Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad

DF GF V VG

A vegan pesto pasta salad that is loaded with veggies and tossed in a dairy-free walnut pesto sauce. The perfect dish to bring to summer parties and cookouts! This post is sponsored by California Walnuts.

Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, and basil in a white bowl, surrounded by tomatoes and arugala.

I did a poll on my Instagram stories for this recipe and am so excited to share it with you! I knew I wanted to create a summer dairy-free pasta salad but wasn’t sure if it should have a vegan pesto sauce or a light vinaigrette and y’all voted basil pesto so here it is! If you were team vinaigrette try my zucchini noodle spaghetti salad or this healthy pasta salad!

Top down view of pesto and walnuts in a food processor.
Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, walnuts, and pesto separated in a white bowl.

Mediterranean Diet Upgrades

This recipe is one that takes traditional pasta salad and gives it an EBF Mediterranean diet upgrade!  

If you’re not familiar with it, the Mediterranean diet has been gaining popularity for awhile now… and for good reason! Studies show that it can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, premature death. And a recent study also showed that it’s better for gut-health than other diets.

So what is the Mediterranean diet all about? Well, it’s based on foods commonly eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea — Italy, Greece, Spain, and Turkey. (Pretty sure I need to take a trip to each location just for a little Mediterranean diet research. Who else wants in?)

The focus of the diet is whole foods including vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts (like walnuts!), fruit and extra virgin olive oil. Fish, lean meat, dairy and eggs are eaten occasionally, but red meat is eaten rarely. Avoided foods include added sugar, processed oils and refined grains.

As you know I don’t have a label for my way of eating which is a balanced diet focused mainly on whole, real foods. That said, of all the diets out there, the Mediterranean diet is probably the closest to how I eat.

Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, and basil in a white bowl, surrounded by lemon, tomatoes, and a bowl of walnuts.

And I incorporated almost all of the main components of the Mediterranean diet into this recipe. Let’s break it down:

  • Vegetables: check! I use peas, cherry tomatoes, fresh arugula, and fresh basil. Veggie packed!
  • Whole grains: Yep! I subbed traditional white flour noodles for whole grain, gluten free noodles. I used brown rice and quinoa noodles, but you could also use legume based noodles! I love the extra protein and fiber brown rice and quinoa noodles bring to the dish. Side note: rotini noodles are my fav because the swirls capture all the sauce. #priorities 😉
  • Nuts: I used walnuts to make the vegan pesto sauce which adds incredible flavor and keeps the dish dairy-free. Walnuts have historically been a part of the Mediterranean diet because of their heart-healthy properties. Walnuts in the U.S. are primarily grown in California because the climate is similar to that of Mediterranean countries. Pretty cool, huh?
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Yep! Make the pesto sauce with olive oil for lots of healthy fats and a full-bodied, unique flavor.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been eating a higher fat diet lately and LOVE it! It keeps me so full, makes things taste delicious, helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and helps keep my skin and hair hydrated and beautiful. Bring on all the healthy fats!

Back to this vegan pasta salad! I can already tell it’s going to be a staple recipe this summer! It’s so perfect for summer parties, cookouts or barbecues. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for tips on how to eat healthy during summer events pop over to my YouTube channel. I shared a bunch of great tips for healthy eating at cookouts and three plant-based recipes.

Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, and basil in a white bowl, surrounded by lemon, tomatoes, and a bowl of walnuts.

More Salad Recipes You’ll Love

Pesto Recipes

Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad

4 from 15 votes
A Mediterranean diet inspired vegan pesto pasta salad that is loaded with veggies and tossed in a dairy-free walnut pesto sauce. The perfect dish to bring to summer parties and cookouts! 
Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, and basil in a white bowl, surrounded by tomatoes and arugala.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 16

Ingredients

Vegan Walnut Pesto

  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts

Pasta Salad

  • 1 pound rotini pasta, I used GF brown rice + quinoa pasta
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, optional

Instructions
 

  • Make pesto sauce by adding arugula, basil, oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor and processing until smooth. Add the walnuts and pulse until the walnuts are ground to desired consistency. Set aside.
  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse with cool water and drain. Let pasta cool for about 5-10 minutes. Add pasta to a large salad bowl and toss with thawed peas, tomatoes, arugula toasted walnuts and olive oil. Add pesto, starting with ½ cup. Taste and add more pesto if you’d like. I like my noodles coated so I used all the pesto. Taste and season liberally with salt and pepper. Pasta salad can be served immediately, cold or at room temperature.

Notes

  • I wanted to keep the recipe dairy-free but if you’re a cheese lover (like my husband) this pasta salad is delicious with a little feta added.

Nutrition

Calories: 195kcal Carbohydrates: 25g Protein: 4g Fat: 10g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 1g
Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: vegan pesto pasta

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    18 comments
    1. Dawn Upright
      May 24, 2021 AT 3:22 pm

      5 stars
      So flavorful! And loved that it wasn’t a standard dressing. I made the mistake of using chix pea pasta, figured I could use the extra protein. Was a little dry. Next time will just go with gluten free and see if that makes the difference.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 24, 2021 AT 5:53 pm

        I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe, Dawn! What brand of chickpea pasta did you use?

    2. Jessica
      May 18, 2020 AT 3:45 pm

      5 stars
      The flavor of this was amazing! I say was because my family loves it and it’s gone! We will be having it again this week! So delicious! Thank you!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 18, 2020 AT 10:57 pm

        Yay!! I’m so glad this recipe was a hit with your family, Jessica. 🙂 Thanks for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. It means the world to me.

    3. Hollie
      May 16, 2020 AT 4:02 am

      Walnuts give me the worst heartburn, is there another type of nut you’d recommend?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 17, 2020 AT 11:01 pm

        Hey Hollie – You could try pine nuts or cashews.

    4. Rachael
      June 15, 2019 AT 10:25 pm

      5 stars
      Amazing flavour and so easy to make!

    5. Cecile Lecomte
      June 1, 2019 AT 9:01 pm

      5 stars
      This was easy and delicious! I added some shrimp for a dinner serving. I have to admit my husband and I ate more than 1/2 cup serving size though. Thanks for the recipe. Yummy

      1. Brittany Mullins
        June 2, 2019 AT 11:15 pm

        So so glad that you all liked it, Cecile. And thank you so much for coming back to leave a comment and star rating as well. Both are super helpful!

Parchment paper lined with protein balls.

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