How To Make A Creamy, Smoky Caesar Salad — Without Any Meat Or Dairy

Lauren Toyota whips up a completely plant-based salad that tastes just like the real thing.

Just because she eats plant-based, that doesn’t mean hot for food blog’s Lauren Toyota eschews comfort food. In fact, she couldn’t live without it.

For Chatelaine’s  new video series, Vegan It! with Lauren Toyota, the former MuchMusic VJ and current YouTube star demonstrates how to create vegan versions of everyone’s favourite comfort classics — like BLTs and milkshakes — without elaborate recipes or compromising on taste. Find more of Lauren’s awesome recipes on her blog, her YouTube channel and her upcoming cookbook, Vegan Comfort Classics.

In this episode: Lauren creates a rich, creamy, tangy and smokey caesar salad — without any eggs, dairy or meat.

Making it rich and creamy: To create a super-creamy caesar dressing without eggs, Lauren uses her “vegan secret weapon” — cashews. Cashews (after being soaked in a warm water bath) can be whipped up into cream using a high-powered blender. (She also uses this versatile nut to make dairy-free sour cream and milk.)

Making it smoky: To replicate the flavours of sweet, salty and smoky bacon, Lauren marinates crumbled tofu in tamari, maple syrup and liquid smoke before baking it until it’s crispy and golden brown. (If you don’t have tofu, you can make fake bacon with tempeh or even coconut flakes using the same recipe below.)

Extras: Many caesar salads include anchovies, so to replicate that saltiness, Lauren tops hers with capers. She also puts acidic ingredients — like lemon zest, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar — in her dressing to make sure it’s nice and tangy.

Watch Lauren Toyota make vegan grilled cheese

Recipe: Vegan Caesar Salad with Tofu Bacon Bits

Makes: 4 servings

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Caesar Dressing (makes 2 cups)


  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (soaked for 3 hrs)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 pitted medjool date
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
  2. To prepare the bulb of garlic for roasting, peel the outer layers of the garlic bulb leaving a thin layer still in tact and cut the top of the bulb off (approx. 1/4 inch from the top) so the cloves are visible. Coat the top with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and then bake at 400F for 35 mins or until the cloves are browned and soft to touch.
  3. Remove the roasted cloves of garlic from the bulb and place in a Vitamix or high powered blender. Drain the soaked cashews and rinse with more water until it runs clear. Place the cashews and the remaining in the blender and mix on high until smooth.
  4. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the salad components.

Tofu Bacon Bits


  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (about 14 oz/390 g) brick firm or extra- firm tofu (about 2 cups crumbled)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Combine the marinade together in a bowl and crumble tofu into small pieces into it. Stir to combine well. The tofu should absorb all of the liquid. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the crumbles in an even layer. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through the bake time. The tofu should be much darker when it’s done. It might not be crispy right out of the oven, but it will get firmer as it cools.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, and use immediately for a recipe or consume within 10 days.

Garlic Croutons


  • 3 cups cubed bread (Italian or sourdough loaf or baguette)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place cubed bread on a large baking sheet and toss with olive oil, garlic salt, and ground pepper. Spread out in an even layer with pieces spaced slightly apart.
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and quite crunchy.

Vegan Parm (makes ¾ cup)

Ingredients and directions:

  • 2⁄3 cup raw cashews
  • 1⁄4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  1. While croutons are baking you can make the parm by combine all the ingredients together in a food processor and process until a fine crumb or meal is formed.
  2. Store in a jar or container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.



  • 6 cups roughly chopped romaine hearts
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • extra lemon wedges, as garnish


  1. Toss romaine with 1 cup dressing until well coated.
  2. Then add in capers, tofu bacon, ¼ cup parm, and add ground pepper to taste and toss to combine.
  3. Top with croutons, more tofu bacon, more parm, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.
  4. Only dress the amount of lettuce you will consume right away, otherwise it will get soggy. You’ll have leftover dressing and vegan parm you can use for other recipes. The dressing also makes a great veggie dip.

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