This Easy Kale Caesar Salad is a lighter and vegetarian-friendly take on a classic! The perfect side dish beside any lunch or dinner, this healthy, clean eating (and gluten free!) chopped kale salad recipe is easy to make and tastes delicious! And the best part? A super simple caesar dressing made with lemon, olive oil and garlic and those homemade croutons!
I mean, how can you go wrong with leafy greens, lemon, garlic topped with hearty, seasoned to perfection, homemade croutons?
How can you go wrong with a healthy AND clean eating caesar salad that you can actually feel good about eating?
Sign me up for seconds, please!
MAKING REAL FOOD EASY AND DELICIOUS WITH THIS EASY KALE CAESAR SALAD…
But today I take that classic, creamy caesar and transform it into a magical lightened up and healthy (read: totally vegan-friendly and gluten free) bowl of good-for-you deliciousness. Only clean eating, wholesome and nourishing ingredients used here!
What real food ingredients will you need to make this Healthy Kale Caesar Salad?
This recipe may look like a lot of ingredients and many, many steps but I promise it’s not as bad as it looks (and you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already)! For the dressing, you will need extra virgin olive oil, lemon, tamari, Dijon, garlic and nutritional yeast. The actual salad part is really easy, it’s kale massaged with the dressing and topped with lemon, and if you’d like, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and chopped cherry tomatoes. And if you want to get really fancy, make your own croutons with your favourite (whole grain bread – GF if needed), garlic powder, Italian spice blend and paprika.
What else will you need to make this recipe?
- Mason jar with a lid
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper
This Easy Kale Caesar Salad is a lighter and vegan take on a classic! The perfect side dish beside any lunch or dinner, this healthy, clean eating (and gluten free!) kale salad so good. And the best part? A super simple dressing made with lemon, olive oil and garlic and those homemade croutons!
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small clove of garlic, minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended)
- Pinch of salt
- Sprinkle of fresh ground pepper
For the Croutons:
- 2 slices of bread
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon italian spice blend
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Sprinkle of fresh ground pepper
For the Salad:
- 6 cups finely chopped curly kale
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, optional for serving
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast, optional for serving*
- 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes, optional for serving
- Lemon wedges, optional for serving
For the Dressing:
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add all ingredients for the dressing. Shake until well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set a side.
For the Croutons:
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat for easier clean up.
- Cut slices of bread into (roughly) 1/2-inch squares.
- Arrange the bread squares on the baking sheet and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices. Toss to coat the bread squares making sure each one of coated with the seasoning.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally until the bread is golden brown and hard and crispy.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
For the Salad:
- While the croutons are baking, prepare the kale.
- Transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Pour about 1/2 of the dressing over the kale. Using your hands, ‘massage’ or rub the dressing into the kale pieces. After about a minute of ‘massaging’ the kale, it should look soft and wilted. Transfer massaged kale to a serving bowl or dish.
- Sprinkle the hemp seeds, nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese – see note), tomatoes over top of the salad (if using) along with the slightly cooled croutons.
- Serve with fresh lemon wedges and the remaining dressing to drizzle over top.
*Can use parmesan cheese if not vegan.
This recipe makes enough for 2 good-sized portions of salad.
This salad taste best when eaten immediately as the flavour and texture change if left in the fridge over night.
HOW TO MAKE THIS KALE CAESAR SALAD WITHOUT ANCHOVIES…
This caesar salad uses curly kale instead of the traditional romaine lettuce. By finely chopping the kale and using lots of the lemony dressing to massage the kale gives a super tender, nutrient-packed based. And trust me – you won’t be missing the traditional romaine lettuce here.
And most importantly, I can’t get over this dressing! Flavourful to the MAX. It’s an olive oil – Dijon – tamari/gluten free soy sauce – fresh garlic – lemon combination that is sure to impress. I stir in a little nutritional yeast, which is optional but highly recommended for a kind of cheesy, kind of nutty flavour while still keeping a little bit of texture. Otherwise, load this baby up with parmesan cheese.
And then those crunchy croutons! Homemade croutons are the best! If you’ve never made your own croutons at home… DO IT NOW! They are just so good.
I use any bread that you have on hand, really (gluten free, whole grain, stale, those crusty ends of the loaf that always seem to get eaten last – whatever you got!). It’s roughly chopped into small pieces and seasoned with just a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and my favourite spice combo as of late – garlic powder, italian blend and sweet paprika. (<– I put this combo on everything!!)
The best part? These croutons aren’t overly greasy or salty like a lot of store-bought, boxed varieties (and no crazy preservatives or additives here!!) – just lightly seasoned in a super addictive, you better make extras kind of way because they are super easy to snack on while this salad is coming together.
This salad is the perfect side dish to any dinner (hemp crusted chicken thighs I’m especially looking at you!) or top it with your favourite protein for a super flavourful lunch. This salad is best served immediately but leftover dressed salad with last in the fridge for about a day. If you are eating leftovers be sure to top it with a little extra dressing.
And if you liked this Easy Kale Caesar recipe, you will LOVE this Veggie Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing, this Lemony Kale Salad and this Southwest Kale Salad.
AND PIN THIS RECIPE FOR LATER!
MORE ABOUT THIS CLEAN-EATING KALE SALAD WITH CAESAR DRESSING RECIPE…
Caesar salad is beyond classic and I can’t really think of too many people who truly don’t love a big bowl of Caesar. It’s creamy, super savoury, and garlicky with tons of crunch. I mean, come on!
But the more traditional salads (and especially the ones made with bottled dressing and store-bought croutons…) have some less than good for you ingredients hidden in there. I mean, have you taken a peek at the ingredients listed on the back of the most popular dressings lately? I’ll pass, thanks.
My point here?
Other than trying to get more veggies on to your plate (I always say the number one, easiest thing you can do to start eating better is to eat more veggies at each meal… and hello, easy kale caesar salad!), cooking your own food and making meals from scratch in your own kitchen is the best way to eat clean and avoid all those added chemicals, preservatives and artificial anything.
When you’re making food at home you get to control the quality of ingredients (no unnecessary junk here!), the amount of sugar and salt in your food, and your get to make it just the way you like. When you’re making food at home sticking with clean eating is so much easier!
And that’s why I am so excited about this recipe. Here, we take a traditional dish and make it extra good-for-you with healthy fats, lots of veggies and extra flavour.
And it’s one salad you can definitely feel good about eating.
I HOPE YOU LIKE THIS RECIPE AS MUCH AS I DO! IF YOU GIVE THIS EASY KALE CAESAR SALAD RECIPE A TRY LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND BE SURE TO SHARE A PICTURE ON INSTAGRAM USING THE TAGS @ALWAYSNOURISHED AND #ALWAYSNOURISHEDFOOD. I LOVE TO SEE WHAT YOU’RE COOKING
This recipe was originally published in May 2016. Photos and recipes have been updated in December 2018.