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Saturday 18 May 2024
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Vegan BLT Pasta Salad


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This vegan BLT pasta salad is a fun spin on traditional creamy pasta salad. It’s also a way to enjoy crispy tempeh bacon, sweet cherry tomatoes, and crunchy romaine lettuce. The dressing for the pasta salad is a homemade vegan mayo, made with cashews, but you can substitute store-bought vegan mayonnaise if you prefer.

A round, white bowl is filled with a vegan BLT-inspired pasta salad, made with creamy dressing, cherry tomatoes, and chopped greens.

This recipe pays homage to two of my favorite things: a BLT sandwich, and a bowl of creamy pasta salad.

These just so happen to be two of my favorite, easy summer lunches. And, since we have only a day left before the fall equinox arrives, it’s a good time to be celebrating them in the form of a recipe mashup: creamy vegan BLT pasta salad.

The recipe utilizes a couple of my favorite, homemade vegan basics: baked, crispy tempeh bacon and vegan mayo with cashews.

I also include options to use store-bought versions of these things. The recipe is meant to feel easy breezy—a dish that you can whip up quickly and enjoy on the spot, perhaps with a friend or two.

What is a BLT pasta salad?

A BLT pasta salad is pretty much just what it sounds like: pasta salad that’s made with bacon—in this case, vegan bacon—lettuce, and tomatoes.

Like many pasta salad recipes, it features a creamy, tangy dressing.

BLT pasta salad ingredients

If you’d like to use homemade vegan tempeh bacon and mayonnaise in the recipe, then those two components will require some advance preparation.

The rest of the ingredients for the pasta salad are things that you’ve probably got at home already.

Pasta

I tend to like a small pasta shape for pasta salad: especially lumache, shells, or elbows.

However, a medium pasta shape, such as rotini, penne, or cavatappi, will also work well here.

Two small baking sheets are lined with parchment paper and strips of vegan tempeh "bacon."

Tempeh bacon

The “bacon” here is tempeh bacon, which is essentially tempeh that has been sliced thinly, marinated, and baked till crispy.

I love this recipe. I use it in salads, as a topping for vegetables, and especially in my favorite vegan BLT sandwich with homemade mayo (we’ll get to the mayo in a moment).

A close up image of a vegan BLT sandwich, prepared with tempeh bacon.

This tempeh bacon is quite easy to make, and it’s a really lovely, homemade protein to keep in your fridge or freezer.

However, store-bought tempeh bacon is an option, too. The Lightlife and Tofurky brands both make versions of tempeh “bacon” that can be found in grocery stores.

If you’ve got a soy allergy, you could use a seitan-based vegan bacon instead. I love the “benevolent bacon” from the SweetEarth brand.

Vegan mayonnaise

Mayonnaise makes a killer pasta salad dressing, and I have a homemade, wholesome vegan mayonnaise recipe that I love.

A mason jar has been filled with a vegan mayo, made from cashews. It rests on a white surface.

My vegan mayo with cashews takes less than 10 minutes to make, and it uses only 5 ingredients, minus water.

It’s tangy, tasty, and incredibly versatile.

If you’re allergic to cashews or running short on time, you can certainly use a store-bought vegan mayonnaise, such as Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise.

Tomatoes

My preference is for halved cherry tomatoes in this BLT pasta salad. But the most important thing is to use tomatoes that are flavorful and fresh!

If you have a nice, big heirloom tomato on the counter at home, that’s perfect. If you have grape or cherry tomatoes, then you can use those.

Lettuce

I recommend thinly sliced romaine for this pasta salad. Its crunchiness adds to the overall texture of the dish. In addition, romaine tends to hold up over the course of a few days, which means that any leftover pasta salad will remain fresh.

If you don’t have romaine, though, other greens can work here. They could be shredded iceberg, thinly sliced Tuscan kale, chopped Bibb or butter lettuce, or lemony baby arugula.

The dressing

The aforementioned mayo is the base of the dressing for this pasta salad. The other ingredients are simple: onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper, fresh, chopped herbs.

For those herbs, I like to use chives and parsley, but you could mix it up and use dill, basil, or other herbs of choice.

Can the pasta salad be made gluten-free?

Of course!

To make the BLT pasta salad gluten-free, simply use your favorite gluten-free pasta in place of the regular pasta that’s called for.

How to make BLT pasta salad

The steps for throwing this recipe together are simple:

Step 1: Boil your pasta

First, you’ll bring a salted pot of water to a boil and boil your pasta according to package instructions.

A silver pot of water is being used to boil small pasta shells.
Any small or medium pasta shape will work for the recipe. I love to use lumache.

Step 2: Prep mix-ins

While the pasta water is coming to a boil, you can crumble your tempeh bacon and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. You can also wash, dry, and chop your lettuce.

Step 3: Make the dressing

It takes only a minute to whisk together the vegan mayonnaise, seasonings, and a splash of white wine vinegar.

A small, white ramekin is filled with pale yellow mayonnaise and chopped green chives.
Chives and parsley add freshness and flavor to an otherwise simple, creamy dressing.

Step 4: Drain and dry the pasta

Once the pasta has reached the right consistency, you can drain it and rinse it under cold, running water.

What about this drying step? Well, I’ve found that pasta will hold sauces and dressings a little more easily if it’s not coated with cooking or rinsing water.

Lately, I like to dry my pasta a little before adding it to pasta salad. This is a simple thing to do: just line a baking sheet with a tea towel, transfer the rinsed and drained pasta to it, and use another tea towel to pat it dry gently.

After that, you can transfer the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl.

A large, round white mixing bowl is filled with tomatoes, tempeh bacon, cooked pasta, and chopped romaine lettuce.
The essential ingredients for a vegan BLT pasta salad: crumbled plant-based bacon, cherry tomatoes, cooked pasta, and chopped greens.

Step 5: Mix the pasta salad

At this point, you need only mix together the cooked pasta, prepared dressing, tomatoes, lettuce, and tempeh bacon.

Your finished pasta dish should be creamy, but not overdressed. I recommend adding the dressing a few tablespoons at a time; you’ll almost definitely use all of it, but this way you can be sure not to use more than you want.

After dressing the pasta salad, be sure to try it and adjust the seasonings to taste.

A white mixing bowl is filled with the ingredients for a vegan BLT pasta salad, including pasta, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes.
Add creamy dressing ot the pasta salad ingredients a few tablespoons at a time, then mix the salad well to incorporate the dressing completely.

Meal prep & storage

You can enjoy the BLT pasta salad right away once you prepare it. You can also store it for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Other options for meal prep:

  • Baked tempeh bacon strips will keep in an airtight storage container in the fridge for up to 5 days, so they can be made a couple days in advance of the pasta salad. Tempeh bacon can also be frozen for up to 6 weeks.
  • You can prepare the vegan cashew mayonnaise in advance and store it in the fridge for a couple days before making the dressing. You can also freeze the mayonnaise for up to 6 weeks.
  • You can boil, drain, rinse, and dry the pasta ahead of time, then store it for up to two nights in an airtight container in the fridge. I batch cook pasta all the time—it can be done!

More vegan pasta salad recipes

Pasta salad is one of the meal prep lunches that I make most often, and I’ve accumulated a list of favorites over the years.

Here are my top picks:

  • Curried tahini pasta salad
  • Lemon orzo pasta salad
  • The best creamy vegan pasta salad (with an avocado-based dressing!)
  • Tahini pesto pasta salad
  • Chickpea pesto pasta salad
  • Balsamic roasted vegetable pasta (can be served warm or cold)
  • Carrot chickpea couscous salad

And here’s a smoky, savory, tangy, fresh pasta salad to savor while tomato season hangs on.

A round, white bowl is filled with a vegan BLT-inspired, creamy pasta salad. It rests on a white surface.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces short or medium pasta of choice (340g)
  • 1 batch crispy, baked tempeh bacon (crumbled; substitute 8 ounces / 225g store-bought vegan bacon of choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes (240g)
  • 2 cups packed, shredded or thinly sliced romaine lettuce (60g)
  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise (240ml; substitute store-bought for homemade if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley leaves (substitute 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (more as needed)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
  • While the pasta cooks, make the dressing. Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, chives, parsley, onion and garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Drain the pasta, then rinse it under cold water and drain again. Line a baking sheet with tea towels and distribute the pasta over the towels. Pat the pasta dry, then transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the bacon, tomatoes, and romaine.
  • Pour the dressing over the BLT pasta salad ingredients. Toss everything well to combine. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and vinegar to your liking. Serve or store the pasta salad.
A white, round bowl is resting on a white surface. It holds the ingredients for a creamy, plant-based pasta salad.

I really like that this pasta salad can be made with store-bought ingredients in a pinch. Thank goodness for easy, convenient vegan products that come to the rescue in busy times.

With that said, it’s also so fun to make vegan basics and then put them to use in other recipes. Tempeh bacon is something that I make all the time, and this is one of the best uses that I’ve found for it to date.

I hope you’ll like the pasta salad, too. And I’m wishing you a great weekend.




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