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July 24, 2018

by Alyssa

Creamy Kale Salad with Smoky Tempeh Croutons

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This creamy kale salad is tossed in a spicy vegan dressing and topped with smokey tempeh croutons. It's light, healthy and super simple to make!

Creamy Kale Salad with Smoky Baked Tempeh Croutons

The other week I went to lunch with my friend Ali (you might know her as @inspiralized on Instagram). It had been forever since we'd seen each other and we were in much need of a good catch up and some girl time.

We went to one of our favorite restaurants in the city: The Butcher's Daughter.

It's a vegetarian gem with a few locations in NYC and LA, and while not always incredible, it's always really good. Like one of those places that you know you can count on for a tasty and healthy meal. And the setting is super cute too!

Anyway, I ordered a spicy kale salad with tempeh bacon and oh my gosh it was SO good. One of the best meals I'd had there in ages and I knew I wanted to somehow recreate it at home so I could have it for lunch like all the time.

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Tempeh

My Version of a Creamy Kale Salad

So yep, that's what we've got today. My version of that delicious salad, that we can now all enjoy from the comfort of our own couches/dinner tables!

A creamy kale salad, tossed with a cheesy dressing and topped with smoky tempeh croutons!

I won't say it's exactly like the one I had at the restaurant, but it's pretty dang close. And I'd like to think that my version is probably a little bit healthier and more allergy-friendly – less sodium, nothing fried and a nut-free vegan dressing.

How to make Baked Tempeh

Baked Tempeh with Tamari and Liquid Smoke

How to make Baked Tempeh

Let's first talk tempeh. If you aren't familiar with what tempeh is, it's made fermented soybeans and acts as an alternative to tofu. Since the beans are fermented first, a lot of times, people who struggle with gut issues find that tempeh is easier on their system than tofu.

For our smoky tempeh croutons, we're going to simply toss them with a quick “glaze” bake them up until they're nice and crispy and then use them as a crouton/bacon-esque bite.

The secret for getting that deep smoky flavor? Liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke essentially is concentrated wood smoke, that's put into a liquid and used to get that flavor that you associate with smoked things (bbq, bacon, ribs, etc.). It's almost always plant-based which is great, so we can turn any number of ingredients into a meat alternative.

And today we're doing that with tempeh!

Creamy Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing

The Ultimate Creamy Vegan Dressing

The dressing for our creamy kale salad is similar to my vegan caesar dressing, but I added more red pepper flakes to make it a little spicy.

Unlike a lot of vegan caesar dressings, my version is tahini-based which means it's nut-free and we don't have to worry about soaking cashews for hours on end. We can just simply blending everything up in a few seconds and we've got the most luxurious dressing.

And yes, curly kale is the perfect vessel! I love how the dressing gets trapped in the little folds of the kale, so each bite is bursting with tangy flavor. Topped with that smoky tempeh and it's the ultimate combo: slightly sweet, perfectly tangy, crunchy, creamy,  and chewy all at the same time!

Vegan Kale Salad with Creamy Caesar Dressing

An Exciting Way to Eat Kale

Kale salads aren't typically the most exciting thing around, but I gotta tell you, we are obsessed with this recipe! It's a go-to for busy weeknights and I actually also like to keep the tempeh on hand for other things like wraps and pasta salads.

This salad will keep in the fridge for a few days (just store the tempeh separately), so it's also great for meal prep.

And finally, I'd also recommend making a double batch of that dressing… you'll want to put it on everything! I drizzle it on my wraps and sandwiches, I use it as a dip for sweet potato fries and sometimes I even use a little with my pesto pasta. It's SO good!

Gluten-Free & Vegan Kale Salad

More High Protein Salads to Try:

Creamy Kale Salad with Smoky Tempeh Croutons

This creamy kale salad is tossed in a creamy vegan dressing and topped with smokey tempeh croutons. It's light, healthy and super simple to make!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 272kcal
Print Pin
Creamy Kale Salad with Smoky Baked Tempeh Croutons
4.60 from 15 votes


for the croutons:

for the salad:


  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Chop the tempeh into crouton-sized chunks (about 1/2") and add them to a bowl. To the bowl add the tamari, liquid smoke, oil, syrup and hot sauce and toss to combine.
  • Transfer the tempeh to the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • While the tempeh is cooking, add the tahini, lemon, vinegar, nutritional yeast, mustard, capers, garlic powder, chili flakes, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of water to a blender. Blend on high until smooth, adding more water as needed.
  • To assemble the salad, add the kale to a large bowl. Pour dressing over the greens and mix with your hands to thoroughly combine. Transfer to bowls and top with croutons.
  • Garnish with additional chili flakes, nutritional yeast and pepper if desired!



Calories: 272kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 391mg | Potassium: 989mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 13460IU | Vitamin C: 163.4mg | Calcium: 274mg | Iron: 4.1mg

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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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  1. In reference to baking sheet for the tempeh,…i am use to always lining the sheet with foil. Would that have caused the tempeh to not get crispy? I also have parchment paper. What do you suggest?

  2. Enjoyed making this! My kids really liked it!…….although my tempeh croutons also lacked “crispiness”….they were kinda chewey too. Yes I’ll try marinating next time, as well! I got to figure that part out bc i was really looking forward to the crunch. Anyways, I made a large batch and were able to have more during the week!! Thank you!

  3. I’m not sure what I did wrong but the “croutons” I made came out chewy and no flavor, Gah! Any idea where I could have gone wrong? The mixture smelled divine so I was sure they would taste wonderful but alas, no flavor, should I have marinated them? Thank you!

    • Hmm were they not crispy at all either? They’re not going to be quite as crunchy as a traditional crouton, but they should have a kind of crispy exterior. And yes, marinading would definitely help!

  4. I do not like liquid smoke. Will the crouton recipe still work without it or do you have another tempeh crouton recipe? Thank you

  5. Holy. Cow. I can’t even. This was so stinking good! The only changes I made was pan frying the tempeh, adding a bit extra nooch & oil to the dressing, and mixing in some chopped red leaf from my dad’s garden. LEGIT!


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