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Classic and Simple Vegan Macaroni Salad

This vegan macaroni salad is bursting with all the good stuff: Crisp red onion, crunchy celery and carrots, sweet red peppers, and a cool and creamy dressing. 

The dressing is really what makes this noodle salad. It is the perfect combination of tangy, sweet, and just plain delicious. It’s a classic perfect side dish that is a crowd pleaser at any cookout, BBQ, picnic, potluck, basically anytime you need a good dish to share. 

Does the perfect pasta salad exist? This classic macaroni salad comes pretty close! 

Vegan macaroni salad in a large gray bowl on a countertop. A wood spoon and small white flowers are next to the bowl.
A big bowl of classic vegan mac salad!

This family favorite recipe mixes up in just about 30 minutes! 

Ingredients 

Here is a quick rundown of what you’ll need for this recipe. 

Ingredients for the salad part of the macaroni salad on a wood cutting board. Black and white labels have been added to name each ingredient.
The pasta salad ingredients ready to chop up.
Dressing ingredients for macaroni salad in various glass bowls on a wood cutting board. Black and white labels have been added to name each ingredient.
The ingredients for the salad dressing in bowls ready to assemble.
  • Noodles: Use your favorite macaroni noodle, and you can totally use gluten free noodles if that is what you need. Banza pasta is made with chickpeas that is gluten free. It’s a favorite around here. To shake things up, try out a different shape like spirals or bow ties! 
  • Veggies: I love using the classic vegetables like red onion, red bell pepper, and celery. I have a confession for you: I don’t really like peas. So, I left them out! However, if you love green peas you can totally add them. In place of peas, I add shredded carrots for a sweet crunch. The crunchy veggies really helps to make the best macaroni salad. 
  • Dressing: The base of this dressing is a good vegan mayonnaise. My favorite brand is Sir Kensington’s but Trader Joe’s also has a good one and there are so many more that are great. Add to this some sugar, apple cider vinegar, pickle relish, yellow mustard (or Dijon mustard for a twist), and herbs and spices like onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dried dill. 

Tip! As we’ve continued to make this salad for both vegans and non vegans, I’ve had mixed reactions to the tang of apple cider vinegar in the dressing. Some love it and some don’t. So I suggest that you make the dressing without it at first and then if you want the tang, add it. That’s what great about cooking – you can always customize it for your tastes!!

Optional topping ingredients: Green onions, fresh chives, more fresh dill, more fresh herbs of your choice. 

Instructions 

Make sure to check out the recipe card below for the full recipe and ingredient list.

Making any kind of noodle salad or pasta salad is pretty similar and fairly simple. 

First up, boil the noodles that you are using according to package instructions. While elbow pasta is traditional, you can use any small to medium sized noodle that you like. 

Tip! Cook the noodles until they are al dente in firmness. The dressing will soak into the noodles and will turn super soggy if you let them cook until soft. 

When the noodles are done, drain and rinse the noodles in cold water. This stops the cooking process and makes mixing it all together a bit easier. Set them aside while you work on the dressing and vegetables. 

Closeup of the finished and fully mixed together dressing in a bowl.
The finished salad dressing in a bowl.

While the noodles are cooking, mix up the dressing. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the vegan mayo, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, sugar, sweet relish, and all the herbs and spices. Give it a quick taste and adjust for seasoning as needed. This makes a super creamy sauce. 

Tip! I sometimes like to add an extra spoonful of pickle juice from the relish as well just to give it a bit more tang! 

Wash and chop all the vegetables into similar, small, bite sized pieces. Add them to a large mixing bowl when done. 

Mixing the macaroni salad together. The pasta salad ingredients are in a big glass bowl and the dressing is in a smaller glass bowl.
Finally ready to assemble the noodle salad.

Now add the cooked pasta to the large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Pour the dressing on top and mix until fully combined. Give it another taste for seasoning to adjust. That’s it! Enjoy! 

The closeup of the vegan macaroni salad in a large gray bowl.
The finished mac salad.

FAQs

Can I serve this hot or cold? 

You can serve it in both styles! Enjoying it warm just after making it tastes great. However, I prefer it after it has chilled and the dressing gets a chance to sink into the noodles a bit. But both are great! 

How to Store and Make Ahead 

Store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. 

To make ahead, mix up the dressing the day before you need it. Chop and prep all the vegetables and store in a container. The day before the event, cook the noodles according to direction and mix the dressing and veggies with the noodles. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. 

My family things that this salad tastes even better the next day, so don’t be afraid to make it in advance. 

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If you try these out, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, vegan friendly recipes you can subscribe to the newsletter. Did you make these? Please tag me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest! I love to see your creations!

Vegan macaroni salad in a large gray bowl on a countertop. A wood spoon and small white flowers are next to the bowl.

Classic and Simple Vegan Macaroni Salad

This vegan macaroni salad is bursting with all the good stuff: Crisp red onion, crunchy celery and carrots, sweet red peppers, and a cool and creamy dressing. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time (Optional): 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: appetizer, side dishes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 285kcal

Equipment

  • Cooking pot
  • Mixing bowls
  • Mixing spoons
  • measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board

Ingredients

Pasta Salad

  • 1 lbs macaroni noodles
  • 2 cups red pepper chopped, about 2 red peppers
  • ½ red onion
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1 cup carrots grated or cut into small bites

Dressing

  • 1 cup vegan mayo I used Sir Kensington’s
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar optional, see note below
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dill dried

Instructions

  • Cook the noodles. In a large pot of salted water, cook the noodles according to package directions. For most noodles, this should be around 10 to 12 minutes. Drain them and rinse under cold water. Set them aside.
  • Prep the vegetables. While the noodles are cooking, wash and chop the celery, red pepper, red onion, and carrots. Make these into small, bite side pieces. Place them in a large mixing bowl and set them aside.
  • Mix the dressing. Next, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Give it a taste and adjust for seasoning as needed.
  • Combine and serve. Finally, it’s time to combine everything into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top and mix. Give it a taste again and adjust for seasoning one final time. After chilling, you may need an additional spoonful of vegan mayo to make the dressing creamy again. Just add one spoonful and mix into the entire noodle salad. Enjoy!

Notes

  • How to Store and Make Ahead 
    • Store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. 
    • To make ahead, mix up the dressing the day before you need it. Chop and prep all the vegetables and store in a container. The day before the event, cook the noodles according to direction and mix the dressing and veggies with the noodles. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Dressing Tip!
    • As we’ve continued to make this salad for both vegans and non vegans, I’ve had mixed reactions to the tang of apple cider vinegar in the dressing. Some love it and some don’t. So I suggest that you make the dressing without it at first and then if you want the tang, add it. That’s what great about cooking – you can always customize it for your tastes!!

Nutrition

Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 344mg | Potassium: 188mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2571IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg
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