This colorful Vegetarian Pasta Salad is a fresh twist on the traditional summer pasta salad and is perfect as a side or main dish!

In this recipe, tender tortellini is cooked and cooled and then tossed with a variety of fresh veggies, cheese, and a quick homemade dressing. It is so easy to fall in love with this salad!

close up of Vegetarian Pasta Salad

A Favorite BBQ Side

This is a great vegetable pasta salad for any picnic, potluck or party!

  • This salad is packed with tasty and healthy ingredients.
  • The fresh dressing is homemade so you know exactly what’s in it, and it’s so easy to make!
  • It’s so versatile! Swap out the suggested veggies for leftover roasted or grilled vegetables.
  • This dish can be made ahead of time and will keep for days.
  • It’s the best as a side dish but it’s also hearty enough to serve as a main dish!

While this is a vegetarian pasta salad recipe, you can top it with protein like grilled chicken or shrimp.

Ingredients for Vegetarian Pasta Salad

What’s in Vegetarian Pasta Salad?

PASTA: Since this salad is served cold, use cheese tortellini (or swap for another favorite pasta and add some extra shredded cheese). Remember to cook the pasta al dente (firm) as it will soften slightly in the dressing. You can swap it for other types of pasta like penne, fusilli, or rotini. Gluten-free pasta works as well.

VEGGIES: Colorful additions make this tortellini salad both beautiful and delicious! We’ve used our favorite tex-mex-inspired veggies, making sure to vary colors and textures.

DRESSING: A homemade dressing (which takes just minutes to prep) is the best, but other vinaigrettes like cilantro-lime, a creamy Italian dressing, or a Greek salad dressing would also taste great with this salad base. For a dressing shortcut, use pre-packaged jarred pesto (add a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice), olive oil, or another favorite vinaigrette.


Beans: Cannelini beans, chickpeas, and black beans would all taste great with this dish and would provide a little extra protein.

Cheese: The pepper jack cheese can be replaced with some feta cheese, Monterey Jack, or soft bocconcini cheese.

Veggies: Red onion, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, whatever is in the fridge! Sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley or additional cilantro.

a bowl of vegetarian pasta salad

How to Make Vegetarian Pasta Salad

This salad is quick, easy, and impressive!

  1. Cook pasta al dente. Rinse, drain, & cool (as per the recipe below).
  2. While pasta is cooking, chop the veggies.
  3. Combine all ingredients, including cooled tortellini.
  4. Place dressing in a jar & shake well. Toss with tortellini mixture.
  5. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Add avocado right before serving.

Tips for Pasta Salad

  • Cook pasta al dente (firm) as it will soften slightly in the dressing.
  • Dress the salad generously as it will absorb the dressing as it sits.
  • Refrigerate the salad before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
  • This is a great make-ahead salad! Put the finished salad in a serving bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
  • For a dressing shortcut, use pre-packaged jarred pesto with olive oil or another favorite vinaigrette.

pouring dressing over a vegetarian pasta salad

Leftover Pasta Salad?

Leftover salad will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days in an air-tight container. Unfortunately, this salad will not freeze well. So, eat up and enjoy!

Favorite Cold Salads

Did you make this Vegetarian Pasta Salad? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 



Vegetarian Pasta Salad in a bowl
5 from 7 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Southwest Vegetarian Pasta Salad

Vegetarian Pasta Salad is full of fresh, colorful veggies & cheesy tortellini, tossed in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 6
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  • ½ pound cheese tortellini fresh
  • 1 cup corn fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese shredded
  • cup black olives
  • cup cilantro fresh, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup carrot shredded
  • ½ bell pepper diced
  • ½ avocado diced
  • 1 small jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 2 green onions finely sliced


  • ½ cup cilantro lime vinaigrette


  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt & pepper or to taste


  • Cook tortellini al dente (firm) according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cool water.
  • Combine cooled tortellini in a large bowl with all ingredients except avocado and dressing.
  • Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl, toss into the tortellini mixture. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving, tossing occasionally.
  • Add avocado just before serving.


Leftover salad will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days in a covered container. 
5 from 7 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 426 | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 490mg | Potassium: 260mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1849IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 207mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pasta, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
plated Vegetarian Pasta Salad with writing
close up of Vegetarian Pasta Salad with a title
close up of Vegetarian Pasta Salad on a plate with a title
pouring dressing over Vegetarian Pasta Salad and plated dish with writing


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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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  1. I’ve been called a pastaholic in the past.But the dill pickle pasta salad is my new favorite.I make it often and share with friends and family.