Creamy Vegan Pasta Salad (Perfect for Summer!)

Hiya Gorgeous!

Pasta salad is a must-have for any summer gathering, but it’s often heavy and laden with not-so-healthy ingredients. I believe that comfort food can be satisfying, indulgent, delicious AND great for you… and this Creamy Vegan Pasta Salad from my Test Kitchen is proof!

It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a vegan pasta salad and more…

  • Packed with fresh veggies
  • Indulgent but won’t weigh you down
  • Perfect for meal prep or a make-ahead dish
  • A crowd-pleaser
  • Gluten-free, and can be made nut and night-shade free
  • Easy to make
  • Creamy and smoky
  • Fresh and summery
  • Loaded with plant-powered nutrients (more deets in a bit!)
  • Cheesy (sans the dairy)
  • And cool with a kick!

Here are some of the superstar ingredients in today’s recipe:

  • Chickpea pasta: Who says pasta can’t pack a protein punch?! We used Banza’s rotini, which has a whopping 14 g of protein in each 2-oz serving. You should be able to find Banza at your local health food store (especially at a place like Whole Foods), or you can order it in bulk here. This stuff makes a fabulous pantry staple!
  • Jicama: I was so excited when the Test Kitchen Tuesday crew suggested we feature this starchy root veggie in our vegan pasta salad recipe! Jicama was originally grown in Mexico, and its mild, subtly sweet flavor make it super versatile. It’s full of antioxidants like vitamins C and E, selenium and beta-carotene. Plus it contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that’s good for your gut!
  • Corn: This gorgeous veggie has gotten a bad rap because of how it’s often farmed here in the states, but corn has a lot of nutritional value (not to mention flavor!) to offer. Just make sure to opt for the organic, non-GMO variety. Sweet corn is a good source of folate, potassium and lots of other wonderful nutrients.
  • Roasted red pepper: Red bell peppers aren’t just beautiful, they’re also great for you! They’re one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin C, which plays an important role in iron absorption, immune function and many other bodily functions. And roasting bell peppers is one of my favorite ways to eat them because it brings out their natural sweetness and adds a touch of smoky depth—the perfect addition to our vegan pasta salad.

And here’s my favorite part about this scrumptious recipe: It was inspired by elote, aka Mexican street corn. If you’re not familiar with elote, it’s a whole ear of corn grilled, covered with toppings like butter, chili powder, mayo and cotija cheese, and served on a stick (source). Some of those ingredients aren’t great for us (though I have seen plant-based versions available at some restaurants—yay!). But we love elote’s flavor profile, so the Test Kitchen Tuesday team and I dreamed up this tantalizing twist.

Without further ado, let’s get to cookin’, good lookin’!

Creamy Vegan Pasta Salad

Serves 8 (about 1 cup per serving) | Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 30 min

Pasta Salad Ingredients:
8 oz (224 g) gluten-free chickpea rotini pasta
3 tsp oil, divided
4 ears non-GMO corn (about 2 cups or 270 g kernels)
1 large red bell pepper
1 cup (180 g) halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup (120 g) chopped jicama or radishes
1 Hass avocado, chopped
¼ cup (4 g) chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ fresh jalapeño, minced (optional)

Cashew Crema Dressing Ingredients:
¾ cup (90 g) raw cashew pieces, soaked, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 fresh limes)
½ cup (120 ml) water
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Strain, rinse with cold water until completely cool and thoroughly drain.

2. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). On a baking sheet coated with 2 tsp oil, place ears of corn, husked and cleaned. On a separate baking sheet coated with 1 tsp oil, place red bell pepper. Roast for 30 min, rotating vegetables halfway through, until lightly charred all over.

3. While the vegetables roast and pasta cooks, prepare Cashew Crema Dressing. In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients and purée on high speed until completely smooth. Set aside.

4. Place roasted pepper in a paper bag and seal the top by rolling it closed. Let steam for 15 min before peeling the skin, removing the seeds and roughly chopping.

5. Using a serrated knife, slice kernels off each corn cob.

6. In a large bowl, combine pasta with corn, roasted pepper, tomatoes, jicama or radishes, avocado, cilantro, green onions and jalapeño (if using). Toss together with the dressing and serve immediately.

Storage tip: Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Simplify this recipe: Substitute ¾ cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Earth Balance’s Mindful Dressing and Sandwich Spread) or plain, unsweetened vegan yogurt (such as Kite Hill’s Plain Unsweetened Almond Milk Yogurt) instead of soaked cashews and water. Use frozen roasted corn and jarred roasted red pepper instead of roasting them yourself.

Make it nut-free: Substitute raw, shelled sunflower seeds for the cashews.

Make it nightshade-free: Substitute lightly steamed chunks of zucchini for the tomatoes, opt for radishes instead of jicama and use raw shredded carrots (about 1 cup) instead of red bell pepper. Omit the jalapeño and substitute ½ tsp cumin for the smoked paprika.

Make-ahead tip: Store the salad and dressing separately, mixing together just before serving. You may need to add an extra splash of water to blend smoothly. Keep uncut avocado separate to avoid browning, chop and add to salad just before serving.

Nut soak note: If you have a high-speed blender, you can skip soaking your nuts or seeds. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can either soak your nuts or seeds in water for 4 hr, or you can do a “quick soak” by covering them with water in a pot and bringing it to a boil. Once the water boils, remove them from the heat and let them sit for an hour.

Calling all recipe lovers!

Whenever I ask this incredible community what kind of content you want to see more of, one of the top responses is always (without fail)… MORE RECIPES! I love that you enjoy playing in the kitchen as much as I do. After all, preparing tasty, nutritious home cooked meals for yourself is one of the greatest acts of self-love.

My Crazy Sexy Recipe Club is the place to be for exclusive recipes, cooking tips, and other free goodies that’ll help you make your time in the kitchen simpler and more fun. And I’m excited to announce that my team and I are cooking up some really exciting stuff for the Recipe Club, which is coming your way soon. So if you haven’t yet, now is the time to become a member! Trust me, you’re not gonna want to miss this.

Hungry yet? Me too! Let’s see that vegan pasta salad!

Before it gets gobbled up (and it will!), I’d love to see your cheffy skills! Snap a pic of your very own vegan pasta salad and share it on Instagram or Facebook with #TestKitchenTuesday. Don’t forget to tag me at @crazysexykris—I’ll share my faves with our spectacular community!

And finally, a very special thanks to the incredible Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog and the rest of the Test Kitchen Tuesday crew for helping to create this spectacular dish!

Peace & pastabilities,

Kris Carr

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