I have a confession.
I am completely, totally, head-over-heels addicted to the vegan curried chick'n salad at Whole Foods.
Aside from the occasional chick'n patty, it's pretty rare that I eat vegan meat alternatives, but something about that salad gets me good. It's gotten to the point where I only buy it twice a month or so, because it seems to be the only thing I crave when it's tucked away in our refrigerator.
Not that it's the most unhealthy thing I could be eating, but I'm pretty sure that eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't in my body's best interest. Plus, the ingredient list is long and includes a few items that are a little too tough to pronounce to allow this biweekly treat to become a primary food group.
The flavors reminded me of that salad from Whole Foods, except this rice salad swapped out the faux chick'n for juicy grapes, crunchy celery, green apple, and lots of other goodness. To make the recipe vegan, my mom simply swapped regular mayo for vegan mayo, and it was glorious.
Even prior to my vegan days, mayo wasn't a condiment I frequented; I'm more of a ketchup, mustard, and buffalo sauce kind of gal. I like my condiments tangy and packed with vinegar. However, I always keep a jar of vegan mayo on hand just in case a recipe calls for it.
So, when I was craving this salad last weekend, I busted out my trusty jar of vegan mayo only to find that it 1) still had the seal intact and 2) expired 3 months ago. I'm a bit of a nervous ninny and not one to tango with the bounds of expiry, so I quickly tossed the jar with a pout on my face.
Between recipe testing for the book and the blog, I've been hitting up the grocery store 3 to 4 times a week, so another visit sounded daunting. But the craving couldn't be kicked, so I decided to completely revamp the dressing and modify the salad to share here on the blog.
Instead of a mayo- and oil-rich dressing, I made a creamy cashew curry dressing by blending soaked cashews, filtered water, curry powder, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and sea salt. The result is a flavorful, velvety, spicy-sweet dressing with a swoon-worthy pale golden hue.
I made a few other adjustments to the base of the salad, including swapping out the basmati rice for black rice, which has a rich nuttiness that can't be beat. That warm, perfectly chewy black rice gets tossed with halved red grapes, diced green apple, thinly sliced celery, scallions, raisins, and cilantro before being coated in the creamy curried cashew dressing. The result is a salad that is savory, sweet, subtly spicy, crunchy, juicy, nutty, chewy, and altogether wonderful. Can you tell I'm a bit obsessed?
Dan and I managed to devour the entire salad in just over 24 hours; however, the recipe makes enough to serve 4 to 6 as a light lunch/dinner or 10 to 12 as a side dish. It would make a crowd-pleasing dish to bring to any end-of-summer/long weekend parties you might have on the docket. If you're making it for a crowd, I recommend reserving some of the dressing, grapes, scallions, and raisins to drizzle/garnish the salad with as it's not exactly the most pleasing salad to look at once it's tossed. Other than that, it's as golden as its dressing.
Vegan Black Rice Crunch Salad with Creamy Curried Cashew Dressing
Black Rice Salad
- 1 cup short-grain black rice
- 1 ¾ cups water
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 large celery stalks, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups red seedless grapes, halved
- 1 medium green apple, cored, diced, and spritzed with the juice of ½ lemon to prevent browning
- ½ cup seedless raisins
- ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
Creamy Curry Cashew Dressing
- ½ cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours, drained
- ½ cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 scant tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Pour the black rice into a sieve or colander and thoroughly rinse until the water runs clear.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the black rice and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the rice is tender and most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork.
- Meanwhile, make the creamy curry cashew dressing. Add the soaked cashews, water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, curry powder, maple syrup, and sea salt sea salt to a high-speed blender. Blend on high until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- Transfer the rice to a large serving bowl. Add the scallions, celery, grapes, green apple, raisins, and cilantro (if using). Stir to combine.
- Pour the creamy cashew curry dressing over the salad and toss to coat. At first, it will seem like there is too much dressing, but the salad will continue to absorb it as it rests.
- Refrigerate leftovers.