This vegan marinated kale caesar salad with crispy shiitake bacon is just as satisfying and savory as it is nourishing. Creamy hemp seed caesar dressing is massaged into shredded kale until the kale wilts and becomes tender. The finishing touch? A sprinkling of crisp shiitake bacon.
Kale. In a salad. Before you head for the internet hills, hear me out.
Sure, kale can be grassy, tough, and terrifying. However, when given a little love (i.e., massaging/marinating) and attention (i.e., a tasty dressing), it’s likely to knock the socks right off of your taste buds.
Let me tell you the story about a man named Dan and his kale-fearing ways. Dan was once convinced he hated kale unless it was in chip form and outfitted in a thick coating of vegan nacho cheese (hellooo, nooch), and he had a particularly intense aversion to kale salads. But one evening back in May of 2014, this 5-ingredient marinated kale salad lured him over to the kale-loving side. So, how does one transform a kale hater into a kale-craving, green-stuff-in-his-teeth, lover of kale? Give it a two-minute massage.
Keep it clean, I’m referring to the kale.
A two-minute massage + 3 other tried-and-true steps to transform your kale salad from drab to fab.
Step #1 | Wash your kale like you’d wash your hair after a 4-day, shower-free camping trip. No, don’t use soap, just rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Then, pat it dry or give it a whirl around a salad spinner. A sandy, gritty, potentially buggy (gross, but true) kale salad is not fab at all, it’s disgusting. And it’s the exactly the kind of thing that infuses more kale-hate into a person’s soul.
For the record, I have for sure eaten at least one bug via kale salad before. I thought it was a large piece of black pepper and swallowed just before catching a glimpse of another piece of “black pepper” moving in my bowl. Lesson learned. Wash it. Also, this is probably the worst way to convince you to eat kale, but I’ll redeem myself in a minute.
Step #2| Dress it well. Kale isn’t the time nor the place for skimpy, wimpy dressings; I’m looking at you, fat-free [fill in the blank]. Healthy fat + an acid + a touch of sweetness if needed + herbs/garlic/seasoning + salt = a proper dressing in general, but especially for kale salad.
In this case, hemp seeds are blended with nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, acv, dijon, sea salt, and black pepper to create a rich and creamy caesar dressing that gets poured over all that squeaky-clean kale.
Step #3| This is where the kale magic happens. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands in that bowl, and massage the dressing into the kale for at least 2 minutes. The acidity of the dressing combined with a Popeye-strength massage breaks down the tough, chewy, and fibrous walls of the kale. In this case, wilted and withered is a desirable look — it means you’ve infused your kale with love and lots of flavor.
Step #4: Add a few drool-worthy toppings to boost flavor and texture. Think crunchy (e.g., nuts/seeds), chewy (e.g., sun-dried tomatoes), creamy (e.g., avocado), and/or bursting with freshness (e.g., cherry tomatoes). In this case, we’re going crunchy and chewy with sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake bacon.
There you have it, 4 steps to transform a kale salad into something crave-able, glamorous, and satisfying.
This vegan marinated kale caesar salad with shiitake bacon is also great for the holidays thanks to its red and green hues. Plus, that creamy caesar dressing and crispy shiitake bacon? No crowd can resist.
Just make sure you wash that kale ;)
Vegan Marinated Kale Caesar Salad with Shiitake Bacon
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hemp Seed Caesar Dressing
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shelled hemp hearts
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 large bunch curly kale, thoroughly washed and destemmed
- 1/4 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 375F. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper.
- Spread the shiitakes out over the pan. Drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Toss to evenly coat the mushrooms. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are golden brown and mostly crisp, using tongs to flip every 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool. They’ll continue to crisp as they cool.
Hemp Seed Caesar Dressing
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by combing all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blending on high for 2 minutes or until completely smooth and creamy.
- Tear the kale into bite-size pieces. Pour as much of the dressing over the kale as desired. Now for the fun part: roll up your sleeves and use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale for 2 minutes or until the kale begins to soften and wilt.
- Divide the kale between bowls or plates and top with the sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake bacon. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.