Caesar Salad is one of the most-loved dishes in America but some restaurant versions can contain over a thousand calories in one serving! For a petite woman like myself that would supply about two-thirds of my daily energy requirements in a single meal. The traditional version is made with romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, egg yolk, and croutons that are often seasoned with butter, so the majority of those calories are coming from saturated fats.
The original salad was invented by Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini in the 1920’s in Tijuana, Mexico. According to his daughter Rosa, on July 4th 1924, Caesar created the salad at his restaurant. Apparently he was running low on supplies and didn’t want to disappoint his customers so he came up with the recipe with what he had available. The dish became a hit and people soon came to the restaurant just to eat this salad. It became so popular that it in 1953, the International Society of Epicures in Paris designated it as most important recipe to originate in America in fifty years.
Even though this plant-based version is a long way from Caesar’s original creation, it still has many of the elements that make Caesar salad so great. Crunchy romaine leaves are tossed with a creamy, garlicky dressing along with other components to add textural interest and flavor.
A great Caesar salad is all about the dressing and this one uses avocado and cashew nuts to provide that satisfying creamy mouthfeel, while offering up heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These good fats have other benefits too. They improve insulin sensitivity, support weight loss, enhance calcium absorption, may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and can alleviate depression.
This recipe also features avocado oil, which has recently gained popularity for its nutritional properties and mild, buttery flavor. Research supports its benefits for the prevention of diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity and arthritis.
Avocados and avocado oil are a fantastic addition to a salad dressing because they also boost the absorption of carotenoids including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein from vegetables. These antioxidant compounds are fat-soluble and rely on the presence of dietary fats to be properly absorbed. Dietary carotenoids are thought to provide significant health benefits by enhancing immunity, decreasing cancer risk, protecting the skin from sun damage, preventing eye disease and reducing inflammation.
Instead of croutons this raw food version of Caesar salad uses chopped red peppers to add a satisfying crunch. These veggies are are well-known for their high carotenoid content, which you can be sure you will benefit from due to their enhanced absorption in the presence of avocado. (Romaine lettuce is also rich in carotenoids). Red peppers are also very hydrating and a fantastic source of vitamin C. I included 1/2 a cup of red pepper in each serving for this recipe, but if you enjoy them you can include even more.
I also included some white onion which has a crisp texture and nice mild flavor, perfect for eating raw. You could also include any other raw vegetables you like such as cherry tomato, grated carrots and diced cucumber, but the more veggies you add, the more it becomes like a garden salad, rather than a Caesar. Both ways can be delicious.
Even though many recipes for Caesar salad include anchovies, Caesar Cardini’s original version didn’t contain them but instead got its flavor from Worcestershire Sauce (which does contain anchovies as one of its ingredients). Anchovies are full of “umami”, the fifth flavor discovered by the Japanese, which enhances the taste of all the other ingredients in a dish. In this plant-based version we get the umami from white miso and garlic.
If you like the salty ocean flavor you can sprinkle some dulse seaweed on top of the salad. Personally I like it this way but dulse can have quite a strong flavor so I recommend you try a little bit first to see if it works for you. It is well worth trying since seaweed is a rich source of minerals, including iodine, which specifically benefits the thyroid gland.
I also included some raw pumpkin seeds on top to add even more crunch. The combination of pumpkin seeds with garlic, onion, avocado and raw veggies also makes this a good recipe for a parasite cleanse program, due to the natural anti-parasitic properties of these foods.
This recipe is not strictly vegan, since it does contain raw honey, but if you prefer you could substitute this with agave nectar or dates as an alternative sweetener.
Because of the cashews this is probably not ideal when you are following a raw food detox diet for cleansing, but it can be good for providing some balance in between your more strict detoxification phases. In situations when you are more focused on healing chronic illness with a strict fruit and vegetable diet you can easily adapt the recipe by omitting the nuts and miso, reducing the amount of sweetener, and using just as much water as necessary to create a smooth, creamy dressing. It will be a more simple dressing but still delicious.
- 1 avocado
- ¼ cup cashews (soaked in advance at least two hours)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- ½ tablespoon white miso
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 3 cups romaine lettuce
- ½ medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 tablespoons white onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon dulse flakes (optional)
- To make dressing place all ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth and creamy.
- Add lettuce to a large salad bowl and toss with about a third of the dressing.
- Toss the chopped red pepper, onion and pumpkin seeds on top.
- Sprinkle with optional dulse flakes if desired.
- Enjoy immediately.
If you make this recipe remember to take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #rawfoodsolution.