Meet your new favourite pasta salad recipe for potlucks, parties, and backyard cookouts. Vegan Pimento Macaroni Salad takes the irresistible flavor of pimento cheese and marries it with macaroni salad, complete with crunchy celery, bell pepper, and red onion. Your choice of pasta makes this dish whole-food plant-based and/or gluten-free. This recipe is also soy-free with a nut-free option.
Welcome to the vegan macaroni salad recipe you didn’t even know you wanted. I mean, until about a week ago I certainly didn’t know I wanted some newfangled interpretation of macaroni salad. Oh, but trust me, friends! Make this just once, and I think you’ll fall in love with it like we did. In case you missed my recent enthusiasm over Vegan Pimento Cheese, brace yourself because it’s happening all over again.
HOW TO MAKE PIMENTO MACARONI SALAD SOME TIPS
This recipe takes less than 30 minutes start to finish. A high-speed blender makes it quick and easy. If you don’t have one, soak the cashews in hot water for 1 to 2 hours (or soak sunflower seeds for about 1 hour), then drain them before making the sauce.
This recipe consists of 3 basic components
the pimento cheese sauce, made in a blender
chopped veggies – celery, yellow or orange bell pepper, and red onion (plus pimentos from a jar)
MAKE THIS VEGAN MACARONI SALAD NUT-FREE
As I mentioned, this recipe is already vegan, soy-free, oil-free, and becomes WFPB and/or gluten-free simply by your choice of pasta. Now, all we need is a substitute for the cashews to make it nut-free. And guess what… raw sunflower seeds work like a charm!
I’m currently updating many of my cheesy recipes to include a seed-based option for those with tree nut allergies and for parents who need nut-free recipes (many schools are nut-free). Also, cashews are expensive, making them less accessible, and there are complex ethical and environmental concerns surrounding cashew.
Vegan Pimento Macaroni Salad
For the sauce
1 1/2 cups raw cashews (sub 1 1/4 cups raw sunflower seeds for nut-free)
1 cup water
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
4 ounces roasted red peppers, drained
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons hot sauce I used Crystal brand.
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt I know this seems like a lot, but remember it’s for an entire package of pasta!
1/4 teaspoon cayen
For the salad
16 ounces dry macaroni elbows (use whole-grain or gluten-free, if needed)
1 cup chopped celery (about 5 large stalks)
1 cup chopped yellow or orange bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
3/4 cup diced red onion (about 1 small onion)
4 ounce jar of pimentos, drained very well and chopped
If using a standard blender, first soak cashews in hot water for 1 to 2 hours (or soak seeds for 1 hour). Then, drain and follow recipe.
In a high-speed blender combine all sauce ingredients. Gradually increase speed, then blend on high until completely smooth. Set sauce aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Immediately drain in a colander and thoroughly rinse with cold running water, tossing/stirring pasta until it’s cool. Drain well.
Pour about half of the sauce into the pasta pot. Add the macaroni and stir to combine. Add more sauce, and continue to stir making sure all of the macaroni is completely coated. It will seem very saucy at this point but will thicken as it sits and after adding the veggies.
Reserve a tablespoon or two of each of the veggies for garnish, if desired. Add remaining celery, bell pepper, onion, and pimentos to the pot. Stir to combine.
Transfer to a serving bowl, and sprinkle reserved veggies/pimentos on top. Refrigerate for one hour (or longer) before serving.