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This Vegan Macaroni Salad will be a hit at your next summertime gathering. Made with a rainbow of crisp veggies and al dente elbow noodles that are finished with a creamy and zesty dressing. It's easy to make and impossible to resist!
It's just not summertime without a big bowl of Vegan Macaroni Salad on the table. Don't you agree?
I make it all summer long for backyard barbecues, picnics, potlucks, and beach days. It's always the first to disappear, right next to the vegan potato salad.
It's comforting, yet refreshing and cooling with its crisp veggies, al dente macaroni, and a tangy-sweet dressing. Who can resist?
- Macaroni: While elbow macaroni is traditional, you can use other pasta shapes like penne or rotini for a fun twist.
- Veggies and Herbs: I used red bell pepper, celery, dill, and red onion. Feel free to add your favorites such as peas, carrots, green onions, parsley, chives, or cucumbers.
- Dill Pickles: These are optional but add a wonderful zing to the dish. You can also use dill relish.
- Vegan Mayo: Mayo is the creamy base of the dressing, but you can lighten it up with a combination of mayo and unsweetened vegan Greek yogurt.
- Pickle Juice: This adds a wonderful flavor to the macaroni, but it's optional. You don't need to replace it with anything else, but you may want to bump up the lemon juice or vinegar.
- Lemon Juice and Vinegar: I used a combination of apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice. If you don't have apple cider vinegar, you can use red wine vinegar.
- Dijon Mustard: Regular yellow mustard works too if you prefer a milder flavor.
- Agave Syrup: Maple syrup works or any type of sweetener. Just make sure to whisk well if you're using granulated sugar.
- Garlic and Onion - I used dried garlic/onion granules. If you use fine powder, I would reduce the amount in the recipe. You can also use 1-2 grated cloves of fresh garlic and add it to the dressing.
How to make it
Making macaroni salad couldn't be easier and it's so easy to adjust to taste. Here's how to do it:
- Cook the pasta according to package directions then rinse under cold water. In a small bowl whisk all dressing ingredients until combined.
- In a large bowl add the macaroni, chopped veggies, pickles, and chopped dill.
- Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Chill for 1-2 hours. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
Expert Tips and Tricks
To ensure your dish is a smashing success, here are some expert tips and tricks:
Al Dente Pasta: Cook your macaroni noodles just until they're al dente, which means they should still have a slight bite to them. Overcooked noodles can turn mushy in the salad.
Chill Out: Let your salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours before serving. This gives the flavors a chance to meld and intensify, resulting in a more delicious dish.
Taste and Adjust: Don't hesitate to taste the salad before serving and adjust the seasonings if needed. You might want to add a pinch more salt or a dash of pickle juice or lemon juice to suit your palate.
Customize Your Veggies: Feel free to experiment with different veggies based on your preferences. Chopped cucumber, peas, or even edamame can add a unique twist.
Fresh Herbs: While fresh dill is the star in the classic recipe, you can explore other herbs like parsley, chives, or cilantro for a fresh burst of flavor.
Absolutely! In fact, making it a day ahead allows the flavors to meld for an even tastier salad.
Just use gluten-free pasta, and ensure your other ingredients are also gluten-free if you're very sensitive.
If you want a mayo-free dressing, you'll love this cashew-based version. Just replace the mayo with 1 ¼ cups raw cashews, 1 ¼ cups unsweetened non-dairy milk, and ⅓ cup unsweetened vegan Greek yogurt (or a thick variety). Everything else is the same in the written recipe below. Here's how to put it together:
If you don't have a high-powered blender, you will need to soak the cashews for 3-4 hours (discard soaking water when finished). Add all the dressing ingredients (including the ones in the written recipe below) to a high-powered blender and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Follow the remaining recipe instructions as written below.
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Vegan Macaroni Salad
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni
- Olive oil for drizzling on macaroni
- 1 cup red bell pepper , diced (1 small pepper)
- 1 cup celery , diced (about 2-3 stalks)
- ½ cup red onion , diced, and soaked in cold water for 10 minutes.
- ½ cup diced dill pickles
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh dill (more for garnish)
- Paprika and fresh cracked pepper , for garnish
- Large bowl
- Place pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook until al dente and according to package directions. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking, then drain well and drizzle with oil. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients until combined. The dressing will look thin but it will coat the noodles perfectly and thicken up in the fridge.
- In a large bowl, add the macaroni, chopped veggies, pickles, and chopped dill. Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Chill for 1-2 hours, tossing again midway through. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Top with more fresh dill, paprika, and fresh cracked pepper and serve.