Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad

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Giving classic pasta salad a makeover with this Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad recipe! Twirly al dente pasta is tossed with cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, kalamata olives & artichoke hearts, & drenched in a deliciously creamy roasted red pepper cashew dressing. This creamy vegan pasta salad is naturally dairy-free & vegetarian, oil-free, easily gluten-free, & super quick & easy to throw together!

Serve it hot, at room temperature, or cold, this creamy Italian pasta salad is perfect for summer entertaining & easy weeknight dinners alike!

Creamy Italian pasta salad served in a large, white enamel bowl with a cherry red rim. The pasta salad is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes & some oregano leaves. The bowl sits atop a white marble surface, next to a red & white striped linen & some fresh oregano leaves.

Pin this Vegan Italian Pasta Salad Recipe for later!

Some SERIOUS goodness in the form of pasta salad is happening today. I think the very definition of “goodness” just might be “pasta salad” because, honestly, what’s not good about…

  • perfect, twirly al dente pasta, tossed with…
  • LOADS of Mediterranean bite-sized goodies like tomatoes, bell pepper, artichoke hearts, & olives, & drenched with…
  • the most DELICIOUS zippy & zesty creamy roasted red pepper dressing (& P.S., it just so happens to be completely dairy-free!)…

In other words, creamy vegan Italian pasta salad is here, &, MAN, it is goooood.

Vegan Italian pasta salad ingredients grouped in a large mixing bowl: pasta, artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, kalamata olives, tomatoes, & red onions. The bowl sits atop a white blue surface, with some fresh oregano leaves scattered around it.

If summer is the season of casual backyard parties & outdoor entertaining (even if socially distanced, like this year!), then I think pasta salad is the dish that totally embodies the season. Perfect for feeding a crowd without much fuss at all & always such a hit – basically, it’s the ultimate sharable.

With more & more of our friends & loved ones discovering food sensitivities or changing their diets to limit consumption of animal products, I love having really great vegan/dairy-free/vegetarian/gluten-free/etc. options to put on our potluck menus that make everyone feel included at the table.

This Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad totally fits the bill. It’s delish, make-ahead friendly, & perfect for weeknight dinners & summer entertaining alike. Plus, it can be enjoyed by all since it’s vegetarianvegandairy-free, & oil-free. (But I promise you, no one would even guess it, based on how creamy & delicious this Italian pasta salad is!)

Creamy Italian pasta salad shown in a serving dish with a serving spoon nestled in it. The dish sits atop a light blue background next to a striped linen napkin, a sprig of fresh oregano & half a lemon.

A summer potluck MVP. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Creamy Italian Pasta Salad recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Easy Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients:

The key to making the best Italian pasta with no meat is using plenty of delicious ingredients with different flavors & textures. That’s exactly what’s happening in this creamy vegan pasta salad.

You need 6 main ingredients:

Vegan Italian pasta salad ingredients arranged on a light blue surface in individual bowls: artichoke hearts, diced bell pepper, diced red onion, fusilli pasta, kalamata olives, & halved cherry tomatoes.

Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

  • Pasta – Use your favorite short pasta for pasta salad. I like fusilli, or a similar twirly pasta, since it captures the pasta salad dressing in all of its nooks & crannies. To ensure your pasta salad is completely vegan-friendly, be sure to use vegan pasta. My favorite vegan pasta is DeLallo’s whole wheat pasta.
  • Tomatoes – Summer candy! Cherry tomatoes are perfectly bite-sized, & you can use a variety of colors for an even prettier pasta salad.
  • Bell peppers – Use any color bell pepper you love! I love the sweetness of red bell peppers.
  • Red onion – Its mildness (in comparison to other onions) makes it perfect for a cold pasta salad.
  • Kalamata olives, which I ever-so-slightly prefer to black olives, since they’re a bit saltier & punchier. If you LOVE black olives in Italian pasta salad, feel free to use them instead!
  • Artichoke Hearts, which add some nice meatiness since this is an Italian pasta salad with no meat. For extra flavor, look for grilled artichoke hearts – again, DeLallo’s are my favorite!
  • Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Dressing, which is not-so-secretly the best part of this creamy Italian pasta salad. It’s borderline magical!

The best Italian dressing for pasta salad…made vegan!

The star of this recipe is the creamy cashew vegan pasta salad Italian dressing.

If you’re new to cashew-based sauces, you’re in for such a treat. Cashews blend up into the creamiest, dreamiest texture, which is the secret to making a creamy vegan sauce without using any dairy products.

As a bonus, cashews are really mild in flavor so cashew sauce is a great vehicle for other flavors. This creamy vegan Italian cashew dressing is made with roasted red peppers & Italian herbs for zingy, zippy flavor.

A woman's hand pours roasted red pepper cashew dressing out of a small glass jar, into a large mixing bowl with the rest of the easy Italian pasta salad ingredients. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.

It’s SO creamy, & SO good!

Cashew Dressing FAQ:

Do you need to soak cashews before blending them? In my experience, so long as you have a high-speed blender, you really don’t need to worry about soaking the cashews ahead of time. The powerful motor of a high-speed blender will easily break cashews down into the creamiest, dreamiest texture. If you’re still nervous about it, you can give the cashews a quick soak in hot water – simply use some of the boiling water from the pasta. Since the water is warm, the cashews will soften up in no time – 5-10 minutes, tops!

How to make this creamy vegan Italian pasta salad:

Creamy Italian pasta salad shown in a large serving dish. The dish sits atop a light blue background next to a striped linen napkin & fresh oregano leaves.

Note: full Recipe Directions in the Recipe Card, below.

This easy vegan Italian pasta salad comes together in less than 30 minutes! To make it, you’ll…

  1. Boil the pasta: Plain & simple! Always cook pasta in heavily salted water just until al dente. Since the pasta salad will sit in its dressing, it’s important to cook to al dente so it doesn’t get soggy. There is nothing worse than soggy pasta!
  2. Blend up the vegan Italian dressing: While the pasta boils, make the roasted red pepper dressing. Add cashews, roasted red peppers & some Italian spices to a blender with water & a little bit of lemon juice. Blend it up until it’s smooth & creamy.
  3. & assemble your pasta salad! Grab your biggest salad bowl & toss the pasta with the veggies, olives, artichoke hearts, & the creamy vegan Italian dressing. Toss to combine & it’s ready to serve!

This pasta salad is great served hot, room temperature, or cold – a major pro of dairy-free pasta salads, so you can make it ahead of time, or partially prep it in advance.

Make-ahead:

To make ahead of time, prep your vegan Italian pasta salad according to the Recipe Card, below. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. The cashew dressing will thicken as it sits, so feel free to stir in a drizzle of water just before serving to liven it back up.

Meal prep:

If make-ahead isn’t your style, you can also simply partially prep the pasta salad whenever you have a little extra time in the kitchen. I suggest chopping the veggies & blending up the creamy Italian dressing in advance & then all you have to do at mealtime is boil the pasta & toss it together – so easy! See the Recipe Card, below, for more detailed meal prep suggestions!

Can you freeze this creamy Italian pasta salad?

Most creamy dishes don’t freeze particularly well, & that’s definitely the case with this creamy Italian pasta salad – I don’t suggest freezing it.

As written, the recipe makes a BIG salad, enough to feed at least 12 as a side dish, so if you’re feeding a smaller crowd, I suggest halving or even quartering the recipe to avoid ending up with a ton of leftovers.

2 individual plates of creamy Italian pasta salad, sitting atop a light blue surface next to a striped linen napkin. The plates are surrounded by fresh oregano & red cherry tomatoes.

I can’t wait for you to try this Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad recipe! My family & friends love it so much, & I know that yours will too!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

Print
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Creamy Italian pasta salad served in a large, white enamel bowl with a cherry red rim. The pasta salad is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes & some oregano leaves. The bowl sits atop a white marble surface, next to a red & white striped linen & some fresh oregano leaves.

Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 812 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dish, Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Your new go-to pasta salad – a Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad, made with tomatoes, bell peppers, kalamata olives, artichokes, the dreamiest creamy roasted red pepper cashew dressing. Naturally dairy-free & vegetarian, oil-free, easily gluten-free, & super quick & easy to make – perfect to make-ahead for summer parties or an easy meatless dinner! 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces short pasta of choice (see Recipe Notes)
  • 16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded & diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 12-ounce jar kalamata olives, drained & halved
  • 1 12-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained & halved or quartered
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the vegan creamy Italian dressing:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water. Add in the pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions. Drain the pasta, rinsing with cold water, and set aside.
  2. Make the creamy Italian dressing: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, prep the dressing. Add all listed ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  3. Assemble the creamy Italian pasta salad: Add the halved tomatoes to a large mixing bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, tossing to combine. Add in the bell pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and cooked pasta. Pour the creamy Italian dressing over top. Toss to combine, seasoning with additional kosher salt & ground black pepper as needed.
  4. Serve & enjoy! You can serve this pasta salad immediately, though we like it best after it has sat for a few hours (the flavors come together even better!). Serve it at your next potluck-style summer BBQ or alongside your favorite summer dinners, like these grilled black bean burgers. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Pasta: To make this Italian pasta salad vegan, be sure to use your favorite vegan pasta. I love DeLallo’s whole wheat pastas – they are delicious, have great texture & they’re totally vegan-friendly. While I prefer a textured short noodle for this vegan southwest pasta salad recipe (the creamy vegan Italian dressing clings to it really nicely!), you can use whatever shape you like best.
  • Storage: This creamy vegan Italian pasta salad will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days. The cashew dressing will thicken as it sits, so feel free to stir in a drizzle of water just before serving to liven it back up!
  • 20-Minute Meal Prep: This Creamy Italian Pasta Salad recipe is easy & quick to make, especially if you’re able to do a little prep in advance. Simply follow the steps below & at dinnertime all you have to do is boil the pasta & toss it all together – easy!
    • Halve the cherry tomatoes & dice the bell pepper & red onion. If you have time, prep the kalamata olives & artichoke hearts while you’re at it! Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Blend the creamy Italian dressing according to Step 2 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The dressing will thicken quite a bit as it sits – simply stir in a few splashes of water before tossing together the pasta salad.

Keywords: Creamy Vegan Italian Pasta Salad, Vegan Pasta Salad recipe, vegetarian, dairy-free, oil-free, quick, easy, summer, for a crowd, make-ahead

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat

More Pasta Salad + Plant-Based Summer Recipes to try soon:

In our Minnesota home, the summer months are all about spending as much time as possible outside. Here are a few more plant-based recipes to help you eat, drink, be, & live outside as much as possible this summer!

Creamy Italian pasta salad served in a large, white enamel bowl with a cherry red rim. The pasta salad is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes & some oregano leaves. The bowl sits atop a white marble surface, next to a red & white striped linen & some fresh oregano leaves.

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Thank you so much for reading & supporting Plays Well With Butter. This post includes affiliate links for products I truly love & use on the reg in my own home. All opinions are always my own! Should you make a purchase using one of these links, PWWB will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, which helps me continue to bring you great original & free content.

Don’t forget to pin this Creamy Italian Pasta Salad recipe for later!!!

Vegan Italian Pasta Salad with graphic text overlay for Pinterest.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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