This tahini Caesar salad is a healthful vegetarian take on the classic salad, with a tahini and lemon-based dressing and crunchy homemade breadcrumbs.
Do you love the lemony tang of tahini sauce and the delicious crunchy texture of a good homemade crouton?
This tahini caesar salad is for you!
The dressing relies on naturally creamy tahini to bind it together — there’s no eggs, mayo or anchovies in this vegetarian remake of the classic caesar dressing.
Ingredients you need
- Fresh lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Plain yogurt
- Grated fresh Pecorino Romano and/or Parmesan cheese
- Salt and cayenne pepper
- Crusty sourdough bread (2 slices)
- Little Gem or romaine lettuce
Little Gem is a type of lettuce that looks like a baby head of romaine, with beautiful crinkled green leaves and a small, tender core of paler green inner leaves.
This lettuce is a lot like romaine, and its crisp, sturdy leaves hold up well to weightier dressings like this creamy tahini-based one.
To be honest, I snatch up Little Gem lettuces up when I see them in the market because they can be hard to find (you might have the same problem).
Luckily, romaine hearts are just as delicious and sweet — they’re interchangeable to use in this salad.
Vegan tahini caesar dressing
The dressing includes yogurt and cheese.
But if you want to make this vegan-friendly you have some choices.
First, you can just omit the dairy ingredients and season with a bit more salt, lemon and cayenne pepper.
Or substitute a plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt in the dressing and use nutritional yeast instead of the grated cheese.
The tangy dressing is terrific on kale too, so mix it up if you’re into it! It will keep in the refrigerator up to a week so you can whip up the salad in minutes when you’re hungry.
Breadcrumbs on salad (instead of croutons)
So now let’s talk about breadcrumbs.
When I order a Caesar salad in a restaurant I usually pick off the croutons, unless I know it’s the kind of place that pays extra-special attention to details.
I’m kind of obsessive about bread.
I’ve worked in enough restaurant kitchens to know that stale slices from the bread basket often get recycled into croutons and tossed into the daily salad.
No thanks — I’ll pass on that!
But these crumbs are nothing like that.
Start with a few slices from a loaf of the best crusty bread you can find, add some good olive oil, bake and grind into crumbs.
You’ll be rewarded with toasty, crunchy, hard-to-stop-eating little nuggets.
You’ll have enough dressing to make this salad, plus a little leftover to use as a dip for vegetables, chips just to use as a saucy dip on the side.
Tahini Caesar Dressing:
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon plain yogurt (or plant-based yogurt)
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (or a mixture of both), divided
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 thick slices crusty sourdough bread, cut into cubes (2 heaping cups)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
- 12 ounces (2 or 3 heads) Little Gem lettuce or hearts of romaine, washed and dried
- To make the dressing, combine the tahni, lemon juice, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, yogurt, 1/4 cheese, water, salt and cayenne pepper in a blender or mini food processor until smooth. (Makes about 1 cup).
- To make the breadcrumbs, heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread the bread on a small baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss until evenly coated. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is brown and crisp. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the cubes on a cutting board or in a food processor to make pea-sized crumbs (or feel free to crumble with your hands if you want stress relief).
- Pull the green leaves off the lettuce and cut the inner core into wedges. If using romaine hearts, separate the leaves and tear into large bite-size pieces. Keep the inner core intact and cut into small wedges.
- Put the lettuce in a bowl or serving platter and toss with about 1/3 of the dressing. Sprinkle half the breadcrumbs and the remaining grated cheese over the salad. Serve with additional dressing and breadcrumbs on the side.
- To make a vegan salad, substitute a plant-based yogurt (such as coconut or cashew) for the dairy yogurt and an equal amount of nutritional yeast for the cheese.
- Extra dressing will keep up to a week refrigerated.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 492Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 582mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 15gSugar: 10gProtein: 16g