This kale Caesar salad with roasted chickpeas is a healthy riff on the classic Caesar salad. Kale and romaine are tossed with a creamy homemade dressing and topped with crunchy spiced chickpeas.
This vegetarian take on a classic salad packs a great crunch without traditional croutons, has a tasty umami flavor, and is made without dairy. Add grilled chicken if you are not vegetarian and would like an extra protein punch.–Brittany Williams
☞ Table of Contents
Kale Caesar with Roast Chickpeas
For the chickpea croutons
For the Caesar dressing
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade mayo (you can opt for vegan mayo)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon vegan reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
- 1 small bunch (6 oz) kale ribs removed, chopped
- 1 large head (7 oz) romaine lettuce chopped
- 1/3 cup hemp hearts (optional)
Make the chickpea croutons
- If using an air fryer, place the chickpeas in a 5.3-quart air-fryer basket and bake at 400°F (202°C) for 10 minutes. [If your air fryer can only heat to 390°F (198°C), that’s ok. It will still work.]If using the oven method, preheat the oven to 400°F (202°C). Scatter the chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: If using canned chickpeas, double the spice mixture and use the entire can of chickpeas. Any leftovers can be stashed at room temperature and noshed as a snack…though we seriously doubt there will be any left.
- In a medium bowl, toss the chickpeas with the oil, salt, garlic powder, and chili powder. Stir well to combine.
- If using an air fryer, return the chickpeas to the air-fryer basket and bake at 300°F (150°C) for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.If using the oven method, return the chickpeas to the rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden and crunchy, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
Make the Caesar dressing
- In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, oil, lemon juice, if using, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, toss together the kale and romaine. Add the dressing and hemp hearts, if using, and toss to combine.
- Top with the crunchy chickpeas and serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
We loved everything about this salad! We don’t often think of adding kale to our Caesar salads, but what a great addition it makes alongside romaine. The dressing was super quick to whip up and had that wonderfully characteristic umami flavor we expect in Caesar dressings. And the crunchy air fryer chickpeas propelled this salad into a class all its own. We didn’t expect to be blown away by this very “untraditional” take on a Caesar salad, but it’s become one of those recipes we can’t stop thinking about!
I’ve roasted chickpeas in the oven a number of times, but they just never got as crunchy as what the air fryer produced. I’m very sad I didn’t think to use it before. My Philips Air Fryer doesn’t have a setting for 400°F (200°C), so I used 390°F (198°C) for the first 10 minutes, tossed them in the oil and seasonings, and then 300°F (150°C) for the second 10 minutes. I poured them out onto a foil lined sheet pan to cool while I readied the rest of the salad and had to stop myself from nibbling on those very tasty and crunchy chickpeas. So good!
We definitely didn’t miss the Parmesan shavings or the traditional croutons in this “Caesar” salad and I expect we’ll be deviating from the old classic more often. I didn’t use the hemp hearts.
P.S. The leftover chickpeas were still crunchy and delicious the next day. I’m now inspired to do more with my air fryer to see what else I’ve been missing!
I loved the simplicity of this recipe, and even more so the tricks it contains that I will definitely be carrying over to other recipes. The method of first dry roasting (or air frying) the chickpeas before adding olive oil and spices results in crispy, toasty chickpeas. They tasted great with the salad, but I’ll likely be using the method for a roasted chickpea snack.
I also loved the simple Caesar dressing in this recipe. I traditionally have avoided making Caesar myself because I never wanted to mess with anchovies, but the Worcestershire brings some great umami flavor and makes for a dressing that I will definitely be whipping up in the future.
When originally making the recipe, I was tempted to add more spices to the chickpeas while roasting, but in the end was pleasantly surprised with the spice level of the resulting chickpea croutons.
This is a lovely gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan caesar salad (vegan if you use a vegan mayo). It’s a nice complement to most any meal.
I’ve made crunchy chickpeas before, and these were a nice addition–especially with a touch of chili powder. The kale softens after being tossed with the dressing for a few minutes and goes well with the romaine. The dressing was more flavorful than expected with so few ingredients.
When I make this again, I may add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili powder to the dressing to see how that changes things. I highly recommend the optional hemp hearts!
Oh, what a fun take on a classic recipe! My husband loves a Caesar salad, so I was excited to make this modern version of one of his favorites. I loved the idea of using protein-packed spiced chickpeas in place of croutons.
The spice mix was just lovely on the chickpeas; the only thing I would keep an eye on is the chickpea cooking time. I do not have an air fryer, so I opted for the oven-baked version of the chickpea croutons. At 400°F, I recommend checking the chickpeas after 15 minutes, giving them a flip, and then checking them again after only 10 minutes. Mine were perfectly browned and crispy at this point.
As for the dressing, it was nice not having to deal with raw eggs like in the classic recipe; the mayo stands in for the eggs here and we thought the saltiness of this dressing was right on. I do think it could benefit from a squeeze of lemon juice however.
Lastly, the mix of the greens was a great idea. Instead of just using crunchy romaine, the kale really gave it a nice contrast in color and texture. I used a Lacinato variety of kale here and chopped it in similarly sized pieces as the romaine. And yes, I did use the hemp hearts/seeds on the salad. They are like a hidden sprinkle of extra protein and vitamins! Overall this was a fun recipe to make and a fun take on a beloved classic recipe. It served 4 as a side dish very nicely, and I served it on the side of a baked turkey breast.
As a crouton hater, I much appreciated the upgrade to crunchy chickpeas. This is a very simple and straightforward recipe that yields a nice, slightly unusual result. My only issue was the mixture is disconcertingly wet, although it held together through the cooking process.
Simple, quick enough, and delicious. This is a great side salad that would pair well with vegetarian or meaty dishes. I think it would make the perfect addition to a potluck table. The flavor is simple yet kinda comforting and the texture of the crispy chickpeas is on point.
Caesar salad spells dinner main dish so often at our house it isn’t even a negotiation. While this may not replace one’s lemony anchovy-laden one, it will work beautifully as a meatless Monday version as well as one you can also share with your anchovy- or gluten-averse friends and family without feeling you’re missing out. It’s not a question of better, it is a REAL alternative and I have played with crispy chickpeas enough as croutons to be excited to see them embraced in this recipe. The combination of crispy romaine and ribbons of kale works really well and adds a healthy, wholesome note. Bonus round? It is super quick and easy any night of the week.
If you are using canned chickpeas, it is easy to find good quality ones, and I usually keep some low-sodium ones on hand for quick meals. A can will actually give you a 1 1/2 cups (drained), so I scaled up the spices 50% thinking the extra could be used as snack or soup croutons. In truth, they disappeared and there are only two suspects in the thievery. The dressing comes together while you are air frying or baking the chickpeas and you have time to wash and dry the greens. This is basically a 30- to 35-minute dish, and if it is the main, generously serves 2 for dinner or 4 for a lighter lunch or meal with additional protein.
I was pleasantly surprised that the dressing had so much flavor, and while my normal caesar is not a creamy one, this held its own quite well. Making it a second time I did zest a small Meyer lemon and added a teaspoon or so of fresh juice to add a bit more brightness and I offered some chopped anchovies to himself. He did not mind the chickpea croutons one bit – he raved about them so much that he volunteered to cook up a batch of dry chickpeas the next day so I could play with the dressing and greens.
If you don’t have kale, a chiffonade of raw Brussels works, and I would even dare to use Napa cabbage in combination (basically 4 cups chopped romaine + 2 cups thinly sliced kale or sprouts). If you really want this to be vegetarian friendly, you can choose a vegan Worcestershire (not Lea & Perrins). US versions of Lea & Perrins are GF but that definitely may not be the case elsewhere (Canadian and UK, for example). I used Wan Ja Shan, which is vegan and GF and slightly lower sodium than L&P.
This is a Caesar adjacent salad that ticks boxes for healthy, easy, and approachable. The chickpea croutons do the job of garlic delivery normally carried by my bread-based croutons. This is one I can serve to my GF very best friend with pride.
My personal approach to making a Caesar salad was honed by studious attention to the salad volume 1978 Time-Life Good Cook Series, and then refined by my expense-account dinners at the Captain Cook in Anchorage at the top floor, where 3 nights in a row I ordered a Caesar salad and took notes as it was prepared tableside. I was obsessed with improving my Caesar salad, and my husband still remembers the first time I made one for him over 30 years ago, and began with making croutons. If I learned nothing else from excessive business travel, I appreciate a kind maȋtre d’ and a restaurant that treated a woman dining alone with respect.
Originally published January 13, 2021