This vegan pasta salad with homemade zesty Italian dressing is about to be your summer go to! Quick lunches or dinners, BBQs, and more! This simple 20 minute dish will blow you and guests away. Can be made Top 8 Allergen Free (including gluten free).
Some people love the summer. There’s so much fun to be had– pools, beaches, get togethers, vacations, and so much more. Many people, though, dread cooking in the summer. They want easy, quick meals that are going to be filling and please a crowd if needed. This Italian vegan pasta salad does just that.
In fact, this pasta salad makes roughly 4 ½ pounds of food! There’s plenty to feed a crowd. Sound like too much? Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to make a smaller amount if needed below.
This vegan pasta salad recipe contains 11 total ingredients and is ready in just about 20 minutes. It can be a completely gluten free pasta salad if needed and we’ll even discuss how it can be Top 8 Allergen friendly too!
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WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU NEED FOR ITALIAN VEGAN PASTA SALAD?
Below are notes about the ingredients before we get into the full recipe located lower in this post on how to make the best dairy free pasta salad:
For this vegan Italian pasta salad recipe, we combine a variety of fresh vegetables with pasta and delicious homemade zesty Italian dressing. The combination is married perfectly together for a delicious meal. The ingredients that you need are:
- tri-color rotini – rotini is easy to pick up and be bite size and the spiral shapes hold sauce well, but the tri-color makes the color of this pasta salad pop even more and a real conversation point!
- cherry tomatoes – a little acid and a burst of flavor! The texture of cherry tomatoes is great for pasta salad because they don’t break down as easy as dicing a large beefsteak tomato
- red, green, orange, and yellow bell pepper – we love the use of all four colors of peppers because it looks prettier, but also all four colors have slightly different tastes
- cucumber – cucumbers are a great and budget friendly addition to pasta salads, but they also boost hydration which is great on a hot day
- Block Vegan “Cheddar” and “Mozzarella” – shredded cheese has anti-caking agents on them that turn the dressing clumpy and makes it overall feel grainy
- Vegan Parmesan – You can use store bought or our Homemade vegan Parmesan that is cashew or sunflower based
- and our homemade zesty Italian dressing which is oil and vinegar based – love love love making this dressing from scratch. It’s so much more flavorful than store bought!
Substitutions and variations:
- Pasta – Any small bite size pasta will work like penne, elbow or cavatappi noodles. If you only have long noodle we recommend that you break them in half before cooking so it’s not so long
- Tomatoes – Rainbow grape tomatoes (yellow, red, and orange) are fun for this. Alternatively, if you need to omit tomatoes for allergy or personal preference
- Peppers – feel free to only use one or two colors if that’s all you have
- Other Vegetables – While we feel like this is the perfect pasta salad, you can get creative and add in any vegetables that you like – diced cauliflower or broccoli, carrots, zucchini, peas, etc.
- Vegan Cheese – We use a mix of cheddar and mozzarella, but you can use one or swap some with other blocks like vegan pepperjack or gouda
- Dressing – feel free to use store bought if needed. Also you can use traditional Italian and not zesty if you don’t want the little kick that zesty gives
Tips for how do you make vegan pasta salad:
- This pasta salad is so easy and it just needs to be thrown together and you can eat it immediately. It is great for meal prep as it will last all week. While you can eat it immediately; allowing the pasta salad flavors to merry together for while is helpful for building flavor.
- Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water as soon as the pasta is done. Do not overcook the pasta.
- This can be prepped ahead if serving at a cookout or lunch or dinner party.
- Chopping your vegetables smaller is best. That way when eating you get a little bit of everything.
- You can serve this immediately, but we like to let sit in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight to let the flavors merry together and make sure everything is the same temperature. It is supposed to be a vegan cold pasta salad.
Frequently Asked Questions:
This deliciously easy vegan pasta salad, is actually best prepped the day ahead of time. Pasta salad is always better the next day in case you hadn’t heard that one! All the flavors really have time to merry together and enhance the flavor of the dish.
If you need to prep it more than that, I would recommend that earlier in the week, you can make the vegan pasta salad dressing, as well as prep cutting up all the cheese and vegetables, but wait until 24 hours before head to actually cook the pasta and put everything together.
This vegan pasta salad is best served cold; however, with that being said, there’s no reason that if someone wanted to warm it up for a few seconds because they don’t like cold pasta, they could.
You don’t want to cook it in a pot or anything, but 30-60 seconds in a microwave just to heat through, would be fine.
The great thing about living in this time is that you have so many gluten free pasta options. You can easily make this gluten free by just switching out the pasta for your favorite gluten free brand. You can even try a mixture of chickpea and red lentil varieties to give you the same color type of pattern as we did in ours.
For the vegan parmesan cheese, use our sunflower parmesan version in the recipe card to make it nut free.
Lastly, the hardest part, about making this a top 8 free recipe, is the vegan cheese. The best thing to do is omit the cheese altogether if you have multiple allergies. You can usually find ones that are soy free or nut free but not often together, especially not in a block form at this time.
We do not recommend shreds for this recipe if they appear to have a lot of the anti-caking agent on them.
This dairy free pasta salad recipe will last in the refrigerator for 7 days. Beyond that, the cucumbers will begin to break down and be soggy and the dish is just no long as good. Feel free to make a smaller amount of this vegan dish if you don’t think that you can finish in within a few days.
Yes. This vegan pasta salad does need to be refrigerated. It contains vegan cheese and other fresh vegetables that are best stored once put together with the vegan pasta salad dressing inside the fridge.
If you read above, you’ve seen that the dish actually makes around 4.5lbs of food. If you are going to a potluck, summer holiday party or more, this is a great dish to take as it will feed a crowd.
However, if you are just trying to make this dish for yourself and your family for a few days or the week, then you likely don’t need 4.5lbs of pasta.
Unless, however you are like a few friends of mine that have 4, 5 and more children. In that case, you probably do.
In any event, you can absolutely make a smaller amount. The easiest way is just to cut everything in half. You can do that using the slider bar in the recipe card below.
This vegan pasta salad dish is not suitable to freeze and unthaw. The best way to use this dish is to make a smaller portion that you can eat within 7 days.
Yes! If you are trying to save even more time, you can just pick up a bottle of premade Zesty Italian Dressing. We do love the taste of our homemade one and believe that it tastes more fresh. However, we also understand the need for doing this in a hurry also.
Just pour in 1 ½ cups bottled dressing in place of the homemade dressing and continue with the recipe as normal.
As always, please ensure the ingredients on the label are safe for your family. Please note: this is note the same as normal Italian dressing, you want Zesty Italian.
What goes with vegan Italian pasta salad?
A great thing about this vegan pasta salad is that it’s a complete meal on it’s own. However, you may be going somewhere or having people over and want to have other things with it. Some great options are:
- Vegan Chicken Salad
- The Best Vegan Black Bean Burger
- Vegan Italian Meatballs
- Dairy Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust
- Vegan BBQ Seitan
- Grilled Vegan Jackfruit Tacos
- Smoked Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Grilled Vegan Stuffed Poblano Peppers
- Vegan Sausage and Peppers Sandwich
WHAT OTHER VEGAN SIDE DISH IDEAS COULD I MAKE?
We love love love sides. They are the best parts of the meal! Here’s some of our favorite recipes:
Pin this vegan pasta salad for later:
Italian Vegan Pasta Salad
Vegan Zesty Italian Pasta Salad Dressing
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 juice from a whole lemon
- 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ⅛ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ tsp paprika
For the Vegan Pasta Salad
- 1 lb tri-color rotini, cooked according to box instructions (sub for GF pasta)
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ red pepper, diced into small cubes
- ½ orange pepper, diced into small cubes
- ½ yellow pepper, diced into small cubes
- ½ green pepper, diced into small cubes
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced and halved (skin left on)
- 4 oz vegan mozzarella, cubed (sub for shreds or omit)
- 4 oz vegan cheddar, cubed (sub for shreds or omit)
- ⅛ cup vegan Parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ cups homemade Zesty Italian Dressing (recipe above or sub for bottled Zesty Italian Dressing)
- Combine all the ingredients for the pasta salad dressing into a bowl and place in refrigerator until ready.
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and cool.** We use a tri-colored rotini because it’s more colorful, but feel free to use your favorite.
- While waiting for it to cool, chop up all vegetables and vegan cheese.
- When the pasta is cool, add in all the chopped vegetables and remaining ingredients.
- Stir until very well combined.
- Serve immediately,or let sit in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight to let the flavors merry together (preferred method). Serve remaining zesty Italian dressing on the side.
Let’s see your creations!
Share to Instagram and tag us @makeitdairyfree so we can see and share it!
This post was originally published on 5/13/19 and updated on 5/21/2020, and again on 6/4/2021.
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