Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu
Sonja_For The Pleasure Of Eating

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I’m Sonja and “For The Pleasure Of Eating” is my food blog.

Whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds or discover new recipes, my blog is the perfect place to find ideas that impress your family and friends while creating a party in your mouth!

More about me and how I lost weight here.

 

This Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu answered all my cravings for the crunch of KFC chicken, the spiced marinade, and the urgent need for creamy, tangy, and punchy Caesar dressing on a fresh salad. Super satisfying, packed with protein from the tofu with a cashew based sauce, adding all the nutrition you could possibly want for dinner in one delicious plate.

 

Why You Will Love This

 

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Did you ever feel you really wanted the crunch and flavour of KFC chicken, but in Tofu? Or anything other than meat really, but Tofu really offers itself due to the structure and tenderness you get, when you first press then marinate it. In this case in a marinade made from almond milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a spice mix from Joshua Weissman that is very similar to KFCs.
This infuses the tofu with lovely tang and lots of flavour, getting it ready to be coated in crushed cornflakes. You can bake it in the oven or pan fry, but I found it bakes best in the air fryer, giving you perfectly crunchy and golden pieces, that are rather addictive when dipped into the Caesar Cashew dressing.

The all-important Caesar Dressing made vegan

While typical Caesar dressing is made with mayonnaise and anchovies, I’m using a base of cashews, which are blended into a super creamy dressing with capers, to give the salty, briny umami notes you’d usually get from anchovies and Worcester sauce. Nutritional yeast replaces the parmesan, making the dressing vegan.

While you could of course use a vegan mayonnaise, I prefer the nutritional benefits of cashews, adding protein and minerals. Plus the more natural taste they give to any salad dressing. And I use them for many different ones like my Cashew Ranch Dressing.

Thyme Lemon Garlic Croutons

Another defining and rather addictive element of the Caesar salad are the croutons. They are also an ideal use for any stale bread you might have. I used homemade sourdough bread, but any reasonably good bread will do. A few days old is perfect, as it will crisp up in the oven or air fryer. I added fresh thyme from my garden, grated lemon zest from the lemon I used for the dressing, some garlic powder, salt, and olive oil, to give it a lovely herby and fresh flavour.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Crouton Ingredients

Making them in the air fryer is fantastic, as you only need to shake them once and it’s hands off apart from that. They come out perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Mixed Salad

While the classic Caesar Salad would be Romaine, I always like different veggies in my dinner, so I added shredded carrot, thinly sliced white cabbage, sweetcorn, red onions that are being quick pickled in some lemon juice.
I’ve also added black grapes, but if you are not a fan of fruit in your salads, you could swap them for black olives, which would go really well with the vegan Caesar dressing.

You could just leave out or swap around any of the veggies I added here. Cucumber and tomatoes would be nice too, radishes, different types of greens, kale in particular or even added asparagus.

 

The Ingredients

 

I’m just mentioning a few key ingredients here and why I’m using them. For the full list, please check the recipe card.

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Tofu Marinade

For the Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu I’m using firm tofu. In Ireland I find the best one of those I tried is from “The Tofuu Co.” https://www.tesco.ie/groceries/en-IE/products/294476706
You can use any brand, as long as it’s very firm, so it doesn’t fall apart when marinating and then breading.

Since I wanted to get as close as I could to buttermilk fried chicken, similar to KFC, but without the chicken and huge amount of fat, I used almond milk mixed lemon juice and spices. Don’t be put off by the fairly long list. You will likely have them in your spice collection already, as they are very common.
The Joshua Weissman recipe for the spice mix I adapted had celery powder in it, which I couldn’t find here, so I used celery salt. This made also up for the fact that Tofu is a bit more neutral than chicken on its own, so it can take more salt.
Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Breading

I left out the MSG though. Not last because I didn’t have any, but also due to its rather questionable reputation. Personally I admit I haven’t looked into it much, as I rarely eat out, let alone buy convenience food, so it wasn’t much of a topic for me to focus on.
If you are a fan, feel free to include some. I think the marinade does a fantastic job as it is though.

Seasoned Flour and Cornflakes are then used for “breading”. And because I’m not working with raw meat, the marinade does double duty instead of eggs, to attach the two dry coatings to the tofu.

The Cashew Caesar Dressing

Using cashews as base has become my favourite way to create super creamy, delicious, and nutritious salad dressings. I honestly wouldn’t go back to mayonnaise based, even without the calorie and nutrition consideration. I tried one recently again and simply didn’t like the greasy texture and taste anymore. The cashews are neutral enough to add any flavourings you like and with even a small highspeed blender like the Nutribullet you get an extremely smooth base.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Caesar Cashew dressing

While the original Caesar dressing didn’t have anchovies, they have become a rather classic way to add umami and saltiness to this tangy sauce. Brined capers, even though I’m not a fan of them on their own (wouldn’t eat anchovies on their own either) have a very similar effect when blended and add a hint of their briny flavour, which goes really well with the tangy punch of mustard and lemon juice that give the dressing its characteristic taste.

Often parmesan is used to add more saltiness and a cheesy background flavour. So you can use either grated parmesan or, like me, nutritional yeast for a very similar effect.

 

The Process

 

Salad

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Meal Prep

Prepare your salad ingredients:
Roughly chop the Romaine Lettuce, grate the carrots, finely shred the cabbage, drain and wash the sweetcorn, wash the grapes (or drain olives if you prefer salty to sweet) and keep all in separate containers.

Peel and thinly slice the onions. In a small bowl mix with ¼ tsp salt and 2-3 tbsp lemon juice. Cover and leave to marinade until ready to use.

All the veggies will keep well for 3-4 days, if you keep them separate.

Cashew Caesar Dressing

Drain the soaked cashews. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender. You can use a normal blender or food processor, but it won’t get as lovely smooth and creamy.
Blend until creamy.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Caesar Cashew dressing
Have a taste and add more salt, mustard, or lemon juice to balance the flavours to your liking.

Croutons

In a small bowl, mix your olive oil, chopped thyme (or any other hardy herb you might have on hand. Rosemary works very well too), garlic powder and salt.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Croutons

Add your bread cubes to a larger bowl. Drizzle over your olive oil mix, turning the cubes over after half over it, so they are all coated evenly. Stir carefully to distribute the oil mix and let them sit for a few minutes so the oil can absorb.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Croutons

Bake in your air fryer at 400°F/200°C for 4 minutes, toss and turn once, then bake for another 2 minutes. Transfer the croutons to a paper towel lined plate until ready to serve. Nibble a few, you know you want to.

The Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Similar to chicken, that improves dramatically with brining, tofu needs a bit of help to come to its full potential. So this needs a bit of planning ahead. Start about 2h before you plan to fry the tofu or the day before.

First remove your tofu from its package, drain the fluid and press it. You can either wrap it into a clean kitchen towel between 2 wooden boards and put something heavy on top. Or, if you want a much easier and less precarious solution, get a tofu press like this one and put it in the fridge for an hour or longer.

Once your tofu has given up some of its liquid, it’s time to marinade it. Cut into about ½ in / 1cm thick slices and halve them diagonal. You could just leave them in one piece, but I think more corners mean more crunch and more crunch is always better.

Mix your plant milk with a tbsp of lemon juice and let it stand while you get your spice mix together. Add the marinade spice mix to the now curdled milk and whisk well. In a container that is large enough to hold all tofu pieces in one layer or a freezer bag, add first your tofu then pour the tangy, spicy milk mix over it. Now let this marinade in the fridge for at least 1h, better even overnight.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Breading

Meanwhile, mix the flour with the spices and herbs for the dredge mix. This will season the tofu even more and give it that characteristic crust you’d get on fried chicken.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Breading

Now obviously we are not deep frying this, so the incredible crunchy crust that develops when the marinade-flour (and usually egg) mixture hits the hot fat, will come from crushed cornflakes.

In a firmly closed freezer bag, crush your cornflakes either by hand or, carefully, so you don’t pop the bag and scatter the crumbs across your kitchen (never happened to me…ahem…) with a rolling pin or bottom of a cooking pot. You want relatively rough crumbs, not fine as panko. Check the picture for the texture we are aiming for.

When you are ready to fry your tofu, set up a breading station with 3 rimmed containers or deep plates. Into one add your flour-spice dredge, the second will hold all the remaining marinade that wasn’t absorbed by the tofu, the third has the crushed cornflakes.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Breading

Using one hand for dry and one for wet, to avoid the dreaded dough fingers, firmly press your tofu first into the flour, coating it very well, pushing it in, so it sticks. Then into the marinade, turning once until coated- Last into the cornflakes, again, pressing firmly, covering it with the crumbs and pushing down until every last bit is well coated.

Spray both your air fryer basket and the tofu pieces with a bit of vegetable or avocado oil.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu_Tofu

The crunchy tofu will take about 15 minutes in your air fryer at 400°F/200°C, turning it once very carefully after 10minutes, the fry for another 5 until golden and crunchy.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

I you are making them in the oven, this will take about 25-30minutes at 450°F/225°C, turning them after 15 minutes.

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

To Serve

First drape a bed of romaine lettuce on a plate, followed by the carrots, cabbage, sweetcorn, onions and grapes or olives. Drizzle everything with a bit of the Vegan Cashew Caesar Dressing. Top with croutons and crispy tofu and serve with more dressing on the side, to drizzle over or dip your tofu pieces into.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

 

Meal Prep

 

I prepared this Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu on my weekend, to have a fresh salad during my workdays. Keeping everything separate in containers, the tofu in a paper towel lined box, means you can assemble freshly, and everything remains crunchy.

I re-heated the tofu pieces in the air fryer before serving, so they were just as crispy as freshly made.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

If you liked this, you might also enjoy:

Sweet Potato Grape Salad with Goats Cheese

How about a fresh dessert?

Mango White Chocolate Cheesecake with Protein

Please Comment

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Have you tried this? Did you enjoy it?
What other recipes would you like to see?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please share and comment. It helps me a lot.

 

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

This Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu answered all my cravings for the crunch of KFC chicken, the spiced marinade, and the urgent need for creamy, tangy, and punchy Caesar dressing on a fresh salad. Super satisfying, packed with protein from the tofu with a cashew based sauce, adding all the nutrition you could possibly want for dinner in one delicious plate.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Tofu Pressing and marinading 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American, Fusion
Servings 6
Calories 553 kcal

Equipment

  • High Speed Blender, oven or air fryer

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 1 Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 can Sweetcorn
  • ¼ white cabbage thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots coarsely grated
  • 2 cups Grapes
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 1 Lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

Vegan Cashew Caesar Dressing

  • ½ cup raw cashews soaked for 30min in just boiled water
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 2 cloves garlic

Homemade Croutons

  • 4 slices sourdough bread cubed into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme chopped
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu

  • 1 Block tofu pressed
  • 1 cup plant milk with lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 cups crushed cornflakes

11 Herbs and Spices Dredge

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp celery powder or celery salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano crushed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme crushed
  • 2 tsp mustard powder

Instructions
 

Salad:

  • Prepare all salad ingredients as mentioned. Marinate sliced onions in salt and lemon juice. Keep all ingredients separate.

Vegan Cashew Caesar Dressing:

  • Drain soaked cashews.
  • In a blender, combine soaked cashews, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, capers, and garlic cloves.
  • Blend until creamy. Adjust salt, mustard, or lemon juice to taste.

Homemade Croutons:

  • Preheat air fryer to 400°F/200°C.
  • In a small bowl, mix olive oil, chopped thyme, garlic powder, and kosher salt.
  • Toss cubed bread in the olive oil mixture until evenly coated.
  • Air fry for 4 minutes, toss, then fry for another 2 minutes until golden and crisp.
  • Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu:

  • Press tofu to remove excess liquid.
  • Cut tofu into slices about ½ inch thick, then half diagonal.
  • Mix plant milk with lemon juice and let it curdle.
  • Combine the plant “buttermilk” with salt, white pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Marinate tofu in this mixture for at least 1 hour in the fridge. Overnight is better.
  • Crush cornflakes into coarse crumbs.
  • Mix flour with spices for dredge.
  • Set up a breading station with flour-spice dredge, remaining marinade, and crushed cornflakes.
  • Coat tofu slices in flour mixture, then marinade, and last crushed cornflakes.
  • Spray air fryer basket and tofu slices with oil.
  • Air fry tofu at 400°F/200°C for 15 minutes, flipping once after 10 minutes.

To Serve:

  • Arrange romaine lettuce on plates.
  • Top with grated carrots, sliced cabbage, sweetcorn, marinated onions, grapes (or olives), and croutons.
  • Drizzle with Vegan Cashew Caesar Dressing.
  • Add crispy air-fried tofu on top.
  • Serve additional dressing on the side for dipping or drizzling.
  • Enjoy your Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu!

Notes

Meal Prep
I prepared this Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu on my weekend, to have a fresh salad during my workdays. Keeping everything separate in containers, the tofu in a paper towel lined box, means you can assemble freshly, and everything remains crunchy.
I re-heated the tofu pieces in the air fryer before serving, so they were just as crispy as freshly made.

Nutrition

Calories: 553kcalCarbohydrates: 84gProtein: 20gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gSodium: 3778mgPotassium: 614mgFiber: 8gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 4893IUVitamin C: 31mgCalcium: 226mgIron: 14mg
Nutrition Facts
Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu
Amount per Serving
Calories
553
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
17
g
26
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
9
g
Sodium
 
3778
mg
164
%
Potassium
 
614
mg
18
%
Carbohydrates
 
84
g
28
%
Fiber
 
8
g
33
%
Sugar
 
18
g
20
%
Protein
 
20
g
40
%
Vitamin A
 
4893
IU
98
%
Vitamin C
 
31
mg
38
%
Calcium
 
226
mg
23
%
Iron
 
14
mg
78
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Healthy, High Fibre, meal prep, Protein, vegetables, Vegetarian, versatile
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