This Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad is a perfect side dish for summertime picnics and gatherings. It’s made with just a few simple ingredients, is oil free, dairy free, and can easily be made gluten free.
This vegan pesto pasta salad is perfect for all your summertime events – picnics, potlucks, BBQs and other gatherings. It’s best to make when basil and sweet cherry tomatoes are in season!
You can make the pesto and slice the other salad ingredients while the pasta is cooking, making this a quick and easy recipe for busy nights. In can be made from start to finish in 30 minutes or less.
I love this cold pesto pasta salad, but my husband likes to stick his in the microwave for a bit to warm it up. Either way, it’s a delicious light meal or side dish!
What kind of pasta should I use?
Any short shape of pasta will work with this pasta salad. If you are gluten intolerant, be sure to use gluten free noodles. Some shape options are:
- Farfalle (Bow Ties)
Ingredients for the pesto
- Fresh basil
- Fresh spinach
- Raw cashews – if you are allergic to cashews, you can use pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
- Nutritional yeast – for a bit of cheesy flavor
- Lemon juice – fresh squeezed is best, but you can use bottled if fresh lemons are not available.
- Salt and Pepper
- Citric Acid – this helps maintain the vibrant green color of the basil. It is quite strong, so just use a small amount or your pesto will be too tangy.
Ingredients for the salad
- Pasta – you can use any type of pasta you like – regular pasta, whole wheat pasta, or gluten free pasta. I like using pasta with lots of grooves, like rotini, to hold all of that delicious sauce.
- Pesto – I used my homemade Vegan Pesto, but use whatever pesto recipe you desire. My Spinach Pesto recipe would also be delicious!
- Cubed vegan cheese – I used my Oil Free Vegan Mozzarella.
- Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes – I used grape tomatoes because that is what I found at my local grocery store. Homegrown cherry tomatoes are especially good, but you can use any kind of tomato you like.
- Sliced black olives
How to make this pasta salad recipe
Make the Vegan Pesto
Place all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and process until your reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic to taste.
Make the Pasta Salad
Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions.
Step 2: Drain the pasta and rinse in cold water until the pasta is cooled.
Step 3: Transfer the pasta in a large mixing bowl. and add the pesto. Stir together until all the pasta is coated with pesto.
Step 4: Add the cubed cheese, halved tomatoes, and sliced olives and stir to combine.
Substitutions and Variations
This pasta salad is very versatile. You can add just about any ingredient you like. Some ideas are:
- Other greens – instead of spinach, try adding a different green such as kale or parsley
- Other veggies – try sun dried tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, red onion, roasted zucchini, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives instead of black olives, arugala, cucumber, and green peas are all great options.
- Different nuts – instead of cashews, you could use pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pepitas.
- Other Cheese – vegan parmesan is a good alternative to vegan mozzarella.
- Adding protein – some white beans or chickpeas are a great addition
This salad is satisfying enough to serve warm or cold as a main dish. I love to enjoy it in the summertime as a light lunch or dinner.
Frequently asked questions:
Yes. You can either make the complete salad up to four days ahead of time, or you can prepare the individual components of the salad in advance, and mix them together just before serving.
This pasta salad will keep for up to four days refrigerated in an air tight container. This makes it perfect for meal prepping for the week.
Yes, but if you are plant based, be sure to read the label. Most store bought pesto sauce contains dairy, and almost all of them contain oil.
Here are more delicious vegan salads:
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Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad
For the pesto
Make the pesto
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor, and blend until you reach the desired consistency.
- Taste to adjust salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice to your taste preference.
Make the salad
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water until the pasta is cooled.
- Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and add the pesto. Stir until the pasta is completely coated with pesto.
- Add the tomatoes, cheese, and olives, and stir until combined.