Say hello to your new favorite pasta dish! This Healthy Pasta Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce is simple, yet insanely flavorful and delicious. Although the ingredients to make this salad are available all year round here in California, there’s something about Spring and Summertime where this recipe truly shines. It’s light and packed with tons of flavor; and just like my Ultimate Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Lemon Dressing where the star of the show is the dressing, the same is true in this recipe. The magic is in this creamy peanut sauce, which is going to blow your mind!
And if you want to add more protein to this salad, feel free to add chicken, tofu, or tempeh! Or simply swap regular pasta for a higher-protein, gluten-free pasta, like lentil or chickpea pasta!
I can’t wait for you to try this recipe!
What you need to make this low-fat, high protein pasta salad
To make this dish, you don’t need much, and that’s the beauty of it, because the simpler something is, the more likely you are to make it again and again!
For the sauce, you need the following:
Peanut butter: The flavors in the sauce are really enhanced by using peanut butter. If you avoid peanuts, then feel free to substitute for almond butter or cashew butter, and if you are nut-free, use sunflower seed butter!
Ginger: I am usually a fan of using spices and seasonings, including ground ginger. However, in this recipe, if you have fresh ginger on hand, I do think it makes a huge difference in the taste of the sauce. Fresh ginger has a spicy kick to it, which really adds a distinct flavor to the sauce. Of course, if dried ground ginger is all you have, don’t sweat it. Use it!
Gluten-free soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos: You can use either of these three options as the base for the sauce. Note, if you purchase soy sauce, I recommend purchasing a low sodium version, only because the regular soy sauce is super salty, almost too salty at times!
Rice wine vinegar / rice vinegar: Rice wine vinegar and rice vinegar are pretty much the same things, so just purchase which ever one you can find. I always keep a bottle on hand in my pantry, because it’s inexpensive and packs a nice tangy flavor.
Honey: If you are vegan, then you can definitely substitute the honey for maple syrup.
Sesame oil: I love the flavor of sesame oil – it’s distinct. You can use plain sesame oil, toasted sesame oil, or even spicy sesame oil. But what ever you do, use sesame oil!
For the salad, you need the following:
Pasta of choice: I like using chickpea or lentil pasta because they are high in protein and gluten-free. But you can use any kind of pasta you’d like. My boys really love rotini & fusilli because it’s fun!
Red cabbage: I feel like red cabbage is so underutilized in life! It’s actually one of my favorite veggies, and it adds a ton of flavor.
Cucumber: You can use any cucumber variety in this recipe, and you can peel the skin off before chopping it into cubes, but you don’t have to. The skin contains nutrients that I don’t want to miss out on.
Bell pepper: You just need a red bell pepper for this recipe. Note, I always try to purchase organic where possible for bell peppers, since the skin tends to be waxy, which means that the pesticides and residues are harder to clean off. And, if you can’t find a red bell pepper, pick up any color! The red just gives the dish a nice color pop!
Scallions: The scallions are a must in this recipe, they add the best flavor. I mostly use the white parts only, and some of the green for garnish, but you can use as much of the green part as you’d like!
Edamame: I purchase frozen edamame from the frozen foods section at the grocery store because it’s convenient. If you are doing that, be sure to defrost before adding them to the salad.
Tips for making this pasta salad
You guys, I have no mind-blowing tips for making this recipe, and that’s because it’s just so easy and self-explanatory. Essentially you prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. Oh wait, I do have one tip: you want to slightly undercook the pasta. I know that al dente pasta is always the goal, but in this case, drain the pasta about 30 seconds-1 minute before the pasta gets to the al dente point. And that is because the sauce will soak up a lot into the pasta, and we want firm – not soggy – pasta! Trust me.
While the pasta is boiling, I work quickly to prepare the peanut sauce and chop the veggies.
After the pasta is finished cooking (slightly before it reaches al dente, see above!), drain it and place it into a large bowl. Then add the chopped veggies and pasta sauce, and toss. Garnish with sesame seeds if you’d like.
How to enjoy this pasta salad
You can serve this pasta salad warm, room temp, or cold! And because this salad really soaks in the flavors from the sauce so nicely, I think this meal is even better the next day when the pasta has sat in the refrigerator overnight! But I will let you be the judge of that.
If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and rating below, as it really helps others decide whether to make this recipe and appear in Google searches. And, since I practically live on Instagram, tag me in your creations so I can see them and repost on my IG stories. Enjoy! xx
This is a quick and easy pasta salad tossed with the creamiest and most delicious peanut sauce, ever! You can add any veggies you like, but what ever you do, don't skip - or skimp - on the sauce, it's magical. This recipe serves 4 people generously, and can be enjoyed warm, room temperature or cold. The best part? This meal comes together in under 30 minutes, and dare I say that the leftovers taste better than the day that the salad is made. If you are looking to boost the protein in this salad, add some chicken, tofu, or simply swap regular pasta for a higher-protein pasta, like lentil or chickpea pasta. Enjoy!
⅓cupnatural creamy peanut butter
1tablespoonfresh grated ginger
¼cupgluten-free soy saucetamari, or coconut aminos
1tablespoonrice wine vinegar
1 ½tablespoonshoneyor maple syrup
1 ½tablespoonssesame oil
Water to thinif necessary
1 12-14ouncerotini pastaor pasta of choice
¾cupfinely chopped red cabbage
1cupchopped cucumberinto cubes
1red bell peppersliced thin
4scallionssliced, mostly the white parts
White or black sesame seeds
Prepare the sauce by whisking all of the sauce ingredients together, then set it aside.
Boil the pasta according to package instructions, al dente - don’t overcook the pasta; it is best that it is slightly undercooked.
While the pasta is boiling, chop the cabbage, cucumber, bell pepper, and scallions.
When the pasta is done, drain it, and transfer it to a large bowl.
Add the cabbage, cucumber, bell pepper, scallions, and edamame.
Toss with the peanut sauce, taste it, and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Garnish with sesame seeds.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to see what you made - tag @kalejunkie in your posts and I’ll re-share!