This delicious vegan macaroni salad recipe is everything a classic macaroni salad should be with diced onion, celery, and bell pepper along with shredded carrots and chopped pimento peppers. Only it’s made vegan with vegan-friendly ingredients like vegan mayo and optional black salt.
When I say this recipe is classic macaroni salad, I mean it! In fact, it’s a veganized copycat version of the Classic Macaroni Salad found on Allrecipes. I’ve made a few tweaks and adjustments to make it vegan friendly so that everyone can enjoy it!
Enjoying vegan food can be tricky at a potluck or barbeque event. You don’t always know what will be available to you and so you need to bring something you can eat but that others would also enjoy.
This colorful vegan macaroni salad is the best macaroni salad for the job! It is perfect for picnics, potlucks, and special brunch events. Make it and take it. No need to mention that this delicious recipe is vegan because nobody will know the difference.
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Ingredients and substitutions to make the best vegan macaroni salad you will be proud to take anywhere!
It’s easy to make vegan macaroni salad if you know the right substitutions to make. I’ve made this vegan macaroni salad many times and this is what works for me.
(Note: If you are not vegan but still wanted to make this delcious easy macaroni salad, use any mayonnaise of your choice -but actual mayo – not “salad dressing” nor Miracle Whip, leave out the black salt, and use the max amount of sugar suggested.)
- elbow macaroni pasta – You will need a 16-ounce box for this recipe. Can you use another type of small-shaped pasta? Of course! I think bow-tie pasta, rigatoni, corkscrew pasta, or cavatappi would make a lovely pasta salad. BUT for the classic salad, you really need to use elbow macaroni. To ensure it is vegan, read the ingredients. Most small-shaped pasta is. But do read the ingredients to make sure it will work for you.
- vegan mayo – There are so many new vegan mayo brands on the market now and not all of them taste exactly the same. The one I use most often is Best Foods Vegan Mayo (which I believe is the same as Hellmann’s brand) because it is easy to find in my local grocery store. I have also used Follow Your Heart Veganaise when I can find it. While we do have many delicious vegan options right now, they all taste a little bit different. Some are sweeter than others which is why I suggest a range in the amount of sugar used (see below).
- white vinegar – Some macaroni salad recipes call for apple cider vinegar. The Allrecipes classic macaroni salad uses white vinegar – and so will we.
- ½-⅔ cups granulated sugar – Notice that I give a suggested range for the amount used. This is because not all vegan mayonnaise brands are the same. Some are sweeter than others. Start with the lesser amount because you can always add more. The difference between the two measurements is about 2 1/2 tablespoons. Start by adding one extra teaspoon at a time. Stir and taste before adding more.
- yellow mustard – Prepared yellow mustard is what makes this vegan macaroni salad a classic. Some recipes call for mustard powder or Dijon mustard. This one does not. Stick with the yellow mustard for this pasta salad recipe.
- sea salt and black pepper – Use any salt you’d like. I just like sea salt.
- optional black salt (Kala Namak) – Black salt – or Kala Namak – is actually pinkiish/gray in color. It has a strong sulfur taste that lends an eggy flavor. Many non-vegan mayonnaise brands have that eggy flavor – because they use eggs – where as vegan mayo typically does not have the egg flavor (depending on the brand). IF and only if you find you miss the eggy flavor, add the black salt. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way and start with 1/8 teaspoon, give it a taste and see if you’d like to add more.
- red onion finely diced – Use any onion you’d like. I don’t actually know which type of onion is used in the Allrecipes classic recipe. I like the flavor and color of red onions.
- diced celery – You will need one cup which is about two stalks.
- diced bell pepper – The classic recipe calls for green bell pepper. I have used other types as well depending on what I have on hand. Green bell pepper does have a more sharp flavor than the other peppers and is preferable for a classic macaroni salad recipe.
- grated carrot – I am lazy and often buy packaged carrot shreds. If you want to grate your own carrots, it’s all good.
- chopped pimento – This comes in a little jar that is usually found near the pickles and olives. Sometimes it is in strips and sometimes it is already chopped.
How to make vegan macaroni salad
The exact ingredients with measurements can be found in the recipe card below along with more concise abbreviated instructions. Read on for more details, tips, and tricks so that you will feel confident making this recipe.
Step 1: Cook the pasta
Follow the package instructions to cook the pasta. Drain and run cold water over the pasta to stop the cooking process and to begin the cool down process. Set the cooked pasta aside until you are ready to assemble.
If the dressing is already made then you can just place the cooked and cooled pasta directly into the bowl with the prepared dressing. I do pat it dry a little bit first.
Step 2: Make the creamy dressing
While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, you can make the dressing and prepare the chopped veggies.
Every good macaroni salad starts with a flavorful creamy dressing. You are going to like this one because it’s creamy, a little sweet, and a little tangy.
Mix the dressing directly in the bowl you will be using to combine and store the salad. No reason to dirty extra bowls.
Whisk together the vegan mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar, yellow mustard, salt and black pepper, and black salt (if you are using it).
Remember to start with the lesser amounts of both the sugar and the black salt. Mix it up, give it a taste and add more if desired. Keep in mind that you can easily add more; but it is impossible to take it away once it is mixed in.
Step 3: Prepare the vegetables
I usally just buy my carrots preshredded. If you want to grate your own then wash and peel before grating. You will only need one-half cup of grated carrots for this recipe which, depending on the size of your carrot, might be anywhere from one-third to one-half of the carrot.
Dice the red onion, green bell pepper, and celery. I like my vegetables diced very small for this recipe, especially the onion. Chop the pimento if it isn’t already diced as small as you’d like it.
As you are dicing and chopping, you can just add the prepared vegetables to the large bowl with the dressing and the cooked pasta.
Final step: Toss it all together
Once everything is added to the large bowl, toss everything together ensure all pieces are evenly covered by the creamy sauce. You can add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
Cover well and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The flavors will meld more as it sits. You can actually serve it right away. It will be at room temperature though – and I do like my macaroni salad on the cold side.
Left overs should last in the refigerator for up to five days. If the pasta salad dries out in the fridge then refresh with a little nutrual flavored unsweetened plant milk.
For more great vegan recipes that you can take to a potluck or barbeque, try:
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Stovetop bourbon Baked Beans
- Smokey Brown Sugar Baked Beans in the Instant Pot
- Asian Pasta Salad with Peanuts
- Red Wine Vinegar Cole Slaw with Peanuts
- Fresh Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake
- Almond Butter Blondies
- Brownie Cake with Fudge Frosting
The printable recipe card for the best vegan pasta salad
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Classic Vegan Macaroni Salad
- 16 ounce elbow macaroni pasta
- 1 cup vegan mayo
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ½-⅔ cups granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- ½ Tablespoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon optional black salt (kala namak) see notes
- 1 cup red onion finely diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- ½ cup grated carrot
- 2 Tablespoons pimento chopped
- Prepare the macaroni according to package directions. Drain when finished cooking and run cold water over it to begin the cool-down process. Set aside.
- While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, you can chop and dice the vegetables and make the dressing.
- Use a large bowl. This is the bowl you will mix everything in. Whisk together the vegan mayo, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper, and black salt together if you are using it. See notes about the amount of sugar used.
- As you dice the vegetables, add them to the bowl with the mixed dressing. Dice the onions, bell pepper, celery, and pimento. Peel and shred the carrot if you didin't buy it pre-shredded. Add all to the bowl.
- Once the pasta has been drained and rinsed, I pat it dry a littte bit. Add it to the bowl with the diced vegetables and dressing. Toss all together.
- Cover and refrigerate. It will take up to two hours to be cooled enough to serve. Store extras in an airtight container in the frige for up to five days.