Vegan Southwest Caesar Salad

Vegan southwest Caesar salad! You'll love the creamy, briny, chili infused vegan dressing made from almonds and the cashew vegan parmesan cheese! 

When you go out to eat at a restaurant where a salad comes with your entree, please tell me you always get the Caesar salad? Why do they even bother to offer the sad mix of leaf lettuce, cucumbers, shredded carrots and ranch? I don't make assumptions based on what someone is eating, but in this case, when I see someone munching on a boring side salad, I'm pretty sure they're in diet mode. Why deprive yourself of Caesar?

I kid, but goodness knows when I was stuck in diet mode, I suffered through my fair share of sad lettuce and vegetable mixes drenched in low fat honey mustard in an attempt to imbue some taste.

I've always been a bit obsessed with Caesar salads. Even when I was a vegetarian, I didn't stop eating them. Because even though anchovies are technically a living creature, they're not cute nor furry so I had no problem eating one in my dressing. Caesar is the king of salads...or the emperor! Get it? Like Julius Caesar...the emperor. That was pretty bad...

Back when I was a dietetic intern, my roommate and fellow intern (another Rachel!) were put in charge of redoing Emory's salad and sandwich bar with healthier options during our food service rotation. Yes, dietitians are actually required forced to go through a food service rotation, which I could give you quite the rant on but I'll keep it to myself for now. One of the salads we came up with was this amazing Southwest Caesar salad with fresh tortilla chips sprinkled with chili powder, grilled shrimp and black beans.

This salad was very loosely inspired by that dish, but I decided to try a vegan spin since I just love the flavor of nut based dressings. If you're vegan or just not into mayo, I think you'll be really surprised by how soaked nuts can turn into a rich, creamy dressing with tons of flavor. Also, I'm weirdly obsessed with vegan parmesan. Take it from a total cheese lover, this stuff is legit. The mixture of finely ground cashews and nutritional yeast takes this salad to another level. This recipe makes a little extra which you could serve over pasta or sprinkled on veggies...or just get really heavy handed on your salad. 

It's driving me nuts that I completely forgot to put the crushed up tortilla chips in the salad for this picture! Please don't forget the tortilla chips - they add a great crunch and more satiating high fiber carbs to this salad. If you're packing this salad for lunch, pack the crushed chips separately and sprinkle them on top at the last minute so they stay crunchy. No one likes soggy tortilla chips.

P.S. Thanks to those who expressed concern and support after I thought I lost YEARS of pictures from my external hard drive! The amazing people at Silicon Solutions were able to find a program to save them all! But unfortunately it doesn't save the folders there in, so looks like I'll have quite a few late nights with netflix organizing old pictures - any recommendations on what I should binge on?

Vegan Southwest Caesar Salad

Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE, CLT
Serves: Serves 4

If you'd like to make a more traditional Caesar dressing, use lemon instead of lime juice and leave out the chili powder. Jicama is a tuber vegetable that looks similar to a potato but tastes juicy and slightly sweet and is very crunchy. It can be found in most grocery stores, usually near the traditionally Hispanic produce like yucca and cactus leaves. Trader Joe's sells it peeled and cut.


Vegan Parmesan Cheese

  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Vegan Caesar Dressing

  • 1 cup slivered almonds, soaked in water 6 hours
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2-2/3 cup water


  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed and dried
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped jicama
  • 2 radishes, sliced
  • Lightly crushed tortila chips, for serving


  1. First make the "parmesan" cheese. Blend cashews, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder in the food processor until it has a sandy consistency. Be careful not to over-process and make weird, garlicky cashew butter. Scrape parmesan out into a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Next make the dressing. Drain the almonds and place them in the food processor with the lime juice, nutritional yeast, capers, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Stream in water while the processor is running. Blend until creamy, scraping down sides as needed, about 5 minutes total. Scrape dressing into a serving container until ready to use.
  3. Place romaine in a large salad bowl with black beans, jicama, and radishes. Toss with Caesar dressing to coat. Toss in tortilla chips. Serve garnished with vegan parmesan.

More vegan salads:

Asian Tempeh and Quinoa Salad
Asian Tempeh and Quinoa Salad
Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad
Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples and Tempeh Bacon
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples and Tempeh Bacon