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6-ingredient vegan pesto pasta salad made with sundried tomatoes, spicy arugula, crispy cucumbers, and sweet peas. The pesto sauce is made with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese, so it's totally dairy-free.
Pasta salad is one of my favorite foods. Cold pasta, dressed with a flavorful sauce, loaded with other goods like veggies and greens? Yes, please. It's the perfect contrasting side dish to warm dinners like pizza, BBQ tofu, and vegan meatloaf.
This pesto pasta salad makes for a delicious lunch, too. Nutritious, satisfying, and so tasty. The pesto adds TONS of flavor, while the peas & cucumbers add crunch, and the sundried tomatoes bring an acidic flair. We're also tossing in some arugula because why not? I love the hint of spice that arugula brings to this salad and I'll take any excuse to add some greens to my diet.
The best part is that pasta salad is totally customizable to what you have in your fridge or what ingredients you like the best. We'll talk more about substitutions later!
First, let's talk about what you need to make this pesto pasta salad recipe. (Reminder: You can find the full, detailed recipe in the card below.)
- Pasta: I like using penne or rotini for pasta salad. While homemade pasta is typically made with eggs, the kind you buy in the store usually does not.
- Pesto: Storebought pesto has parmesan, but you can make your own vegan pesto with this recipe.
- Arugula: Baby arugula adds a nice bite to the salad.
- Peas: I heat up some frozen peas on the stove or in the microwave, then let them cool before adding to the dish. Canned peas work, too.
- Sundried tomatoes: These either come in a bag on their own, or in a jar with oil. Either work!
- Cucumber: My favorite way to prepare cucumber is to slice it in half, scrape out the seeds, then chop it into bite-sized pieces. Removing the seeds and keeping the skin on prevents the cucumber from becoming too soggy.
- Gluten-free: Simply grab your favorite GF pasta to make this recipe compliant.
- Oil-free: Pesto contains oil. The best way to substitute the oil is by using a little water until you achieve the consistency you want.
- Tomatoes: Use fresh tomatoes instead of sundried. Cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half make for the perfect bites.
- Greens: You can substitute the arugula with baby kale or baby spinach.
- Other additions: Fresh broccoli and cauliflower chopped into small pieces are delicious in my vegan ranch pasta salad, so I think they'll be good here, too! Olives and vegan mozzarella are other great options.
To make this pasta salad ahead of time, you can assemble the entire thing the day before and store it in the fridge (covered.) Note that the arugula does wilt a bit after storing, so you may toss in the arugula right before serving.
Store any leftover pesto pasta salad in the fridge for up to 3 days. Using an airtight container helps to keep food fresh longer - I like glass containers with locking lids.
Did you enjoy this recipe? Please leave a comment and a ⭐ star review below!
Pesto Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces penne pasta or rotini
- ¾ cup vegan pesto
- 1 cup baby arugula
- 1 cup peas
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes
- 1 large cucumber chopped
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water to cool.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooled and drained pasta with pesto, arugula, peas, sundried tomatoes, and cucumber.
- Serve cold. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.