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At the end of January, I spotted a dressing recipe in Bon Appetit that intrigued me. It was cashew-based, but unlike many cashew-based dressings, which require soaking raw cashews in water for a couple of hours, this one called for roasted cashews and no soak.
Why, you might be wondering, would one include cashews in a dressing in the first place? Well, because cashews lend a creaminess and richness to dressings, precluding the need for dairy or eggs. For these reasons, cashew-based sauces are particularly popular with vegans. Gena Hamshaw of The Full Helping, describes “cashew cream” as a “secret weapon vegan ingredient” she wishes she “could share with every person who’s nervous about giving up dairy.”
Bon Appetit’s recipe was in fact inspired by the vegan Caesar dressings served at NYC’s Lalito and Scarr’s Pizza, but BA takes the dressing a different direction, adding honey and fish sauce, both of which push it out of vegan territory.
I made the dressing immediately and was surprised by how quickly it came together. All of the ingredients — cashews, rice vinegar, honey, oil, fish sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic — get thrown into a food processor at once. While it’s whirling, you stream in water, and depending on how much you add, you can use the resulting emulsion as either a dip or dressing.
When I first made it, I used it as a dip for crudité, and I found it completely irresistible. The small amount of fish sauce gives it a funk, evoking Caesar, but the flavor is more complex: there’s spice from the hefty amount of crushed red pepper flakes, a sharpness from the high ratio of rice vinegar to oil, and a bit of bite from a clove of garlic. The cashews make it silky smooth.
I’ve since been thinning the dressing with more water and using it as a dressing for chopped dinner salads. This is my favorite combination:
Charred Broccoli Chopped Salad
You can use this spicy cashew dressing on any vegetables you like, just keep in mind this is a bold, assertive dressing, too powerful, I think, for delicate, buttery lettuces or other tender produce. I have been using what has looked good at my store.
These have been the constants:
- Tuscan kale or Romaine
- Raw, unpeeled, golden beets, shredded in the food processor
- Broccoli, pan-charred or broiled
- Currants, soaked in vinegar à la Zuni Cafe
- Salami or Soppressata, thinly sliced. I like the Applegate brand.
- Grated or cubed cheese
- Olive oil-toasted bread crumbs
- Poached eggs or soft-boiled eggs for serving
Note: This really can be a choose-your-own-adventure salad. There should be some sort of sturdy green such as kale or Romaine. The inclusion of a chicory such as Belgian endive or radicchio provides a welcomed contrast of texture and subtle bitterness. I love raw, grated golden beets, but carrots or turnips would work well, too. Cauliflower could replace the broccoli, etc. Cooked chickpeas would be a wonderful addition.
I hope you find this chopped salad as irresistible as I. The best part? It holds up beautifully, so I can always count on this being dinner (for my husband and me … this is not one for the kiddos) as well as lunch the next day.
Here’s the play-by-play: Make the dressing:
Blend cashews, garlic, honey, rice vinegar, fish sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or blender. While it’s whirling, stream in water.
Purée until smooth. Taste. Adjust with salt to taste.
The below recipe yields over 2 cups, and it is so nice to have on hand.
Gather your vegetables…
I love charred broccoli. You can do this under the broiler, too. The key is to get some nice browning, while keeping the broccoli firm.
Chop up some kale,
Shred some raw, golden beets in the food processor, if you wish.
Combine them all in your largest bowl with vinegar-soaked currants.
Optional add-ins: chopped salami or soppressata, grated parmesan or other cubed or grated cheese.
Add them to the bowl of vegetables and …
… toss with the spicy cashew dressing.
Serve on its own or …
…with a hunk of bread.
To use the dressing as a dip, cut back on the water.Print
Dressing adapted from this recipe in Bon Appetit. The below recipe will yield a little over 2 cups of dressing. Recipe can be halved, but consider making the full amount as it is so nice having a vat of dressing on hand. It will keep for weeks in the fridge.
Cashews: I have a hard time finding roasted salted cashews, which the original recipe calls for, so I generally use roasted unsalted cashews, but I’ve also had success using a combination of raw and roasted cashews. Salt will need to be adjusted to taste depending on what kind of cashews you are using.
Oil: Original recipe calls for vegetable oil, so feel free to use a neutral oil if you wish. I don’t find the flavor of olive oil too overpowering here, so I use it.
Crushed red pepper flakes: 1 teaspoon will not make this overwhelmingly spicy. Use 1.5 teaspoons if you like a kick.
To make the dressing vegan: Use sugar or maple syrup in place of the honey; omit the fish sauce. You may want to up the vinegar to taste.
Vegetables: Use the recipe as a guide. Romaine can replace kale; radicchio can replace the endive; carrots can replace the beets; etc.
Broccoli: Use the broiler for a more hands-off, easy-clean experience.
Please read notes above before making.
For the dressing:
- 1 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 – 1.5 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1.5 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1.5 teaspoons honey
- 1 garlic clove
- Kosher salt to taste
For the salad:
- 1/4 cup dried currants, such as Zante
- 2 to 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 8 oz kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
- 2 heads endive, quartered, and cut crosswise into 1/2– inch slices
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 yellow beets, unpeeled, grated with the shredder attachment of the food processor
- 1 head broccoli (12-16 oz), sliced into florets
- 2 oz. soppresatta or salami, optional, thinly sliced, I like the Applegate brand
- grated parmesan or other cheese,
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
- flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
- Make the dressing: Place the cashews, oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender for 30 – 60 seconds or until mostly blended. Slowly stream in 2/3 cup water. (If making this with the intention of using as a dip, start with 1/2 cup water.) Blend until smooth. Taste. Adjust flavor to taste with more salt or vinegar. Stream in more oil if the dressing is too thin. Dressing should be creamy, smooth, and pourable.
- Make the salad: Place the currants in a small bowl. If you like a nice vinegary bite, cover them with 4 tablespoons vinegar; if you like a more subtle bite, cover them with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Set aside.
- In your largest bowl, place the kale, endive, scallions, and beets.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. When it shimmers, add the broccoli, season with salt, and let cook undisturbed for 2-4 minutes or until the underside begins to char. Flip the broccoli. Cook until the other side begins to char, another 2-3 minutes. You’re looking to get some nice char while keeping the broccoli firm. Transfer the broccoli to the salad bowl.
- Add the sliced meat and grated or cubed cheese, if using. Add the reserved currants with their vinegar. Season with pepper to taste. Pour dressing to taste over top. Toss. Taste. Adjust with more dressing if necessary or season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
*Note: This dressing thickens up considerably in the fridge overnight. When ready to use it again, scoop some into another bowl and whisk in some water to thin. Taste. Add more salt if necessary.
- Category: Salad
- Method: Food processor, blender
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: cashew, dressing, spicy, dairy-free, chopped, salad, broccoli, salami, kale
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