With a few creative liberties and a lot of rich flavor, this vegetarian Caesar salad dressing adds zest, brightness, and tang to more than just Caesar salads! This vegetarian dressing is cashew based and comes together in just about 15 minutes.
There is just one ingredient that makes Caesar dressing not vegetarian: anchovies. Sometimes Caesar dressing and Caesar salad will feature actual anchovies, and sometimes this is due to the anchovies used in Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste.
This vegetarian caesar dressing is anchovy-free but it does take a few more creative liberties in comparison to traditional Caesar dressing.
The basis for the creamy dressing is cashews instead of mayonnaise, which means that technically this is a vegan salad dressing (though the salad I use it on is vegetarian).
It relies on a few ultra-savory ingredients to get that classic Caesar tang, making it interesting enough to be a go-to dressing for more than just Caesar salads.
- Cashews: I love using cashews as the base of dressings because they become rich and super creamy when blended. They also add healthy fats and protein to the dressing. For best results, choose raw, unsalted cashews. If unable to find these, roasted cashews do work but will yield a slightly different flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: This traditionally contains anchovies, but many store-brand Worcestershire sauces are actually anchovy-free. Just check the ingredients on the offerings at the grocery store and choose one that doesn't have anchovies in the ingredients.
- Nutritional yeast: This adds a bit of body and umami flavor to the Caesar dressing. If you don't have nutritional yeast, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of fresh Parmesan.
- Lemon juice adds brightness and tang. I recommend just fresh-squeeze lemon juice for the best flavor.
- Dijon mustard: This acts as an emulsifier (holds the dressing together) and enhances the flavor of the dressing.
- Olive oil is added for an extra-smooth mouthfeel. For a lower-fat dressing, you can omit the olive oil.
Steps to make
Unless you have a very strong blender like a Vitamix or Ninja, I recommend soaking cashews in hot water before blending them into a vegetarian Caesar dressing. This is my blender (I love it because it's strong and a fraction of the cost of higher-end blenders).
I use my water kettle to heat water to boiling, then cover the cashews with at least an inch of water in a heat-safe bowl.
Alternatively, add the cashews to a small sauce pot and bring water to a boil on the stove.
Let sit for just 10 minutes and up to an hour. I use this same method in my cashew cream recipe. If you have the forethought, feel free to soak the cashews in cool water overnight instead.
After soaking, drain off the soaking liquid and add the cashews to a blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. This will take 1-2 minutes, depending on the blender strength.
Add additional water to thin the dressing. Taste for seasonings, adjusting for salt (Worcestershire sauce, salt) and tang (lemon juice, mustard).
Variations and tips
- Tanginess: For a zestier dressing, add additional lemon juice or lemon zest.
- Saltiness: Comes from the salt and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust these ingredients for a saltier Caesar dressing.
- Consistency: I recommend starting with ¼ up water and adding up to ½ cup water for a smooth, pourable dressing. Starting with a smaller amount of liquid keeps the dressing from becoming watered down.
- This recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. Just double or triple all ingredients.
Freezing: Vegetarian Caesar dressing freezes well. I like to freeze it in pint-sized Ball jars. Make sure to leave at least 1 inch at the top of the jar before freezing. Let thaw overnight in the fridge.
Leftovers: This dressing is best within a week of making. It will thicken up when refrigerated. If needed, add a splash of water to thin.
Looking for more salad dressings?
This vegetarian Caesar dressing is included in my guide on how to make homemade salad dressings. I also have a few more dressings on the blog that you might like:
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Vegetarian Caesar Dressing
- 1 Blender
- ½ cup raw unsalted cashews
- 2 small garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from one small lemon
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ to ½ cup water as needed
- *You can skip this step if using a strong blender*. In a heat-safe bowl, cover the cashews with an inch of boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Alternatively, cover with cool water and soak overnight.
- To a blender add the drained cashews, garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and ¼ cup water.
- Blend until smooth and creamy. This will take 1-2 minutes depending on the strength of your blender. Add up to an additional ¼ cup of water as needed to thin the dressing.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. For more saltiness, add additional salt or Worcestershire sauce. For additional tanginess, add more lemon juice or mustard. Enjoy!
- Cashews: I use raw, unsalted cashews because they provide a blank palette. Roasted cashews tend to add an oilier flavor, but they will work in a pinch.
- I serve this Caesar dressing with my Vegetarian Caesar Salad. It makes enough for 4 decently-sized salads.
- The dressing keeps for up to a week. It will thicken up during refrigeration. Add a splash of water to thin, as needed.
- This dressing freezes well. I like to use mason jars for storage and freezing. When ready to use, let thaw overnight in the fridge.
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