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Here’s the Easy Swap for Healthy Pasta Salad Recipes That Taste Just as Delicious

Tossing the ingredients in this mixture enhances the dish's flavor and nutritional perks

If pasta salad is one of your go-to summer sides, we’ve got the trick that will make it tastier and healthier. Rather than tossing the pasta and veggies in a mayonnaise dressing, use a homemade vinaigrette instead. Vinaigrettes are made with oil, which can contain healthy fats for your heart and brain health. Plus, a vinaigrette stays fresh longer than a mayo dressing does — allowing you to enjoy that healthy pasta salad during outdoor gatherings. Keep reading to learn how this swap works to put a tasty and feel-good twist on pasta salad!

The basics of pasta salad

Pasta salad is a cold mixture of pasta, vegetables, cheese and meats tossed in a dressing. It’s a quintessential side for BBQs and you can mix-and-match the ingredients to suit your taste buds. But, if you’re looking to lighten up the dish, Shelley Balls, MDA, RDN, LDN, registered dietitian and nutritionist for Consumer Health Digest, suggests swapping the dressing.

Nutritionist’s tip for making a healthy pasta salad

Some pasta salad variations toss the ingredients in a mayo-dressing. While this adds a creaminess to the dish, it packs on calories and fat. One (204-gram) serving of this pasta salad contains 316 calories and 13 grams. So, to boost this salad’s nutritional value, a key tip from Balls is to “use a clear or liquid dressing instead of one made from a mayonnaise base.” A 1-cup serving of pasta salad containing vinaigrette (a blend of oil, vinegar or citrus juice and seasonings) has around 250 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Additionally, she notes that using oils such as olive or avocado in the vinaigrette improves its omega-3 fatty acid content. This benefit helps reduce inflammation, lower Alzheimer’s risk and protect your heart health. Combined with the tender and other mix-ins, tangy vinaigrette adds a delicious and nutritious twist to the classic side.

2 healthy pasta salad recipes

These two pasta salad recipes from Balls use homemade vinaigrette, which gives each option a fresh flavor and nutrient kick. Serving these salads at your next gathering will also be hassle-free since the vinaigrette won’t spoil as quickly as mayo-based dressings do. This gives your guests plenty of time to devour this hearty and mouthwatering side!

Tortellini Pasta Salad

Healthy tortellini pasta salad


  • 20 oz. package three-cheese refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 cup corn, canned or frozen
  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Add tortellini to large bowl. Add cooked corn, black beans, bell pepper, avocado, cherry tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and cilantro.
  3. Combine dressing ingredients in resealable jar and shake or whisk together in small bowl until combined. Pour desired amount of dressing over pasta and toss to coat.
  4. Serve and enjoy, or store covered in fridge until ready to eat.

Greek Pasta Salad

Healthy Greek pasta salad


  • 1 lb. whole wheat rotini or other short pasta
  • 1 cup Persian or English cucumbers, diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, cubed
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  1. Cook pasta according to the package, drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In small bowl whisk dressing ingredients, set aside.
  3. In large bowl, combine cooked pasta, cucumbers, onion, avocado, tomatoes, feta, and olives.
  4. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture, and toss gently until combined.
  5. Serve and enjoy, or store in fridge until ready to eat.

Keep reading to discover more delicious side salad recipes!

Cucumber Salad Is the Ultimate Summer Side — Here’s How To Make It Extra Crunchy and Flavorful

Loaded Baked Potato Salad Recipe Is a Cheesy, Comforting Twist on the Classic Side

These Summer Salads Are Anything But Boring — 12 Fresh and Flavor-Packed Recipes

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