This Easy Vegan Pasta Salad comes together in 15 minutes. It’s perfect when you need a healthy and tasty dish to bring to a cookout, BBQ, or potluck. It can be made ahead of time for a fast and delicious gluten-free dinner or lunch.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
One of my favorite things to bring to potlucks, barbecues, cookouts, or really any type of gathering, is a vegan pasta salad.
This delightful vegan recipe is:
- Budget-Friendly: Made with mostly pantry ingredients, this simple recipe costs only a few bucks to make. That means it costs less than $1 per serving!
- Easy To Make: This vegan pasta salad recipe is a snap to throw together and can even be made ahead of time so you don't have to spend too much time cooking on the day of the event.
- Versatile: Make this recipe your own! You can add in veggies you know people will love or make it gluten-free by switching the type of pasta you use. Check out the "Variations" section below for even more ways to make this pasta salad perfect for your family!
My Mediterranean-inspired Vegan Pasta Salad relies on mostly pantry ingredients like dried noodles, canned chickpeas, and allium powders. Here's everything you'll need:
While these ingredients are pretty straightforward, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Pasta of Choice - You can use either regular or gluten-free pasta for this recipe. I recommend going with short noodles like farfalle, penne, or rotini; they're just easier to eat with a fork!
- Spinach - Fresh baby spinach leaves are best for this recipe. If you opt for mature spinach, be sure to remove any tough stems and cut or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
- Chickpeas - Popping open a can of chickpeas is one of the fastest ways to incorporate delicious vegan protein to this salad. If you opt for canned beans, be sure to keep the liquid (known as aquafaba) for some tasty vegan bakes! You can also easily make your own cooked chickpeas starting with dried beans instead. If you don't like chickpeas, chose another bean!
- Vegetable Broth - The broth adds a nice kick of flavor and helps keep the pasta moist. If you're short on kitchen space, I highly recommend Better Than Bouillon Veggie Base.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes - These come either packed in oil or dried in a bag. The oil packed ones are more tender from the get-go, but you can always soak the dried tomatoes in your veggie broth to help soften them up. If you don't have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, you can dice up cherry tomatoes to replace them.
- Basil - Look for bright green leaves that do not show blemishes. That is key for fresh delicious basil.
- Kalamata or Black olives - Either variety of olives work in this recipe. Feel free to try them out and see which flavor you prefer. Make sure to pit them before adding them to your pasta salad to protect everyone's teeth.
- Garlic and Onion Powder - These two spices will help to add a few layers of flavor to your pasta mixture.
- Olive Oil - I love heart-healthy olive oil, but you can easily swap in avocado oil instead. You are in control of how much or little you use.
How To Make Vegan Pasta Salad
Simple ingredients and minimal prep is all it takes to make this simple cold pasta salad recipe.
Step 1: Cook Pasta: Start by cooking your pasta as directed on the back of the box.
Step 2: Cook Spinach: Add a bit of water and the vegetable broth to a skillet on the stove. Toss in the spinach to wilt it a bit.
Step 3: Process Veggies: Toss basil and the sun-dried tomatoes in your food processor and pulse to mix it up. You want to chop it up a bit, but not too much. Once chopped, set aside.
Step 4: Prep other Ingredients: Drain and rinse chickpeas and put in a large bowl along with the cooked spinach, olives, and sun-dried tomato & basil mixture.
Step 5: Assemble & Enjoy: When the pasta is done, drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Toss in a bowl, add all the other ingredients. Then toss the pasta salad, and serve!
I love the Mediterranean flavors in this bright and fresh vegan pasta salad, but I know some of these ingredients (like olives or sun-dried tomatoes) are divisive. Here at V Nutrition and Wellness, we want everyone to enjoy, which is where customization comes into play!
Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Change the greens. Spinach is delicious, but it isn't the only option for this tasty pasta salad. Try swapping in peppery arugula or watercress instead.
- Opt for fresh. If sun-dried tomatoes are a little too umami for you, replace them with some brightly acidic chopped cherry tomatoes instead.
- Add some "cheese." Sun-dried tomatoes and olives are a natural pairing for some yummy vegan feta.
- Swap out the olives. I like having pops of salty, briny olives throughout the pasta to add vibrancy. Other options include chopped pickles or cornichons, pickled peppers or beets, or even capers.
- Change up all the veggies. This vegan pasta salad will work well with any number of veggies. Try adding sautéed zucchini or summer squash, roasted eggplant, fresh corn, sugar snap peas, green beans, or any other summer veg you desire.
- Opt for other herbs. If you don't have basil on hand, consider using other fresh herbs like lemony parsley, anise-scented tarragon, fresh mint, or yummy cilantro.
- Chuck the chickpeas. If garbanzo beans aren't your thing, try using a different kind of bean like cannellini, borlotti, or kidney. You can also get your protein from other sources like my grilled tofu, marinated tofu, tofu crumbles, popcorn tofu, vegan chicken, or tempeh crumbles.
Making this vegan pasta salad is a snap, but there are a few tips I wanted to share:
- Salt your pasta water. Adding salt to your pasta water is the *only* opportunity you get to season the actual pasta.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Depending on the shape, brand, and ingredients of your noodles, they'll cook differently. Be sure to reference the packaging they came in and shoot for a perfect al dente texture.
- Serve at room temperature. Super cold pasta can be a little stiff and dense, and cold ingredients usually taste under-seasoned. Let your vegan pasta salad come to a comfortable room temp (around 70F or so) for the best taste and texture. If you're using gluten-free pasta, it might get a little hard so you can always heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.
- Don't fret about oil. You control how little or much you use in terms of oil in this recipe. I like to use just enough to combine the ingredients but oil olive is heart-healthy so use more if you like!
- Add more zing. Feel free to reach for more herbs and spices to flavor your salad. The onion and garlic that I use are my kitchen staples, but feel free to branch out. And don't forget about the power of fresh herbs to bring lots of brightness to the overall dish.
- Acid is your friend. A drizzle of fresh lemon really helps to bring out tons of flavor in the pasta salad. If you don't have fresh citrus on hand, consider using a splash of red wine vinegar instead.
A Note on Nutrition
Pasta salad, whether vegan or not, doesn't always inspire an image of health. That said, I've crafted this recipe to be well-balanced and nutritious!
This recipe only uses a few tablespoons of oil for the whole dish, but feel free to add a little more if you want because extra virgin olive oil is heart-healthy. Check out my Fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between post for more info on healthy fats!
I included chickpeas for an extra kick of protein. Chickpeas also contain fiber, iron, vitamin B6, and important electrolytes like magnesium and potassium.
The olives and sun-dried tomatoes add flavor as well as some healthy fat, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.
Honestly, pasta salad is one of the most versatile dishes. Toss in vegetables, a homemade or store-bought dressing, cheese substitutes, etc.
Store this vegan pasta salad covered in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. When you are ready to eat, give the dish a good toss before serving to incorporate.
To season pasta salad you will find using herbs, spices, and vegetables are what create dimension to the salad. I used garlic and onion for this recipe, along with olive oil as a simple dressing.
If things are tasting a little lackluster, I suggest adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a drizzle of red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar to wake it up.
More Summer Side Dishes
These are some tasty recipes that I make all summer long:
If you make this recipe and LOVE IT, please give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!
Easy Vegan Pasta Salad
- 8 oz gluten free pasta (or regular pasta if not gluten-free)
- 2.5 cups spinach (feel free to add more!)
- 2-3 TB vegetable broth
- 15 oz can chickpeas
- 10 - 12 sun-dried tomatoes soaked in hot water for 5 mins if too hard
- .25 cup fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ cup kalamata or black olives chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 3 TB olive oil (more if needed - evoo is heart healthy!)
- 1 lemon juiced
- Cook pasta to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, add a few tablespoons of veggie broth or water to large pan/skillet . Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.
- Put sun-dried tomatoes and basil in food processor and pulse till chopped. You don't want to do it too much to make it into a paste, you just want it chopped.
- Drain and rinse chickpeas and put in large bowl along with the cooked spinach, olives, and sun-dried tomato/basil mixture.
- When pasta is done rinse with cold water and add to the bowl along with the rest of the ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- The salad will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel confident in creating sustainable habits that align with their values and health goals. She shares easy gluten-free plant-powered food to nourish your body + satisfy your tastebuds. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition info have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.