If you’re a Caesar salad fanatic, prepare to be blown away! Spicy Cajun dressing and blackened chickpeas elevate this meal from beloved classic to showstopper status. Crunchy romaine and creamy avocado perfectly balance the heat, while the chickpeas taste like crisp, chewy flavorbombs. Feel free to serve this dish at a party, and it was devoured even faster than the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. Bottom line—this salad is a must try!   Reprinted with permission from Vegan Yum by Megan Sadd, Page Street Publishing Co. 2020. Photo credit: Megan Sadd

Cajun Caesar with Blackened Chickpeas [Vegan]

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Ingredients

For the Chickpeas:

  • 2 (14-oz [400-g]) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) avocado or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) Cajun spice mix (store- bought or see Fresh Tips!)

Cajun Caesar Dressing:

  • 1 cup (160 g) raw cashews, soaked for 6+ hours or boiled for 10 minutes, or hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons (2 g) Cajun spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

For the Caesar Salad:

  • 3 hearts romaine, chopped or 2 (10-oz [283-g]) bags romaine
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) shredded vegan Parmesan
  • 2 cups (80 g) croutons of choice (optional)
  • 1 cup (149 g) small tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
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Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Oil two baking sheets. Dry the chickpeas very, very well. This is a crucial step in making them crunchy. If they aren’t dry enough, they won’t crisp up. Feel free to roll them around several times in a fluffy towel laid over the counter. Once you think they’re dry enough, dry them even more!
  2. In a large bowl, toss the chickpeas in the oil until evenly coated, then add the Cajun seasoning. Mix until well combined. Spread the chickpeas across the baking sheets. Make sure they are not touching much. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until very browned and very crunchy. Shake the pans halfway through cooking.
  3. While the chickpeas roast, make the dressing. Combine the nuts, water, oil, garlic, yeast, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun spice mix, paprika, lemon juice and down the sides as needed. Taste, then add lemon juice or salt if needed. I like my Caesar dressing very thick, almost paste-like, but if you prefer a thinner dressing, salt in a blender. Blend on high until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stop to scrape add 2 to 3 extra tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) of water or olive oil. The salad is best served chilled, so pop the dressing in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
  4. Toss the romaine with the dressing, Parmesan and croutons (if using). Divide among serving bowls. Top with the blackened chickpeas, tomatoes and avocados. Serve immediately.
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Notes

Not all Cajun spice mix contains salt. Check the label. If yours doesn’t, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt when seasoning the chickpeas. Or, make a homemade blend using the mix below. There is a lot of seasoning on the chickpeas.
It’s normal for there to be a lot that blackens on the pan. If your chickpeas retained moisture after drying, they will require a longer cook time. For the cajun seasoning: Combine 2 teaspoons (4 g) of paprika, 2 teaspoons (2 g) of dried thyme, 2 teaspoons (4 g) of onion powder, 2 teaspoons (5 g) of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

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