This healthy red lentil pasta salad features an amazing zesty vinaigrette, hearty red lentil noodles and crunchy vegetables such as cucumber, red onion and tomatoes. Also, this recipe is high-in-fiber and loaded with quality plant-based protein, which will make you feel full and satisfied longer. Easy to customize and completely vegan and gluten-free.
Here is a nice fresh vegan pasta salad to add to your summer meal planning. Not only is this recipe loaded with crunchy nutrient-dense vegetables, but also is packed with plant-based protein and tons of fiber to help you feel full longer.
But what we LOVE most about this simple red lentil pasta salad is the amazing tangy and creamy lemon vinaigrette. Really easy-to-make, can be whipped up within 5 minutes, completely dairy-free and no blender required, this dressing features a combination of fresh lemon and parsley to make this mayo-based sauce lighter and feeling more fresh. Perfect for hot summer days!
You can serve it as the main meal since it contains everything you need to feel satisfied, but also works great as a side dish with burgers and sandwiches or to bring to BBQs and pot lucks. Pair with a refreshing strawberry mojito mocktail for a nice summer treat!
Highlights of this recipe
- Loaded with varied textures from crunchy fresh produce, grainy yet creamy chickpeas, silky dressing and tender noodles that makes this recipe so fun and appetizing.
- Like most pasta salad recipes, easy to customize depending on your preference and what is available.
- Can fit with many diets as it is fully gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and vegan. Also great recipe for the fitness enthusiast as it is fairly high-in-protein.
- Great for meal-planning, perfect picnic recipe and to pack healthy lunches to-go.
Why use red lentil noodles instead of wheat noodles?
Can I just use regular noodles, you may ask? Sure, you can! But why miss out on an easy swap to boost your meal with a generous amount of healthy fiber and plant-based protein?
- Compared to regular wheat noodles (let's say a white pasta version), red lentil noodles have roughly double the amount of protein and more than 3 times the amount of fiber!
- You will definitely feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time when eating red lentil noodles compared to regular white pasta.
- The noodles are wheat-free and completely gluten-free, which might work well for your diet. I also prefer red lentil noodles compared to some other gluten-free pasta, such as chickpea noodles, as they don't easily turn mushy and their texture holds better when tossed in a sauce.
- Plus, what a fun and interesting way to eat more lentils! Red lentil noodles, from most brands, are made using only lentils as a single ingredient recipe, so it really is like eating lentils, but into the shape of noodles! And we love its amazing orange color!
Ingredients you'll need
- Red lentil noodles: I used the red lentil penne from the brand Barilla, but feel free to use their fusilli shape as well. Although I haven't tried them, I know that Trader Joe's has a brand that I would imagine is very similar. Banza also make their own lentil noodles. Use a 8 or 8.8 oz box.
- Canned chickpeas: adds even more protein and fiber.
- Vegetables: cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion and red bell pepper.
- Kalamata olives: for a nice salty addition that pairs well with the other Mediterranean inspired ingredients.
- Vegan mayo: base of the dressing to make it creamy.
- Lemon juice: nice and tangy with a fresh flavor.
- White wine vinegar: adds even more tanginess for a nice punch of flavor, can be swapped for white balsamic vinegar.
- Garlic: for flavor.
- Dijon: nice peppery flavor that pairs well with the lemon juice.
- Fresh parsley: amazing with the lentil noodles I think, I like to use a large handful to make this pasta salad very fresh.
How to make a red lentil pasta salad
Cook the noodles and prep the veggies
Cook the noodles accordingly to packaging, keeping the noodles from overcooking. Then, drain well (you can quickly rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process) and set aside.
While the noodles are cooking, prep the veggies and chop in bite size: dice the cucumber, half the cherry tomatoes, pit and slice the olives, finely chop the onion and dice the red pepper. Aim for pieces of all about the same size.
Also, clean and finely chop the fresh parsley.
Make the creamy lemon dressing
In a medium bowl, combine the vegan mayo, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, dijon, garlic and salt (and ground black pepper, if desired). Whisk well until uniform and nicely creamy.
Then, add the chopped parsley and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Assemble and serve!
In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked noodles, chopped veggies, canned chickpeas and pour the dressing over. Gently toss to coat all the noodles and veggies with the vinaigrette. Taste again and adjust salt and pepper to your taste.
Watch how to make it
- To make this recipe lower-in-fat and completely oil-free, feel free to swap the vegan mayo for a light vegan yogurt, such as almond or soy yogurt. Just make sure to choose an unflavored and unsweetened yogurt. You can also make my cashew mayo for a recipe made from scratch and completely whole food plant-based! Or, do like I did for my vegan Waldorf salad and use half-half mayo + vegan yogurt.
- I really enjoyed the dressing being ultra tangy, but if the flavor is too lemony or vinegary for your taste, then add a little bit of sweetener (any kind!) and whisk well to tamper down the zestiness. Or, follow my vinaigrette recipe to make my chickpea salad where the dressing has more of a sweet background (just swap the fresh dill for parsley).
- I believe fresh herbs are essential in this recipe. If you don't have parsley, then use whatever fresh herbs you got, such as dill, basil or cilantro. Or do a mix and match and use different kinds!
- Meal-prepping tip: you can make the dressing ahead and combine all the veggies/beans ahead of time, but wait for the last minute to cook the noodles. I found their texture better when just cooked and tossed in the sauce.
If you are not a fan of some of the vegetables included in the recipe, then feel free to simply include what you like or what is in season. Here are some other ideas:
- Steamed/roasted asparagus or zucchini, although you can also add raw sliced zucchini as well for a quicker substitution.
- Thawed frozen corn, or add fresh corn in the summer for a nice pop of sweetness.
- Swap the chickpeas for black beans or white beans.
- Swap the parsley for dill and add some canned artichokes.
- You can also add some leafy greens such as chopped spinach and kale. If adding a lot, then feel free to make double batch of the dressing.
- Add some dried herbs to the dressing such as oregano, dill, chives or basil.
- For an added crunch and extra healthy fats, top the salad with roasted almonds.
We enjoyed this pasta salad as is for lunch paired with crackers and hummus. The high-protein noodles will definitely make your belly happy + full and you get tons of nutrients from the healthy veggies.
But, you can also serve it as a side dish to pair with burgers or sandwiches, such as chickpea burgers, buffalo 'chicken' sandwich or beet and carrot cold sandwiches.
To add even more plant-based protein and a nice kick of flavor, it is totally worth the extra time to make my vegan feta cheese to serve over the salad. Simply crumble some over at serving or cube the vegan cheese to toss within the salad. We are obsessed with this feta!
Red lentil noodles are heartier and might feel a little drier after storing in the fridge. Be sure to toss any leftovers very well before serving and even, add an extra squeeze of lemon juice to revive the sauce. For this reason, I think freshly cooked pasta is a little better, but we absolutely enjoyed the leftovers as well.
Keep in the fridge for 2-3 days well covered. Longer than that is not recommended as the saucy veggies tend to soften overtime and might turn mushy.
More fresh salad recipes you might like
- Vegan watermelon feta salad
- Creamy dill chickpea salad
- Chili-lime bean and corn salad
- Mango cucumber salad
- Vegan eggless salad
- Kale apple crunch salad
- Thai carrot cucumber salad
- Rainbow orange salad
- Rice and quinoa Southwestern salad
- Vegan Waldorf salad
- Vegan couscous pesto salad
I hope you like this red lentil pasta salad 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!
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Red Lentil Pasta Salad
- 8 oz red lentil pasta
- ¼ medium red onion - diced
- 10-15 kalamata olives - pitted and sliced
- ½ red bell pepper - diced
- ½ english cucumber - diced
- 10-15 cherry tomatoes - halved
- 15 oz canned chickpeas - rinsed and drained
For the dressing
- ⅓ cup vegan mayo - see notes
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 clove of garlic - crushed
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- ½ lemon - juiced
- 1 handful fresh parsley - or try other fresh herbs such as dill, basil or cilantro
- salt - to taste
- Cook the red lentil pasta in boiling water. Then drain and run cold water over to help the noodles cool down slightly.
- While the noodles are cooking, clean and chop the veggies in bite size.
- Also, in a bowl, combine the vegan mayo, dijon mustard, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, fresh herbs and salt to taste. Whisk well to combine and adjust flavor to your liking. If the dressing is too zesty for you, then add a little sweetener.
- Transfer the cooked noodles to a large bowl and add the onion, olives, red pepper, tomatoes, cucumber and chickpeas. Then, pour the dressing over and gently stir to combine. Serve right away, enjoy!
- Keep leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days. The red lentil noodles are heartier and might feel a little drier compared to wheat noodles, so toss well the leftovers before serving and add a splash of lemon juice to revive the dressing if needed.
- For a lower-in-fat and oil-free recipe, swap the vegan mayo for unsweetened and unflavored soy or almond yogurt. OR, make my cashew mayo for an even healthier whole food plant-based recipe!
- This pasta salad recipe is highly customizable! Here are a few other ingredients you can include: corn (frozen or fresh), black beans, dried herbs, zucchini (cooked or raw), steamed asparagus, leafy greens such as spinach or kale, etc. If you end up adding many more veggies, then feel free to make double batch of the sauce.
- Serve this pasta salad as a full meal or pair with sandwiches or burgers.
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