Thai Basil Macaroni Salad
Salad Side Dish 

Thai Basil Macaroni Salad

Zippy, creamy, and spicy, this is not your mama’s mac salad recipe.

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Taking cues from my Thai Basil Chickpea Salad recipe, this vegan macaroni salad is loaded with Thai basil, lots of lime juice, and jalapeño for a nice kick.

vegan macaroni salad recipe

I love a good macaroni salad. There’s something about pasta slathered in a creamy, tangy sauce with some crisp veggies. I also love how easy it is to make. This version is inspired by the Thai Basil Chickpea Salad recipe I posted a while back. That chickpea salad remains my favorite chickpea salad of all time. When I needed a quick vegan side dish, I transformed the original idea into a macaroni salad.

Now, I might be a weirdo, but I love warm macaroni salad. I always find it to be the perfect temperature as soon as I’ve finished assembling it. I just love the combination of warm pasta and cold dressing. I even used to microwave store-bought mac salad to try and achieve that “freshly made” temperature.

For this vegan macaroni salad recipe, I serve it warm initially, so feel free to dig in as soon as you finish throwing it together. But it tastes absolutely delicious chilled, too, so you can definitely refrigerate it for a few hours if you’re not about the warm mac salad life.

This recipe goes heavy on the veg. I add charred zucchini and broccoli along with fresh julienned carrots. It’s a really great summer cookout side dish because it’s just so refreshing. I think you’ll love the brightness of this vegan macaroni salad recipe.

vegan macaroni salad

How to make this Thai basil macaroni salad recipe

Fortunately, you don’t need too many ingredients for this, and you can get creative with your veggies. Below I’ll list out what I used and how you can modify the recipe.

What you need

  • Dressing: The dressing is a simple mixture that starts with vegan mayonnaise; I use Follow Your Heart Vegenaise. I add lime juice, lime zest, and a nip of vegan honey. My favorite brand of vegan honey is BlenditUp, which you can buy on Amazon.
  • Aromatics: I add lots of freshly minced cilantro, scallions, and a minced jalapeño. I also add plenty of torn Thai basil leaves. If you don’t have Thai basil, use a fifty-fifty blend of fresh Italian basil and fresh mint leaves instead. It won’t be exactly the same, but it’ll still be delicious.
  • Pasta: You can use your favorite small pasta shape, but I stick with a classic: elbows! I use whole wheat pasta, but you can feel free to use your favorite here.
  • Veggies: I use diced onion, diced zucchini, broccoli florets, and julienned carrot. You can also use shredded cabbage, sugar snap peas, or asparagus tips. Your favorite crunchy veggie will work so well in this. Diced bell peppers would be delicious, too!

How to make it

  • Step 1: Prep! You want to get the dressing whisked together first. Set it aside. Then, mince up all your aromatics–a food processor comes in handy here–and add them to a big bowl.
  • Step 2: Elbow time! Boil the pasta until al dente, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water for 10 seconds or so. The macaroni doesn’t need to be completely cooled.
  • Step 3: Veggies! Heat a little oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the zucchini in an even layer. Season with salt and cook for 5–6 minutes, turning once, until it begins to char. Transfer the zucchini and onion to the bowl of aromatics. Add a little more oil to the skillet over high heat. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 5 minutes, turning once or twice, until bright green and lightly charred. The time will depend on how big the florets are; I prefer smaller florets for this because they’ll cook a bit faster, and they’re easier to eat in the salad. Transfer the broccoli to the bowl of zucchini. Add the julienned carrots and let stand for 10 minutes so it’s not steaming hot when you pour the dressing over.
  • Step 4: Assemble! Add the elbows to the bowl of vegetables. Pour the dressing on top and stir to coat.

From there, you’re ready to serve! I like to scatter a few whole Thai basil leaves on top. Serve alongside your favorite plant-based protein. Grilled Meati chicken cutlets would make this a perfect summer dinner on the deck.

Thai Basil Macaroni Salad

Thai Basil Macaroni Salad

Zippy, creamy, and spicy, this is not your mama's mac salad recipe.
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 221kcal

Ingredients

Dressing:

Macaroni salad:

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and minced
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and minced
  • 1 ounce Thai basil leaves, torn; a few reserved for garnish
  • 1 jalapeño, trimmed and minced
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • ¾ pound zucchini, trimmed and diced
  • 12 ounces broccoli florets
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Make the dressing:

  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice and zest, and vegan honey. Taste and add a pinch of salt. If you like a sweeter dressing, add another teaspoon of vegan honey. Set aside.

Start the macaroni salad:

  • Combine the cilantro, scallions, torn Thai basil leaves, and jalapeńo in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook the elbows:

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbows and cook until 1 minute under al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water for 10 seconds. Set aside.

Cook the vegetables:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent. Turn the heat to high and add the zucchini in an even layer. Season with salt and cook without moving for 2–3 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 2–3 minutes. Once the zucchini begins to char lightly around the edges, transfer it to the bowl of aromatics.
  • If the skillet seems dry, add another drizzle of oil. Turn the heat to high and add the broccoli florets in an even layer. Season with salt and cook for 5–6 minutes, turning once or twice, until they begin to char around the edges. Transfer them to the bowl of zucchini and aromatics. Add the cooked elbows and toss to combine with the aromatics and the vegetables. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Finish the macaroni salad:

  • Pour the dressing over the elbows and vegetables and toss to coat. Taste and add salt if needed. Scatter a few whole Thai basil leaves on top. Serve immediately or refrigerate until chilled if you prefer. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 221kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 104mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g
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