This creamy vegan pasta salad is the best! It’s made with a dairy-free, avocado-based sauce, and it’s a perfect dish for summer gatherings.
What spells summer more than a big bowl of pasta 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 vegan pasta salad is a delicious tribute to it.
I’ve made a traditional vegan macaroni salad a few times before, but I’ve always used vegan mayo as a base. Nothing wrong with that, of course! However, blended avocado is a delicious, nutritious alternative.
Classic pasta salad is made with cooked pasta (often macaroni), vegetables, and a mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s a simple dish to prepare: cook pasta, add mix-ins, add mayo, stir.
Making this creamy vegan pasta salad is nearly as easy as making 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 the pasta 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 pasta 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 yogurt, 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.
You can use any type of macaroni/elbows that suits your tastes and needs: regular, whole grain, legume-based, gluten-free, etc.
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.
You absolutely don’t! I’ve made the vegan pasta salad with shells, radiatori, cavatappi, and other shapes. I’d recommend a small or medium pasta shape, but otherwise, it’s up to you.
Once the pasta 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! Pasta 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 vegan 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.
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Wow, I’ve honestly never thought of using avocado as the base of a sauce like this! What a great idea. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
Just made this for 4th of July dinner – it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing a non-dairy version of this salad that is reminiscent of childhood summertime cookouts!
Hooray! So glad that you enjoyed it.
Hello Gena, this recipe looks very yummy! My hubby likes salad very much and I hope he will like this one too! Can’t wait to make it at home for him!!One question, what is the alternative to black pepper?
Hey Annie! You can just omit it.
This looks delicious. I love that it does not contain any oils and can’t wait to try it this weekend!
I hope you enjoy it, Keren!