By Ariel Knutson
No summer potluck is complete without pasta salad. It’s the side dish that’s endlessly adaptable and always a crowd-pleaser. It’s easy to transport, and keeps well in the fridge for days — which means it’s a great make-ahead option. The only problem? Traditional pasta salad recipes often call for loads of mayo — and sometimes you want something a bit lighter and a bit fresher.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite healthier, mayo-free versions of everyone’s favorite summer side dish. Instead of the traditional mayo, all of these pasta salad recipes use either a creamy substitution like pesto and tahini, or a zippy vinaigrette for added brightness and flavor.
1. Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad from Salt & Lavender
You use the grill to make your main dishes, why not your sides? This pasta salad is filled with all your favorite summer produce, including zucchini, corn, and bell peppers. It gets a little zing from the lemon juice and zest, and is completed with shaved Parmesan and basil.
2. Mediterranean Pasta Salad from Zestful Kitchen
This Mediterranean number is packed with flavor thanks to olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. It’s also endless versatile. Skip the goat cheese and make it vegan; make it a meal by adding chicken; or go gluten-free by using bean or lentil pasta. Whatever you choose, it’s guaranteed to be delicious.
3. Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Pesto Pasta from Recipe Runner
One of the easiest ways to make a mayo-less pasta salad is with pesto. You can make your own, or you can buy it pre-made for a shortcut. Besides the pesto, this simple pasta salad includes plenty of grilled chicken and asparagus. In the famous words of Ina Garten, how easy is that?
4. Sun-Dried Tomato, White Bean, and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad from Half-Baked Harvest
Tieghan Gerard of Half-Baked Harvest says this deeply savory pasta salad is all about the basil vinaigrette, which, when mixed with the goat cheese creates a delicious sauce that mimics the creaminess of mayo. Add in some sun-dried tomatoes, white beans, and avocado, and you’re ready to eat.
5. Tahini and Greens Pasta Salad from Rainbow Plant Life
Instead of mayo, this vegan pasta salad gets its creaminess from a brilliant lemon-tahini sauce. It’s also filled with asparagus and green beans; pine nuts for crunch; and chickpeas for protein.
6. Summertime Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Corn and Jalapeño Pesto from Cookie + Kate
Pasta salads only get better as you let them sit in the fridge, and this recipe is no exception. The pesto gets an unexpected kick from jalapeño, and the heat is tempered with cool tomatoes, fresh corn, black beans, and feta.
7. Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad from Salt & Lavender
You can have your first course and your main course all at once thanks to this smart pasta salad recipe. The recipe includes two kinds of protein (chicken and bacon), pasta, romaine lettuce, Parmesan, and a Caesar dressing that binds everything together. There’s also croutons, which for some reason just really make me happy.
8. Strawberry Spinach Pasta Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing from Creme de la Crumb
This pasta salad stands out for its addition of fruit. You don’t see that too often, do you? It includes both strawberries slices and pineapple chunks, which might sound strange at first, but it’s actually refreshing. The rest of the salad includes pasta baby spinach, dried cranberries, and cashews, There’s also this really zippy poppy seed dressing that brightens the entire dish.
9. The Best Easy Italian Pasta Salad from Pinch of Yum
I bet you can’t just have one serving of this ridiculously tasty pasta salad! Made with a homemade Italian dressing, summer sausage, pepperoncini, mozz balls, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes, every bite has something interesting. You can (and should) make this for a summer potluck, but it’s also equally as exciting for an easy weeknight dinner.
10. Caprese Pasta Salad from Midwest Foodie
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the possibilities and all the time some of these recipes can take, this is the pasta salad for you. Besides the pasta, all you need are some mini mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, basil, and the ingredients for a homemade balsamic glaze. Truly, it couldn’t be easier or more delicious.