This creamy avocado macaroni salad recipe is perfect for summer gatherings! A classic vegan macaroni salad with a dairy free, avocado sauce.
What spells summer more than a big bowl of macaroni salad?!
More and more, I find myself gravitating toward nostalgic dishes. This was especially true during Covid, when so few things felt solid and secure. Macaroni salad was a childhood favorite of mine, and this creamy avocado macaroni salad is a delicious tribute to it.
I’ve made vegan macaroni salad a few times before, but I’ve always taken the easy route of using vegan mayo as a base. Nothing wrong with that, of course! However, blended avocado is a delicious, nutritious alternative.
Classic macaroni salad is made with cooked macaroni, vegetables, and a mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s a simple dish to prepare: cook pasta, add mix-ins, add mayo, stir.
Making the avocado macaroni salad recipe is nearly as easy as the classic version. You cook and drain the pasta, blend your avocado-based dressing ingredients together, add veggies, and mix. You can use a food processor or a blender to make the sauce.
The avocado-based creaminess in this macaroni salad isn’t over-the-top. It’s there, but it’s subtle. Plus, avocado is rich in health-supporting nutrients. These include fiber, folate, Vitamin E, potassium, and healthful fats.
I tried a few different versions of the dressing as I was playing around with the recipe. One only included avocado, another avocado and olive oil. Another—the I liked the most—was avocado blended with unsweetened vegan yogurt.
I love the tanginess that the yogurt adds to the sauce! And the consistency of the sauce is perfect for macaroni salad. As an added bonus for those who eat oils sparingly, the sauce is naturally oil free.
The ingredients for the avocado macaroni salad are pretty flexible. You don’t have to use the same vegetables that I used, and there are lots of ways that you could jazz up the sauce. I wanted to keep the dish very simple, and the recipe reflects that.
Here’s what it’s made with:
I used about half of a large, Hass avocado. If you have a smaller avocado, you can just use a little more than half. I give a cup measurement in the recipe!
Any plain, unsweetened, non-dairy yogurt is fine here: almond, cashew, coconut, or soy. My go-to vegan yogurt lately is the Forager brand cashew-gurt, but I’ve used a lot of other yogurts in meals and cooking. Just be sure that the yogurt is unsweetened, as it’ll make the sauce too sweet otherwise.
I often use lemon juice in dressings and sauces like this, but sometimes the lemon can compete with other flavors. I’ve been using white vinegar a lot in dressings lately, originally because it was always on hand at the start of quarantine, whereas lemons tended to run out. But I’m enjoying the fact that it can add acid to a dressing without being overly assertive.
I use elbows in the salad, but another small pasta shape will also be fine! Try the dish with mini shells, tubeti, or even orzo.
I almost always come back to a combination of bell pepper, carrots, celery, and red onion when I make macaroni salad. The proportions fit my tastes: lots of bell pepper, very little onion, but enough to impart some flavor. I think chopped scallions, broccoli florets, peas, and grape tomatoes would all be lovely. And I didn’t add herbs to the recipe, but you certainly could.
Once the avocado macaroni salad is ready, you can store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. This makes it easy to prepare in advance of a gathering, if that suits your schedule.
You can! Macaroni salad, like many pasta dishes, can be frozen. The leftovers of this recipe can stay in the freezer for up to four weeks.
The avocado macaroni salad would fit well into any summer grilling or cookout. If you want to serve it as a side, it would be a great accompaniment to BBQ soy curl sandwiches, sweet potato black bean burgers, or sweet potato red pepper quesadillas.
You can also turn the avocado macaroni salad into a main course by adding some cubed tofu, tempeh, or vegan bacon. Maybe with a slaw or some steamed broccoli on the side.