November 10, 2013

Quinoa Caesar Salad

by IsaChandra

Serves 8
Total time: 45 minutes || Active time: 45 minutes

Quinoa Caesar
Photo by Vanessa Rees

“Put some quinoa in it.” It’s almost become my motto. I mean, why not? Everything needs quinoa! Even Caesar Salad. This one really is a meal and it makes a ton because I love it as leftovers. It tastes great the day after and, honestly, still pretty darn good on day 3. But feel free to half it if need be. I am in love with the dressing; it’s creamy, garlicky, briny and tangy and just the kind of stuff you want to stick your face in.

In the video, I’m making it with breaded tofu. There’s another version in Isa Does It with tempeh croutons (pictured), but you can make it even easier (Isa-er?) by simply throwing some chickpeas on top. It’s definitely an entree salad, so pick your additional protein and have fun with it!

Recipe Notes

~I highly recommend making the quinoa a day in advance so that it’s easy to pull together on a weeknight. Soak the cashews all day so that you can just come home and whip up the dressing.

~For the roasted garlic, you can either roast a head of it a day in advance or buy some. Often big fancy places like Whole Foods will have roasted garlic cloves for sale (there are about 15 in a head) or you can even nab some from the salad bar. But honestly, although it adds another dimension of garlicky sweet deliciousness, you can forego it if need be.

For the Breaded Tofu:
3/4 cup fine storebought breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingers
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed between your fingers
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder

14 oz extra firm tofu, sliced into 8 slabs widthwise
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

For The Briny Caesar Dressing:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
1 head roasted garlic (about 10 cloves, see tip)
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup capers, with some brine
3/4 cup water
Several dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the rest:
6 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
8 oz chopped romaine
4 oz baby arugula (or chopped arugula)
1 avocado, cut diced into 1/2 inch pieces

Make the Breaded Tofu:
Preheat a large non-stick pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. On a dinner plate, use your fingertips to mix together the breadcrumbs, dried herbs and garlic. On a separate plate, pour the soy sauce.

Place a tofu slab in the soy sauce, and toss to coat. Then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, tossing to coat. (Use your dry hand to handle the tofu in the breadcrumbs, otherwise you’ll get a crumb mitten on your hand.) Put coated tofus off to the side of the plate and continue until all tofu is coated. Put a thin layer of olive oil in the pan, and then transfer tofu cubes to the pan. Let cook for a few minutes then flip, using a thin metal spatula so that you don’t scrape off the breading. Cook for about 7 minutes total, adding a little extra to the pan as needed, and flipping occasionally until browned on most sides.

Once browned, remove from pan and slice on a bias into 1/4 thick pieces.

Make the dressing:
Simply add all of the ingredients to a small blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Scrape down the sides every now and again to make sure you get everything. Thin with a little water, if necessary. Keep tightly sealed and refrigerated until ready to use. Keeps for up to 5 days.

Assemble the salad in a very large mixing bowl. Toss the greens with the quinoa, and then add the dressing. Serve topped with tofu and avocado!

  • November 10, 2013 at 4:26 pm: John

    Your video was just excellent! Now I know what I’m going to prepare for my lunch guests next weekend. Thank you.,

  • November 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm: YurtGirl

    Hilarious (and mouthwatering) video.

  • November 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm: Robin

    Sounds great! I just finished making Ceasar Chavez dressing and plan to have it your Lap salad, which, I was already planning to throw some Quinoa on it!!

  • November 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm: jami

    I really wish you had your own show. You are hilarious!

  • November 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm: Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Mmm what a fabulous salad! Looks awesome!

  • November 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm: dana

    Wow, is all I can say. Totally making this for an upcoming “friendsgiving” party. Thanks for the inspiration! Loved the video : )

  • November 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm: Kavitha

    Isa, these videos are the best ever! You are so funny and such a natural in front of the camera.

  • November 11, 2013 at 2:19 am: Michelle

    We made this tonight with chickpeas instead of the tempeh (laziness). This is definitely an outstanding salad. The recipe made a lot, but we three pigs gobbled it all up.

  • November 11, 2013 at 3:07 am: Cindy

    This salad was amazing. Just had it for dinner. The dressing was wonderful. So tangy and creamy. We ate it with some steamed broccoli on the side, and the broccoli was pretty tasty dipped in some of the dressing. Thank you, Isa, for all of your wonderful recipes, website, and videos. You make my vegan journey and love of cooking fun and tasty all at the same time.

  • November 11, 2013 at 3:33 am: Julia

    Oh goooood. I’m so excited to make this. I just made a big ol’ batch of seitan and I think I may bread the seitan since I’m out of tofu. I may just use almond milk w/ cornstarch as the battering liquid. I don’t think seitan needs more soy sauce.

  • November 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm: Ruchama

    My taste test for all vegan restaurants is the Caesar salad. This looks like a winner. I do caution that once avocado is in a salad it won’t work as left overs. The avocado gets the greens black and gross. So if you have more than you think can be consumed, put the avocado on individual servings, not on top of the whole bowl full.

  • November 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm: kspar-66

    z0mg, best one yet!!

  • November 14, 2013 at 12:49 am: KZCakes

    I made this last night using the breaded tofu like in the video and it was SO GOOD, you guys. I forgot I was eating salad because it was like, so good and stuff. My BF flipped out about how good it was, and he doesn’t like anything. Win, win, win. Caesar for everyone.

  • November 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm: Rita

    I made this last night, and I must say that this is the best caesar dressing yet!! OMG!! It’s freakin’ PERFECT! Great video, too, btw. :)

  • November 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm: MonBon

    Seriously…let’s get married. I will cook for you every night as long as you give me all your books with directions, and you talk to me the entire time I’m cooking.

  • November 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm: Emma

    Love the video! What type of quinoa are you using in the video? It looked more reddish than the variety I usually find at the grocery store…

  • November 16, 2013 at 1:49 am: Randi (laughfrodisiac)

    Hilarious as always. But why can’t I hit people?

  • November 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm: AshYTim

    It is hard to talk my husband into being excited for a salad recipe. The video did it though!

  • November 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm: julia

    I made this last night and it was delicious! Instead of roasting garlic, I used sweet fermented black garlic (which Trader Joe’s has started selling!). It made the dressing a bit browner in color, but it was delicious.

  • November 18, 2013 at 7:25 pm: Eryn

    Is there something I could use in place of the cashews? I’m allergic to nuts

  • November 25, 2013 at 3:16 am: Stef

    since i saw this picture i started using quinoa in every kind of salad, it just work flawlessly!

  • December 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm: Shelley

    Made this last night with chickpeas (lazy) and just romaine, because it’s what I had on hand. This salad is crazy good. I hated Caesar salad when I wasn’t vegan, but now I am kind of obsessed. The dressing definitely gave me Buffy breath, which is totally okay because I don’t care and I love garlic. Thanks for another amazing salad recipe! You never fail to inspire me and make me stoked about food.

  • December 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm: Jessica

    The entire thing was AWESOME but we absolutely adored the tofu! I made it with lemon pepper panko breading and it was AMAZING! My kiddos loved it and so did the hubby! Thank you so much! Please, please, please continue to post more videos!

  • December 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm: Sara

    i made this for lunch for myself and my girlfriend who normally dislikes tofu, but she LOVED this! she could not stop raving about how good it was, and the breaded tofu was her fave part! thanks for an awesome recipe, A+++!

  • December 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm: Monica

    I made this over the weekend for my family. Your dressing recipe……is simply amazing. I am not a fan of capers, but I knew the briny flavor would make the dressing (and that my Vitamix would pummel it into creamy goodness). The flavor was awesome! We were all oooooo’ing and ahhhhh’ing the whole time. I mean…..when you talk about your meal the entire time you’re eating it, it must be special, right? You are a genius, Isa! All I want for the holiday is your new cookbook, and I hope Santa is listening .

    And yes, you need a full-time show! Mkay?? I love your videos.

  • December 11, 2013 at 9:51 am: aliguam

    Damn that’s good. Thank you.

  • December 19, 2013 at 3:54 am: Bonnie

    I just made this and it was perfect. The dressing had the perfect hint of lemon and great consistency. All my experiences with tofu haven’t been good, until now. Thanks!

  • December 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm: K.

    And that is why the minute I win a million dollars, I’m hiring a live-in chef.

  • December 30, 2013 at 12:03 pm: Tiana Gustafson

    Thank you so much for this amazing looking recipe! I love healthy recipes and I will look forward to trying it out and sharing it with my followers at As Arnold says “I’ll be back” :) Thanks again!

  • January 1, 2014 at 9:58 pm: Erin

    Can’t wait to make this, Isa. You make it so easy to be vegan and to make things my omni husband will eat without protest. Thanks for being awesome :)

  • January 6, 2014 at 1:05 am: Chris Zaccharia

    Simple to make. I like it :)

  • January 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm: Antione

    Thank you! You have made my transition to vegan fantastic over the past two years. Along with your Jerk Sloppy Joes, this is another favorite. Thanks again!

  • January 19, 2014 at 3:49 am: Meaghan

    Thank you for introducing me to the best salad ever. Omg. I love you.

  • January 24, 2014 at 1:09 am: Ceej

    That video was hilarious! I was laughing alone in my living room watching it. I’m already cooking from Isa Does It practically every day but now I’m going to change my priorities and make this in the next couple of days!

  • February 1, 2014 at 11:10 pm: Laura

    Hi Isa,

    I didn’t make the entire salad yet but did manage to make the briny caesar dressing to use over some romaine lettuce leaves.
    All I can say is OH MY GOSH!
    Wow hun, you’ve pretty much nailed the dressing! Absolutely divine.
    Thank you so much!

  • February 10, 2014 at 5:24 am: Delin

    I have the same question as one other commenter…where/how do you get crunchy brown quinoa? Mine is pale and definitely not crisp. Even with my mushy beige quinoa this was very good to the point I foundered. I didn’t have capers on hand so subbed citrus-stuffed olives…incredibly good dressing!

  • February 16, 2014 at 2:38 am: donna

    This was delicious. My non-vegan friends and family loved it.

  • February 17, 2014 at 12:01 am: Zoya

    Long time fan but first time commenting. Since going vegan a year ago, I have seriously missed Caesar dressing but your recipe just blew me away. After tasting it, I had one of those, “This can’t be vegan” moments. It’s cheezy, garlicky, and creamy just like Caesar should be. This was also my first time making crispy breaded tofu and they came out fantastic. With the beautiful red quinoa, this makes a seriously wonderful presentation. I love your videos and I love sharing your fantastic recipes with my non-vegan friends and family.

  • February 26, 2014 at 8:46 am: Astrid Nolet

    I made this recipe yesterday, with fresh spinach and rocket instead of the lettuce and without the avocado,but none the less I loved it!! I am not a vegan, but I try to eat consiously and I was really positively surprised, especially by the dressing!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • March 21, 2014 at 2:51 am: Aqiyl Aniys

    Oh yes, I will enjoy making this quinoa dish. Thanks

  • March 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm: Hope


    Every time I make a vegan caesar salad dressing the nutritional yeast really ruins it for me. I really just cannot enjoy the taste of it no matter how much I try. Is there a substitute I can use instead or can I just leave it out?


  • March 24, 2014 at 5:29 pm: kaly s-b

    “every single goddess needs garlic breath” omg it’s so true

  • March 28, 2014 at 11:30 pm: Haley

    So DELICIOUS! Easy to make and yummy to eat. I love this recipe. Whole Foods has cheap vegan breadcrumbs. The crispy breaded tofu with the dressing tastes just like a grilled chicken ceasar salad. Make sure to fully press the tofu ahead of time though.

  • April 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm: Sandra

    Luscious! Had my 7-year old – a notoriously picky eater – gobble up dinner in a hilariously non-picky way!

  • April 3, 2014 at 6:50 pm: Jeanette Ylarregui

    Sooooooo delish!! I knew it would be, but still! My boyfriend and I could NOT stop eating this. Took leftover dressing to work for co-workers to try–I think it’s better than most regular caesar dressings. Thank you Isa! We are looking forward to having it again tonight = )

  • April 10, 2014 at 12:10 am: Melissa

    Man that is some magical dressing.

  • April 25, 2014 at 8:59 pm: Jenna

    Isa, despite my many, many years of vegetarianism, I’ve never been a big salad eater. But this salad, and particularly the dressing, is SO GOOD, that I can say I’ve become a little obsessed with it. I’ve even come to crave it, and it’s a much healthier craving than my usual! I was using the fermented black garlic Trader Joe’s had for a while for this, which was easier than the roasted garlic and very delicious. Thank you for adding this to my repertoire. We miss you in blog land and hope you’ll be back with more deliciousness of this scale soon!

  • May 1, 2014 at 3:31 am: Julie from Toronto

    Love this video – so glad I discovered this site. You are awesome!

  • May 2, 2014 at 6:46 pm: Robin

    I’ve been meaning to make this since I first binge-watched all of your Make it Vegan episodes and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. It’s been abnormally hot weather in Portland this week and my family and I wanted something cool and refreshing and this was just perfect! I knew it was going to be good while I was making it but had no idea it would turn out THIS good. My mom (not vegan but eats everything I cook for the family) declared it my best dinner yet and my dad (meat lover) was literally shocked that the breaded tofu was actually tofu. He seriously had no idea. I didn’t change a single thing about the recipe other than cutting 12 slabs instead of 8 which I do recommend and omitting the oil from the dressing which didn’t seem to affect it whatsoever. Also I used firm tofu that was frozen and thawed which gave it the absolute best texture. I’d recommend using low-sodium tamari/soy sauce since the rest of the dish is fairly salty enough.
    I honestly can’t describe the deliciousness of the caesar dressing. So good I could just die! Thanks for another excellent recipe.

  • May 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm: mary

    love the video!

  • May 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm: Anna

    Always an inspiration! I´ve learnt so much from you. I bought three books and like to watch the videos, because in Germany we can´t see you in TV. Thi video is just excellent! Please go on, you do a great job!

  • May 30, 2014 at 7:47 pm: Ms. V

    “is that chicken?”
    “No!” (SLAP)
    Going to try this tonight. The salad, that is.

  • June 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm: Angie

    This is REALLY REALLY good! I didn’t have any roasted garlic, so I’m not sure what the diffence would be there. But we really enjoyed the dressing and absolutely LOVED the herb breaded tofu!

  • July 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm: Kate

    Wow…thank you for this amazing recipe! This salad made me so happy :-) You are a brilliant and creative artist!

  • August 20, 2014 at 10:15 pm: Erin

    Holy smokes! Super good–and I was super skeptical about the dressing. Thanks a million!!!! I’m going back for more recipes. :)

  • August 24, 2014 at 5:21 am: Lisa

    I am loving this salad with the tempeh croutons. Before this salad, I was convinced that tempeh was something my vegan lifestyle could live without. Now… I admit I was wrong. Tempeh croutons should be on all my salads!

  • August 27, 2014 at 12:09 am: Corrin Radd

    Made this for dinner. Yummy!

  • September 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm:

    Howdy! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new
    iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading
    through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up
    the great work!

  • October 11, 2014 at 11:14 pm: Mason

    Just made this and dear God, I have breath that would scare a nun away- but it was worth it.

  • November 13, 2014 at 9:02 pm: chelsea

    This is my favorite vegan caesar, and I’m pretty sure my husband’s favorite salad. It’s perfect. The most recent time I made it I added homemade baked croutons and the chicky seitan from Isa Does it (grilled it) and it was amazing. Thanks as always Isa :)

  • January 26, 2015 at 8:06 am: Maria

    Wow, this was great! The video was helpful.

  • February 13, 2015 at 7:54 pm: Vick

    Simple and healthy.. What else we need )) Great. Visit this awesome website >> for new kitchen tools

  • April 15, 2015 at 10:08 am: VeggieBasics

    Delicious Salad recipe. The eye catchy presentation of recipe makes it more delectable and easy for beginners. Thanks for sharing this such a yummy salad recipe.

  • August 22, 2015 at 1:08 am: michi

    Oh my gosh, so happy i came across your website! Ive started eating vegie now and im europian so I love the stuff you wanna stick you face into.. as you say, they hearty food, and tangy tastes. You play with herbs and spices and have a cashew cream as well i can make! im so happy! Just wanted to thank you :)

  • August 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm: Russell Mellors

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  • September 24, 2015 at 1:27 pm: Amy2015

    I’m so happy I discovered your website!You are awesome!
    I made this recipe yesterday and I really love this salad and in particular the dressing.
    Thanks Isa for this recipe!