Easy Kale Salad with Avocado, Crispy Chickpea Croutons and Vegan Ranch Dressing (gluten-free)

VeganGluten-FreeSoy-FreeRefined Sugar-FreeEasyVegetarianDairy Free

This entirely plant-based recipe makes for a stunning and filling entree salad.  It is savory, satisfying and easy to pull together.  I kept the process simple and streamlined.  I’ll be making it all spring and summer long!

In addition to tasting absolutely delicious this salad is super healthy.  I set out to make an authentic but nutritious ranch dressing that is oil-free, mayo-free and dairy-free. Typical ranch dressing gets its creaminess from buttermilk and mayonnaise.  Instead, this recipe gets creaminess from blended cashews and water along with buttery avocado.  The silky California avocado adds the perfect texture for the ranch dressing.  Plus, it adds healthy fats, dietary fiber and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals such as potassium, folate, vitamin E, C and B6.  I used half an avocado for the dressing and the other half for topping the salad.  The cold, creamy avocado slices pair well with the warm and salty crispy chickpeas on the bed of ranch-soaked shredded kale.  Every bite keeps you going back for more.

The dressing also gets flavor from lemon juice, garlic, fresh herbs, seasonings and a touch of maple syrup.  It is just so creamy and flavorful and the perfect thing to pour all over hearty lacinato kale leaves.

A couple things to keep in mind about this recipe:

  • I like to make the dressing a bit ahead of time so it can chill.  The dressing is made in a blender which warms it up and no one wants warm ranch dressing.  The recipe makes more dressing than you will likely need for this salad.  Save extra for dipping raw veggies or using on future salads. Learn more about How (and Why!) to Soak Cashews in this post.
  • I like to start the recipe process by first making the crispy chickpeas and letting them bake while I assemble the rest of the salad.
  • You can use any seasonings you want on the crispy chickpeas such as smoked paprika, garlic powder or pepper.  I kept it simple with just salt but feel free to personalize the chickpea seasonings to your liking.
  • This salad is quite large and can serve two.  You can assemble it on two separate plates or a serving platter as shown.
  • You don’t have to use the fresh herbs in the dressing but I like to.  It adds great flavor and color.  But if you don’t have any on hand it will still work.
  • You can certainly use other types of greens!  I just think the sturdy kale stands up well to the thick, creamy ranch dressing.  The dressing also masks the slight bitterness of the kale.  I recommend lacinato kale which is less bitter and has a less chewy texture than other types of kale.
  • Feel free to sprinkle some hemp seeds or cooked quinoa on the salad for added nutrients.  Red or green onions would also pair nice with this salad.

This recipe is gluten-free, peanut-free, oil-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free, egg-free and dairy-free.

I hope you love this salad as much as I do. It is so seasonal, colorful and flavorful.  If you give it a try, please let me know! Leave a comment below, rate it and tag your photo @eatingbyelaine and #eatingbyelaine on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook so I can see your creations!

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California Avocado Kale Salad with Cashew Ranch Dressing and Crispy Chickpea Croutons (vegan)

  • Author: Elaine Gordon
  • Total Time: 45 mins
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Diet: Vegan



Crispy Chickpeas

  • 1, 15-ounce can chickpeas (rinsed, drained and thoroughly dried)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Cashew Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (soaked*)
  • 1 1/4 filtered water
  • 1/2 California avocado
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian, flat leaf parsley, large stems removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, large stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


  • 10 ounces lacinato kale (also known as Dino or dinosaur kale), stems removed, finely chopped (~6 cups)
  • 1/2 California avocado, sliced

Additional topping ideas:

  • hemp seeds
  • cooked quinoa
  • salted and roasted pepita seeds
  • red or green onions


  1. Prepare the crispy chickpeas: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the chickpeas.  Use a kitchen towel while the chickpeas are still in the fine mesh strainer and thoroughly dry the chickpeas. While drying the skins will naturally fall off as you gently press the chickpeas into the strainer using the kitchen towel.  This is good as the skin would otherwise lock in the moisture and the chickpeas would get soggy while roasted.  Place dried and skinned chickpeas in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and toss with avocado oil. Bake for 35 minutes, tossing halfway. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.  Set aside.
  2. Prepare the dressing: In a high speed blender, add all the dressing ingredients. Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. You may want to add more lemon juice for more tang, more maple syrup for sweetness or more seasonings or fresh herbs for added flavor. For a thinner consistency add more water. If possible this is great to make ahead of time as the blending process can warm the dressing. Ideally, I like to make in advance and chill in the refrigerator before using.
  3. Assemble the salad: Place kale in a large salad bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss to combine well so all leaves are evenly coated. Add more dressing if desired. The recipe makes more dressing than you will likely need so save the rest for dipping raw veggies or for future salads. Plate the dressed kale salad and top with warm crispy chickpeas and freshly sliced avocado. Serve and enjoy!


*To soak the cashews, place in a large lidded glass jar or bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes minimum or up to 8 hours. After soaking drain the soaking water and discard. Rinse the soaked cashews with fresh water then thoroughly dry. Learn more about How (and Why!) to Soak Cashews in this post.

Avocado Selection and Storage:

When shopping for avocados look for avocados with no soft spots. To accelerate the ripening process, place the avocado in a brown paper bag along with an apple, banana or tomato and place in the warmest spot in your kitchen. You will know it is perfectly ripe when the skin changes from green to slightly black and it it still firm but yields a gentle pressure. Once ripe you can refrigerate for two to three days.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Category: Salad

This recipe is sponsored by the California Avocado Commission.  All writing and opinions are my own.  

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