Vegan pasta salad is an excellent recipe for summer meals. Its vibrant colors, crunchy veggies, chewy pasta, and tangy dressing will leave you craving for more.
It’s perfect for a quick lunch, healthy dinner, potlucks, and picnics, as it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.
Table of Contents
This easy vegan pasta salad is one of our go-to springtime and summertime meals and bbqs side dishes.
You’ll love this recipe because it’s tasty and easy to make. It’s also relatively healthy, nutritious, and fulfilling.
This guide shows you how to make the best vegan pasta salad with simple seasonal ingredients.
We also show you how to customize it and make it yours; for instance, by changing the veggies or the dressing, you can turn this into a delicious creamy pasta salad.
Take our recipe as a guideline, and feel free to change it up and customize it based on what you have available—ideas for substitutions below.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Shape, type, and size do matter in pasta salads.
Use dry pasta, not fresh pasta. Dry pasta holds up better once cooked.
Use a short pasta type with nooks and crannies for the dressing to hide such as bow tie (farfalle), rotini, fusilli, elbow macaroni, or penne. If you want to use long pasta, check out our spaghetti pasta salad.
We recommend dry Italian pasta, which is naturally vegan. If you are on a gluten-free diet, use gluten-free pasta.
Cannellini beans are our favorite for this vegan pasta salad recipe because they are tender, slightly nutty, creamy, and absorb the flavor of the dressing.
You can replace them with other white bean varieties, chickpeas, lentils, or peas.
You can use any small tomatoes for this salad. We like cherry tomatoes or any other small vine tomatoes or grape tomatoes cause they are sweet and crunchy.
You can replace tomatoes with diced red bell peppers.
We use canned corn. It adds color, crunch, and sweetness to the salad.
You can replace it with yellow bell pepper.
Black olives add a salty, umami-rich taste. Make sure you get olives without pits.
They can be black, green, or Kalamata olives. Olives in brine or oil are fine; drain the salted water or the oil away before tossing them in the salad.
Substitute marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, or capers for olives.
You can use American, English, Persian, and Kirby cucumber. Cucumber adds crunch and freshness to the salad.
You can replace cucumber with celery or with thinly sliced zucchini.
Red onions are the perfect flavor match with white beans and corn. I recommend using a mild red onion and slicing it thinly for the best results.
Substitute shallots or spring onions for red onions.
We use both flat-leaf parsley and basil.
Other great fresh herbs for this pasta salad are cilantro (fresh coriander), dill, chives, and mint.
Just use the ones you have at hand. Be generous. Fresh herbs add a ton of freshness and flavor.
We recommend a simple homemade Italian dressing with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, mustard or Dijon mustard, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
Grated lemon zest is optional; it adds a refreshing citrusy aroma.
How to make vegan pasta salad
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as per package directions.
Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds to avoid overcooking.
Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, and give it a mix. The oil prevents the pasta from sticking while you prep the veggies.
Chop the tomatoes in half or quarters. Cut olives in half. Drain the canned corn. Drain and rinse the white beans. Chop the cucumber. Thinly slice the red onion. Finely chop parsley and basil.
Add all veggies to the bowl with the pasta, then make the dressing.
To a small bowl, add extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, mustard, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
Optionally, you can add in some grated lemon zest.
Whisk well until the ingredients are emulsified (i.e., the vinegar and the oil become one).
Alternatively, add all ingredients to a small mason jar, close it, and shake well.
Pour the dressing onto the other ingredients and toss well.
Taste and adjust for salt.
You can now serve the pasta salad or store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Tip: the pasta salad gets tastier if you let it sit for 30 minutes as it absorbs the flavor from the veggies and the dressing.
Creamy Pasta Salad
Our creamy pasta salad is a tangy, crunchy, creamy, and refreshing cold pasta salad recipe you can make with your favorite pasta and crips veggies in about 20 minutes.
It’s made with our quick and easy homemade vegan mayo, but you can make it with any store-bought mayo.
Check out our creamy pasta salad recipe.
Pesto Pasta Salad
Pesto pasta salad is another quick and delicious cold pasta salad you can make with your favorite pesto and fresh veggies.
It’s packed with fresh flavors and excellent for potlucks or a delightful dinner with your family.
You can make it with our easy basil pesto or your favorite store-bought pesto.
Check out our pesto pasta salad.
Chickpea pasta salad
Chickpea pasta salad is one of the quickest, tastiest, and most fulfilling meals you can make when you want something healthy and satiating but doesn’t have much time to cook.
Season it with our delicious mustard dressing for a tangy and flavorful meal.
Check out our chickpea pasta salad recipe.
Eggplant pasta salad
Eggplant 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.
Spaghetti pasta salad
Spaghetti salad is an easy, delicious, and colorful dish with fresh veggies, cooked spaghetti, a tangy Italian dressing, and your favorite add-ins.
It’s excellent for a healthy lunch, picnic, potluck, and family dinner.
Check out our spaghetti salad recipe.
This vegan pasta salad is a complete meal on its own but also delicious when served with roasted veggies:
- Roasted eggplant (eggplant, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, parsley, etc.)
- Air fryer zucchini (paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, zucchini, etc.)
- Roasted bell pepper (red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, garlic, etc.)
- Confit tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, sugar, oregano, garlic, olive oil, etc.)
Five mistakes to avoid when making pasta salad
Not picking the right pasta.
Use dry pasta made from 100% durum wheat semolina flour. Any imported pasta from Italy (Barilla, De Cecco, Buitoni, Molisana, Rummo, and others) is a good choice.
Dry pasta holds better its shape and texture once cooked and cooled. Do not use fresh pasta for pasta salad. It won’t hold its shape.
When it comes to the shape of the pasta, short and small types such as rotini, fusilli, orecchiette, farfalle (bow ties), and elbows are generally better than long and large pasta shapes.
Not salting the pasta water.
Not adding salt to the pasta cooking water is the most common mistake.
Pasta water should always be salted. Sea salt or Kosher salt is best. The salted water infuses the pasta with flavor.
This is especially true for cold pasta salads, vegetarian pasta salads, and vegan pasta salads. The cold temperature makes the dish less tasty, so add salt to the cooking water.
How much salt you ask? Here’s a quick summary:
|8 ounces or 230 grams||2 quarts or 8 cups or 2 liters||1 tablespoon or 15 grams|
|12 ounces or 340 grams||3 quarts or 12 cups or 3 liters||1.5 tablespoons or 21 grams|
|1 pound or 450 grams||1 gallon or 16 cups or 4 liters||2 tablespoons or 30 grams|
Undercooking the pasta
Cook the pasta for exactly the time indicated on the package. We rarely advise that, as we usually want the pasta a little undercooked to keep it al dente.
However, when it comes to pasta salads, we cool down the pasta with water and then put it in the fridge.
The cold temperature makes the pasta a little harder, with some bite, so we don’t want to undercook it.
Overcooking the pasta.
In the same way, we don’t want to overcook the pasta. To prevent that, drain the pasta and rinse it under cold running water for 10 to 15 seconds to cool it down.
Do not rinse the pasta for longer than 15 seconds, or it will lose taste.
Not making enough dressing.
Since pasta salad is served cold or at room temperature, its flavor will be muted compared to a warm pasta dish (cold temperatures reduce the perceived flavor of foods).
A good, tasty dressing is vital to ensuring your pasta salad won’t be bland.
When making pasta salad in advance (for instance, if you bring it to picnics or potlucks), make a double portion of dressing and bring it with you to add last minute before serving the salad.
While in the fridge, the pasta will absorb most of the dressing. It’ll get a little dry. Adding extra dressing just before serving makes all the difference.
If you want to increase protein
This vegan pasta salad already packs a lot of protein, thanks to the beans and the pasta.
However, to boost that up even more, you can use pasta made with legumes (chickpea pasta, lentil pasta, or protein pasta).
Let the pasta salad sit for 30 min before eating it
The pasta salad will taste much better as the flavors have time to come together.
If you store the pasta salad in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before eating it.
Adding legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils to pasta is a healthy, quick, and cheap way to ensure you are eating more than enough (complete) protein.
Legumes contain a high level of Lysine, an essential protein building block, but are deficient in Methionine. On the other hand, pasta and grains are rich in Methionine (another essential protein building block) but deficient in Lysine.
So, to get a complete protein profile with all essential amino acids, combine legumes and grains.
Learn more on this topic from the article “Macronutrient intakes as determinants of dietary protein and amino acid adequacy” or the book “Becoming Vegan: the complete reference to plant-based nutrition” by Davis, Brenda; Melina, Vesanto.
Yes, you can make gluten-free pasta salad by using any gluten-free pasta.
Your pasta salad is bland for two reasons:
1) you did not add salt to the pasta cooking water.
2) the dressing is not tasty/salty enough.
Pasta salad requires more condiment/salt than warm pasta because you eat it cold, often from the fridge, and the cold temperature reduces the dish’s flavor.
To fix a bland pasta salad, you’ve got to add more dressing. This is especially true if you did not add salt to the pasta cooking water. Remember that the sauce for pasta salad should be pretty strong, as the pasta’s cold temperature reduces the dish’s taste.
In some cases, if, for example, you have not added salt to the pasta cooking water, you might have to add salt directly to the pasta salad.
No. It is not required for pasta salad to sit overnight. You can make it and eat it. To increase its flavor, you can make it ahead and let it sit for 30 minutes. This is enough for the flavors to come together.
According to international food safety standards (HACCP), food left out of the fridge for more than 2 hours should not be consumed. This applies to pasta salads as well.
Yes, but make sure you keep into account three things when you change the veggies: 1) colors – you want bright colors that go well together, 2) textures – you want a mix of crunchy, soft, and creamy, 3) flavors – you want a sweet, acidic, and umami.
Baked vegetables are also delicious in this pasta salad. Check out our Roasted Vegetables for inspiration.
Make ahead: you can make this vegan pasta salad up to 2 days in advance.
If you do so, I recommend doubling up the dressing and bringing half with you to add shortly before the pasta salad is served. This is because the pasta will absorb most of the dressing as it sits in the fridge.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in the fridge, preferably in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.
Freezer: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.
More Salad Recipes
If you enjoy eating salads as a main meal, check out these easy pasta salad recipes:
For many more salad ideas, check out our salads category page.
Vegan Pasta Salad
- 9 ounces farfalle pasta uncooked, or rotini, fusilli, penne
- 1 can (15-ounces) cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1 heaping cup cucumber diced
- ½ cup olives halved
- ½ cup corn
- 1 shallot or red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- 15 leaves basil optional
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice + grated zest of ½ lemon, optional
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as per package directions.Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds to avoid overcooking.Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, and give it a mix.
- Chop the veggies and add them to the bowl with the pasta.
- To a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well.Alternatively, add all ingredients to a small mason jar, close it, and shake well.
- Pour the dressing onto the other ingredients and toss.Taste and adjust for salt. You can now serve the pasta salad or store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Serving Suggestions
- Five mistakes to avoid when making pasta salad
- More Salad Recipes
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