July 12, 2021

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

A hearty, plant-based Caesar salad! Blackened tofu crumbles with a vegan Caesar dressing. If you love Caesar salad, then you’ll want to try this vegan caesar salad version with blackened tofu

It’s no secret that I love Caesar salad. Briny, salty, creamy, it’s one of my favorite flavor combos and no surprise that this isn’t the first Caesar recipe on my site.

However, this one is more of a meal salad. With blackened tofu cubes, toasted breadcrumbs and fried capers if you wish.

Caesar salad will always remind me of my Mormor, of what become one of her signature dishes that she would make every Friday night when we’d drive up to her house from Richmond. I rarely cared about what else was served at that meal, as long as I got to enjoy bowl after bowl of Caesar salad. Years later, I’d realize that her secret dressing was just Cardini’s but it didn’t matter. I was hooked on Caesar salad and my love for it as only grown as I’ve gotten older. 

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

While I’m fairly certain I would be happy drinking that aforementioned salad dressing, I wanted to create one that was just as creamy but also plant-based and made from mostly whole foods. My creamy Caesar dressing is a combo of cashews, tahini and lemon juice– the perfect trifecta for bright, tangy Caesar dressing.

I also call for a generous splash of caper brine, the liquid from canned capers. This is a must for me, especially if you are used to a Caesar dressing made from anchovies. This version doesn’t have quite the same salty bite, but I really love the subtile, briny bite that caper juice adds.

Kale Salad with vegan Caesar dressing

How to make Blackened Tofu

Blackened tofu cubes were my main drive in creating this recipe. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making blackened tofu nuggets to sprinkle on salads, tacos, burritos, bowls– you name it. I tried a few different combinations and felt like this was the winning version with plenty of spice but not too much heat so that my kiddos would eat it. If you aren’t serving it to toddlers, then I highly recommend adding in a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

The key to blackened tofu is pressing out as much water as possible from the tofu. You’ll need a tofu press to make this happen, or wrapping the tofu black in kitchen towels and then placing something heavy on top. This allows the tofu to not become water logged, which is the secret in crispy, seared tofu.

From there, you’ll marinate the tofu in a little soy sauce, then toss the tofu cubes with all of the blackened seasonings. The soy sauce helps the spices cling to the tofu and provides a nice salty kick in each bite. I prefer a low-sodium soy sauce here and if you need to watch your salt intake, then I recommend cutting some of the soy sauce with olive oil.

Sear the cubes in a hot skillet, like a cast iron pan until slightly crunchy and blackened on the outside and chewy in the inside.

Blackened Tofu Blackened Tofu Crumbles
Next Level Vegan Caesar Salad Tips

Instead of traditional croutons, I prefer to toast breadcrumbs until golden brown then toss with the dressed salad. This adds another layer of texture and crunch so you get a similar taste of croutons in every bite.

If you haven’t tried fried capers yet, they are magical. Another step but worth it if you ask me.

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad
Once you’ve made the components then you are ready to toss together. Add the dressing to the torn lettuce and kale leaves and toss until well combined, then add in the toasted breadcrumbs, blackened tofu and fried capers. Toss again, seasoning as desired. I usually add in a generous pinch or two more of freshly ground black pepper and sometimes and extra squeeze of lemon.

How long to soak cashews? 

If you have time, then I recommend soaking cashews for at least 1 hour. If I’m in a rush, I soak cashews in boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes just to soften. If you have a high-powered blender, like a BlendTec or Vitamix then you likely don’t even need to soak beforehand. I often don’t if I forget and it works to create creamy sauces, you’ll just need to likely stop to scrape down as needed. 

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

Hope you like this Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad as much we do!

More hearty salads:

Kale Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons
Italian Chopped Salad
Kale, Peach and Cabbage Salad
Greek Salad with Tofu Feta
Buffalo Tofu Salad 

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

Print
Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, salad
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American, Italian Inspired
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

A hearty, plant-based Caesar salad! Blackened tofu crumbles with a vegan Caesar dressing. If you love Ceasar salad, then you’ll want to try this vegan caesar salad version with blackened tofu! 


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, salad
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American, Italian Inspired
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, salad
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American, Italian Inspired
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

Blackened Tofu

  • 15 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 cayenne pepper, optional
  • 12 tablespoons oil, for sautéing

Caesar Dressing

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (drippy, creamy kind like Soom)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 34 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus zest from 1 lemon
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons caper brine
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

2 bunches Tuscan kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces. (About 8-10 cups)
1/4 cup bread crumbs, toasted**
Shredded dairy-free parm, like Violife
Fried capers, optional but highly recommended

Instructions

  1. Make the tofu. Marinate the tofu in the soy sauce in a shallow dish, making sure to cover the tofu as much as possible. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, then cube and toss with the spices until well coated. Heat the oil in a skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the tofu and cook, stirring often, until crispy and golden. Set aside.
  2. Make the dressing. While the tofu is marinating, make the dressing. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until creamy. Taste, adjusting as desired. For more cheezy flavor, add in more nutritional yeast. For more brine, add in more caper brine and for more lemony/bright flavor, more lemon juice.
  3. Assemble. Place the torn kale leaves in a large bowl and add the dressing. Massage into the greens, tossing well to fully coat. Add in the toasted bread crumbs, parm (if using) and tofu cubes. Toss well, the divide onto 4 plates and top with fried capers, if using.

Notes

*For a more traditional crunchy salad, sub in 1/2 to 3/4 torn romaine lettuce for the kale

** Instead of using croutons, I like to toast bread crumbs and toss with the salad after dressing. Torn, toasted croutons also work!

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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  1. How much olive oil for searing the tofu? And in how much water and for how long should we soak the cashews? Have you ever used walnuts instead of cashews? Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Liz! I’d recommend a tablespoon or two for searing the tofu– you’ll need enough to get a good crust. I’ll update it now! Depends on how much time you have– if I’m in a rush, then I’ll soak cashews with boiling water for 15 minutes just to soften slightly. My blender is good enough that I can puree cashews even if I don’t have time to soak ahead of time but it’s easier if you do. Cashews are creamier than walnuts, so I prefer that but you could use walnuts in a pinch. I find that they have a grainier taste than cashews.