Plant Paleo Oil-free Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe
This is a delicious oil-free Caesar salad dressing recipe made from scratch with whole foods . I eat it at least a few times a week, tossed into a super-sized dinner salad.
One of the basic tenets of The Plant Paleo Diet is to avoid or greatly reduce processed foods, including oil. Some people are interpreting this to mean totally avoid fat.
But no, the idea is to eat whole foods. The fat is in the food.
Getting your fat from whole foods has a number of advantages over oil: they are more nutritionally dense, they include all of the natural cofactors, they are less calorically dense, and they may provide better satiety signals making it more difficult to overeat.
Meanwhile, each tablespoon of oil has 120 calories, which is 5% of your daily food intake on a 2000-calorie diet. Just four tablespoons of oil is a whopping 20% of your daily diet! This barely makes a dent in your stomach and won’t trigger stretch receptors that help tell us we’ve had enough food. Although there are other satiety mechanisms at play, some may find it difficult to judge how much oil they’ve eaten.
Even if you don’t give up oil completely, you may want to keep these points in mind and reduce your intake, replacing that reduction with whole foods. Nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and fruit purees all make great oil substitutes.
I’ll add a quick word on processed foods. Obviously, this dressing is blended, i.e. processed. But I don’t classify this the same way I would classify Pop Tarts or oil (where every part of the whole food is removed, except the lipids). In this recipe, everything’s still in there. And on top of that, we’re talking about a very small portion size.
I consider this recipe to be an example of light processing, and it perfectly keeps with the spirit of the Plant Paleo approach.
This recipe makes about 1 cup of dressing, serves 4, and requires about 10 minutes once the ingredients are collected.
- 1/3 Cup roasted, unsalted cashews—these must be soaked for 3-4 hours and drained (otherwise you’ll end up with a grainy consistency)
- 1 clove garlic, roasted (place in toaster oven, broil for 5 minutes)
- 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast*
- 1 teaspoon whole chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 1 teaspoon caper juice (optional)
- 1/3 cup of water (optionally use milk or Greek yogurt; if using yogurt thin with a little water)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon organic maple syrup
- Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
*Nutritional yeast is commonly fortified with vitamin B-12. Since Plant Paleo includes adequate animal-based foods, this is unnecessary, and I go with the organic, non-fortified brand linked to above.
- Combine all of the ingredients, except for the black pepper into a blender (that blender is on my wish list, a true Vitamix alternative at less than half the price) and purée until smooth. Or, if you’re okay with it being a bit less smooth, combine ingredients into a large mason jar and use an immersion blender (this is what we do, because leftovers are already in the storage jar and clean-up is a snap!).
- Add black pepper and pulse a few times (or give the immersion blender a few more quick whirls). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss into your favorite salad and enjoy!
Refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.
Here are the approximate nutritional data. Notice that there are about 86 calories in a 1/4 cup serving (that’s 4 tablespoons or so). More than half of those calories are from fat, although we’re still talking about only 5.4 grams of fat total.
You’ll probably also notice the nice mix of vitamins and minerals. Of course, there are a number of compounds in the whole-food ingredients that we don’t track on labels, too. Quite likely, there are still some healthful aspects of these foods that we don’t even know about.
Add in your leafy greens and any other whole foods that you enjoy in your salads, and we’re talking some seriously delicious nutrient density!
Just for kicks, let’s compare the nutrition data to 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Don’t make too much of this, and let’s not fall too far down the reductionist rabbit hole (whole?).
(Note: I’ll be posting another dressing recipe soon that is almost void of any nutritional content, but it will illustrate a point, too.)
The Plant Paleo Oil-free Caesar Dressing recipe was based on and inspired by this recipe.