Our creamy pasta salad is a tangy, crunchy, creamy, and refreshing recipe you can make with your favorite pasta and crisp veggies in about 20 minutes.

It’s perfect for summer gatherings or a quick and nutritious meal. It’s a great way of incorporating more veggies into your meals.

Creamy pasta salad recipe

You’ll love this recipe because it combines creamy (mayo), chewy (pasta), and crisp texture (veggies) with sweet (corn and bell pepper), zesty (lemon), and tangy flavors (pickles and onions).

It’s the perfect match between luscious creaminess and healthy(ish) eating, crunchy and chewy textures, and mellow and tangy flavors.

This creamy pasta salad recipe is the best for potlucks, barbeques, summer cookouts, and picnics. It’s versatile, and you can serve it as a starter, side dish, or light and refreshing main.

Oh, and remember to take our recipe as a guideline and customize it based on what you have available where you live. Ingredients with substitutions are available below.

Creamy pasta salad with mayonnaise

Ingredients & Substitutions

Creamy pasta salad ingredients

Pasta

Dry Italian pasta is best for making pasta salad because it keeps al dente.

You can use most short pasta types. Some shapes that work well are fusilli, rotini, conchiglie, farfalle, penne, ditalini, cavatappi (corkscrew), and elbows.

In general, noodles with holes and crevices that help the mayo stick to it will work.

I would avoid larger or longer shapes like rigatoni, spaghetti, linguine, paccheri, tagliatelle, etc. Also, avoid fresh pasta because it won’t keep al dente.

Vegetables

Red bell pepper: for crunch and sweetness. Substitute yellow, orange, or green bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and radishes.

Cucumber: for crunch and cool.

Black olives: for umami. Substitute green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or marinated artichoke hearts.

Canned corn: for sweetness. Substitute baby corn or yellow bell pepper.

Celery: for freshness and crunch. Substitute fennel, radishes, or apples.

Shallot: for tang and sharpness. Substitute a mild red onion or green onions.

Cannellini beans: for creaminess and protein. Substitute chickpeas, black beans, any other white bean, or grilled chicken.

Pickles

We like to add pickled cucumbers or gherkins, but you can add any pickled vegetables, like pickled capers, jalapeños, or onions.

Adding something pickled helps cut through the creamy mayo dressing, making this creamy pasta salad recipe stand out.

Fresh herbs

Fresh dill and parsley. Dill is exceptional here because it’s lovely with mayo and pickles. The fresh parsley adds a wonderful herby taste.

Substitute chives, basil, or coriander.

Dressing

Mayonnaise: we use our homemade vegan mayo. It’s thick, creamy, and super tasty, thanks to the Dijon mustard and olive oil. You can substitute vegan mayo with your favorite mayo brand.

Lemon juice: for freshness, tang, and acidity. It’s a must in this recipe, best if freshly squeezed. Substitute apple cider vinegar.

Lemon zest: It adds a beautiful citrusy and zesty flavor, making this creamy pasta salad somewhat refined and aromatic. You can keep it out if you don’t like it.

Salt and black pepper.

Note: we don’t add any sweetener to our creamy pasta salad dressing, but you can stir a tablespoon of honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup in the mayo if you want.

Creamy pasta salad with mayo and olives

How to make creamy pasta salad

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as per package instructions.

Then drain it and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds so it doesn’t overcook and keeps al dente.

Tip: you don’t have to cool the pasta completely; it’s actually better if it’s still a little warm as you add the dressing and the other ingredients. While the pasta cooks, you can prepare the veggies.

cooked pasta in colander

To a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients: the cooked pasta, drained and rinsed cannellini beans, chopped pickled cucumber, thinly sliced shallot, canned corn, sliced black olives, diced cucumber, diced red pepper, finely chopped dill, finely chopped parsley, and grated lemon zest, freshly squeezed lemon juice, mayo, salt, and black pepper.

Tip: the vegetables should be cut into small bite-size pieces. Avoid large chunks.

Creamy pasta salad with fresh and pickled vegetables

Toss well until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Taste and adjust for mayo, salt, and lemon juice based on your preference.

Serve immediately or store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.

Creamy pasta salad with mayo and lemon

Variations

No-Mayo Pasta Salad

Vegan pasta salad with beans

Looking for a mayonnaise-free pasta salad alternative. Then we have a recipe for you. Our pasta salad without mayonnaise is fresh, colorful, tasty, crunchy, and a delicious crowd-pleaser.

Check out our no-mayo pasta salad recipe.

Chickpea Pasta Salad

chickpea pasta salad with a fork in a bowl

Chickpeas and pasta are a delicious and nutritious combination. Try pairing them in a tasty pasta salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes, and a yummy lemon-mustard dressing.

Check out our chickpea pasta salad recipe.

Eggplant Pasta Salad

roasted eggplant salad with farfalle pasta

Eggplant pasta salad is an easy and delicious recipe made with roasted or air-fried eggplant, chickpeas, and other crunchy seasonal vegetables. It’s perfect as a make-ahead meal for potlucks and picnics.

Check out our eggplant pasta salad recipe.

Serving Suggestions

With a side dish of greens, such as:

  • Easy side salad (romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red onions, celery, etc.)
  • Arugula salad (walnuts, arugula, lemon, red apple, olive oil, parmesan, etc.)
  • Zucchini salad (pine nuts, lemon, mint, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
  • Avocado salad (red onion, avocado, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, etc.)

Tips

Season the pasta water

As with any pasta recipe, particularly with this one, it is essential to add salt to your pasta water to ensure the final dish has a full flavor.

How much salt you ask? Here’s a quick summary:

PastaWaterSalt
8 ounces or 230 grams2 quarts or 8 cups or 2 liters1 tablespoon or 15 grams
12 ounces or 340 grams3 quarts or 12 cups or 3 liters1.5 tablespoons or 21 grams
1 pound or 450 grams1 gallon or 16 cups or 4 liters2 tablespoons or 30 grams

Avoid overcooking or undercooking the pasta

We always recommend undercooking the pasta when making warm pasta recipes. However, for cold pasta salads, you should cook the pasta as per package instructions. Avoid undercooking and overcooking. Why?

The pasta gets stiffer, harder, and chewy as we cool it down under running cold water, so there’s no need to cook it al dente.

Taste and adjust for salt

Cold pasta dishes require more salt than warm ones. It’s essential that you taste and adjust before serving.

For example, you might need to add more mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, pickles, or lemon juice.

Rinse, but not for too long

Rinsing the pasta under cold running water after draining is important to prevent the pasta from overcooking.

However, rinse only for 15 seconds to remove excess heat. You don’t want to cool down the pasta completely; it should still be slightly warm.

Creamy pasta salad with mayo and parsley

Storage

Make ahead: this creamy pasta salad is an excellent recipe to make ahead of time and bring to potlucks and picnics or for meal prep. However, I would not recommend making it more than 24 to 36 hours ahead of time because the veggies release water making your pasta salad soggy.

Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I recommend taking it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving it for the best flavor.

Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Creamy pasta salad with lemon

More pasta salad recipes

Find lunchbox and meal planning inspiration with these easy pasta salad ideas:

More recipes with mayonnaise

Get more creamy inspiration from these salads and slaws with mayonnaise:

Creamy pasta salad with mayo and olives

Creamy Pasta Salad

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 15 votes
Our creamy pasta salad is a tangy, crunchy, creamy, and refreshing recipe you can make with your favorite pasta and crips veggies in about 20 minutes.
It's perfect for summer gatherings or a quick and nutritious meal. It's a great way of incorporating more veggies into your meals.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side dish
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces pasta fusilli, rotini, elbows, etc.
  • 1 can (15-oz) cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 cups red bell pepper diced
  • 1 heaping cup cucumber diced
  • ½ cup corn canned
  • ½ cup olives sliced
  • 1 shallot or red onion, sliced
  • 1 rib celery chopped
  • ½ cup pickles chopped
  • 3 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill finely chopped
  • ¾ cup vegan mayo or regular mayo
  • ½ lemon juice and grated zest
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as per package instructions.
    Drain it and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds so it doesn't overcook and keeps al dente. While the pasta cooks, you can prep the veggies.
    cooked pasta in colander
  • To a large bowl, add all ingredients.
    Creamy pasta salad with fresh and pickled vegetables
  • Toss well until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Taste and adjust for mayo, salt, and lemon juice based on your preference.
    Serve immediately or store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.
    Creamy pasta salad with mayo and lemon

Video

Creamy Pasta Salad with Mayonnaise

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of creamy pasta salad out of 6.
STORAGE
Make ahead: this creamy pasta salad is an excellent recipe to make ahead of time and bring to potlucks and picnics or for meal prep. However, I would not recommend making it more than 24 to 36 hours ahead of time because the veggies release water making your pasta salad soggy.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I recommend taking it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving it for the best flavor.
Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE
 

Nutrition

Calories: 419kcal, Carbohydrates: 49g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 336mg, Dietary Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1887IU, Vitamin B6: 0.3mg, Vitamin C: 74mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 41µg, Calcium: 61mg, Folate: 46µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 40mg, Zinc: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.


Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. Hi, Recipe looks great. Do you know if this would work with other types of pasta such as spelt pasta? Any if so, any adjustments needed? Thank you.

    1. Hi Rose,
      Yes you can definitely use spelt pasta (or wholewheat pasta).
      We highly recommend short pasta (fusili, penne, or bowtie-shaped), it suits the veggies and dressing better than long pasta.
      No adjustments needed, as long as you make sure to cook the pasta al dente as specified in the instructions 🙂
      Let us know what you think, if you give it a try.
      Kindest, Louise

  2. 5 stars
    I was searching for a vegan pasta salad and stumbled upon your YouTube shorts. I immediately had to make it. It’s such a refreshing, veggie packed and crunchy salad. I tried out your vegan Mayo recipe, too. A match made in heaven.

    I’m going to pack it for my lunch at work tomorrow and I am sure it will be the star of the show at the next summer party with my friends!

    Thank you so much for making those great recipes and keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Hanna,
      Oh, I’m very happy you liked the pasta salad and the mayo too. It sounds just perfect as a lunchbox meal and for summer parties!
      Thank you very much for your kind words, and for taking the time to leave a comment.
      Kindest,
      Louise