Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe

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A Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad recipe you will LOVE! This creamy vegan pasta salad is loaded with peppers, tomatoes, black beans, & corn, & tossed with the creamiest zippy vegan southwest dressing. This vegan pasta salad is naturally dairy-free & vegetarian, oil-free, easily gluten-free, & totally easy to make.

This is the perfect vegan pasta salad recipe for the summer entertaining season – you can make it ahead of time & serve it hot, room temp, or cold. It’s also great for weeknight meals – simply serve it alongside your favorite grilled dinner. Plant-based pasta for the win!

Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad shown in a large white serving bowl. The salad is garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. The bowl is placed on a light blue surface, surrounded with smaller white dishes filled with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, & creamy vegan southwest dressing.

Pin this Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe for later!

Sooo, we’re doing a thing today & it’s called taking all of the greens out of salad & replacing them all with pasta but still calling it salad. For the record:

  1. THAT IS MY KIND OF SALAD!!!
  2. Whoever first decided we could still call it salad despite being a big bowl of noods is probably the greatest unsung hero of our time. I mean, RIGHT?!?

Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad – your newest summer staple!

Say hello to the superstar of your next summer get-together – a new summer staple that everyone at the table can enjoy, Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad.

Side angle of creamy vegan pasta salad, shown in a large white serving bowl sitting atop a light blue surface. The southwest pasta salad is garnished with chopped cilantro. Behind the pasta salad are a few small bowls with pasta salad ingredients, such as chopped cilantro, cashew dressing, & lime wedges.

Made in 30 minutes or less, this Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad is packed with flavor: a creamy, dreamy cashew-based vegan Southwest dressing gets tossed into spiraly noodles with red onion, red bell pepper, fire-roasted corn, tomatoes & black beans.

The veggies add pops of freshness to every bite, while the creamy Southwest dressing delivers the perfect touch of smoky, zippy heat. SO GOOD.

It’s totally delicious, make-ahead friendly, & it’s perfect for weeknight dinners & summer entertaining alike. Plus, this pasta salad 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 pasta salad is!)

3 individual portions of Southwest Pasta Salad served in small white bowls. The bowls are arranged on a light blue surface, with a white linen napkin & a small bowl of cashew dressing off to the side.

Vegan pasta salad, we love you so much. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Creamy Southwest Vegan Pasta Salad recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

How to make this Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad recipe:

You can make this easy pasta salad recipe in less than 30 minutes, & it couldn’t be easier to throw together!

Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad ingredients arranged in a large, glass mixing bowl: spiral pasta, chopped red bell pepper, black beans, diced red onion, fire-roasted corn, halved cherry tomatoes, & freshly chopped cilantro. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.

(Note: full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below.)

  1. Boil some pasta. Be sure to boil the pasta in heavily salted water (it’s the only chance to season the pasta itself!) & cook until just al dente to avoid a soggy pasta salad (the worst!).
  2. Blend up the vegan Southwest dressing. Simply add cashews & water to a high-speed blender with some spices & lime juice for plenty of Southwest flavor & blend it until it’s smooth & creamy.
  3. Assemble the Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad! Grab a big mixing bowl & toss the pasta with black beans, corn, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro, & the southwest dressing.

& that’s really it! So simple, & so flavorful! And you can serve it in a variety of ways. This vegan pasta salad can be served hot, room temperature, or cold (one of the benefits of a mayo-less salad!) so anything goes!

Creamy vegan southwest dressing recipe:

We need to talk about the dressing for this vegan creamy pasta salad for a second because it’s that good. It’s similar to the chipotle lime cashew crema on these tacos, which PWWB readers have legit raved about for the past 2 years. I don’t blame them – it is SO creamy & SO good!!!!

Since this vegan Southwest dressing recipe is cashew-based, it has the perfect creamy texture without requiring the use of any dairy products or oil.

If you’ve been on the fence about cashews in dressing, now is the time to try it out. You won’t even believe what they can become with a few other simple ingredients – like lime juice & taco spices for this particular recipe – & a quick biltz in the blender.

A woman's hand pouring the creamy vegan Southwest dressing over the Southwest Pasta Salad in a large mixing bowl.

Cashew Sauce 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 vegan pasta salad ahead of time:

One of the many, many reasons I love this healthy southwest pasta salad is that you can make it ahead of time. I actually think it’s best after sitting for a few hours – the flavors really meld together beautifully as the pasta salad sits.

Make-ahead pasta salad: Simply make the easy vegan southwest pasta salad & then store it, covered, in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

Pasta salad meal prep: If you’d prefer to just do a little partial prep to help make this vegan pasta salad easier to throw together at meal time, you definitely have options, too! I’d suggest chopping all the veggies & blending up the cashew dressing in advance. You can store everything in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator until you’re ready to toss together your Southwest Pasta Salad. See the Recipe Card, below, for more detailed meal prep suggestions!

Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad shown in a large white serving bowl. The salad is garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. The bowl is placed on a light blue surface, surrounded with smaller white dishes filled with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, & creamy vegan southwest dressing.

I can’t wait to see you make this Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe. If you ask me, it’s definitely in the ranking for best pasta salad recipe ever. You’re gonna love it!

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! ♡

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Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad shown in a large white serving bowl. The salad is garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. The bowl is placed on a light blue surface, surrounded with smaller white dishes filled with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, & creamy vegan southwest dressing.

Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 mintues
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 812 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

An easy vegan pasta salad with plenty of Southwest flair. Made with black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, & an easy & creamy cashew southwest dressing. Perfect to make-ahead for parties & quick dinners this summer. You will LOVE this Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad recipe! 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces whole wheat pasta (see Recipe Notes)
  • 16 ounces cherry/grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded & diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 2 cups fire-roasted corn (frozen is fine!)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the Creamy Vegan Southwest Dressing: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raw cashews (unsalted)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 23 chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 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 vegan southwest 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 vegan southwest 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, cilantro, black beans, corn, and cooked pasta. Pour the creamy vegan southwest 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: Obviously, to make this pasta vegan, use your favorite vegan pasta. I love DeLallo’s whole wheat pastas – they’re totally vegan-friendly. While I prefer a textured short noodle for this vegan southwest pasta salad recipe (the creamy vegan Southwest dressing clings to it really nicely!), you can use whatever shape you like best.
  • Storage: Creamy vegan Southwest pasta salad will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days. 
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep: This Vegan Southwest 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. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Blend the creamy vegan Southwest 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: Vegan Southwest 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 + Summer Recipes to try soon:

If you’re anything like me, you have a major thing for pasta salads. I totally get it! They are the perfect addition to any summer table & so portable which is helpful for summer months when you just want to eat, drink, be, & live outside. (& if you’ve experienced Minnesota winters, you know the feeling!)

Here are a few PWWB faves:

Creamy Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad shown in a large white serving bowl. The salad is garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. The bowl is placed on a light blue surface, surrounded with smaller white dishes filled with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, & creamy vegan southwest dressing.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

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 Vegan Southwest Pasta Salad recipe for later!!!

Creamy Vegan Southwest 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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Comments

  1. 6.18.20
    JL said:

    This recipe is amazing! It is so flavorful. We will definitely take this to many summer potlucks.

    • 6.24.20
      jess said:

      Ah, so glad to hear that!!! Definitely potluck-worthy! xx

  2. 3.2.20
    L.A said:

    I’ve found when making cashew cream sauces that it really thickens as it cools, does that happen with this sauce?

    • 3.2.20
      jess said:

      Yes, that’s absolutely the case with the pasta salad dressing in this recipe – resist the temptation to adding more cashews when you blend it because as the salad sits, it’ll set up to the perfect consistency.

  3. 11.29.19
    Laurel said:

    This was a hit for Thanksgiving! It was the main for the vegans and a side for the carnivores. The dressing was wonderful! We used wheat pasta instead of gf this time. Thank you for the recipe!

    • 12.20.19
      jess said:

      So glad you loved it Laurel! Keep it in your back pocket for summery parties next year! xx

  4. 11.21.19
    Jenn said:

    So perfect! I used red lentil pasta and only used 8oz.

    • 11.25.19
      jess said:

      Red lentil pasta sounds like a great addition! So glad you enjoyed it, Jenn!

  5. 10.7.19
    julie said:

    Do the cashews need to be soaked in water for a while so they are soft for blending?

    • 2.14.20
      jess said:

      Hey Julie! If you have a high-speed blender (such as a Vitamix or Nutribullet), there’s really no need to soak the cashews; the blades of the blender will be powerful enough to break them down. If you do not have a high-speed blender (or want to soak them, just in case), you have 2 options: soak overnight at room temperature or soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes prior to making the dressing. Drain & discard the soaking liquid, then proceed with the recipe.

  6. 7.17.19
    Pat said:

    Could I substitute tahini for the cashews? How much would you recommend?

    • 7.18.19
      jess said:

      hey pat! that’s a great question. i’ve not tested this recipe using tahini in place for cashews, but it should work! i’d swap the water & cashews as written in the recipe for 1/4-1/3 cup tahini. you can mix the dressing in a bowl or food processer (vs blender), thinning out with water to your desired consistency (i’d start with a couple tablespoons and go from there). the dressing should be loose, but creamy. if you try it out, be sure to let me know how it goes!

  7. 7.10.19
    Brittany Basden said:

    Can this pasta be frozen? We made way too much!

    • 7.18.19
      jess said:

      hey brittany! thanks for the comment. i’m honestly not sure – i’ve never tested freezing & thawing it. in theory, it should be okay but i’d refrain from freezing fresh tomatoes. let me know if you give it a try!

      • 11.17.19
        Jenn said:

        LOVED this! Even my meat eating BF can’t get enough.

        • 11.25.19
          jess said:

          Ah, I’m so glad to hear that!!! My meat-lovin’ hubby loves this pasta salad too. Here’s another good one to try, if you like Italian flavors! =)