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Easy Vegan Pasta Salad Recipe

This easy vegan pasta salad recipe is fun, colorful, and absolutely delicious! The fun colors make it a favorite for kids, and all of the veggies and cold pasta make it nutritious and perfect for summer dinners, picnics, potlucks, and more!

Originally Published: August 5, 2018

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Cold summer pasta salad on white oval serving dish with wooden spoons surrounded by more tomatoes and parsley.

 If you’re looking for a quick and easy vegan pasta salad recipe this summer, then you’ll love the recipe below! Just cook up some fun rainbow rotini pasta, chop some veggies, and toss them together!

Or, if you’re looking for more vegan & kid friendly pasta recipes, be sure to check out my other kid approved vegan recipes, such as lazy vegan no-bake ziti, easy vegan mac & cheese, and chickpea broccoli pasta.

Rest assured, this recipe is easy!

With being a bit of a health nut, vegan, and having picky eater children. I wanted to make this recipe as simple and as easy as possible to make.

So, enjoy the simplicity and ease of making this quick dinner; whether it’s during the chaos hour of the day (right before the kids eat dinner) or for a get together with friends and family late this summer!

Ingredients for the Best Vegan Pasta Salad to Bring on a Picnic

Ingredients used in cold vegan pasta salad in white bowls on a white wood table.

Rainbow Rotini Pasta: Rainbow rotini pasta is always my go-to for this pasta salad. It makes it even more colorful and fun for kids, and the texture of this type of just is simply right!

Grape Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes are great for pasta salad, since they’re so small they only need to be cut in half or quartered. Don’t try to replace these with larger tomatoes, you won’t get the same outcome!

Red Onion: Red onions help offset the tomatoes and vice versa. They can be left out if you hate raw onions, but then you might as well omit the tomatoes, too.

Cucumber: Cucumbers are cold and refreshing, and that is exactly what the cucumber brings to this pasta salad. It’s a must have if eating this in the summertime!

Corn: Corn brings a little sweetness into the mix of this salad. You can omit it if need be, just know it won’t be as sweet without it, and it’s perfectly alright if that’s what you prefer. 

Bell Pepper: Bell peppers bring a bit of a crunch to this salad. Use any color bell pepper you want, or that you have on hand.

Basil OR Parsley: Fresh herbs make this pasta salad more flavorful, but if you’re making this for kids, such as picky eaters, then feel free to omit this, as it could be just one more thing they pick at.

Italian Salad Dressing: To bring the salad all together and make it easier to eat, you need some type of dressing. Italian dressing is perfect for this pasta salad!

Make sure the Italian dressing you choose is vegan. I’ve found some are, and then others have egg in them, like the Olive Garden brand dressing. So, just be sure to read ingredient labels before purchasing your dressing.

Substitutions, Additions, & Omissions

Other Pastas: If you don’t have rainbow rotini, try regular rotini, bow tie pasta, penne, or another type similar in size. I do not recommend tiny pasta like orzo or long pasta like spaghetti.

Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes or other small tomatoes can be substituted for grape tomatoes.

Other Onions: If you don’t have, or don’t like, red onions, feel free to sub in any other type of onion here, even green onions would do well in this recipe.

Other Peppers: Tread lightly on the type of pepper you choose if you’re not accustomed to hot food, like me! I choose bell peppers because they’re sweet, not hot and spicy, and I only have one child who claims to like spicy food. But, the type of pepper you choose is up to you.

Other types of Veggies: Other veggies can be added in or substitute the veggies in this recipe. For example, use peas instead of corn, or add shredded cabbage or carrots to you. Customize this recipe as you please!

Fruit: When I originally made this recipe, when my oldest was still a toddler, it looked very different; we added fruit! Specifically, we added diced apples and pears, and omitted the corn, bell pepper, herbs, and even the dressing! 

If you have little ones and are unsure if they’ll eat some of the veggies, sub them out for some apples and/or pears, or another fruit you know they’ll like so your food doesn’t go to waste.

Different Herbs: Herbs can be omitted altogether, or sub in cilantro, or another herb of your choice.

Other Dressings: The dressing can be subbed out for lemon juice if you’re trying to avoid oil. Or, if oil isn’t the problem, you can add some olive oil to the pasta when you’re done rinsing it, and then add a little lemon juice before serving.

Also, feel free to use your favorite dressing in place of the Italian dressing.

This easy vegan pasta salad recipe is great for customizing for your own families preferences, leave a comment if you sub out an ingredient for something else, whether it’s a substitute from above or not; I’d love to know how your family likes it.

If you’re looking for another flavor profile in a pasta salad, then be sure to try this pesto pasta salad!

How to Make Cold Vegan Pasta Salad

Step one: You’ll want to start by cooking the pasta.

I hope you know how to cook pasta. But, if you don’t, or if you’re trying to teach your kids to cook and want a ‘how to’ guide for them; start by boiling the water, and add a pinch of salt. Then add the pasta in and stir once in a while, while it’s cooking.

You’ll know it’s done by chewing a piece to make sure it’s not too hard.

Drain and rinse under cold water, this helps to reduce the starch and having it be gross the next day if you’re able to save any for later.

Then add to a serving bowl, or container, and allow to cool without a lid.

Top photo is cooked rainbow rotini pasta being held up on a light teal spoon over a white dutch oven, to show it's done. Bottom photo: cooked rotini pasta in a bowl with a halved cherry tomatoes and diced cucumbers.

Step two: Chop the veggies!

While the pasta is cooling, start chopping or dicing up the produce for this easy pasta salad recipe.

Start by rinsing the grape tomatoes and slicing them in half or into quarters, depending on how long they are. Then add to the cooled pasta, or to another bowl if the pasta is still really hot.

Then peel and slice the red onion. Cut the slices in quarters and add in with the tomatoes.

Next, peel and slice the cucumber. Cut the slices in quarters and add in with the tomatoes and onion.

Then dice the bell pepper and add in with the other veggies.

Add the corn into the mix with the veggies. If using frozen corn, be sure to cook them first. If using canned, simply strain them and add them in.

By now, the pasta should be cool enough for you to add the veggies into the serving bowl, if you haven’t already.

Top photo: all of the ingredients for pasta salad, besides the dressing, in a bowl styled so you can see everything. Bottom photo: all of the pasta salad ingredients stirred together.

Step three: Finely chop your parsley if not already chopped, add into the pasta salad mixture. Then toss the salad.

Step four: Add the dressing and toss the salad again, making sure to cover all of the ingredients in the dressing. Then either allow to chill and have the pasta salad soak in the dressing, or enjoy as is!

Close up photo of Italian dressing being poured onto the vegan pasta salad.

More Vegan Pasta Salad Tips

  • Be sure to rinse the pasta under cool water, this ensures the starch that makes leftover pasta gross doesn’t form, and it helps to cool it down faster.
  • For best results, chill your pasta salad in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This helps the ingredients soak in the dressing and become even more delicious. You may need to add more dressing after chilling.
  • Customize to your liking, BUT keep the ingredients fresh! Vegetables in this dish should be cold, so no using vegetables that need to be roasted, boiled, or steamed and taste best warm.
  • Add fruit to sweeten it up for kids! Diced apples and pears are best!
  • Have picky eaters? Make them a mini pasta salad with only the ingredients they want before making the pasta salad for everyone else.
  • NEVER freeze this dish! Pasta doesn’t freeze well, and neither do cucumbers!
  • Do not let sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, this is a food safety thing, just don’t do it.

How to Serve this Dish

This dish is best served COLD!

You can certainly eat it right when you’re done making it, but it’s best to let it chill in the fridge for an hour and soak in the dressing before serving, preferably with even more fresh dressing on top.

If bringing on a picnic or to a potluck, keep in a cooler with ice until it’s time to serve, this will keep it fresh and tasting it’s best when it’s time to eat!

This pasta salad can be served as a main dish or as a side.

Close up of half a bowl of vegan Italian pasta salad.

How to store leftovers

Store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container.

DO NOT store at room temperature.

DO NOT FREEZE!

FAQ’s

How long does this vegan pasta salad last?

Store in the fridge for up to one week. Because of the pasta, this recipe will not freeze well.

Can I substitute another vegetable for one in the ingredient list I dislike?

Of course! This recipe is easily customizable, feel free to make it your own!

Is there another type of pasta I can use if I don’t have, or can’t find, rotini?

Yes! Any pasta similar in size to rotini, such as penne, rigatoni, or even farfalle (bow tie), or elbows would work perfectly fine!

Do I have to rinse the pasta after it’s cooked?

It’s not a rule that you have to, but rinsing pasta with cold water after it’s cooked and drained will help cool it down and remove some of the starch, preventing the sticky film that you can sometimes get on pasta when it’s saved in the fridge overnight.

Do I have to use Italian dressing?

No, if you do not like Italian dressing, feel free to choose one you do like, or use a vinegar, or even just some lemon juice. Or, omit the dressing all together.

Pasta salad on a fork in the foreground with the serving dish of pasta salad in the background blurred out.

More Vegan Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Overhead view of pasta salad in a blue bowl with the white serving tray at the top left and other ingredients surround the main bowl.

Easy Vegan Pasta Salad Recipe

Shawna Clapper
This easy vegan pasta salad is the perfect, easy dinner for summer! No turning on your oven to get that flavorful,  nutrient dense, satisfying meal your body is actually craving! Plus, it will easily look beautiful at any potluck with all of the colors and saves well, too.
4.34 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 12 cups

Equipment

  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • cutting board
  • Tongs or Large Wooden Spoons to toss the salad

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box Rotini Pasta bonus if it’s rainbow
  • water to cook pasta
  • 1 cup Grape Tomatoes halved or quartered
  • 1 Red Onion sliced & quartered
  • 1 Cucumber sliced and quartered
  • 1/2 cup Corn canned or frozen
  • 1 Bell Pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Italian Dressing

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to box, rinse under cold running water, then allow to cool. 
  • Chop your vegetables and parsley while the pasta cooks if they aren’t already chopped.
  • Add the pasta and the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl and stir well, adding the dressing last.
  • Enjoy right away or set in the fridge for at least an hour and enjoy with a little more dressing!

Video

Notes

*It is fine to use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes.
*Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Keyword easy pasta salad recipe, vegan pasta salad
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