This vegan macaroni salad is reminiscent of the classic deli style but healthy and made with whole food ingredients. Creamy, easy and simply the best ever!
I could eat this vegan mac salad daily. It's perfect for a picnic, barbecue or just a summer side dish. It may be dairy free, and not made with mayo, but the homemade creamy dressing makes it incredible!
This post was originally published on April 17, 2017.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of truRoots. The opinions and text are all mine.
I use the same creamy dressing flavors in my vegan potato salad, which is also the perfect summer side. it blows my mind how these recipes are not only dairy free but gluten free too!
The classic recipe traditionally uses a mayo type base, so I set out to find a way to make a macaroni salad without mayo, but still have the same tangy creamy flavor that mayo brings. I nailed it, and when mixed with everything else it is spot on! I don't even think it's a stretch to call this the best vegan macaroni salad recipe ever!
Here is what you need to make this creamy macaroni salad:
- Black pepper
Creamy mayo like dressing:
- White beans
- Pickle juice
- Ground mustard seed
This combo makes a perfect mayo like taste and texture that would fool just about anyone! After mixing in the toppings and pasta it was pure joy to shovel into my belly!
How To Make Vegan Macaroni Salad
This is a fairly simple recipe that requires 3 main parts to be made, then mixed and you're done!
- Cook pasta.
- Make the creamy dressing.
- Sauté peppers.
- Add everything into a bowl.
- Mix well, refrigerate to let it get cold if preferred.
What kind of pasta is best?
Because this is a cold type of pasta recipe, I needed a macaroni that kept it's great texture in the fridge. With gluten-free pasta that isn't easy to find. There are a few go-to brands I love and TruRoots pastas are one of them!
The texture is perfect for salads and such that you want to serve later that day or even the next day. Plus they are Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and gluten-free.
Also awesome, they come in Spaghetti, Penne, Elbow, and Fusilli varieties. Woot woot! Because where there is more pasta, there should always be more pasta.
Ideas for Mix-ins
You can definitely change this up to make it your own. The ingredients I use here are to capture that spot on deli flavor, but you can add in even more for a veggie macaroni salad! Here are some ideas:
- Green onions
- Yellow squash
What to Serve with Macaroni Salad
There are so many amazing dishes that go with this healthy macaroni salad! I literally can have it with anything but generally, think picnics and barbecues. Here are some of our faves:
- Potato Salad
- Black Bean Burgers
- Lentil Veggie Burgers
- Vegan Panini
- Portobello Mushroom Steak
- Baked Beans
- Grilled Romaine Salad
- Apple, Arugula and Smoky Tempeh Sandwich
- BBQ Tempeh Sandwich
- BBQ Chickpea Sliders
Tips for Making Ahead
This vegan macaroni salad is a great dish to make ahead of time! In fact, letting it rest in the refrigerator allows the ingredients to marinate together longer, which will allow for even more flavorful bites! Which makes this perfect for a vegan picnic.
- Use a solid pasta brand, some pastas will break down too much as they sit.
- You should only make this a day or two ahead of time as you don't want it to get soggy.
- You can also just prep the parts ahead of time, then make the pasta fresh and mix in everything else day of.
- Keep this macaroni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- It will be best to eat within 2-3 days, but safe to eat for up to 5.
- It will keep out of the refrigerator longer than the traditional mayo filled kind, but you're not going to want it to sit out for more than a few hours. Let's be honest, chilled macaroni salad always tastes better than room temperature!
Usually macaroni salad is made with mayo and sometimes even sugar, making it not very healthy. This recipe however uses all plant based ingredients to make a healthier version!
Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, and technically both are in the pasta salad category. However, macaroni salad has a creamy base, whereas pasta salad the dish is dressed with a vinaigrette.
Technically yes, however it won't be quite as good once defrosted since the texture might change. Your best bet is to mix up the dressing and freeze that separately. When you are ready to serve simply defrost the dressing, give it another blend if it separated, then mix with the pasta!
More Vegan Side Dish Recipes
Whether it's a family cookout at home or a big potluck, these plant based recipes will have everyone coming back for seconds!
- Greek Farro Salad
- Vegan Traditional Greek Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Vegan Watermelon Feta Mint Salad
- Easy Mexican Street Corn Salad
Easy Vegan Macaroni Salad Recipe
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni pasta , or other preferred shape
- 2 cups chopped sweet red/orange/yellow pepper , one kind or a mix
- your favorite oil to sauté , or broth if oil free
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ cup chopped celery
- ¾ cup chopped dill pickles
- ¼ cup dill pickle juice , from the jar
- ¾ cup chopped red onion , soaked in cold water for a few minutes and drained (see note)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup raw cashews , see note
- ¼ cup cooked potato , see note
- ½ cup cooked white beans , rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup water
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice , from the jar
- 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons sea salt , adjust for your preference
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard seed
- ground black pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Once pasta is done, rinse in cold water then add it to the bowl with the veggies below.
- Saute chopped sweet pepper over medium heat using veggie broth or oil and a dash of salt. Cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put celery, red onion, dill pickles, pickle juice and black pepper in a large bowl.
- Next, make the creamy dressing by putting the ingredients into a blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
- Add the creamy dressing to the bowl and mix. Taste and adjust salt as necessary. I needed an extra ½ teaspoon.
- Place in the fridge while you clean up to allow it to get cold and so the flavors can marinate completely.
- Once ready, garnish with ingredients of choice and devour!
- Any sweet pepper variety works, or a combo of all.
- Soaking the onion helps takes the bite out of it. This step is optional but it helps reduce the strong onion flavor.
- I like putting the extra pickle juice in the bowl with the veggies to help them marinate in the flavor while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- If you don’t have a high speed blender, soak the cashews overnight to soften them. You can also boil them for 20-25 minutes if you forget. Another method is using a coffee or spice grinder to grind them dry (not soaking) into a very fine powder.
- I used red potatoes but any starchy potato will work, just don’t use sweet. It also won’t work to substitute with something that is not an actual potato (such as another root vegetable).
- Chop veggies. Saute red pepper. Soak or grind cashews if not using a high speed blender. Cook potato. Make creamy dressing.
- Make sure pasta is well cooked and veggies are finely chopped.
Recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite, visit our site for more great plant-based recipes.
Nutrition and metric information should be considered an estimate.
So so good! My partner and I LOVE this Mac salad. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!
SO happy you liked this Paris!! Thank you so much for trying it!
This macaroni salad was a hit with every kind of eater at my party! Love it!
This is so good! My non-vegan sister couldn't even detect the cashews like she normally does . What a hit!
Awesome Lillian!! So happy she liked it!
I made this salad roughly as you described. I didn't quite have enough cashews, too many white beans, but it still made the best, creamy, silky, flavorful, delicious salad dressing--and therefore the absolute best macaroni salad I have ever had. This includes non-vegan and vegan mayo. It feels light in a good way, not in a, "where is the salad dressing way." Absolute genius recipe! Thank you!!
Oh my gosh, thank you so much Roxanne!! I am so thrilled you guys loved it!!
I was looking for good, healthy, make ahead, vegan recipe. I was skeptical about the dill pickles. I grew up eating my mom's potato salad with sweet pickles (maybe that's not normal?). So I could not have imagined I would like this with the dill pickles. I put everything together, leaving out the pickle juice from the "mayo". I took a scoop out and added sweet pickle. I took another scoop out and added dill pickle and some juice. Wow! I was surprised I really like the version with dill pickle. I did not care for the sweet pickle version. As one reviewer said, it isn't over powering. I ended up adding the dill pickles and some of the pickle juice to make it exactly like your recipe. It is soooo good! I can't wait for my family to try it! I could see using the "mayo" for a lot of other dishes! Great make ahead dish! Thanks for being a consistent go to for my recipes. I should have trusted you from the beginning and just added the pickles!
Thank you so so much Karen!! That means so much to me that you shared! And thank you for the great review!
I used to love macaroni salad but gave it up when I became vegan. I came across this recipe about a year ago and O. M. G. it is completely amazing. My daughter (who was 2.5 at the time) ate bowl after bowl. We loved it so much we made it for a non-vegan crowd as the main dish at her 3rd birthday party, and everyone raved about it and took seconds and thirds.
You make great recipes and I honestly turn to you whenever I need a new dish or to veganize an old favorite. Thank you!
Oh my gosh thank you so so much for the great review! It makes me so happy to hear!
This is so good! I tried it out and it tastes just as good as the traditional, unhealthy macaroni salad!
I had been craving macaroni salad after watching a coworker eat a less healthier version so I went on a mission to find a plant-based, healthier alternative. I made this for the first time last night. It makes a HUGE batch and is soooooo delicious!! The only thing I omitted was the oil; I sautéed my peppers in veggie broth instead.
I'm so happy you liked it!! And yes, the oil free sub with veggie broth is just as great!
Creamy goodness! My only change was sautéing the red onion with the peppers (to cut the sharpness of the red onion) and I added grated carrots because I was a little short of 2 cups of peppers. The "mayo" is sooooo velvety smooth. The pickle taste is perfect, subtle, not overpowering at all. Thank you for sharing!
Wow! I am so happy you enjoyed this! I love the idea of sautéing!
I made this per directions except I put all veggies in fresh without sautéing and I used whole wheat rotini. It will be a go to recipe. Excellent texture of the sauce.
Yay! So happy to hear you like it!
I made this for a potluck family gathering and everybody LOVED it! the hostess (my cousin) asked me if she could keep the rest and of course i said yes, part of that being because i had so much extra at home! i doubled the recipe because it said 6 servings & there was about 30 coming to the gathering. found out they were very generous servings and i could've easily gotten away with one batch! but i'm not complaining about having extra 😉 sooo healthy and filling and so delicious, saving this one for sure!
Thank you so much Lexi!! I'm so happy to hear you liked it! And I am so happy it was a hit!
Ok, I know I am a year late to this party but I HAD TO COMMENT. and I never comment. I knew this would be good, but I didn't know it would be this amazing! I was eating it out of the bowl before I put it in the fridge. I took it to a cookout, set it on the table, and barely had time to get any before it was devoured. We are from the south so macaroni/potato salad is a big deal. There was a few more pasta salads on the table but everyone kept asking what was in mine because it was delicious but they didn't feel crappy after eating it. Major win! I am going to remake it so the hubby and I can eat it all ourselves 🙂 Thank you so much for making healthy living easy, social and fun. I
Oh my gosh Olivia! Thank you so so much!! It's been a rough weekend of failures in the kitchen and this totally cheered me up. I am so happy you love it as much as we do! I too loved traditional macaroni salad but felt so yuck after eating it, which is why I created this one. Thank you for all your support!!
I love macaroni salads as a side in the summer but it is very indulgent. Can't wait to try this healthy version instead!
Hey Sophia, this is a very good recipe, you explain in great detail about the salads making. I can not wait to try at home.
BOOM!!! I just made that. ......It's great. Thanks for the recipe Sophia. Your site is one of our fav go-to recipe idea sites.
Awesome!!! So happy you love this as much as we do!! Thank you for the great feedback!