So-Versatile Salad/Veggie/Rice Bowl Dressing

Creamy Dressing on romaine, cucumber, avocado, snap pea, tomato salad I’m generally not a “salad dressing” kind of person. I tend to favor a few dashes of olive oil over my greens or a dash of olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar or a quick olive oil-lemon juice-Dijon mustard-garlic-fresh parsley blend. In other words, the greens are the stars of my salad, not the dressing. But that’s generally a vegan (and, quite frankly, a non-Midwest) thing…actually wanting to taste your food rather than bury it under copious amounts of sauce, butter, cheese, or dressing. So when dinner guests come over, I like to have a “real” dressing option for them, in case they grew up in the Midwest or are non-vegan.

Up until now, I hadn’t found a creamy-like dressing recipe that 1) complimented, rather than smothered, a salad and 2) was made from healthier ingredients (something other than Veganaise). Then I made the Caesar Chavez Dressing from Appetite for Reduction and was hooked instantly. Love at first bite! What is great about this dressing is that it is light enough to let your salad ingredients shine but still offers a hint of creaminess that is rounded out with touch of salt.

Despite the name, this dressing is NOTHING like a Caesar salad dressing. (If you want a great vegan Caesar dressing, check this one out. It’s the freakin’ bomb...and probably NOT healthy for you.) And that’s another reason I like it. It’s mellow flavor makes it adaptable to all sorts of salad types—bold, delicate, and everything in between. This week alone I’ve:

  • tossed it with chopped romaine, cucumber, pea pods, avocado, and tomato topped with nutritional yeast, generous amount of crushed black pepper, and pine nuts
  • tossed it with roasted root vegetables, chopped romaine, and mixed greens topped with walnuts
  • drizzled it over roasted asparagus, baked baby Portobello mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinegar, and fresh baby spinach (my favorite!).

I can also see it being great drizzled over steamed broccoli, a baked sweet potato, or even a rice bowl. I mean, goodness gracious…how many dressings are THAT flexible?! It’s the slut of all salad dressings—willing to hook up with just about anything for a good time.

And speaking of, I’m posting this for my friend Stephanie as it meets most of the Stephanie-recipe criteria: it’s quick, easy, and low fat. It does involve a blender (we all know how she feels about that) and two ingredients that she may never have heard of but that can be substituted with more common ones if she’s skittish about trying something new:

  1. white miso, a thick paste made from soybeans and grains that has been fermented. There are lots of varieties of miso (red and yellow among them) but white is the mildest. It’s a Japanese staple used in sauces and soups and it keeps for months in the fridge, which is why I like it. If Steph does go out and gets a tub of miso, I can share a whole slew of great recipes that use it so it won’t be a one-hit wonder ingredient. You can find miso in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods and probably Byerly’s or someplace like that. It is NOT at Trader Joe’s. Substitute: good ol' soy sauce (one tablespoon miso = one teaspoon soy sauce)
  2. tahini, another paste but this one's made from white sesame seeds. It’s a common ingredient in Middle Eastern sauces and dishes like hummus. You should be able to find it in any grocery store, fresh or in a jar. Trader Joe’s makes a great “tahini sauce” (in the refrigerated section next to the hummus) that can be used in this recipe too. Substitute: for this recipe, you could just use peanut butter or other nut butter.

Even though recipes are not copy rightable (is that a word?), I don’t like to post them unless the author of the cookbook has put them online somewhere. However, since this recipe can be found online in Amazon's “Look Inside” feature (just click the book’s cover image and you'll be able to see parts of the book for free), I feel somewhat okay about posting it here. Regardless, this is the THIRD recipe I’ve featured from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, (the other two are here and here), and I still have THREE MORE recipes yet to post, so you should just go out and buy the damn book. It’s worth every penny, even if you’re not a vegan or on a diet. So there.

Caesar Chavez Dressing from Appetite for Reduction Serves 4


  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 2 Tablespoons cashew pieces (could substitute with pine nuts)
  • 1 Tablespoon tahini (could substitute with a nut butter…if using TJ’s tahini sauce, reduce the fresh lemon juice by half)
  • 1 Tablespoon white miso (or 1 teaspoon soy sauce)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon capers with brine
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste


Place everything in a food processor or blender and blend for 5 minutes, or until smooth, using a spatula to scrape down sides frequently. Isa said it’s important to blend for the full 5 minutes to make sure the dressing isn’t grainy. I have my super-powerful BlendTec which blended the ingredients into submission in under a minute!

Keep refrigerated for 7 to 10 days in a tightly sealed container.

Nutritional Info (per serving, about 3 Tablespoons):

Calories: 60 Calories from fat: 40 Total fat: 4.5 g Sat fat: 0.5 g Trans fat: 0 g Total carb: 5 g Fiber: <1 g Sugars: <1 g Protein: 2 g Cholesterol: 0 g Sodium: 330 mg