This vegan ranch pasta salad is made with fresh, crisp veggies and creamy vegan ranch dressing. This 20-minute recipe is perfect for potlucks, barbecues, or spring picnics!
Happy spring! It's officially blue skies and sunny here in Georgia, which means that I'm jumping full-fledged into summer food. I'm talking about produce-centered, BBQ-approved recipes. And a whole lot of Southern-inspired comfort food!
First up is this vegan ranch pasta salad, a dairy-free version of classic creamy pasta salad that features homemade vegan ranch dressing and a few other plant-based ingredients. This recipe is inspired by boxed mix pasta salads, but it features more fresh veggies and simpler ingredients.
Why this recipe works
- Recipe features: This is a veggie pasta salad with ranch dressing that features crispy coconut "bacon" bits, fresh broccoli, peas, cherry tomatoes, and shell pasta.
- Quick & easy: Ready in under 30 minutes using 6 main ingredients. The coconut bacon and ranch dressing are homemade but are easy to prep while the pasta cooks.
- Easy to customize: This pasta salad can easily be made into a main dish by adding a can of chickpeas. It is also easy to make gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta.
- Perfect for gatherings: This is the perfect addition to pot-lucks, spring dinners, and anywhere you need a vegan side dish.
Looking for a lighter pasta salad? You might like this vinaigrette-based vegetarian pasta salad instead.
- Shell pasta: I love using shell pasta for pasta salad, but any short pasta works. You can make this recipe gluten-free by using your favorite gluten-free pasta shape. For whole grains, try using 100% whole wheat pasta.
- Vegan ranch dressing: I love using homemade vegan ranch dressing because it's so flavorful and easy to make, but you can use an equal amount of storebought vegan ranch dressing to cut back on prep time.
- Green peas: These add a sweet pop of texture. Let the frozen green peas thaw at room temp while prepping the other ingredients.
- Fresh broccoli: Any good salad requires a crunch, so we'll use fresh broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, sliced into halves or quarters.
- Coconut bacon bits: These savory, sweet and smokey "bacon" bits are made using coconut flakes, soy sauce, maple syrup, smoked paparika, and olive oil. They're simple to make and add a fun BBQ flavor to this pasta salad.
Step by step instructions
If using homemade ranch dressing for the pasta salad, start by making the ranch dressing. This is easy: simply whisk together all ranch dressing ingredients in a bowl. That's it!
Now for the pasta salad, which is even easier to make. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta and ranch dressing until well combined.
Add the remaining pasta salad ingredients. Toss to combine. Transfer to the fridge to chill for 2-3 hours before serving.
Serving and storage tips
- Make it in advance: You can make this salad up to 24 hours in advance. The pasta absorbs the ranch dressing as it refrigerates, so I recommend reserving half of the ranch to toss the pasta salad with just before serving.
- Prep tips: This ranch pasta salad is best served cold. I recommend making this salad at least 2-3 hours before you plan to serve it so that it has time to chill.
- Serving amount: This pasta salad makes enough to serve 5-6 people as a side dish. It's easy to double if you're cooking for more.
- Make it a complete meal: I love eating pasta salad as a complete meal. Just add a can of chickpeas, BBQ tofu or baked tofu, or crispy baked tofu nuggets to make it a balanced meal.
- Leftovers: Refrigerate leftover ranch pasta salad in a closed container for 3-4 days. Leftover pasta salad won't be as creamy as the day it's made because the pasta absorbs the dressing as it refrigerates.
- For an extra creamy pasta salad I recommend doubling the ranch dressing.
Looking for more spring recipes?
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Easy Vegan Ranch Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces dry shell pasta
- 1 cup frozen green peas thawed
- 1 cup broccoli florets bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes from ~1 8 ounce container
- 1 cup vegan ranch dressing see note #1
- ½ cup homemade coconut bacon bits see note #2
- Cook shell pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, prep the veggies, vegan ranch, and coconut bacon bits.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the shell pasta and vegan ranch dressing. Add remaining ingredients. Toss to combine.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftover pasta salad for 3-4 days in a closed container. Enjoy!
- Vegan ranch dressing: I use my homemade vegan ranch dressing recipe but you can use an equal amount of storebought dressing.
- Coconut bacon bits: These are made by tossing 1 cup coconut flakes with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika. Simply saute everything together in a medium skillet over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let sit for ~5 minutes to crisp up before adding to the pasta salad.
- Make ahead: This recipe can be made up to 24 hours in advance. I recommend reserving half of the ranch dressing to toss into the salad just before serving, or double up on the ranch dressing for a creamier salad.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared March 2019. It was updated March 2022 with new photos, a video, and more tips. The recipe is the same.