a salad to be a meal, you have to add some healthy fats and some plant-based protein. But it’s not just about getting the nutrients in…the hungry human in me can confirm that if you like to full and satisfied, you don’t want to skip it! It’s a common slip up I see when people are transitioning to a vegan diet: folks take out the animal products but they don’t replace them with yummy plant alternatives that put back protein + fat. It can leave you feeling hungry, your blood sugars destabilized and always craving more carbs.
What is a Cobb Salad?
I didn’t grow up eating this Californian classic. My grandmother made the same simple Portuguese-style side salad for dinner most nights but entrée salads weren’t really a thing until my teens when my mom and I started eating Greek-style salads at least once a week.
According the internet, the likely origin of this filling and hearty salad was a late night refrigerator raid at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood by owner Robert Cobb. The traditional ingredients are not very vegan friendly – bacon, blue cheese, egg and chicken – but designed to fill you up alongside a base of lettuces, avocado and tomato.
There’s some debate as to whether the original Cobb salad dressing was ranch, French or a red wine vinaigrette but this salad went on to become a staple at the Brown Derby and across the United States.
What you’ll need for this healthy vegan cobb salad
I wanted to keep a lot of the core Cobb salad ingredients, but I simplified the protein so this salad feels weeknight-ready and you don’t have to make 3 different types of vegan proteins for a single dish! I’m just too lazy for that.
- romaine hearts, or an assortment of fresh salad greens like watercress and arugula
- vine-ripened tomatoes
- frozen corn
- ripe avocado
- crunchy cucumber
- vegan cheese, blue-style if you like it!
- Cobb salad dressing: I’ve chosen a simple red wine vinaigrette (team tangy!!) of vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic, Dijon, salt and pepper
- tempeh bacon, store-bought or homemade (it’s simple!)
How to make tempeh bacon
Tempeh is a healthy fermented soybean food, pressed into a brick or ‘cake’. It’s super high in plant-based protein: an 100g serving has about 18g of protein!
It’s got a richer, earthier flavour than tofu – which is a blank canvas – so I know that it can be intimidating for some. However, it’s dense, meaty texture is SUPER satisfying and it lends itself well to heavily spiced dishes or rich marinades. It’s super simple to make tempeh bacon: Just slice and marinate tempeh with soy sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, garlic powder and cumin then pan-fry until golden brown.
Some tempeh bacon recipes use liquid smoke but I find that it ends up just sitting in your pantry as it’s not a common ingredient. So I am using the spice cabinet instead: smoked paprika and cumin make a smoky/earthy pairing that is super delicious.
There are a lot of different takes on vegan ‘bacon’. Some are made with mushroom (like in Eat More Plants Cookbook!), others are made from coconut…which honestly, I don’t love. While I love coconut itself, I kinda hate it when all my vegan foods taste vaguely of coconut. For example, I don’t like coconut ice cream…I’ll take cashew-based anyday!
Once you’ve got the technique down, you can add a plant-based protein boost to so many recipes with tempeh bacon: try adding tempeh bacon to my vegan breakfast sandwich or chickpea scramble. It would also be a delicious protein to turn my Roasted Delicata Squash Orzo Salad into a complete meal.
FAQ: Is tempeh healthier than tofu?
Both tofu and tempeh are healthy, high protein plant foods. Online, tofu gets knocked as being a “more processed” food but it is essentially cheese made from soy milk, so in reality, it’s not a super processed food. Let’s take a look at some of the key nutrition in both tofu and tempeh:
Tempeh Nutrition Facts (100 g raw):
- 18.5 grams protein
- 111 mg vegan calcium
- 2.7 mg iron
- 1.1 mg zinc
- fiber not listed, but it is a high fiber food as whole soybeans are present
Tofu Nutrition Facts (100 g raw)
- 8 grams plant-based protein
- 201 mg calcium (if set with calcium, not magnesium)
- 1.6 mg vegan iron
- 0.8 mg zinc
- 1 gram fiber
All nutrient facts from Canadian Nutrient Data File
So as you can see, while both are healthy foods, tempeh does have a leg up on protein and iron while calcium-set tofu excels at well, calcium! Also, note that your brand of tofu or tempeh may have different nutrition facts than the national averages listed here.
Vegan Cobb Tips + Tricks + Substitutions
- The longer you let the tempeh marinate, the more flavourful it will be! If you have to, go for just 15 minutes but an hour is ideal. To minimize the wait – and make the tempeh even more flavourful! – whip up the marinade and let tempeh sit in the fridge overnight so it’s ready after work.
- You can absolutely make this salad ahead, or use it for meal prep. It will keep very well with the dressing stored separately for a few days and fully dressed, for a day or two.
- Want to take it to a picnic? Just chop everything up and bring the dressing separately.
- Allergic to soy? Try marinating ½ pound of sliced shitake mushrooms and panfry!
- Try this vegan Cobb with a different dressing! If you like ranch, I have a delicious avocado ranch dressing, or go bold with my creamy balsamic dressing.
- Don’t like blue cheese? I don’t either, ha! So my fave vegan cheese to use is a feta-style like Violife or semi-firm style like Spread Em Kitchen.
- Want to make this salad even easier? Just buy pre-marinated tempeh bacon and fry it up as instructed…I won’t tell!
Vegan Cobb Low FODMAP modifications
I wanted to design this vegan Cobb salad as a lower FODMAP recipe so that you didn’t need to do a lot of swapping to make this meal fit a low FODMAP vegan eating pattern. Here’s all you need to do:
- skip the garlic powder in the marinade and the garlic from the dressing
- if you’ve got it, use a low FODMAP garlic infused olive oil for the dressing to add more flavour (optional!)
- ensure you use a starch-based vegan cheese without a lot of pea protein like Violife
- reduce avocado to 1/8 avocado per serving or omit
- FYI for dairy eaters: 40g of most cheeses are low FODMAP but blue cheese hasn’t been tested
Looking for more healthy vegan salads?
- Vegan Butternut Squash Kale Salad
- Harissa Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach
- Easy Vegan Pasta Salad
- Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Roasted Buckwheat and Creamy Ginger Cashew Dressing
- Vegan Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing
Vegan Cobb Salad with The BEST Dressing
- 1 package tempeh, sliced into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) slices
- ¼ cup tamari, gluten free if desired
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, for cooking
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup avocado or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 large clove garlic, micrograted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- 2 hearts of romaine, or one head of romaine lettuce, chopped
- 2 cups diced cucumber
- 1 ½ cups thawed frozen corn
- 2 small tomatoes, deseeded and diced
- 1 cup vegan ricotta, or your fave vegan cheeze, I used Spread Em Kitchen semi-firm in this shot
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ¼ cup minced chives
- In a sealable glass container, whisk up tamari, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, cumin and smoked paprika. Add sliced tempeh, seal and gently invert to coat tempeh with marinade.
- Marinate on counter for up to 1 hour or in the fridge for up to a day.
- When ready to cook, heat avocado oil in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Fry tempeh until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes a side. Remove from heat.
Red wine vinaigrette
- In a jam jar, shake up red wine vinegar, oil, Dijon, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, toss romaine with half of the dressing. Arrange on platter.
- Top with cucumber, corn, tomatoes, cheese, and avocado. Sprinke over chives and remaining dressing and serve.