This simple cilantro lime pasta salad makes for a perfect light lunch, side dish for burgers or is amazing to bring to picnics or potlucks for a delicious summer dish. It is filled with fresh corn, avocado, lime juice and cilantro and also is super versatile. Healthy, oil-free and 100% vegan.
Here is a beautiful and healthy salad perfect for this summer: Cilantro-Lime Pasta Salad.
I make pasta salads often since our kids love them and they are easy to carry to picnics and the beach in the summer. I have a red lentil pasta salad that's very filling and delicious, but with the summer that's just beginning, I'm looking to make more of them for the blog!
So I prepared this super fresh and citrusy bow tie pasta salad that's packed with juicy tomatoes, sweet corn, creamy avocado and crunchy red onion. The ingredients are tossed in a zesty and creamy cilantro lime yogurt sauce, which is absolutely the most amazing salad sauce we have had in a while.
There is a touch of chili powder just to boost the flavor of the lime yogurt sauce, but this recipe is so versatile you can include whatever seasonings you prefer.
You will be amazed by the combination of bright flavors and vibrant color in this salad, it is so appetizing and addictive! Plus, it is also made much healthier and lighter, so no reason to stop after your first plate.
The sauce is made using yogurt and without adding any oil at all. Plus, you can really load it up with tons of veggies and even add some extra beans to boost the content of plant-based protein, if you want. This recipe also uses a dairy-free yogurt to make this pasta salad completely vegan.
It makes for a tasty filling lunch, yummy side dish for burgers, chilled dish to enjoy under the sun, snack on-the-go and perfect meal-prep recipe ahead of a busy week. It is also quick and easy to prepare, making it a great last-minute meal your whole family will adore.
Hope you give it a try! ❤️
Highlights of this recipe
- Easy recipe
- Highly versatile
- Great meal-prep recipe to get a few lunches covered for the week
- Packed with veggies
- Includes a delicious creamy yogurt sauce
- Amazing flavors of tangy lime, fragrant cilantro and sweet corn
- Perfect summer dish
- 100% vegan, dairy-free and plant-based
Ingredients you will need
- Pasta: I think bow tie pasta work great in this recipe, but you can use any short pasta you prefer, such as penne, rigatoni, orecchiette, macaroni elbow or ziti. I would avoid orzo/cavatelli (too small) or fusilli/gemelli (can get too soft). Also, to boost your salad with more fiber and plant-based protein, then feel-free to use whole wheat noodles or lentil pasta.
- Yogurt: makes for the base of the sauce. I used a plain cashew yogurt from the brand Forager. You can also use an almond yogurt from Kite Hill. In any case, make sure it is unsweetened and unflavored.
- Lime juice: essential ingredient in this recipe as it flavors the whole salad. Use freshly squeezed lime juice and NOT from the bottle and add as much as you want for a more or less tart and citrusy salad.
- Cilantro: also important to flavor the salad and add that amazing fragrant fresh taste. I used ⅓ packed cup, although you can add more or less of it or even make a mix and match with other herbs, such as mint or basil.
- Garlic: there is a little bit of fresh garlic in the dressing to really boost the flavor.
- Chili powder: or use cayenne powder if you are looking for a little heat.
- Corn: if in the summer, then I highly recommend using fresh corn on the cob for best flavor. But otherwise, simply use frozen corn if that's easier.
- Avocado: adds healthy fats to the salad to make it filling and also a nice creamy bite. Use a ripe avocado that isn’t too soft for best texture.
- Tomato: use regular tomatoes or cherry tomatoes for a little more sweetness.
- Red onion: they add such a nice flavor and also good crunch, I also prefer red onion to yellow onion for their milder taste. You can also use green onions or chives instead, although you won't get as much of a crunch.
How to make a creamy cilantro lime pasta salad
This salad can be done in under 15 minutes! You can also make the dressing ahead of time, which would allow more time for the flavors to develop.
Cook the pasta and corn (if using fresh)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then cook the noodles al dente following the packaging instructions. Once done, rinse them in cold water and set aside.
If using fresh corn: bring another medium pot of water to a boil and then, add the cobs of corn. Once the water starts to simmer again, then let the cobs cook for about 8-10 minutes. Then, drain the cobs and and remove the kernels by holding the cob vertically on a cutting board and then, run a sharp knife from top to bottom along the hard middle part of the cob. You can have a peak at my video to see how I do this.
If using frozen corn: add the frozen kernels to a bowl, cover with water and thaw at room temperature for 20 minutes or speed up the process by using the microwave. Then, drain well.
Make the cilantro lime yogurt dressing
While the pasta and corn are cooking, then whisk together in a bowl the yogurt, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chili powder and salt. Set aside until ready to use or keep in the fridge if making it ahead.
Assemble and serve
In a large mixing bowl, combine the noodles, tomatoes, corn kernels, red onion, avocado and then drizzle the yogurt sauce over. You can start with ½-3/4 of the batch of the sauce and add more if needed (you might be left with some extra).
Gently toss (try not to break the avocado too much) and taste to adjust salt to your liking.
Serve right away with more cilantro and wedges of lime or keep in the fridge to serve chilled later.
- I think using fresh corn makes a big difference in this recipe, making it a perfect salad to prepare in the summer. Frozen corn would work too in the winter, but I would avoid using canned corn for this recipe.
- To avoid the avocado from turning mushy while mixing, you can also simply top the salad with it when serving instead of incorporating it in the salad. This can be a good way to also serve it if making the salad ahead of time since the avocado tends to brown over time.
- Keep the extra dressing! The pasta will soak up on the sauce slightly while resting, so it is nice to drizzle some extra when serving.
- If making this salad part of a BBQ cookout, then you should grill the corn on the BBQ instead of boiling it to add some charred flavors.
This fresh summer pasta salad makes for such an amazing potluck recipe: you can make both the salad ingredients and the sauce ahead of time in separate containers, then stir them together last minute just before serving, so the salad stays fresh.
It is also loaded with summery flavors, making it the perfect BBQ side dish to enjoy outside in the summer. This salad goes especially great with burgers, such as these vegan chickpea burgers or oyster mushrooms.
We actually enjoy pasta salads as a full meal for lunch. I like to serve them over leafy greens, such as arugula or baby spinach, and add a side of bread or crackers with some hummus.
This salad is super easy to customize to your taste and make it your own! Here are a few variation ideas:
- Add more plant-based protein: you can include chickpeas, edamame or black beans, which I think would pair perfectly well with the zesty creamy sauce. These sautéed chickpeas are filled with flavorful spices and would also be great to top your salad with a nice crunch. Also, add some cubed smoky tofu or marinated tempeh for such a nice boost in flavor.
- More veggies: there are plenty of vegetables you could include in this salad to add more colors and nutrients, such as red pepper, cucumber, spinach, green peas and celery.
- Spicy: for a summer salad with a little heat, then add some diced jalapeño or a generous pinch of cayenne or chipotle.
- Ultra zesty: simply add more lime juice or even add some lime zest to the sauce.
- Tweak the sauce: for an ultra rich sauce, then you can use half vegan mayo + half vegan yogurt, although the 100% yogurt version I made is healthier and completely free of added fats.
Keep this salad in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
The salad will absorb some of the dressing while resting and also, the avocado might turn brown over time. So, if you know that you will have more than you can eat within 24 hours, then you can keep the dressing and avocado apart and stir them in only in individual portions at serving. The leftovers will store better that way.
The cilantro lime sauce and vegetables are naturally GF. To make this salad completely GF, then simply choose GF noodles.
I prefer this pasta salad recipe served at room temperature. I love to enjoy it right away when the warm-ish noodles are just combined with the cold sauce. You can also serve it completely chilled, if you prefer. In any case, I don't recommend warming up this salad as it is yogurt-based.
More recipes like this
- Cucumber beet salad
- Tuscan white bean salad
- Edamame crunch salad
- Vegan couscous salad
- Red lentil pasta salad
- Kale crunch apple salad
- Vegan watermelon salad
- Cucumber, mango and edamame salad
- Healthy bean salad
- Beet watermelon salad
I hope you like this cilantro lime pasta salad recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad
- 8 oz short pasta of your choice - I used bow ties
- 2 ears of corn - or about 1 ½ cup frozen and thawed corn
- 1 large tomato - diced
- ½ cup red onion - finely diced
- 1 avocado - diced
For the creamy cilantro lime dressing
- ¾ cup yogurt - I used dairy-free cashew yogurt from Forager
- ¼-⅓ cup cilantro
- 2 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 2 limes - juiced
- ½ tsp chili powder - or cayenne pepper for a spicier recipe
- salt - to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then, cook the noodles al dente following the packaging instructions. Once done cooking, drain well and set aside.
- Also, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and then, add the corn. When it comes back to a boil, then keep simmering for 8-10 minutes, drain and let them cool down for a few minutes.
- Once the corn is cool enough to handle, then remove the kernels: place the cob vertically on a cutting board and run a knife from top to bottom all around the cob following the hard pit.
- In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cilantro and salt. Stir to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the pasta, corn, tomatoes, red onion and avocado. Then, drizzle the sauce (start with about ¾ of the batch) and stir to combine. Add more sauce as needed and taste to adjust saltiness and flavors to your preference. Enjoy!
- To make this salad ahead of time, then I recommend to keep the sauce and avocado apart for best freshness. When ready to serve, add the cube avocado, drizzle the sauce and stir to combine. Once the salad is done, keep the leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
- You can add more plant-based protein and make it more filling by adding some chickpeas, black beans, roasted tofu, etc. Also amazing served as a side dish with burgers or sandwiches. See the blog post for more ideas!