Chickpea and Tofu Pasta Salad
This simple and delicious tofu pasta salad is made with wholesome wholewheat pasta, delicious crunchy summer veg, pesto crusted tofu, and a creamy vegan Italian style dressing. It’s an easy, healthy dish for meal prep, or a summer BBQ side.
What is tofu pasta salad?
We all know that pasta makes a salad ten times better, both for its flavour and its ability to keep us going for longer (thanks to our good friend carbs!). This is especially true of salads using wholewheat pasta, which is a complex carb with loads of fibre.
This vegan tofu pasta salad is a great combination of flavours and textures, with fresh and crunchy veggies (including naturally sweet tomatoes and peppers), chewy tofu with a herby pesto coating, and a creamy Italian style dressing.
With the cubes of firm tofu on top of this tofu cucumber salad and a quick and easy dressing made from silken tofu, there is so much plant powered protein in one dish. There is also loads of fibre from wholewheat pasta, chickpeas and raw vegetables.
Vegans will love this dish, but it’s also a massive crowd pleaser which veggies and meat eaters alike will love digging into. It’s fresh, creamy and tangy, what’s not to love!?
Why I love tofu chickpea salad
- It’s so easy to make, with just a little bit of chopping and a minimal amount of cooking needed.
- This tofu pasta salad recipe is full of fresh and crunchy vegetables, which add great texture and flavour, and are packed full of nutrients.
- You can add or swap in your favourite vegetables, making it a super versatile dish and perfect for clearing out your fridge.
- It’s packed with protein and fibre from two types of tofu and wholewheat pasta.
- The flavour is just delicious, with a winning combo of creamy, fresh, herby and tangy.
- Tofu cucumber salad is vegan, dairy free, and can easily be made gluten free too.
What ingredients are needed for this recipe?
Wholewheat pasta– You can use any short pasta shape that you would like here- penne, fusilli and bowties are all great options. Wholewheat is the healthier option as it is a complex carbohydrate which gives you a sustainable energy release.
Extra firm tofu– Try to buy extra firm tofu, which is often vacuum sealed in very little liquid. I love this type of tofu as it doesn’t need pressing. If you buy firm tofu packed in water, you should press the tofu before cooking. I’ve given some more info on this here.
Pesto– Make sure you are buying a vegan pesto, as pesto often has dairy in it, and sometimes even egg. If in doubt you could even make your own pesto, which is easy and even more delicious.
Chickpeas– These add fiber to the tofu pasta salad and an extra boost of protein. I use canned chickpeas for ease but you could cook them from dried. If you are using dried chickpeas, use 1 cup or 175g dried, and follow the cooking instructions on the packet.
Cucumber– Any slicing or seedless cucumber variety is fine, such as English, Armenian or Persian cucumbers.
Sweet bell pepper– I prefer to use red, yellow or orange bell pepper as these are sweetest.
Cherry or grape tomatoes– Small tomatoes work best in this tofu pasta recipe, so opt for cherry or grape varieties.
Sun dried tomatoes– These add bites of rich tomato flavour to the vegan tofu pasta salad. Use a fork to pull them out of the oil, but if you do get a little oil in your tofu chickpea salad it will only add extra flavour!
Black olives– I love black olives in this pesto tofu pasta as the flavour isn’t so overwhelming. You could also use kalamata or green if you rather.
For the creamy Italian dressing
The tangy tofu dressing is key to the great flavour of this tofu pasta salad, transforming it from a good vegan pasta salad to an incredible one. This dressing is creamy, tangy, rich and herby. Silken tofu makes it what it is; you might expect it to be full of oil or mayo, but it’s completely oil free.
The dressing recipe actually makes more than you need for the pasta salad, and keeps in the fridge for a week- so enjoy it over your favourite salad recipes. You’ll need:
Silken tofu– This turns so creamy when blended, that you won’t believe that this dressing doesn’t have any mayonnaise in it.
White wine vinegar– Vinegar brings a lot of tanginess, which is what makes the dressing so reminiscent of mayonnaise. White wine vinegar is my favourite, but you could use distilled vinegar instead.
Lemon juice– Freshly squeezed lemon juice is best, but you could use it from a bottle in a pinch.
Maple syrup– This adds a touch of sweetness to the tofu pasta salad. Use agave or date syrup as an alternative.
Italian seasoning– This is normally a mix of oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, sage, and bay.
Onion powder– Or onion salt (just reduce the amount of salt if you use this).
Dijon mustard– Dijon mustard gives the best flavour, but you can use wholegrain if you prefer a milder mustard.
Garlic powder– Garlic powder is a great option for speed and ease, but use a fresh minced clove if you would rather.
Salt and pepper– To taste.
To make this vegan tofu pasta salad you will need a sharp knife and board for chopping up veggies, a saucepan for cooking the pasta, and an (ideally non-stick) frying pan for frying up the tofu.
You will also need some kind of blender, bullet blender or immersion blender for making dressing. If you don’t have any of these, you could use a fork and whisk the dressing until smooth. This will work, but will take a little longer.
How to make tofu pasta salad
To make this silken tofu pasta, start by mixing the cubed tofu with the pesto in a bowl. Leave it to marinate whilst you chop the vegetables, then heat a frying pan over a medium heat (you won’t need any oil as the pesto is oil-based).
Fry the tofu for 10 minutes, turning regularly until it is browned and crispy on all sides. Remove it from the heat.
Meanwhile, tip the pasta into a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water. Simmer it for 8-9 minutes until the pasta is al dente, or according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse it with cold water to stop it from cooking further.
Add all of the dressing ingredients to your blender, and blend on high until the dressing is completely smooth. It will be quite thick, but this will mean that the pasta is well coated. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix the cooked pasta, chopped veggies, chickpeas and dressing together, then serve the tofu pasta salad topped with the fried tofu.
Serve this pesto tofu pasta as it is for a wholesome vegan lunch. It’s perfect for lunch prep or a quick summer meal.
Bring it to your next buffet, potluck or party and it will go great alongside other grain or vegetable based salads.
How to make the best pasta salad
The key to a perfect tofu pasta salad is perfectly cooked pasta! Make sure your pasta cooking water is well salted. Don’t be shy with the salt here- remember, you’re salting the water, not the pasta!
Cook the pasta until it’s just al dente, as it will go softer when stored in the fridge as it absorbs some moisture from dressing and vegetables.
Rinse the pasta in cold water once it’s al dente, to stop it from cooking further or sticking together.
The flavour of this tofu cucumber salad will develop overnight, so don’t be afraid to make it the night before. For even better flavour, leave the tofu cubes to marinade in the pesto for half an hour or so before frying.
Ingredient substitutes or additions
Mediterranean tofu pasta is great for using up ingredients in your pantry or fridge, as so many ingredients can be substituted or added in. Why not try some of these ideas?
- Pasta– Use white or tri-colour pasta if you prefer this to wholewheat pasta, or make it gluten free with gluten free pasta. You could also use chickpea or other legume-based pasta which is gluten free and adds even more protein.
- Protein– You could use tempeh instead of cubed tofu, or even add your favourite vegan meat substitute.
- Chickpeas– If you have some canned beans hanging around in your cupboard, you could swap these in for the chickpeas.
- Veggies– You can really use whatever raw vegetables you like in this tofu chickpea salad. You could add zucchini, carrot, corn, sugarsnaps or cabbage. Add some leaves to bulk the salad up, or some marinated artichoke hearts or capers for a bit of interest.
- Adjust the dressing to taste– You could add more or less vinegar, extra sugar for sweetness, more mustard or even add some fresh herbs.
This vegan pasta salad will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container, so make it the day before a party or as meal prep for the week.
Pasta salad doesn’t freeze well, so I wouldn’t recommend freezing this recipe.
If you want to warm this salad up, just pop it in the microwave until hot through. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but will depend on your microwave power and portion size.
This tofu pasta salad recipe relies on silken tofu for an oil-free creamy dressing, so it would be very tricky to make it soy free. If you really want to give it a go, swap out the firm tofu for a soy free protein such as seitan or a pea based meat substitute, and try this soy free creamy dressing.
Like tofu recipes?
Why not try…
- Punchy vegan tofu adobo.
- Vegan goulash with potatoes and smoked tofu.
- Thai red silken tofu curry.
- Potato, tofu, and smoky mushroom pierogi.
- Egg-free tofu shakshuka.
Chickpea and Tofu Pasta Salad
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Medium saucepan
- Large, non-stick frying pan
- Blender, bullet blender, or immersion/stick blender
For the pasta salad
- 300 g dry wholewheat pasta
- 1 block tofu (~300g) cubed
- 3 tbsp vegan pesto
- 400 g can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cucumber diced
- 1 sweet bell pepper diced
- 250 g cherry tomatoes quartered
- 8 sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 40 g black olives chopped
For the creamy Italian dressing
- 1 pack silken tofu (~300g)
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dijon
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- Start by mixing the cubed tofu with the pesto in a bowl. Leave it to marinade whilst you chop the vegetables, then heat the frying pan over a medium heat (you won’t need any oil as the pesto is oil-based).
- Fry the tofu for 10 minutes, turning regularly until it is browned and crispy on all sides. Remove it from the heat.
- Meanwhile, tip the pasta into a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water. Simmer it for 8-9 minutes until the pasta is al dente, or according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse it with cold water to stop it from cooking further.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to your blender, and blend on high until the dressing is completely smooth. It will be quite thick, but this will mean that the pasta is well coated. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
- Mix the cooked pasta, chopped veggies, chickpeas and dressing together (you can use as much or as little dressing as you like, and save the rest for a different recipe). Serve the pasta salad topped with the fried tofu.
Made this recipe?
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