Everyone needs a clutch gluten-free pasta salad recipe for their next picnic, holiday or BBQ and this pasta salad starts with only 4 simple ingredients that are tossed in a creamy lemon dressing (dairy-free!). Fresh tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, salty capers and a gluten-free pasta that actually holds up (more on this below) with the best creamy and tangy lemon dressing you’ve ever had, is sure to make this gluten-free pasta salad your go-to recipe.
In addition to sharing this delicious and easy gluten-free pasta salad recipe, I’m also sharing a step by step tutorial on how to build the pasta salad of your dreams plus some common questions like should you rinse pasta after cooking, does gluten-free pasta work well for pasta salad, what vegetables go well with pasta salad and more!
How do you make pasta salad?
A Step by Step Guide to Building the Perfect Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is truly one of the easiest “salads” you can create and I like to think of it the same was as a traditional leafy salad, but the pasta replaces (or is an addition to) the greens.
Step 1: Pick your pasta or noodle variety. My personal favorite is a Farfalle and I’m especially loving Jovial Foods right now (no affiliate, just a fan). Other popular noodles are fusilli, macaroni and penne- all work well, it’s truly just a preference.
Step 2: Pick your veggies. This recipe calls for fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Other popular additions are red onion, spinach or carrots. You’ll often find these ingredients in higher quantity then some of the other “extras”.
Step 3: Add some extras. I like to think of these as flavor and/or nutrition boosting additions to your pasta salad. Olives, capers and cheese are just a few examples. This recipe calls for capers, which complements our lemon dressing perfectly.
Step 4 (optional): Pick a protein! You can go subtle with a plant protein option like beans or turn your pasta salad into full blown main dish with the addition of chicken, shrimp or fish mixed in or on top.
Step 5: Choose your dressing. This Creamy Lemon dressing is a dairy-free treat that I should probably make a separate recipe post it’s so delicious. I personally recommend doubling it so you’ll have some extra for this salad or to have handy in the fridge.
Should you rinse the pasta after it's done cooking?
To rinse or not to rinse can be a great debate but in general if you plan on serving your pasta cold like you would in a pasta salad, you want to give it a quick rinse to stop the cooking process and keep it from sticking. A few splashes of olive oil will also help the pasta not to stick as it cools. If you REALLY want to dig in to the why behind rinsing or not rinsing, this article breaks it down.
Can you use gluten-free pasta for a pasta salad?
Yes, thankfully! I find you sometimes have to kiss a few frogs before finding the prince of gluten-free noodles. I’ve had great luck with both H-E-B brand gluten-free pasta (predominantly corn based) and as of late, I’ve been using Jovial Foods for almost all noodles- lasagne, tagliatelle, farfalle and penne. I find these rice based noodles to be surprisingly hearty (can stand up to a lot of stirring) yet not tough when you bite into them. Prince charming, indeed!
If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how you enjoyed it and if you did anything different. If you enjoy creamy dressings and lemon flavor, I would definitely make a double batch (fits nicely in a 16oz mason jar) so you can enjoy some leftovers. My almost 2 year old loves it!
Gluten-Free Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
For the pasta
- 1 12 oz package gluten-free farfalle or pasta of choice (I like Jovial Foods)
- 3 mini cucumbers, or 1 large cucumber, diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 Tbsp capers (or more to taste)
For the dressing
- 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup tahini, well stirred
- 2 Tbsp avocado mayo
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp Ancho chili powder, heaping, unless you are sensitive to spice
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- Cook gluten-free pasta noodles according to package instructions and chop tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk to combine.*
- Once pasta is done cooking, pour into a colander, rinse quickly with water and drizzle on some olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.
- In a large serving-size bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chopped vegetables and capers. Pour the dressing in and toss well until completely coated and enjoy!
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