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Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad

5 from 2 votes

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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.

Vegan pesto pasta salad in a glass mixing bowl with basil, tomatoes, and lemon in background.

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:

  • Penne
  • Rotini
  • Farfalle (Bow Ties)
  • Radiatorre
  • Fussilli
  • Cavatappi

Ingredients for the pesto

Ingredients for oil free vegan 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
  • Garlic
  • 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

Ingredients for vegan pesto pasta 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.
  • 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.

Unblended pesto ingredients in food processor.
Blended pesto in food processor.

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.

Bowl of cooked pasta with pesto added but not mixed in.
Pesto mixed into pasta in large mixing bowl.
Bowl of pesto pasta salad ingredients before mixing together.

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

Serving suggetions

Closeup image of vegan pesto past salad in a glass bowl.

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.

Serve this as a cold pasta salad side dish along with my black bean burgers or chickpea burgers. It’s perfect for bringing to picnics, potlucks, BBQs and other gatherings.

Frequently asked questions:

Can this recipe be made in advance?

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.

How long does this vegan pasta salad keep?

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.

Can I use store bought pesto sauce?

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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Closeup image of vegan pesto past salad in a glass bowl.

Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad

Teresa Sklenicka
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.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian Inspired
Servings 6 to 10
Calories 416 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the pesto

  • 2 packed cups fresh basil
  • 1 packed cup fresh spinach
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon citric acid

For the Pesto Pasta Salad

Instructions
 

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.

Nutrition

Calories: 416kcalCarbohydrates: 60.4gProtein: 20gFat: 11.7gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 455.7mgPotassium: 756.3mgFiber: 7.6gSugar: 4.3gVitamin A: 73.35IUVitamin C: 12.58mgCalcium: 80.29mgIron: 4.62mg
Keyword Oil Free, Pasta, Quick and Easy, Vegan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on August 15th, 2022

About Teresa Sklenicka

I love creating tasty, oil-free, vegan recipes that everyone will love (even non-vegans)! Here you'll find vegan versions of your favorite comfort foods, as well as some new tastes! Join me on a path to improving your health, helping the planet, and saving animals.

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