Overhead shot of holiday Caesar salad in large serving bowl

Winter Caesar Salad (Easily Vegan!)

The ideal holiday veggie-packed side! This non-traditional Caesar salad is made with pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, and garlicky breadcrumbs.

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Overhead shot of holiday Caesar salad in large serving bowl


This Holiday Caesar Salad is so-named for one very obvious reason: I tend to make it around Christmastime. It satisfies veggie lovers and meat-and-potatoes people alike and is customizable to a variety of dietary needs. This salad is ideal for any gathering of loved ones and is a tasty way to sneak some veggies onto the menu.

Zoomed in shot of Caesar salad to show texture

Winter Caesar Salad Key Ingredients

Bread of Choice: You’re gonna pulse two heaping cups of torn bread pieces in a food processor until crumbly, toss with oil and seasonings, and bake until golden brown and gorgeous.

Pecans: You’ll toast ’em alongside the breadcrumbs for extra nutty depth of flavor.

Romaine Lettuce and Kale: For some variety in flavor and texture when it comes to our greens!

Pomegranate Seeds: For a sweet and tart burst of flavor.

Parmesan Cheese: Dairy or vegan varieties are both great! I usually serve the cheeses on the side so folks can select their preference.

Raw Cashews: The creamy base for our dressing! Be sure to soak them for at least eight hours in room temperature water OR 30 minutes in boiling water.

Nutritional Yeast:  This deactivated yeast is a common vegan ingredient for creating a cheesy flavor. It’ll replace the parmesan cheese in our vegan Caesar dressing.

Capers, Caper Brine, Dijon Mustard, and Worcestershire Sauce: All the umami, acidic goodness! This collection of ingredients will replace the anchovies to keep our dressing vegan.

Salad on a small plate

Salad Tips & Tricks

  • Prep Ahead of Time: Components of this salad can easily be made ahead of time! Make your breadcrumbs and toasted pecans a few days ahead of time and be sure to store in an airtight container so they don’t go stale. Make your dressing a few days ahead of time and store in the fridge. When the time comes to serve, simply assemble!
  • Add Protein: If you’re wanting to serve this salad as a main meal (or meal prep it for easy lunches, which I often do), feel free to add some toasted chickpeas, rotisserie chicken, or any protein you like!
  • Massage the Kale: Season the kale with a pinch of salt and massage with your hands until it wilts some and becomes softer to the touch. You may notice it become a more vibrant green and shrink some in volume, too. If you really want to be an overachiever, add a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Of note, you don’t want to overdo it. 10-15 seconds should be plenty of time to achieve tender kale without making it soggy.
Caesar salad on small plate

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More Amazing Salads

overhead shot of winter caesar salad in serving bowl
Overhead shot of holiday Caesar salad in serving bowl

Winter Caesar Salad

The ideal holiday veggie-packed side! This non-traditional Caesar salad is made with pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans garlicky breadcrumbs.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 6

Equipment

  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Baking Sheet
  • small frying pan (optional)

Ingredients
  

Garlic Breadcrumbs and Toasted Pecans

  • 2 heaping cups bread of choice torn into pieces (I used a loaf of Italian bread)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup raw pecan pieces

Vegan Caesar Dressing

  • ½ cup raw cashews soaked in room temperature water for 6-8 hours OR in boiling water for 30 minutes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp caper brine
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • water as needed to thin (add one tbsp at a time; I used ¼ cup)

The Rest of the Salad

  • 1 large bunch Lacinato (also known as "dino") kale (about 3 cups) washed and torn into bite size pieces, stems removed
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce (about 4 cups) washed and cut into bite size pieces
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (use vegan Parmesan if desired)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set to the side for now.
  • Add bread pieces to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they reach your desired consistency. It'll take about 30 seconds for more coarse breadcrumbs and 1 minute for more fine breadcrumbs. Add the breadcrumbs to the prepared baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on the baking sheet, leaving about one quarter of the pan for your pecans.
  • Add the pecans to the remaining area of the pan in an even layer. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden brown and until the pecans are fragrant and toasted. You may need to remove the nuts from the pan before the breadcrumbs, so be sure to arrange them in separate areas of the baking sheet and begin checking at the 8-minute mark.
  • Next, make your dressing. Drain soaked cashews and add to a blender or food processor along with olive oil, nutritional yeast, capers and caper brine, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and one tablespoon of water (I rinsed out the same food processor I used for the breadcrumbs). Blend on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute to ensure everything is well-combined and completely smooth. You may need to take breaks to scrape down the sides of the food processor and add water to thin. I would add one additional tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency (I used about ¼ cup).
  • Add kale to a large bowl along with a pinch of salt. Massage for 10-15 seconds to soften the fibers of the kale (this will make it taste better and be easier for everyone's digestion!). You want to be careful to not overdo this step, however, as the kale can become soggy. As soon as the kale becomes more vibrant in color and it feels a bit softer to the touch, leave it alone.
  • Assemble! Add chopped romaine lettuce, pomegranate seeds, maple nuts, and parmesan cheese to the large bowl with the kale and toss to combine (you could also go ahead and add the dressing at this stage if you're planning to serve it as a side salad for your holiday dinner; otherwise save the dressing for individual portions). Top individual portions with the breadcrumbs in order to keep them crispy.

Notes

Serving the Dressing: If serving as a holiday side, go ahead and add the dressing along with the other ingredients and toss. If making the salad as meal prep, refrigerate the salad and dressing separately in airtight containers and add to individual portions.
Storage: Salad and dressing should be refrigerated in separate airtight containers; salad will last 3-5 days and dressing will last up to 2 weeks. Breadcrumbs and toasted pecans can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.
To make dairy-free/vegan: Use vegan parmesan cheese or omit.
To make gluten-free: Omit breadcrumbs or make with gluten-free bread (I haven’t tested this, so try at your own risk).
 
Keyword caesar, dairy-free, gluten free, kale, pomegranate, salad, vegan, vegetarian

Photography by Hope Agresti

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