Vegan pasta salad is made with a creamy mayo dressing. This veg-heavy dish includes cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, and carrots. Tote it along to your warm weather cookouts, picnics, and potlucks. Plus, it can easily be made gluten-free!
Pasta salad is a summertime classic. Keep a container in the cooler for your picnic. Or bring it along to the family reunion & cookout. Pasta salad is always a hit with vegans & non-vegans alike. It feels familiar and easy.
This ranch-style vegan pasta salad reminds me of the one my mom would buy from the grocery store deli when I was growing up. With big slices of cucumber, radishes, and carrots, it has plenty of crunch & freshness. While a creamy mayo dressing adds tang and coziness.
Of course, mayonnaise usually isn’t vegan. But it’s easy to find eggless mayonnaise in most grocery stores. Vegenaise is my preferred brand, but any will do.
And remember, pasta salad isn’t just for cookouts! I also like to halve the recipe & use it for meal prep. It’s really convenient to have a pasta salad waiting in the fridge when hunger strikes.
Can it be made gluten free?
Absolutely! The only gluten-full ingredient in this side dish is the pasta itself. Choose a gluten-free pasta, and you’re good to go. When making this dish, I’ve used both whole wheat and gluten-free fusilli, made with brown rice & quinoa. Both work great!
The most important thing is insuring that the pasta isn’t overcooked. Start checking on the doneness of the pasta in the waning minute or two of its cooking time. Since it will be soaking in a mayo dressing, it will continue to soften.
Can you make it ahead of time?
100%. Pasta salad gets better as the vegetables soften & flavors meld. So while you can eat it right away, I recommend making it several hours or a day before you need it.
If you’re making it ahead of time, you can add ⅔ of the dressing right away, and then add the remaining ⅓ just before serving. Since the pasta will absorb some of the dressing, it will leave you with a saucier & more flavorful pasta salad if you refresh it just before serving.
Pasta salad will last for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator in a covered container. I do not recommend freezing it.
How to make vegan pasta salad
Start by boiling pasta according to the package directions. Remember to salt the water generously! Once it’s al dente, drain in a colander, and rinse with cool water.
In a bowl, combine the following dressing ingredients:
- Vegan mayo
- Apple cider vinegar
- Non-dairy milk
- Dried parsley
- Dried basil
- Granulated onion
- Minced garlic (A Microplane zester works best!)
- Salt & pepper
In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained pasta with thinly sliced radishes, cucumbers, carrots, and chopped bell pepper.
(I prefer a brightly colored bell pepper in orange, yellow, or red. But green is fine too!)
Stir in the dressing. Add more salt to taste. If you’d like more tang, add another splash of apple cider vinegar.
Make it your own
You can make this pasta salad your own by varying the noodles or vegetables, changing the seasonings, and adding some protein-rich ingredients.
Instead of fusilli, use any short pasta. Penne, rotini, farfalle, or shells work beautifully. Small pasta is easy to scoop at a potluck. And the shape of small noodles traps all of that delicious sauce.
Swap out or add any bite-sized vegetables you like. Peas, onions, olives, celery, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, or pepperoncini would all be great here. If you plan on adding a lot of extra veg, think about doubling the dressing.
You can swap out Persian cucumbers for the more typical garden variety. But remember that Persian cucumbers are skinnier & shorter. (They’re usually just five or six inches long.) Plan accordingly & use less.
If you’d prefer, you can use fresh herbs instead of dried. Dried herbs have are a more intensified flavor. So with fresh herbs, you’ll use a chopped Tablespoon of each instead of a teaspoon.
Vary the herbs by adding dill or oregano. Or replace the parsley & basil with an equal amount of Italian seasoning.
To push this salad into meal territory, add chopped vegan deli slices like Tofurky and non-dairy cheddar. With bits of vegan turkey & cheese, it really scratches that nostalgia itch from 1980’s cookouts. It’s also terrific with diced seitan chicken, vegan feta cheese, roasted chickpeas, and/or vegan bacon bits.
What to serve with it
This pasta salad goes with anything on the menu at a vegan potluck, picnic, or cookout. It works well beside a store-bought veggie burger. But it can also be a satiating side to a green salad – like the yin and yang of sides.
Serve it alongside these main course or side dishes:
- Grilled tofu with lemon & rosemary
- Vegan fried chicken
- Vegan BBQ sandwich
- Buffalo grilled corn on the cob
- Grilled vegetable skewers
- Grilled Portobello mushrooms
- Air fryer asparagus
Vegan pasta salad
- 16 ounces fusilli pasta gluten-free, if needed
- Generous pinch salt plus more to taste
- 1 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Dash pepper
- 4 carrots thinly sliced
- 4 Persian cucumbers thinly sliced
- 16 radishes thinly sliced
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions, along with a generous pinch of salt. Once the pasta is al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine vegan mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, non-dairy milk, dried parsley, dried basil, granulated onion, minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and dash of pepper.
- Put drained fusilli pasta into a large mixing bowl. Add sliced carrots, Persian cucumbers, radishes, and chopped bell pepper.
- Pour mayo dressing over the pasta and vegetables. Use a spoon to get everything evenly combined. Taste for salt, and add more if necessary. If you'd like a tangier pasta salad, add another splash of apple cider vinegar.
- The pasta salad can be eaten right away. Or for best results, move it to a covered container & refrigerate for several hours. The vegetables will soften & flavors will meld over time.