This Kale and Quinoa “Caesar” Salad is our healthy spin on the classic that incorporates quinoa and kale to create a vegan, gluten-free and anti-candida twist on Caesar Salad.
Reinventing a Classic
Today we’re taking a classic salad that typically uses romaine lettuce and parmesan cheese as the base and upping the nutritional value with high protein quinoa and kale. The dressing which typically calls for anchovy, egg yolk and more parmesan cheese is also getting a vegan makeover.
Our star ingredient today is quinoa!
Considered an ancient grain, quinoa is actually the seed of the flowering plant chenopodium quinoa which originates from South America. (It’s ok, I can’t pronounce that word either). High in protein, with a mild, nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture, quinoa is mainly eaten as a grain and can substitute for rice or barley or be made into flakes or milled into a gluten-free flour.
Quinoa has an amazing nutritional profile.
Quinoa is naturally gluten free, high in magnesium, zinc, iron and fiber, but especially boasts a high protein content with all nine essential amino acids, which help form proteins and muscle in the body. (Another way to get more use out of that gym membership). This makes quinoa a great plant-based source of protein, especially for those steering clear of animal products.
Occasionally, I will get questions about how to increase protein in a vegan or vegetarian diet. No one can deny that a hunk of meat has a lot of protein, but for my fur-friendly family out there trying to steer clear of animal products, finding a protein substitute can be a production. Rather than looking for that one unicorn item that has the same amount of protein as meat, you might have to get a little more creative. Take a little protein here, a little there, toss them together, and boom: You get some more protein!
Plant Based but High in Protein
This recipe uses all plant-based ingredients, and a few of them, when thrown together, offer a significant source of protein. 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. 1 cup of kale has 2.9 grams of protein. And 1 cup of sunflower seeds has 29 grams of protein! So for this recipe, the total protein for the entire batch is 21.05 grams. If you decide to eat this as a meal and consume about half of this batch, you’ll get 10.5 grams of protein in one serving. You’re welcome 🙂
When meal prepping or making for personal chef clients, I like keeping the dressing on the side. That way the salad doesn’t get soggy. I use small salad dressing containers or mason jars that I get from Smart and Final. You can find them on Amazon as well.
Kale and Quinoa "Caesar" Salad
For the Quinoa:
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1/2 cup tri-colored quinoa rinsed thoroughly
- 1 Pinch sea salt
For the Kale:
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1/2 medium size red onion small dice
- 4 cups kale shredded or cut into small pieces*
- 1 medium sized carrot shredded
- 2 Persian cucumbers small dice**
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds I like roasted and salted
For the "Caesar" Dressing:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons creamy unsalted tahini butter
- 1 Tablespoon coconut aminos
- 1 Tablespoon filtered water
- Juice of 1 small lemon about 1 Tablespoon
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 Pinch sea salt
To make the Quinoa:
Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cool water to remove any dust or dirt. Place it in a small saucepan with filtered water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Cover with a fitted lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for another 5 minutes before removing lid to prevent sticking. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
For the Kale:
Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once warm, add red onion and a pinch of sea salt and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the chopped kale, another Tablespoons of olive oil and another pinch of sea salt and sauté for 2 - 3 minutes more.
Place the sautéed kale into a large bowl. Add the shredded carrots, Persian cucumbers, sunflower seeds and mix to combine. Stir in cooked quinoa.
To prepare the dressing:
Place all of the ingredients into a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. If the dressing is too thick, add filtered water 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Taste for seasoning.
To serve place 2 cups of kale and quinoa salad onto a plate and drizzle with dressing.
Store leftover salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 - 5 days. Leftover salad dressing can be stored in a jar with a fitted lid in the fridge for up to one week.
*I like to shred the kale in a food processor by roughly chopping kale, placing in a food processor and pulsing several times until very small pieces are formed. If you don't have a food processor, chop into small pieces using your knife.
**I prefer Persian cucumbers because they tend to be less watery and have less seeds.
I like to serve this salad with grilled chicken or salmon and Nut Free Paleo Tortillas!