Dill pickle vegan pasta salad with bacon and creamy ranch dressing is a celebration of umami, sweet, sour, and zesty in the ultimate big bowl of irresistible pasta salad.
This beloved pasta salad recipe is someplace between traditional mayo-based pasta salad with pickles and a vegan BLT. A big bowl of this special salad will raise a smile or two. And it packs flavor and goodness guaranteed to inspire more servings (or two).
This post contains helpful tips and tricks to ensure success on your first attempt. Below, you'll find a handy table of contents with links. But if you're in a rush, please use the link at the top to jump to the recipe card at the end!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
A meal in a bowl. With the added protein of tofu bacon, the satisfaction of pasta, veggies, and herby, creamy dressing, this pasta salad serves as a crowd-pleasing side dish or a main meal.
Make ahead, take along. You can make the tofu bacon and dressing a day or two ahead of time. You can whip up a fresh pasta salad with ease if you're on the go. Like most pasta salads, it travels well. And, because there isn't mayonnaise or other ingredients that readily spoil, you don't need to worry about it being set out on the picnic table for hours.
Healthy, vegan ingredients. All the ingredients are easy to find. We've ditched the vegan mayo for cashew ranch dressing brimming with herbs and no added oil. Our prized, sheet-pan tofu bacon is the ultimate vegan bacon without the downtime and inconsistency of marinating.
📋 Key ingredients, notes, and substitutions
Vegan bacon – It wouldn't be bacon ranch pasta salad without bacon. And we have a favorite for this recipe. Hop over to our famous sheet pan tofu bacon. You won't be disappointed. Of course, you can substitute any vegan bacon you like. Aim for at least 1 cup of bacon bits or cubes – more if you can, because there's never enough bacon!
Dry pasta – Pasta salad is better if you use dry pasta. Fresh pasta can become too soft and won't hold up well in a salad. I usually use wholewheat, but you can use any small pasta, including gluten-free.
Dill pickles – Any brand of crisp dill pickles or pickle spears will do. Avoid those packed with extra flavorings such as garlic, especially since you’ll be using pickle juice for the dressing.
Cherry tomatoes – A pint or roughly 2 cups of cherry or baby tomatoes sliced in half works best. Chopped tomatoes can become too moist, causing the pasta and other ingredients to become mushy.
Red onion – Dice a small or medium red onion. Mellow shallots would be a better substitute than stronger yellow or white onions. If you use the latter, start with half a cup and after mixing the salad, add more if needed. The onion flavor will get stronger at the salad sits. Consider soaking onions in ice water to help reduce the oniony taste.
Celery – Celery will add natural salt and bits of crunch. I’ve not substituted with cucumber, but that or ½ a cup of celeriac could be used instead.
Raw cashews – This version of our favorite cashew ranch dressing follows the same principles, starting with raw cashews. Blanched almonds are an appropriate nut substitute. You could also use ground sunflower seeds.
Plant milk – Milk helps the dressing get creamier; however, you can also use water to thin the dressing if you want a substitute.
Dill – Fresh dill enhances the flavor of the dill pickles with its fresh, citrus-grass taste. I've never substituted with dried dill, but if that's what you have, use 2 tablespoons to start and adjust after tasting.
Apple cider vinegar – Ranch dressing benefits from the sweet acidity of apple cider vinegar. If you like dressing with more of a tangy snap, you might consider adding more after tasting. Rice vinegar or white wine vinegar are suitable substitutes.
Lemon juice – In addition to vinegar, lemon juice adds a citrus acidity that complements
Chives – Chopped chives add a subtle onion-garlic flavor and zesty green color. The best substitute for chives for ranch dressing is scallions (green onions). Finely dice the white and green parts of 4 scallions to replace the chives.
- Start by making tofu bacon first. Use our sheet pan method, and there's no marinade downtime. Just blend it and bake it. Once the bacon is done, cut the strips into bite-sized pieces. This can be done a day ahead.
- I find it easier to manage the bacon by following the recipe directions and cutting them into strips. After the bacon has cooled, cut the strips into bite-sized pieces.
- Soaked cashews make creamier dressings, no matter how high-speed the blender is. I recommend the quick-soak method: place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse them before making the dressing.
- If you don't want to make dill pickle ranch dressing, consider our classic cashew ranch dressing, or tahini ranch dressing as alternatives.
- Keep the dressing on the thin side. That way, it will fill the crevices of the pasta and veggies. If the salad dressing gets too thick after mixing it in the salad, add a few drops of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to smooth it out.
- Be mindful not to overcook the pasta. Not tooth-breaking, but not mushy. You want it al dente or toothsome. That's a fancy way of saying that you need to bite through it when you taste it.
- Pasta will continue to cook until it starts to cool. Rinse cooked pasta before mixing it with dressing. Rinsing stops the cooking process and helps keep the pasta from sticking together and clumping.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don't want to make tofu bacon, we recommend substituting baked hemp seed bacon bits. These are easy to make and give your pasta salad a crunchy bacon flavor with each bite.
Use dry, not fresh, bite-sized pasta. Short pasta such as macaroni, bowtie, fusilli, farfalle, rotini, and penne. Aim for pasta with shapes that catch the dressing and small salad ingredients.
There are 2 simple adjustments you'll need to make for this recipe to be gluten-free. First, select gluten-free pasta. Second, be sure to use tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce substitute.
🍽 What to serve with vegan pasta salad
If you're looking for additional or substitute ingredients, consider black olives, diced red bell peppers, shredded carrots, or chickpeas. You can even slip in diced zucchini if you have it on hand.
Garnish the salad with a few chopped chives, dill leaves, or ground black pepper.
Cashew-based dressings can cease after sitting, so spruce it up by mixing in lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. To store, place leftover pasta salad in an airtight container. It keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Pasta salad doesn’t freeze or thaw well, so plan to eat it all up while it’s still fresh. Trust me, that’s not going to be a problem.
Dill Pickle Vegan Pasta Salad with Bacon & Ranch
Dill pickle vegan pasta salad with bacon and creamy ranch dressing is the ultimate big bowl of umami, sweet, sour, and irresistible pasta salad.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Pasta Salad
- Method: Blending & Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 batch vegan tofu bacon (about 1 ½ cups bite-sized bacon bites)
- 1 cup cashews, soaked
- ¼ cup dill pickle juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup plant milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
- ½ cup fresh chives, chopped
- 3 cups dry pasta shells, macaroni, or bow ties
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- ½ cup dill pickles, chopped
- Soak the cashews. Place the cashews in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them. Set them aside while you start the bacon.
- Make the bacon. Follow the instructions for making tofu bacon here. Once the bacon strips have cooled, cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- Blend the ranch dressing. While the bacon bakes, drain and rinse the cashews and place them in a blender. Add the dill pickle juice, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, plant milk, and garlic powder to a blender or food processor. Blend the ingredients until smooth. If the dressing is thick, add more plant milk.
- Add fresh herbs and pepper. Transfer the dressing to a bowl. Then add the chopped dill, chives, and ground black pepper. Mix well and set it aside.
- Cook the pasta. While finishing up the bacon, bring a large pot of water to boiling, then add the dry pasta. Cook the pasta until it is just tender. Immediately, drain it and rinse it.
- Mix pasta and dressing. Place the pasta in a large salad bowl, add a little more than half the dressing and mix them together.
- Finish the salad. Add the chopped onions, celery, cherry tomatoes, dill pickles, and bacon. Mix well, and then stir in the remaining dressing. Taste and add salt or more black pepper if desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
- The nutritional information is based on 6 main-dish servings.
- Use dry, bite-sized, short pasta such as macaroni, bowtie, fusilli, farfalle, rotini, and penne. Aim for pasta with shapes that catch the dressing and small salad ingredients.
- This recipe doesn’t specifically call for added salt. The bacon and celery both have a salty flavor. If you want to add salt, do this after mixing and tasting the salad.
- Store leftover salad in an airtight container for 3 days. To serve, add a few drops of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to spruce it up.
- Not interested in making tofu bacon? Consider easy hemp seed bacon bits as a substitute.
Keywords: dill pickle vegan pasta salad with bacon & ranch, vegan ranch dressing, tofu bacon