Summer pasta salad without mayonnaise: this is how it works!

Picnics, summer get-togethers in the garden, barbecues in the park. For all of these occasions, there has to be at least one pasta salad that goes well with all the burgers and grilled dishes. Do you need some inspiration? We will give you some ideas on how to make a delicious and light pasta salad without mayonnaise. With a lot of vegetables and few dairy products, it will last much longer.

The secrets of a lighter pasta salad

summer pasta salad fusilli with mozzarella and tomatoes

When it’s hot outside, we usually want to eat light and refreshing salads, not heavy and creamy ones. In addition, mayonnaise can spoil very quickly if left unrefrigerated. A pasta salad without mayonnaise can also have a certain degree of creaminess. In our first recipe, this is achieved through a vinaigrette with lots of olive oil and flavorful soft cheese. Greek yogurt and pesto (whether pesto rosso or pesto genovese) are also wonderful alternatives to the classic salad dressing. Find out here and now how to make the best summer pasta salad without mayonnaise!

The best noodles for pasta salad

Italian salad with pasta tomatoes and feta

The best noodles for pasta salad are actually the small, short types of pasta such as fusilli or even penne. Dry pasta – not fresh or frozen – hold up much better when serving, storing, and stirring.

Cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente and still bite. Then pour off the pasta water and rinse the pasta lukewarm. You’d better not rinse the pasta with cold water, as this will cause it to water down and wash away the taste. Instead, prepare the dressing for your pasta salad and pour it over the pasta shortly after rinsing it off. This way, the pasta will absorb more flavor.

A vinaigrette with more oil creates a creamy texture

Season the pasta salad with oil and vinegar

Have you ever heard that fat gives taste? That is absolutely correct. Fat, be it oil or mayonnaise, is a flavor carrier. Instead of adding more vinegar, vegetables, or herbs to your mayo-free salad to add flavor, consider adding more oil. Soft cheese also helps (more on this below).

Traditionally, a vinaigrette consists of 3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar. To spice up the taste of a pasta salad without mayonnaise, make a vinaigrette with a 50/50 ratio of acid to oil. Mix the rinsed pasta with half of the vinaigrette. This way they absorb the taste of the vinaigrette better and taste more aromatic. The second half should only be poured over the salad relatively shortly before serving.

Which vegetables for the pasta salad without mayonnaise?

Pasta salad made from whole wheat pasta with sunflower seeds, tomatoes and basil

Raw vegetables are delicious, especially in summer, but they can be annoying in a pasta salad. Crunchy raw broccoli just doesn’t go well with a bite of smooth pasta. This doesn’t apply to all vegetables – finely diced red onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes are all allowed, but your pasta salad will be much better if you either cook or use the canned vegetables.

Here are a few suggestions if you want to vary your recipes and add other vegetables.

Raw: Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, finely diced red onions, sliced ​​green onions

From the glass: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives

Blanched: Asparagus, green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower

Fried: Paprika of all shapes, sizes and flavors

Pro tip: Do your guests a favor and cut the vegetables to about the same size as the pasta. This makes it easier to get a little bit of all the good stuff with every bite.

Additional pasta salad flair

Pasta salad with pesto beans and sun-dried tomatoes

Herbs: Both dried and fresh herbs are welcome in the pasta salad. Dried herbs are best dissolved in the vinaigrette and keep well. Fresh herbs should only be added just before serving to prevent them from turning brown.

Soft cheese: Not all types of cheese are suitable for pasta salad. For best results, leave out the grated cheddar, mozzarella balls, or Swiss cheese cubes. Instead, use a soft cheese like goat cheese or herb boursin and work it into the salad. The rich creaminess gives the salad more fat and more flavor since the mayo is missing.

Roasted kernels and seeds: These give every salad a crisp kick, but add them with care, as they too can mess up the consistency. Roasted pumpkin and pine nuts would be ideal.

Mediterranean pasta salad with oil and vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise

Mediterranean pasta salad with oil and vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise


For the vinaigrette:

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

60 ml (about 4 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 medium-sized red onion, finely diced (about 30 g)

For the pasta salad:

450 g short pasta such as farfalle, fusilli, penne or orecchiette

300 g cherry tomatoes, quartered

90 g pitted Kalamata olives, halved

30 g diced roasted peppers from the jar

1/2 medium cucumber, diced (approx. 1 cup)

10 fresh basil leaves

120 g goat cheese, crumbled

70 g roasted pine nuts (optional)

Italian pasta salad with goat cheese without mayo

  1. Prepare the vinaigrette. Put the garlic, lemon juice, oregano, vinegar, salt, sugar, Dijon and pepper in a jar. Add the oil, seal the jar and shake until the vinaigrette is properly emulsified.
  2. Pickle the onion. Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing into a large salad bowl (save the rest for later). Add the red onions, stir and set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the packet until al dente. Drain and rinse with lukewarm water. Drain well.
  4. Arrange the salad. Add the drained pasta, tomatoes, olives, bell pepper, cucumber and basil to the bowl with the dressing. Swirl until everything is covered. (At this point you can set the salad aside for a few hours).
  5. Finish the salad. Before serving, add the other half of the vinaigrette, the goat cheese and, if necessary, the nuts and mix everything well.
  6. storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Pro tip: Taste the salad at different temperatures. If you serve the salad cold, you will likely need more salt than you think.

Can you make the pasta salad a day in advance??

summer pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella as meal prep the day before

This salad can be prepared up to step 4 and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Let the salad warm up to room temperature and season it with more salt if necessary, as cold temperatures can mask the flavors.

You can cook the pasta, make the dressing, and prepare the vegetables, but wait until just before serving to add the second half of the salad dressing, plus cheese and nuts. Not only does this prevent the salad from getting soggy and dry, it also makes the salad look prettier on the picnic plate.

Pasta salad with pesto

Pasta salad with pesto and tomatoes

Pesto is also a great substitute for mayonnaise in pasta salad. You can make the pesto yourself or buy it ready-made. Regardless of which variant you choose, you will need around 1 cup or 200 g of pesto. When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and stir the sauce into the noodles.

To create a Caprese variation with pasta, use Genovese pesto, mozzarella balls and tomatoes. For a large salad for 10 people you need about 450 g cooked pasta, 200 g pesto, 300 g cherry tomatoes and 200 g mozzarella balls.

pasta salad with pesto rosso

Rocket and feta go wonderfully with a pasta salad with pesto rosso. Rucola can also be easily replaced with spinach or lamb’s lettuce.

Pasta salad with yogurt

summer pasta salad with yogurt and cucumber

This pasta salad without mayonnaise is creamy and refreshing thanks to Greek yogurt and cucumber. It is a perfect and filling summer lunch that can be prepared in a few minutes. The recipe consists of 7 simple ingredients that most of you already have in your kitchen. In addition to 230 g of pasta of your choice, you will need:

1 cucumber, finely diced

210 g yogurt

1 clove of garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint

2 tbsp olive oil


The recipe for this cold pasta salad consists of five simple steps.

  1. First cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse under cold water and place in a bowl.
  2. Cover the cooked and cooled noodles with the cucumber cubes.
  3. Prepare the yogurt dressing. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, crushed garlic, and salt. Pour it over the pasta and pickles.
  4. Chop the herbs of your choice and add them to the bowl. We use fresh mint.
  5. Finally, drizzle the olive oil over it and stir everything well. Serve cold.

summery light pasta salad with cucumber and yoghurt

What else can I add?

  • Finely diced Red onions go well with cucumbers.
  • You love sour, tangy ones green apples? Dice one the same size as the cucumber and add it to the salad.
  • If you like a nutty taste in your salad, you can too Walnuts or almonds Add.