Charred Broccoli Chopped Salad with Spicy Cashew Dressing
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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. Update: The recipe is now written to reflect the broiler method … so much easier than the stovetop.
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
Charred Broccoli Chopped Salad with Spicy Cashew Dressing
- Total Time: 53 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Diet: Gluten Free
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. If you aren’t using the fish sauce, use 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then add more salt to taste. I often add 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt total.
Vegetables: Use the recipe as a guide. Romaine can replace kale; radicchio can replace the endive; carrots can replace the beets; etc.
Beets: Raw beets are delicious. Don’t shred them too far in advance or they’ll oxidize and turn an unpleasant color.
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, optional, see notes
- 1.5 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
- 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, see notes above
- 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 (if using), honey or maple syrup, garlic, a pinch of salt, and 2/3 cup water in a food processor or blender for 60 to 90 seconds or until completely smooth. (If making this with the intention of using it as a dip, start with 1/2 cup water.) Blend until smooth. Taste. Adjust flavor to taste with more salt or vinegar. (Note: when I omit the fish sauce, I use 1 to 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt). Stream in more water if the dressing is too thin. Dressing should be creamy, smooth, and pourable.
- Make the salad: Heat the broiler to high for at least 15 minutes. Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil.
- Prepare the broccoli: cut the head into spears; then cut larger spears in half or into quarters.
- Toss the broccoli on the prepared sheet pan with 1 tablespoon of neutral oil and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Taste a small spear of broccoli raw — it should taste nicely seasoned. Transfer pan to broiler and cook 2 minutes. Check. If the broccoli isn’t beginning to char, return it for another minute. Check again. If the spears are charring, remove the pan from the oven, and flip each spear over; then return pan to the broiler for another 2 minutes. Check again. Remove pan from the oven when the broccoli is charred to your liking, about 5-7 minutes total.
- Meanwhile: 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.
- Add the sliced meat and grated or cubed cheese, if using. Add the reserved currants with their vinegar. Add the broccoli. 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.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: Food processor, blender
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: cashew, dressing, spicy, dairy-free, chopped, salad, broccoli, salami, kale
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
38 Comments on “Charred Broccoli Chopped Salad with Spicy Cashew Dressing”
I’m making this for dinner tomorrow!!! I am thinking I will add some quinoa to make this a more full meal. Thanks!!
Such a good idea!! Love this 🙂 🙂 🙂
This recipe sounds scrumptious, and the dressing is really the icing on the cake(so to speak). Thanks for all the great recipes you been sharing recently. Stay safe!
Thanks, Ginny! And it’s my pleasure 😍😍😍 Stay safe as well 💕
Oh the fish sauce is genius! I’ve done a version with miso which makes a very handy cashew-e-pepe concentrate. But fish sauce would be a great way to take it in a more bagna cauda direction.
Also relieved to find someone as obsessed with charred broccoli hehe.
How good is charred broccoli?? Your miso version sounds delish 🙂 🙂 🙂
Delicious! We added cubed rotisserie chicken for the meat and some previously roasted red beets (which if you use, should be added when serving–we learned the hard way). Such a hearty, crunchy, flavorful salad. I’ll definitely keep this in our rotation. Thank you!
So happy to hear this, Kelly! And I can imagine … did the beets turn everything red?? It happens … alas. Glad you could use this recipe as a template. I love clearing out the fridge to make a salad 🙂
Delicious and a lot quicker to put together than I thought it would be – Thank You!
So happy to hear this, Helen!
Ali, the charred broccoli was so good, and the dressing is perfect. And it all came together in 25 minutes or so. Will most definitely be making this recipe again, and again.
So happy to hear this Liane 😍😍😍😍
I’ve been using the recipes on your site for years now (many on a constant rotation) but rarely comment. I just wanted to say that I loved this recipe! It was delicious, and the dressing was perfect. I ended up “deconstructing” the salad for my teenage kids who will eat most of the ingredients, just not together :). When my husband and I assembled our salads with everything together, it was magic! Thank you!!
I’m so happy to hear this, Christina! I find this dressing irresistible. Deconstructed salads are a great idea too 😍😍😍 Thanks for saying hi!
In a recent post on chick peas a reader posted a reference to changing your peasant bread to using potatoes, have I missed this recipie it sounds delicious
Thank you for your time and all of your beautiful recipies
Hi Carolyn! Thank you for the kind words. Means a lot 😍😍😍
I know the comment you are referring, too, and the reader is referencing the potato bread in my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs. I don’t think the recipe is online unfortunately, otherwise I would send you a link. In essence, you use some mashed potato, melted butter, dill seed, and the potato cooking liquid in the dough. The taste is very subtly potato-y, but the texture and the rise is so nice due to the inclusion of the potato and potato water … I can’t explain the science.
Thank you so much for your quick reply. I have your cookbook just didn’t think to go there. Thanks again Carolyn
Yaaaasssss Queen! I believe that is what the kids are saying these days. But seriously. That dressing? What? SO. INCREDIBLE. The combination of textures and flavors in this salad made me feel both virtuous like a health food goddess AND something like a food rockstar! I can’t wait to make this again. Plus … this is the PERFECT dish to bring to a potluck when you want everyone to praise you for your culinary genius.
😂😂😂😂 This made me laugh: “Yaaaasssss Queen! I believe that is what the kids are saying these days.”
So nice to hear all of this, Jen! Thanks so much for writing.
Ali, this recipe looks amazing, and I want to make it soon. What do you recommend as a substitute for the yellow beets (besides red beets)? I just can’t get over the dirt smell of them. I’ve never seen yellow beets in my local stores. Is the flavor the same as the red ones?
Hi Kristin! I would simply omit them … this salad is all about using what you have on hand. I do find that yellow beets are a little milder and that often people who don’t like beets, will actually like yellow beets.
Sometimes I’ll shred turnips in the same manner. Carrots would be great, too!
This looks amazing! All my favorite things in a bowl.
One challenge is my tree nut allergy, so the cashews are out (which, btw makes my dairy allergy so challenging, nut free and dairy free is a lot). I’m not allergic to peanuts, so I think I might give that a try. Also considering sunflower seeds or tahini, but my gut says try peanuts first.
Hi Annie! So sorry for the delay here! Try this recipe: Large-Batch Tahini Salad Dressing It’s inspired by this cashew dressing. It’s one of my favorites. Just made a batch earlier this week, and it’s so nice having on hand. It thickens as it sits, but all you need to do is add water so that it gets to the right consistency.
My husband and I LOVED this salad! I was surprised that I liked it so much with the beets (which I still haven’t learned to like) and the raw kale (I loved cooked kale, but it can be a little over-powering raw). I couldn’t taste the beets, and the Tuscan kale was perfect. I loved the dressing, and the additions of the soppresatta and Parmesan. I was so disappointed that my grocery stores didn’t have endive this week, so I had to leave it out. It’s a veggie I haven’t used before, so I’ll have to make this again to get the full effect. This is really yummy–great flavors and great textures. One thing to mention: I know very little about beets. I’m also a food-prep-in-advance kind of person, so I shredded my yellow beets the day before, so I would have less to do the next day. Well, when I was taking stuff in and out of my fridge, I saw this container of some awful-looking greenish-brown stuff. I thought, “What IS that??” I realized it was the yellow shredded beets. They had oxidized! I had no idea that they did that. SO, when I went to the store the next day, I had to buy more yellow beets and try again and added them right before. Thanks for a great recipe!
So nice to hear all of this Kristin! Thanks so much for writing. Bummer about the wasted beets 🙁 I’m sorry you had to make an extra trip to the store and also had to shred them again. I will make a note in the recipe about not shredding in advance. So glad this was a hit overall, however!
My family doe snot like the taste of fish sauce. I find it is a taste I cannot disguise when I cook. Leaving it out of the dressing will be fine? Should I use 1.5 tsp of the vinegar instead? Thanks and looking forward to trying another one of your interesting and amazing recipes.
Hi! You can totally leave it out. I would simply increase the salt to taste. No need to add more vinegar, unless you think it needs it by taste after the dressing is mixed. If you like this dressing, I think you’ll like this tahini one, too.
Making this for dinner tonight. I premade the dressing exactly as directed and it’s chilling now. I think I’ll use goat cheese and add chickpeas and grape tomatoes, and sub carrots for the beets since I forgot to look for them at the store! Can’t wait for dinner now!
Yay! Hope you loved it. Your mix of ingredients sounds lovely.
Made this salad for my family and it was a hit!
Great to hear, Laurie! Thanks for writing 🙂
Loved this!! Swapped in radicchio and carrots. Love that it calls for broccoli and kale — 2 veggies we try to eat more of. Next time, I think I’ll char the broccoli a bit more. Didn’t have currants but the salad didn’t seem to lack — will try next time with them. The dressing is incredible. Didn’t know cashews make for such a tasty dressing. Another winner, Alexandra! hanks so much!
So nice to read this, Hina! Aren’t cashews-as-dressing a revelation? I also always thought I had to soak them. I love that they blend up so beautifully. Thanks for writing and sharing all of your notes 🙂 🙂 🙂
I made this Sunday afternoon and it completely turned into a “choose your own adventure” salad since I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. No kale or sturdy greens so I chopped up a red cabbage. Added the charred broccoli, grape tomatoes and julienned carrots. The salad was fantastic and the leftovers were just as good yesterday. The dressing was great and I have been putting the extra on everything! This will be going into our regular rotation for sure.
Great to hear, Judith! I love a clean-out-the-fridge salad. Thanks for writing and sharing all of this 🙂
This salad is delicious. Crunchy, deeply flavorful and satisfying. Make the dressing ahead so the fish sauce will meld. Opted for romaine lettuce, and 4 drops stevia instead of honey. Don’t leave kitchen while charring broccoli! Lesson learned! Needed a bit more olive oil for thinning. Mix dressing in about an hour before serving.
Great to hear, Dianne! Thanks for writing and sharing your notes 🙂 🙂 🙂