This tahini pesto pasta salad is made with an untraditional, tahini-based pesto. It’s oil free, easy to prepare, and super creamy! A perfect make-ahead dish for summer gatherings or cookouts.
This is one of those recipes that felt incredibly obvious to me once I’d made it. I love tahini on anything and everything. I’m a big fan of homemade, vegan pesto. And I could eat pasta salad all summer long. How had I never thought to combine all of these things?!
My curried tahini pasta salad proved to me that tahini is a great creamy base for pasta salads. It’s a little more nutritious than vegan mayo, but still tasty and accessible. And tahini and fresh herbs are always a winning combination, as lots of my favorite dressings go to show.
This tahini pesto pasta salad will be on repeat all through the summer, with new vegetables appearing as they come into season. It’s delicious, easy, and it’s pretty perfect for all of your warm weather potlucks and gatherings, 4th of July festivities included.
Traditional pesto is made with olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It’s almost vegan, but for the cheese. So my version of pesto has always included nutritional yeast in place of the cheese.
And, now that I’ve tried tahini pesto, I know that I’ll be making it very often!
To make tahini pesto, you simply replace the fat traditionally provided by olive oil with tahini. It’s a different kind of pesto for sure: thicker, more creamy. But it has that characteristic pesto flavor from the basil and nutritional yeast. I like to add some lemon juice for brightness.
It’s easiest to make the tahini pesto in a food processor. A blender will work, too, but I find that a food processor is more effective for a rich sauce like this one.
When I first made this sauce, I was worried that the tahini might add a bitterness to the pesto. I’m happy to say that it doesn’t! I find the pesto to be nicely balanced, especially once it’s tossed with pasta and other ingredients.
As with most pasta salad recipes, the ingredients for the tahini pesto pasta salad are somewhat flexible. You could use different summer vegetables as add-ins, if you like. I really enjoy the combination of grape or cherry tomatoes, peas, and zucchini half moons.
I think that broccoli florets, fresh, chopped arugula, corn, and summer squash would also be lovely in the pasta salad.
I especially like to pile the tahini pesto pasta salad on top of a bed of fresh baby greens. If you’d like to make it a side dish at dinnertime, you can serve it with some grilled or baked tofu or seitan and a crisp little salad.
The pasta salad is also a fun component for a make-ahead vegan lunch box. Serve it with some fresh veggies (cucumber spears, carrot sticks, etc.), maybe a protein component (like baked tempeh cubes or tofu fingers), and some fruit or a vegan treat to finish off the meal.
The tahini pesto can be prepared up to two days in advance of mixing the pasta salad up. The pasta salad leftovers, meanwhile, keep very well for a few days. You can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days once the salad is prepared.
Yes! Tahini pesto can be frozen, just like regular pesto can be. I freeze mine in small mason jars, but an ice cube tray is also a handy vessel for doing this.
If you’re a fellow tahini addict, the tahini pesto pasta salad is worth your time. Even if you don’t use the pesto in a pasta salad, it’s a great sauce for grilled veggies or grain bowls. It’s a perfect way to savor the flavors of summer! Hope you enjoy it.