Healthy Pasta Salad

3.89

86

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This lightened-up pasta salad is made with cucumbers, tomatoes and a basil balsamic dressing. It’s mayo-free, gluten-free and vegan but still super delicious!

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you because I know that you are going to LOVE this healthy version of the pasta salad my mom used to make every summer.

Bowl of penne pasta salad with basil, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions. Bowl is on a striped kitchen towel.

Swapping Mayo for a Balsamic Dressing

My mom’s traditional recipe calls for Miracle Whip… which isn’t exactly EBF friendly so I skipped it and used an olive oil-based balsamic dressing with fresh basil. Other than that the salad ingredients are all the same.

And Mom will be happy to know that I left the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in the recipe. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I think it really does add a little something to the salad. I went with coconut sugar to keep things more natural and unrefined. 🙂

Bowl of penne pasta salad with basil, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions.

Ingredients in Healthy Pasta Salad

Overall, this healthy pasta salad is quite a gem. It’s not only easy to prepare, but it requires only minimal ingredients and tastes so fresh and delicious. The recipe makes a ton so it’s also great for serving a crowd!

  • gluten-free pasta noodles – I recommend using legume or quinoa-based pasta noodles so they’ll be naturally gluten-free and have a good amount of protein and fiber. Nutrient-dense pasta = so awesome!
  • tomatoes – these little guys add such great flavor to the salad.
  • cucumbers and red onion – for some added crunch.
  • balsamic dressing – a super simple dressing made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, coconut sugar, crushed red pepper, sea salt.

Notes & Substitutions

Mix-ins – Feel free to switch up your mix-ins for this pasta salad… I often do! Sometimes I change up the veggies based on what I have on hand. Feel free to get creative and make this your own!

Red onion – Not a fan of red onion feel free to use yellow onion instead.

Feta – Adding feta to this pasta salad would be a great addition if you don’t need it to be dairy free.

Avocado – Want to add a little creaminess and healthy fats to your pasta salad? Add in some chopped avocado!

Dressing – I love the balsamic dressing paired with this salad but any dressing would work if you’re in a pinch. Some options: Greek Salad Dressingwhite balsamic vinaigrette or lemon vinaigrette.

Bowl with ingredients for healthy pasta salad before mixing. In the bowl, on top fo penne are sections of chopped red onion, cherry tomatoes and chopped cucumber. Wood spoon and striped dish towel are by the bowl.

Serving and Storing Pasta Salad

I love that this salad pairs well with just about any protein. It’s delicious served with my grilled apple cider vinegar chicken. I think the flavors go really well together. It’s also a perfect side for cookouts and potlucks.

To make it in advance: You can prep the salad the night before and let it chill in the fridge until serving.

To store leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Bowl of clean eating penne pasta salad mixed with basil, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. Next to the bowl are fresh basil leaves and a wooden mixing spoon.

More Healthy Salads

More Recipes for a Backyard Cookout

Be sure to check out all of the pasta salad recipes as well as the full collection of salad recipes on EBF!

3.89 from 60 votes

Healthy Pasta Salad

This lightened-up pasta salad is made with cucumbers, tomatoes and a basil balsamic dressing. It's mayo-free, gluten-free and vegan but still super delicious!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6 cups

Ingredients  

  • 8 oz macaroni or penne pasta, I used gluten-free penne
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons basil, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Instructions 

  • Prep pasta: Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and run cold water over cooked pasta to cool.
  • Mix ingredients: Add drained pasta into a large bowl with tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.
  • Make dressing: Whisk together balsamic vinegar, basil, olive oil, coconut sugar, crushed red pepper and salt. Pour over salad ingredients and mix well.
  • Serve: Refrigerate until cold. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Mix-ins – Feel free to switch up your mix-ins for this pasta salad… I often do! Sometimes I change up the veggies based on what I have on hand. Feel free to get creative and make this your own!
Red onion – Not a fan of red onion feel free to use yellow onion instead.
Feta – Adding feta to this pasta salad would be a great addition if you don’t need it to be dairy free.
Avocado – Want to add a little creaminess and healthy fats to your pasta salad? Add in some chopped avocado!
Dressing – I love the balsamic dressing paired with this salad but any dressing would work if you’re in a pinch. Some options: Greek Salad Dressingwhite balsamic vinaigrette or lemon vinaigrette.

Nutrition

Serving: 3/4 cup | Calories: 148kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 4g | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: healthy pasta salad
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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Recipe Rating




86 Comments

  1. 2 stars
    I love pasta salad and I was looking for healthy recipes so I thought I would give this recipe a shot. However, I did not like it at all, I think it was the balsamic vinegar that gave such a strong taste that I did not find appealing.

    1. So sorry you didn’t enjoy this recipe, Lynsey. If you try it again, you can definitely use less balsamic vinegar and more olive oil if you’re not a fan of the balsamic taste.

  2. I’m going to have to keep this in mind. I love salad and prefer the grape tomatoes rather than one large slice. I think I”ll make the exception for the cucumbers. It’ll taste good with the vinegar.

  3. 5 stars
    I am surprised by how good this was! So light and refreshing. I normally don’t like raw onions, but with the vinegar and all the other ingredients it works! I did amp up the seasoning as I like stronger, saltier flavors: more balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, and red pepper, but nothing that wasn’t already in the recipe!

    1. WOO! This is great, Flora. I am excited to hear that you are loving this recipe and it is a hit. Thank you for sharing your review + star rating, I really appreciate it!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this salad last night. I didn’t have coconut sugar and I used dark brown sugar instead. It was delicious! My family enjoyed it! Thanks for the recipe

    1. Love this so much, Belen. Thank you for sharing your review & star rating, I am glad the dark brown sugar worked well for you!

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