Try this easy creamy vegan macaroni salad recipe made with fresh, healthy ingredients. Gluten free and perfect for picnics and barbecues!
This recipe tastes just like the classic deli style but it's healthy and made with plant-based ingredients. The homemade dressing is simply the best ever!
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.
This amazing dairy free creamy dressing is also the base of my vegan potato salad, another amazing side dish made healthy!
The classic dressing for macaroni salad 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!
- Black pepper
- 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 the toppings and pasta in the macaroni salad dressing it was pure joy to shovel into my belly!
How to Make Macaroni Salad
This is a fairly simple recipe that requires 3 main parts to be made, then mixed together and you're done!
- Cook macaroni.
- 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?
The classic pasta shape for macaroni salad is in the name, macaroni! However, you can also use other shapes if you want, and call it vegan creamy pasta salad instead!
In order to make this a gluten free macaroni salad, all you need to do is choose your favorite gluten free pasta.
Because this is a cold type of pasta recipe, I needed a macaroni that kept its 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. Load up this vegan macaroni salad with vegetables, herbs, and more for added flavor and nutrition. Here are some ideas:
- Green onions
- Yellow squash
- Fresh dill
- Fresh parsley
- Cubed or shredded cheese - plant based or standard
- Hard boiled eggs (this would make this a recipe for vegetarian macaroni salad)
- Meat eaters can add in chopped bacon, salami, or ham.
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:
How to Make Vegan Macaroni Salad in Advance
This macaroni salad without mayo 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.
- Make the vegan macaroni salad dressing, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Chop the veggies and keep together in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Sauté the peppers up to 3 days in advance.
- The pasta can be boiled up to 2 days ahead of time.
- Day of serving, mix everything and go!
- You can also completely make the macaroni salad, but that should only be done a day or so ahead of time since it will start to get soggy.
- Use a solid pasta brand, some pastas will break down too much as they sit.
- 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 healthy macaroni salad 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.
Typically macaroni salad can be safely refrigerated for up to 3-5 days. See above for more storage tips.
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 Salad Recipes
This macaroni salad without mayo goes to show you can transform all kinds of classic dishes to a plant based version without sacrificing flavor. Whether it's a family cookout at home or a big potluck, these plant based recipes will have everyone coming back for seconds!
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.
While I like pickles on their own this sounds like a lot of pickle juice. Can it be left out without causing major taste problems? Is it really pickle-y?
It does seem like a lot but it really only adds some great tang to the recipe. Keep in mind that when mixed in with noodles, a sauce really loses a lot of flavor. It tastes just like creamy macaroni salad you make with mayo! I suggest trying it as is just once, then taking away if you thing it has too much tang. Let me know what happens!
The Vegan 8
2-3 minutes? Wow! That is fast! I don't think I have ever had a macaroni salad if you can believe it! We had potato salad all the time growing up, but don't recall a macaroni one. This looks like it would be way better anyways and certainly a ton healthier. We are pasta fiends here too, it's one of my favorite dishes to create and eat. We must eat pasta 2-3 times every week, LOL. It's Olivia's favorite type of food to eat! This looks incredible and delicious!
Isn't it crazy? But yes, 2-3 minutes. I was always more of a macaroni salad than a potato salad fan. I think it was a texture thing to me, having the creamy part with cooked potato threw me off. Plus I love pasta! But now I like both, at least those with good recipes. LOL!
Linda from Veganosity
Both hands raised! I LOVE food!! This looks like the macaroni salad of my childhood. I love that it doesn't have any oil in it.
Thank you Linda! It reminds me of childhood too. But I alway remember not loving the mayo taste, so I had to create one that I loved every part of!
Mel | avirtualvegan.com
I haven't had a macaroni salad in ages. It looks great and so creamy! I am loving the look of that macaroni brand too. What great, healthy ingredients. I haven't seen it here yet but we seem to always be last to get everything so perhaps it's on the way. I hope so!
Thanks Mel! It's been a hit at the few parties I have taken it too. No one has any idea it's not mayo or that it's vegan. Ha!
girl, I love Love LOVE pasta salad (yeah, even the *vegan* mayo versions, har!), and was craving some last weekend. have to give your version a try soon - it sounds great!
Haha. I love it too, although I have never been a fan of mayo in general but funny enough I like the vegan mayo much better than the regular. Thanks friend!
Ooo... I love the sound of that dressing! This is a summer potluck must-have!
I absolutely love Macaroni Salad this time of the year...hello BBQ season! This recipe looks so delicious and I love that it's vegan!
Thanks Sarah! It's going to be a summer fave!
This looks delicious! I have vegan family members and this will be perfect for summer get togethers!
You could put this out on a table and nobody would know this was vegan. This looks so delicious!
Always my goal! Thank you!
Sarah Newman, Vegan Chickpea
Oooh this reminds me of being a kid! My mom always made macaroni salad for holidays and I just loved it. Haven't tried making one since being vegan though - thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
I love it too but always felt awful after eating it!
Ali from Home & Plate
Wow...I have never heard of Tru Roots but will keep an eye out for it next time I am shopping. I would love to find a healthy alternative to pasta and this looks like a winner. This macaroni salad looks chock full of goodness and full of flavor.
It's a winner for sure!! Thank you!
I love all of the beautiful ingredients in this salad. This would keep you going for a long time!
I used to LOVE macaroni salad as a kid. We'd get the premade one at Publix when we went to the pool at my Nani Dorothy's house. This reminds me so much of that dish!
You'd love this!! It tastes so much like the original! But super healthy!
Well, now I feel guilty about the traditional, although vegan, pasta salad I made yesterday. LOL!! This looks great and so creamy! I'll have to look for that pasta too. 2-3 minutes to cook? I'm totally down with that!
Lol, sorry about that. But this really is amazing. My husband won't stop eating it. I had to cut him off at easter yesterday because he wasn't going to leave anything for the guests!! And the 2-3 minutes is insanity. It's barely enough time for me to get my pasta strainer out and ready! Ha!
Have you any idea how long this sauce might keep in the fridge, or perhaps even frozen, in order to just have some already made for the times when one needs some mayo-type dressing on hand for a recipe? You know, so that each time I need the dressing I don't have to first cook a potato, cook some beans (or use a cooked bean alternative), etc. All this would be such a deterrent for making a quick bowl of macaroni salad on the fly. I'd love to at least be able to make up a batch of it to have on hand. I'm supposing it would work for any other times when one needs mayo, like on a sandwich or even a tossed green salad, am I right?
Hi Naomi! Yes! I made the dressing early in the week and then had it ready in the fridge for Easter brunch so I could throw the salad together pretty quick! But even if you had to make the dressing it doesn't take long if you microwave the potato and use canned beans. But I think making extra to keep around is a great idea! I'd say eat it within a week. But you could also freeze the extra as well. It may need a stiff whisk, or whirl back in the blender, to get the consistency back after freezing but it will still be good.
Awesome! Thank you so much. I've heard about making vegan mayo with beans and potatoes and cashews and such, but haven't ventured into that arena yet. This may be the motivation I need to get started.
hey! I've made this recipe before and LOVED it! but forgot cashews, any way I can replace them??
Hi Lexi! There really isn't. You could try mimicking one of my cream sauces that uses potato and using white beans or cauliflower but it really won't be the same. I have heard of some people using silken tofu too, but it isn't my favorite.