Vegan Caesar Panzanella

Vegan Caesar PanzanellaI think we should celebrate springtime today.

To my friends in the Northeast still caught in the polar vortex, I apologize. Here in Utah, the birds are chirping, the crocuses are blooming, and I’m starting to feel like I should be spending time outside instead of huddled in front of the space heater wearing a robe and a hat.

Daylight savings seems to mark the beginning of spring here. It’s pretty lovely, even though I dread “springing forward” past an hour of sleep. I can hardly believe the sun doesn’t set until 7:30 tonight! That’s a guarantee that I won’t be leaving work in the dark. The mornings are a different story… back to running with my uber-dorky headlight on. But even that won’t last for long.

I hope it’s nice and warm and sunny where you are, too. Otherwise you might be getting mad. Because I thought we could celebrate the milder weather with a fresh springtime salad today.

Vegan Caesar Panzanella

I recently made a vegan Caesar dressing for the first time, and well, it pretty much blew Nate and me away. It tastes different from non-vegan Caesar, but in the same way that any homemade dressing will taste different from store-bought. I honestly don’t think you’d know it was vegan (unless you eat a lot of tahini, in which case you might be able to pick out the tahini flavor). I was afraid to tell Nate (tahini hater numero uno) what it’s made of when he asked, but he wasn’t scared off, which is really saying something. He requests it regularly, and I’ve been finding an excuse to eat it on top of everything, from salad to pasta to roasted veggies. I have to say that this panzanella is probably this dressing’s highest and best use, though.

Vegan Caesar Panzanella

If you’re going to make panzanella, you have to make the bread the star. We’re doing that in two ways: by using thick slices of crusty bread (a loaf of French or Italian bread will work – no weak sandwich bread here!) and by pan-frying it with olive oil and spices.

Vegan Caesar Panzanella

The result is a salad full of big, chewy crouton-like pieces of bread. Yum. And drenched in that vegan Caesar dressing? It seriously doesn’t get any better. I couldn’t stop picking pieces of bread out of this salad before, during and after taking pictures. Could. not. stop. It is just so good!

The bread and dressing are what make this salad, in my opinion, but I threw a boatload of veggies in there for good measure. Romaine hearts (a staple for a Caesar salad!), cucumber, avocado, grape tomatoes, and even a few stalks of blanched asparagus. So much freshness going on in one hearty salad!

Vegan Caesar Panzanella

This recipe makes one huge bowl of salad. Perfect for sharing with friends – maybe if someone is firing up the barbeque? Go ahead, be those people that get overly excited and have a cookout when the thermometer hits 50. This salad will be perfect for it, especially because I get a kick out of surprising people when they find out a dish they love is vegan.

Of course, if you’re tempted to de-veganize the whole shebang at the last moment by adding a handful of shaved parmesan… well, I wouldn’t be one to judge.

Vegan Caesar Panzanella

Tell me it’s springtime where you are, too? Also, tell me I’m not jinxing myself into a big ol’ snowstorm with all this spring weather talk :)

5.0 from 3 reviews
Vegan Caesar Panzanella
 
Hands-on time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Yields: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 4-5 thick slices crusty bread
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 5 cups chopped hearts of Romaine
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 10 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced large
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
For the vegan Caesar dressing:
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • sprinkle of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup water
Instructions
  1. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Place in a pan over medium-high heat and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Cut cooled bread into large cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, make dressing by blending all ingredients together.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the bread, lettuce and 2/3 of the dressing together. Set aside to soak up the dressing for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil and simmer asparagus until bright green but still crunchy, 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse for 1-2 minutes with cold water to stop the cooking process. Chop into 1.5-inch pieces.
  5. Add asparagus and remaining vegetables to the bowl with the bread and lettuce. Top with remaining dressing and toss to coat. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
Vegan Caesar dressing adapted from Dishing Up The Dirt via The Roasted Root.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Hello! I do not think you’re crazy. I live in Utah, too. In fact, I live up in the mountains at the base of the Uintahs. It actually reached 50 degrees here this weekend, and I planted my greenhouse! Thank you for sharing some amazing recipes. They have sparked a new desire to create something fantastic in my kitchen!

  2. says

    Waking up to darkness this morning was rough. But you’re right, it won’t last long. You’ll be packing away the headlamp before you know it! lol

    I feel like I say this everyday but really, this looks amazing!! :)
    I will definitely be making it. Hopefully while sitting in the warm spring sun, listening to birds chirp!

  3. says

    Salads are my thing, and this looks wonderful, I have to get a hold of some of that nutritional yeast, it’s being used so many different ways.

  4. says

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!! I love all of Andrea’s recipes and have yet to try this golden ticket to bliss, but I just know one delicious day, I will rejoice in all its splendor! So glad you made and loved the salad. Happy Spring-a-ling!!

  5. says

    This looks delicious! My all-time favorite salad dressing in Caesar, and I’ve been searching for a good vegan alternative, so I’ll have to give this a try! :-)

  6. says

    Whooo!!! So happy Nate was a fan of the vegan Caesar dressing. I still don’t think Taylor knows what’s in this dressing. Some things are best kept a secret. I bet him and Nate would have fun drinking a good beer while enjoying “vegan” food without knowing it. I’m going to need to try this panzanella asap!!!

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