Creamy pasta salad is a gorgeous, easy recipe that can be made in 20 minutes. It has a heavenly yogurt-mayo dressing and a mix of fresh and canned vegetables.

Expect a beautiful variety of textures, colors, and flavors, from chewy pasta to crunchy bell pepper and savory olives; all hugged by our cozy signature dressing.

Make this creamy pasta salad for a leisurely lunch, meal prep, potlucks, summer gatherings, and barbecues.

Creamy pasta salad on a plate with fresh veggies and parsley in the background

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian diet. For vegans, use vegan may and non-dairy yogurt. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

Don’t have time to read the full blog post? JUMP TO RECIPE HERE!

What’s a creamy pasta salad?

Creamy pasta salad with mayonnaise in a white bowl

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

The star here is, without a doubt, the dressing you loved in our broccoli salad, macaroni salad, and broccoli cauliflower salads.

It’s an all-American-inspired mix of flavors, similar to a ranch dressing but with more punch and creaminess.

All while drastically reducing fats and calories and boosting protein.

It’s the perfect intersection of luscious creaminess and healthy eating.

Ingredients for creamy pasta salad

Pasta

ingredients for creamy pasta salad on a marble table

Dry Italian pasta is best for making pasta salad because it stays al dente. Our favorite brands (not sponsored) are Rummo and Molisana. De Cecco and Barilla are also fine.

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.

Use gluten-free pasta to make the recipe gluten-free.

Vegetables

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

Cucumber: for crunch and cool.

Olives: for umami. Use pitted olives, taggiasche or kalamata olives are tastiest. Substitute black olives, green olives, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or marinated artichoke hearts.

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

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

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

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

You can use canned or dried beans. Here’s a guide on how to cook dried white beans.

Pickles

We like to add pickled cucumbers or gherkins, but you can also add pickled vegetables, like pickled capers, jalapeños, or quick-pickled red onions.

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

Fresh herbs

Fresh dill or 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 fresh coriander (cilantro).

Creamy Dressing

Ingredients for creamy mayo yogurt dressing

Mayonnaise: we use our vegan mayo. It’s thick, creamy, and tasty, thanks to the Dijon mustard and olive oil. You can substitute any other mayo for vegan mayo.

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

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: sea salt or kosher salt are best.

Maple syrup: substitute honey.

Creamy pasta salad on a blue plate with cucumber on the side

How to make creamy pasta salad

1. Boil the pasta

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.

Fussili pasta in a colander

2. Make the dressing

In a mixing bowl, add mayonnaise or vegan mayo, Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup or honey, salt, and black pepper.

Whisk well until combined. Set aside.

Creamy pasta salad dressing in a blue bowl

3. Chop veggies and mix salad

To a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta, drained and rinsed cannellini beans, chopped pickled cucumber, thinly sliced shallot, canned corn, pitted olives, diced cucumber, diced red pepper, finely chopped dill, parsley, or both.

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

Pour over the dressing and mix until combined.

Taste and adjust for mayo, salt, and lemon juice based on your preference.

Creamy pasta salad after mixing the ingredients

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

We usually serve half of it and keep the other half for the coming days.

creamy pasta salad served on a blue plate

Variations

No-Mayo Pasta Salad

Vegan pasta salad with beans

Are you looking for a mayonnaise-free pasta salad alternative?

Then, we have the 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

We serve this primarily as a main dish for lunch and have leftovers for dinner as a side dish.

We also like taking it with us for picnics, excursions, barbecues, and summer gatherings.

Often, we add more protein by serving this creamy pasta salad with:

Tips

Season the pasta water.

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

How much salt do 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
This table explains the ratios of pasta to water to salt.

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 the package instructions. Avoid undercooking and overcooking. Why?

The pasta gets stiffer, harder, and chewier as it cools 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. You must 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 essential 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 for meal prep or to bring to potlucks and picnics.

However, we would not recommend making it more than 36 hours ahead of time because the veggies release water, making your pasta salad soggy.

Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. For the best flavor, take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Creamy pasta salad with lemon

Similar recipes

For more gorgeous salad recipes, check out the compilation post that Louise made with our 45 best salad recipes.

creamy pasta salad with olives and bell peppers

Creamy Pasta Salad

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 22 votes
Creamy pasta salad is a gorgeous, easy recipe that can be made in 20 minutes. It has a heavenly yogurt-mayo dressing and a mix of fresh and canned vegetables.
Expect a beautiful variety of textures, colors, and flavors, from chewy pasta to crunchy bell pepper and savory olives; all hugged by our cozy signature dressing.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 people (leftovers store well)
Course: Main Course, Side dish
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

FOR THE PASTA SALAD

  • 9 ounces pasta fusilli, rotini, elbows, etc.
  • 1 can (15-ounces) white beans or 1½ cups cooked white beans / or ½ cup dried white beans. We use cannellini beans.
  • 2 cups red bell pepper diced
  • 1 heaping cup cucumber diced
  • ½ cup corn canned
  • ½ cup pitted olives we use Taggiasche or Kalamata olives
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 1 rib celery chopped
  • ½ cup pickles chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dill or chives or parsley, finely chopped

FOR THE DRESSING

  • ½ cup vegan mayo or regular mayo
  • ½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar + 1 teaspoon lemon zest optional
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • PASTA: Cook 9 ounces 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.
    While the pasta cooks, prep dressing and veggies.
    cooked pasta in colander
  • DRESSING: To a small bowl, add ½ cup vegan mayo, ½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
    Optionally, add a teaspoon of grated lemon zest.
    Whisk until combined.
    Creamy pasta salad dressing in a blue bowl
  • SALAD: To a large bowl, add the cooked pasta, 1 can (15-ounces) white beans (drained and rinsed), 2 cups red bell pepper (diced), 1 heaping cup cucumber (diced), ½ cup corn, ½ cup pitted olives, 1 shallot (finely chopped), 1 rib celery (chopped), ½ cup pickles (chopped), 3 tablespoons dill (finely chopped).
    Creamy pasta salad after mixing the ingredients
  • MIX: Toss well, 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 on a blue plate with parsley on the side

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of creamy pasta salad out of 6.
SUBSTITUTIONS
Pasta: substitute gluten free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.
Red bell pepper: substitute yellow, orange, or green bell pepper or cherry tomatoes.
Cucumber: substitute thinly sliced zucchini.
Olives: substitute marinated artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes in oil.
Canned corn: substitute cooked frozen corn, baby corn, or yellow bell pepper.
Celery: substitute radishes, fennel, or green apple.
Shallot: substitute red onion or spring onions.
White beans: we use cannellini beans but any other white bean variety is delicious here. Try lima beans, butter beans, or substitute black beans or chickpeas for white beans.
Pickles: substitute quick pickled red onions or pickled jalapeños.
Fresh herbs: dill is incredible here but parsley, chives, basil, and cilantro work well too. You can mix two herbs together if you like.
Vegan mayo: substitute regular mayo.
Fat-free Greek yogurt: substitute a thick, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt.
Maple syrup: substitute honey, agave, or date syrup.
Lemon juice: substitute apple cider vinegar.
STORAGE
Make ahead: This creamy pasta salad is an excellent recipe for meal prep or to bring to potlucks and picnics.
However, we would not recommend making it more than 36 hours ahead of time because the veggies release water, making your pasta salad soggy.
Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. For the best flavor, take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Nutrition

Calories: 396kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 680mg, Potassium: 530mg, Dietary Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1738IU, Vitamin B6: 0.3mg, Vitamin C: 69mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 9µg, Calcium: 83mg, Folate: 70µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 62mg, Zinc: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.

If you liked this creamy pasta salad, you might also enjoy:


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.

Easy right?

5 from 22 votes (17 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I was a little leery about the pickles and olives. I went ahead and tried it anyway. I love this salad! I added some tomatoes but followed it other than that. I’m taking it to a cookout tomorrow and hope there are leftovers for me.

    1. Fantastic, Sharon – I’m very happy you gave it a try 🎊

      Fingers crossed for the leftovers, although I do hope that your friends will enjoy it too 🤗❤️

      All the best, Louise

  2. 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

  3. 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