A vegan chef salad is lined in uniform rows of seitan chicken, tomato, cucumber, non-dairy cheddar, and avocado. Finish it with a generous drizzling of vegan ranch dressing. It’s a satisfying lunch that comes together in a flash.
Lately I can’t get enough of vegan chef salads at lunch.
I grew up eating chef salads served in bread bowls, while slid into a booth at all night diners.
Eating a veganized version as an adult really scratches that nostalgia itch. The salad is ready in only minutes. And it’s easy to tweak depending on what’s in the refrigerator.
What’s in a chef salad?
A chef salad is a full meal in a bowl. It’s popular at all-American diners and casual restaurants, especially for lunch.
While it can be a side dish, it’s generally served as a main course. It has a lot of filling ingredients that make it substantive enough to stand on its own.
A non-vegan chef salad usually includes a variety of lunch meats, boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers on a bed of lettuce. The ingredients are typically served in distinct rows on top of the greens.
Dressings vary for chef salads, but ranch is a popular choice.
Even though a chef salad is usually not vegan, it’s easy to veganize with a few simple adjustments.
Ingredients for a vegan chef salad
Here’s what you’ll need for this vegan chef salad recipe:
Romaine lettuce: Romaine is a mild, light, and crisp green that really lets the toppings and dressing shine.
Tomatoes: Wedges of ripe tomato add a bit of sweetness & juiciness. Plus, when they are cut in larger pieces, they don’t make the salad as wet as when they are chopped.
Avocado: Sliced avocado takes the place of boiled eggs here. Plus its fatty deliciousness is welcome in a salad any day of the week.
Non-dairy cheese: I especially like a cheddar-style cheese in this salad. It tastes super classic that way.
I used Trader Joe’s cheddar slices made with cashews. (It’s a favorite vegan TJ’s product!) Use any sliced non-dairy cheese you like, or cube a cheddar block like Daiya home-style.
Seitan chicken: Homemade seitan chicken is packed with protein and super satiating. It includes spices like oregano, basil, and paprika. With a toothsome bite and savory flavor, it gives this salad oomph and staying power.
Cucumbers: Crisp cucumbers add freshness and crunch. I use Persian cucumbers, but feel free to use any type you like.
Make it your own
Depending on your taste preferences and what’s in your refrigerator, it’s easy to make adjustments.
- Replace romaine with leafy green lettuce, spring greens, or iceberg
- Instead of chicken seitan, use your favorite vegan deli meat(s) like hickory Tofurky or vegan chick’n strips
- For a gluten free option, use roasted chickpeas instead of seitan
- Instead of non-dairy cheddar, use any hard store-bought vegan cheese or vegan feta
- Instead of avocado as the boiled egg replacement, try eggy tofu or vegan egg salad
- Add more vegetables like sugar snap peas, shredded cabbage, carrots, celery, or cauliflower
- Add a row of homemade croutons for extra crunch
What kind of dressing should I use?
I especially like vegan ranch dressing for chef salads, because it feels so classic & old school.
Ranch is creamy & garlicky. And it stands up to the other hearty ingredients.
However, you can use any dressing that you like. Here are some other good options:
- Creamy cashew dressing
- Vegan blue cheese dressing
- Balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Lemon tahini dressing
How to make it
Fill a serving bowl with chopped romaine. Then add distinct rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, seitan, and non-dairy cheese.
Halve, pit, and slice an avocado. Scoop the slices onto the plate & fan them a little for flare.
Serve with dressing on the side, so that people can drizzle it on top of their individual salads. Then finish with a sprinkling of black pepper.
What to serve with it
A vegan chef salad is filling enough to be a full meal on its own, or it’s a flavorful side dish.
Serve it with:
- Crusty bread
- Smoky corn chowder
- Creamy tomato soup
- Baked potato soup
- Grilled vegetable skewers
- Air fryer asparagus
- Air fryer baked potato, baked fries, or lemony potatoes
Vegan chef salad with seitan & avocado
- Fill a bowl with chopped romaine lettuce. Top the lettuce with distinct rows of tomato wedges, cucumber slices, diced vegan cheddar cheese, and chopped seitan chicken. Finally, top it with sliced avocado.
- Serve the salad alongside vegan ranch dressing and pepper, so that people can top their own salads. Then finish them with a dash of pepper.