When it comes to Caesar, I’m a firm believer that you really gotta bring the flavor. If Caesar Cardini (purported inventor of the dressing) intended it to be bland, he wouldn’t have added such intense, flavorful ingredients. I mean raw garlic, anchovy paste, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce? Clearly he was not trying to beat around the bush. Some of the other Caesar recipes I’ve seen out there amount to not much more than a lightly-flavored, thinned-out mayonnaise. We’re gonna bring Caesar back to its pungent roots. So, just to be clear, if you’re planning on making this recipe, grab some breath mints because we’re gonna take you on a road trip to flavor (and scent) country.
Caesar traditionally is not vegetarian due to the presence of anchovies. The easy thing to do would be to simply omit the anchovies and carry on with our lives, but here at Vegetarian Food Lab, we won’t be satisfied until our veggie version is perfect yet still beautifully simple.
First of all, in order to keep it as simple as possible, we’re starting with mayo here. We’re not messing around with raw egg yolks and worrying about making sure everything emulsifies properly. No, thanks. Not worth the trouble. Also, unless you have some sort of high-powered electric pepper grinder, 2 tablespoons of black pepper is a heck of a lot of grinding. We opted to use pre-ground black pepper from the store, but omit a teaspoon so we can grind some extra fresh stuff on there when we serve it. Since we usually bottle this stuff and use it over the course of a month or so, I think it makes a lot of sense to do it that way.
OK, enough shortcuts. Let’s talk flavor. Anchovies are known for their umami taste, so that is really what we are trying to replace. In our version, we do that by adding a pinch of MSG. Pure MSG will replace the savory flavor, and a pinch of salt will replace the anchovies’ characteristic brine.
Another obstacle was the Worcestershire sauce which is traditionally part of Caesar dressing. Since Worcestershire itself contains anchovy paste, we had to send it packing. There are some commercially available vegan Worcestershire sauces out there which are fine, but we normally don’t keep the stuff on hand, so we figured out a pretty good replacement. The addition of 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 tsp brown sugar gave our dressing a sweet tanginess that balanced everything out really nicely.
(Note: As we were testing the recipe, we initially went without any substitution for the Worcestershire and the dressing just felt a little bit flat. Once we added that trio of ingredients, it was like the ghost of Julius Caesar had descended from the heavens and anointed our tastebuds with ambrosia… OK maybe that’s taking it a little far. It tasted really good and completed our recipe.)
- 1 cup prepared mayonnaise (lowfat or vegan is fine)
- ⅓ cup dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 12 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 5 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp MSG
- 1.5 oz. finely grated fresh parmigiano reggiano (if desired, Go Veggie! vegan parm can be used)
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- Whisk everything together until well combined.
- Serve immediately with additional freshly cracked black pepper and parmiggiano reggiano to taste.
- Bottle for later use. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 months. Makes roughly 2 cups.