Easy Gluten-Free Pasta Salad – This easy salad is made with colorful veggies, layers of flavor, and a quick homemade dressing you’re SURE to love! (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Pasta salad used to be my requested birthday dinner when I was little. I loved the tricolor pasta my mom used, and the yummy flavors all melded together. There’s just so much to love about a good pasta salad recipe! That’s why it was one of the first gluten-free recipes we knew we needed after going gluten-free. We’ve been making it ever since, in all sorts of variations over the years!
The perfect side dish for a summer picnic, barbecue, or cookout, or a light dinner on a hot night, this easy gluten-free pasta salad recipe is always a winner. I love the blend of tender gluten-free pasta, colorful vegetables, layers of flavor, and a bright homemade Italian dressing to tie it all together.
Here’s what you need to make our easy gluten-free pasta salad…
Here’s What You need To Make This Easy Pasta Salad:
- Gluten-Free Pasta. First, you’ll obviously need some gluten-free pasta. Our go-to gluten-free pasta for pasta salad is Jovial brand brown rice pasta. I like small shapes, like rotini, the little spirals, since they help hold onto the dressing.
- Chickpeas. Drained, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) add an extra layer of protein. If you’re not a fan of beans, you can leave them out, but I love what they add to the salad.
- Cucumbers. English cucumbers have great texture and don’t need to be peeled. I love how fresh they are.
- Baby Tomatoes. If you can find them, try a mix of colors! Yellow, red, and orange cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes can make this salad look so colorful!
- Salami & Pepperoni. My kids love this mix. Feel free to use just one or the other (or leave them out for a vegetarian/vegan version!).
- Olives. I grew up with black olives in my pasta salad. As an adult, I love kalamata olives or even green Castelvetrano olives. Use whatever variety you like, just make sure they’re pitted.
- Peperoncinis. These mild pickled yellow peppers add a bright vinegary tang. I love them!
- Red Onion or Green Onion. Finely minced red onions or some sliced green onion add a subtle layer of flavor.
- Fresh Herbs. If you like (and I almost always do!), you can add a little fresh basil. It adds such brightness to this gluten-free Italian pasta salad!
- Our Easy Italian Dressing. I like to make my gluten-free pasta salad without mayo, so we finish this salad with our zesty homemade Italian dressing.
How To MAke Gluten-Free Pasta Salad, Step By Step:
- Start By Cooking The Pasta. Cook your pasta in a large pot according to the package directions, making sure that the pasta is soft rather than al dente (with a little bite), since gluten-free pasta hardens up a bit when cold. Drain & cool the pasta a bit by rinsing with cold water.
- While The Pasta Cooks, Mix Up Your Dressing. In a mason jar or small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine well and set aside. (Dressing can be made in advance and will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.)
- Assemble The Pasta Salad. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, salami, pepperoni, olives, peperoncinis, onion, and basil, if using.
- Add The Dressing. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine & coat everything with dressing. Chill until ready to serve. (Pasta salad will keep 2-3 days in the fridge.)
FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Gluten-Free Pasta Salad:
More Yummy Mix-Ins To Try:
- Cheese. Bite-sized pieces of mozzarella cheese or a little grated Parmesan cheese can be great in this salad, if you tolerate dairy! Or, you can try some crumbled feta cheese.
- Arugula. I love a layer of green in this salad, so sometimes I tuck in some peppery arugula. If you’re serving kids, this may be too strong for them.
- Bell Peppers. Add some diced bell peppers! I like yellow, orange or red bell pepper for another layer of color.
- Grated Carrots. Sometimes, I love to add grated carrots. They add a pretty color and satisfying crunch!
- Broccoli Or Cauliflower. If you like them, feel free to add these crunchy veggies.
What’s The Best Gluten-Free Pasta For Pasta Salad? We’ve tried LOTS of brands, but we keep coming back to Jovial brown rice pasta. I love the texture, whether it’s warm or cold, which makes it great for cold pasta salad.
How Do You Keep Gluten-Free Pasta Salad From Getting Hard? I find the trick is cooking the pasta *just* past al dente. You want to be actually soft (not mushy, just no bite left). Then, keep adding dressing! The pasta noodles will absorb dressing as they sit, and adding another drizzle before eating leftovers will help soften the noodles.