Oil-Free Vegan Pasta Salad

Is it even possible to make a classic pasta salad without oil?
I asked myself this question. And I was super doubtful….
But I was up for the challenge. And, reporting back, oil-free pasta salad is possible! And delicious!
The biggest obstacle is that without oil, the pasta can become dry and sticky. Not to mention the fact that oil (fat) provides a particular mouthfeel.
So here’s how I went about recreating this staple, summer side dish.
First- the dressing. The dressing has to be flavorful but also needs to keep the pasta from drying out. I decided on a 2-step light vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and spices.
I whisked together the dressing and then added most of it (reserving a couple of tablespoons) to the just-cooked pasta. I let the pasta cool in the dressing so the noodles would absorb the flavor. Then right before serving, I added the remaining dressing and tossed it together to rehydrate the pasta and give the salad more moisture.
Second- the veggies. The salad ingredients need to be flavorful and provide texture to make the salad interesting and fresh. This salad has some delicious mediterranean vibes – roasted red peppers, olives, lemon, and cucumbers. These give this oil-free pasta salad depth and complexity. The olives are a pop of savoury, the roasted peppers a touch of smokey, and the diced avocado give a creamy consistency.
It all came together and works really well! I’ll be serving this as an easy BBQ side dish all summer long!

3 Tips for Oil-Free Pasta Salad

ASAP Serving! It’s important to add the veggies, avocado, and final dose of dressing immediately before serving. If left too long, the salad will dry out.
Al Dente. Cook the pasta for this salad until almost al-dente, meaning cook it 1 to 2 minutes short of the directed cooking time. This is especially important if using gluten-free pasta, which can become gummy or rubbery if overcooked. Feel free to use whatever pasta you like best.
Do You. You can add whatever veg you like to this oil-free pasta salad or adjust as you see fit. If you don’t love olives, omit. If you have other summer veggies, by all means, add them! Also, feel free to add more of what you love (I see you avocado!).

Oil-Free Vegan Pasta Salad

Author : Ashley Madden
Prep Time: 15 mins
Course: Salad



  • ¼ minced shallot or white onion
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Italian spices
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 12 ounces brown rice penne or fusilli pasta or whole wheat if gluten isn’t an issue
  • cups diced cucumber
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup diced roasted red pepper packed in water, not oil
  • ½ cup thinly sliced black olives
  • 1 large avocado pitted, peeled, and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil


  • First whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. 
  • In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to directions for al dente (1-2 minutes short of the directed cooking time). Once cooked, rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer to a big bowl and add most of the dressing, reserving 2 or 3 tablespoons. Mix well. Set aside to cool, either on the counter or in the fridge.  
  • Right before serving, add the reserved dressing and toss the pasta to “wake” it up. Now add all the chopped veggies and avocado and gently mix. Season generously with salt and pepper, garnish with some fresh basil if desired, and serve immediately. 


This pasta salad works best when the pasta is cooked no more than 2 to 3 hours before serving – just enough time to let it cool and absorb the dressing. If cooked too early, the pasta will become hard and chewy.
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