What do you do when you need to eat dairy-free, but crave creaminess? You blend, you soak, you purée- nuts & nut milks, all manner of coconut, avocados, et al, and that gives you a whole panoply of options for sauces, curries, soups, smoothies, drizzles & garnishes. But what about coming up with a recipe for a dairy-free cheesy, creamy Caesar salad dressing?
My thought was to start with nutritional yeast as a replacement for the parmesan cheese. As vegans* have long known, not only does (fortified) nutritional yeast pack nutritional punch with loads of B-vitamins and 3 grams of protein per tablespoon, but it also deliciously approximates the sharp, tangy, umami-laden flavor of many cheeses, including cheddar or parmesan. Combined here with a few tablespoons of mayo (in place of raw egg yolk) and slowly drizzled-in olive oil, the emulsified final product is a thick and creamy dressing that completely satisfies my cheesy, creamy cravings.
I like my Caesar dressing heady with flavor, so to amp it up I've included a healthy dose of fresh lemon juice for tartness (and I always add another squeeze when I am mixing the dressing with the romaine leaves for extra brightness), lots of garlic (yes, 8 LARGE cloves!) and black pepper, and anchovy and worcestershire sauce for depth of flavor (read: umami). Also essential to this salad are croutons; I made mine with gluten free bread, tossed with olive oil, a sprinkling of garlic powder and more nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and baked at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crisp.
*This dressing is not vegan, though can be easily modified: omit the anchovies, substitute a vegan worcestershire sauce and increase to 2 t., and substitute a vegan mayo in place of regular mayo
(Dairy-Free) Caesar Salad Dressing
Gluten free, dairy free
Makes about 2 cups
3 T. mayo
1 T. dijon mustard
1 t. worcestershire sauce
8 large cloves garlic
1/2 c. lemon juice (plus more for mixing lettuce with dressing)
1/3 cup (fortified) nutritional yeast
1 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh cracked xccblack pepper (plus more for garnish)
1 cup mild olive oil (or a 3:1 mixture of olive oil to grapeseed or canola oil if the olive oil you have is strongly-flavored)
In a food processor, mix all ingredients except oil until well-blended, scraping down the sides once or twice for uniformity. Through the top feeder tube, very slowly drizzle in the oil while blending. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.