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Oil-free Vegan Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite summer-time sides is a creamy Macaroni Salad, just slightly sweet and definitely tangy. For this recipe, I give you an oil-free mayo to make at home, and use in this easy dish!

Large bowl of macaroni salad on a white wood background

If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, you know that I don’t stray away from oils and fats. BUT, recently one of my good friends has had some gallbladder issues, and if you know anything about those, you know you have to lean in hard to a low-fat diet. So, because feeding people is one of my favorite things to do, and I want everyone to feel included, I set out to make this oil-free, vegan macaroni salad.

Small bowls with pasta, onions, cabbage, lemon juice and more on a cutting board

I have a homemade mayo recipe in my second cookbook, Vegan Yack Attack On the Go!, but it does have a bit of (yummy) olive oil in it. To riff off of that recipe, but not use straight-up oil, I decided to sub it with a lesser amount of cashews. Which even in the amount used would still make this mayo low-fat. Now, you will have some mayo left over from the recipe, but I feel like that’s easier to use than a partial packet of silken tofu. lol!

Image collage of pasta being added to boiling water, then drained pasta

But, if you don’t care about this being oil-free, you’re more than welcome to just use store-bought vegan mayo to taste (you may not need as much). Either way, this pasta salad is going to be delicious! And feel free to customize fillings and such to what you have on hand. I’ll list some options in the substitutions below.

Image collage of assembling vegan macaroni salad in a bowl

Substitutions & Tips:

  • Silken tofu – since this is the base of the low-fat/oil-free mayo I wouldn’t suggest subbing it out unless you’re fine with using vegan mayo instead. Silken tofu is a great base for this sauce because it has a mild flavor and creamy texture (more so than refrigerated tofu).
  • White vinegar – for tang and accuracy, this is what I use in homemade mayo. But, if you have a particularly acidic lemon, you can use lemon juice in place of it.
  • Raw cashews – These help thicken the mayo just enough, and the fat that they have helps with consistency as well. BUT, it’s just a couple tablespoons, so again, this will be a much-lighter version than oil-based mayos. If you can’t eat nuts, try subbing with avocado or sunflower seeds.
  • Dried pasta – I used standard macaroni elbows, but gluten-free pasta or other pasta shapes will work fine here. If you use gluten-free pasta, make sure to undercook it just a little so that it doesn’t fall apart when tossed together.
  • Shredded cabbage – I didn’t have decent celery on hand, so I used shredded red cabbage and really liked it in this! It added a nice crunch, and after you let the salad sit for a day it takes on a very light pink hue.
  • Red bell pepper – you can use diced roasted red peppers for a deeper sweetness, but I like the texture of the fresh pepper here. Make sure to use red, yellow, or orange peppers because green won’t be sweet enough for this application.
  • Red onion – white or yellow onion will also work in a pinch.
Small jar of vegan mayo with butter knife on a grey quartz counter

Now, if you’re looking for some other summery cookout sides, I highly recommend the following!

Large bowl of macaroni salad on a white wood background

Oil-free Vegan Macaroni Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chilling time (optional): 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

One of my favorite summer-time sides is a creamy Macaroni Salad, just slightly sweet and definitely tangy. For this recipe, I give you an oil-free mayo to make at home!

Ingredients

Oil-free Vegan Mayo

  • 12-ounce (340 g) package soft silken tofu, drained
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons (28 g) raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Macaroni Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) dried macaroni elbows
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup (25 g) shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons (7 g) diced green onion
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) oil-free vegan mayo
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) sweet relish
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. For the oil-free vegan mayo, place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to soften the cashew pieces then blend again for 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a sealed container and chill in the refrigerator to thicken. Again, this makes more than you need for this recipe, yielding roughly 1 2/3 cups, and can be stored 7-10 days.
  2. For the macaroni salad, repare pasta according to package instructions, then drain and promptly rinse with cold water. Drain again, and transfer to a mixing bowl, adding in bell pepper, cabbage, red onion, and green onion, tossing to combine.
  3. Next, add oil-free vegan mayo, lemon juice, relish, pepper, and salt. Fold together until evenly coated. It may seem pretty saucy, but because of the lack off oil, the pasta absorbs more of the sauce. I prefer to let this sit in the fridge for at least a few hours before serving, to really allow the flavors to flourish. Serve chilled.

Notes

  • Silken tofu - since this is the base of the low-fat/oil-free mayo I wouldn't suggest subbing it out unless you're fine with using vegan mayo instead.
  • White vinegar - for tang and accuracy, this is what I use in homemade mayo. But, if you have a particularly acidic lemon, you can use lemon juice in place of it.
  • Raw cashews - These help thicken the mayo just enough, and the fat that they have helps with consistency as well. If you can't eat nuts, try subbing with avocado or sunflower seeds.
  • Dried pasta - I used standard macaroni elbows, but gluten-free pasta or other pasta shapes will work fine here. If you use gluten-free pasta, make sure to undercook it just a little so that it doesn't fall apart when tossed together.
  • Shredded cabbage - I didn't have decent celery on hand, so I used shredded red cabbage and really liked it in this! It added a nice crunch, and after you let the salad sit for a day it takes on a very light pink hue.
  • Red bell pepper - you can use diced roasted red peppers for a deeper sweetness, but I like the texture of the fresh pepper here. Make sure to use red, yellow, or orange peppers because green won't be sweet enough for this application.
  • Red onion - white or yellow onion will also work in a pinch.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Large bowl of macaroni salad on a white wood background

I hope that everyone enjoyed their weekend and stayed safe. Have a great week, and I hope you make this macaroni salad all summer! (I know that I will)

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Robin Heiner

Saturday 10th of July 2021

I just made this and it's delicious! Yum! Thank you for making an oil free pasta salad recipe! I used Bonza pasta and added some olives, celery and carrots. I used date paste to replace the agave and it turned out delicious!

Jackie @ Vegan Yack Attack!

Sunday 11th of July 2021

Oooh that sounds delish!! And I love adding celery and carrots to my mac salads as well (I was out for this one, LOL) Need to try olives next time!

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