Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Vegetables & Herbs

Created by Laura Wright
4.96 from 21 votes
Lemony spring pasta salad is a great vegan option for spring holiday gatherings. Loaded with vegetables, chickpeas, and a lemon dressing. Easy to make ahead and naturally nut-free!
An overhead shot of a pasta salad with lots of green vegetables and herbs in a sage-green ceramic bowl.
An overhead shot of ingredients for a pasta salad with Spring vegetables over a speckled light blue background.
A hand is pouring vinaigrette over some cooked pasta and chickpeas in a white bowl with a black rim.

Spring holiday get-togethers! Spending time with the fam is great, but sometimes wrangling a good plate of vegan or just wholesome plant-based food at these dinners can be… difficult. Generally these holidays feature meat as the centrepiece (plus dairy, eggs, and possible allergens as supporting roles), and hosts already have so many balls in the air getting ready for these feasts. Maybe the thought of telling your aunt about your dietary preference is making you a bit nervous, but you also just want to sit at the table and enjoy a plate with your people. It’s a lot! Listen, I got you.

I always try to bring something that will fill out most of my bases for total satiety. Something with carbs, plant-based protein, vegetables, and most importantly FLAVOUR. I try to make it look super pretty too so that people will try it, even if they don’t have a dietary consideration in play. I also keep the dish nut-free and gluten-free adaptable for other attendees of the gathering.

Generally the host appreciates that you want to help out with dinner and it lifts a double burden: 1) your own worries that you might be an annoyance, and 2) the one on the host who is probably concerned that you won’t feel included because allergen-friendly food may not be in their wheelhouse. Be proactive and lift that burden!

More Spring Entertaining Inspiration:


I fixed up this spring pasta salad with that relief-inducing potluck dinner option in mind. It’s familiar (lemony, PASTA), vibrant and vegetable-filled, delicious, seasonal, seriously filling, and quite simple to fix up. It’s also very make-ahead friendly. Once I get a couple scoops of this on my plate along with a helping of the obligatory green salad, I’m good to go :) I include lots of modifications in the recipe as well if you want to go in a different direction. I have a great Grilled Broccoli and Pepperoncini Pasta Salad recipe as well if that’s to your taste. Hope everyone is set up for a nice holiday weekend! Catch ya on here soon.

An overhead shot of green vegetables in an ice water bath in a white bowl.
An overhead shot of a bunch of green vegetables, cooked pasta and chickpeas in a white bowl with a black rim. There is a glass measuring cup of vinaigrette nearby.
An overhead shot of a pasta salad with lots of green vegetables and herbs in a sage-green ceramic bowl.
An overhead shot of a pasta salad with lots of green vegetables and herbs in a sage-green ceramic bowl.

Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Vegetables & Herbs

Lemony spring pasta salad is a great vegan option for spring holiday gatherings. Loaded with vegetables, chickpeas, and a lemon dressing. Easy to make ahead and naturally nut-free!
4.96 from 21 votes
Lemony Spring Pasta Salad (vegan + nut-free) - The First Mess
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

Lemony Dressing

  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ small shallot, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar/maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup neutral-flavoured oil, I like avocado

Pasta Salad

  • ¾ lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 cup shelled green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 lb small pasta (I used a mini penne, but orzo, small rotini, baby shells, or orecchiette are all good)
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, from approximately 1 can, drained & rinsed
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 6-7 radishes, finely sliced into half moons
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Notes

  • I tried to keep the ingredients on the minimal side here, but you could add lots of cool ingredients to this if you have them around. Ideas: 2 tablespoons of capers chopped up, handful of fresh dill chopped up, 2 sticks of celery finely sliced, or even a small bulb of fennel shaved up nice and thin.
  • This will be great with whatever pasta you like (regular, gluten-free, chickpea-based etc), just as long as you keep the shape small and toss it in most of the dressing immediately after draining.

Instructions

  • Make the lemony dressing. In an upright blender, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and oil. Blend the mixture on high until creamy and unified. Set aside.
  • Place a large bowl of ice water on the counter.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Chop the asparagus into 2-inch lengths and add to the boiling water. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes, or until it’s just starting to become tender. Add the peas to the water and stir for a few seconds, or until they turn bright green. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all of the asparagus and peas to the ice water. Let the vegetables sit and chill down.
  • Bring the salted water back up to a boil. Add the pasta and another good pinch of salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta thoroughly and then immediately transfer it to a large bowl. Add the chickpeas to the bowl as well. Quickly toss the pasta and chickpeas with two thirds of the lemony dressing until everything is coated.
  • Drain the asparagus and peas thoroughly and add them to the bowl with the pasta, along with the green onions, radishes, parsley, the remaining lemony dressing, some salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Check the pasta for seasoning and adjust if necessary (more salt, pepper, lemon juice, extra herbs etc). Finished spring pasta salad will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
17/04/2019 (Last Updated 15/09/2023)
Posted in: autumn, chickpeas, earthy, gluten free option, holidays, main course, nut free, pasta, quick, salad, salty, side dish, sour, spring, summer, sweet, vegan, winter

31 comments

Recipe Rating




  • Millie Davis

    4 stars
    Easy enough, tasty and nutritious. A keeper.

  • Erik

    5 stars
    A fantastic spring time recipe that eschews the trappings of a typical, cloyingly sweet pasta salad. I have a few modifications to take it to the next level:
    1. Garlic in the dressing is awesome
    2. I chopped up a small handful of mint leaves to toss in as well, next time I’ll add more
    3. A pinch of fennel pollen really adds a subtle complexity and kicks up the spring vibe!

    • Erik

      Oh and a side of grated pecorino to add as desired!

      • Erik

        I might add that obviously pecorino isn’t vegan, and neither am I, this just seemed like a lovely recipe regardless.

  • Mia

    5 stars
    Oh wow – finally a pasta salad that is grown up And tastes great !! I am making a luncheon for a group tomorrow and I’m going to have to make a whole other batch of this because I’ve been “sampling” so much. Thank you!

  • Colleen

    5 stars
    This is such an easy and delicious recipe, I made it this week and had enough leftover to use as my meal prepped lunches for the week! I add greens with a bit of the leftover dressing and add shaved almonds on top for extra protein. I love how it can be eaten cold, so refreshing for summer. First Mess never disappoints! 

  • Andrea

    5 stars
    Delish! Loved the dressing!

  • Christine

    Oh my goodness – make this salad right now! SO good! I never make comments on recipes – but this one deserves it. Yum! I’m hooked.

  • Suzanne

    This looks delicious! Thank you for sharing!

  • Lauren

    It’s no longer spring, but I made this last night and it was delicious! We made a double batch to have lunch for a few days, and I’m so glad we did! I somehow ended up forgetting to buy a shallot, so I subbed a bit of garlic and a little onion powder in the dressing. I also used half the amount of oil and increased the lemon juice and other ingredients to get the same volume. It was still a bit oily for my taste, I think I’ll try your sunflower seed tip next time! Overall it was delicious and a combination of veggies and herbs I don’t usually put together. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Jana

    Hi Laura!
    I made this salad this weekend for a family BBQ and it went down a treat! I’m from Germany and normally pasta or potato salads are very mayonnaise-heavy, not vegan-friendly at all. Everyone, even my very sceptical dad, loved it. I made a big batch hoping for leftovers for the week but it was all gone by the end of the day. :)
    I added a few handful of basil both to the dressing and the salad and subbed half of the oil for water – delicious. Definitely think this will become a BBQ salad staple!
    – Jana

  • Kimber

    Hi! I had a small dinner party and made this yesterday. I used olive oil and the lemon sauce was bitter? I made a second batch and excluded the zest, used vegetable oil and added a little almond milk which helped. The final batch was tasty, no zest meant a more mild flavor. Any other recommendations? And everyone enjoyed it.

    • Laura

      Hi Kimber,
      Did you grate any of the white pith below the lemon peel with your zest? It’s incredibly bitter tasting and could be the reason why you experienced this. I always use a Microplane to get just the top layer of lemon peel and none of the white pith. Other than this, I can’t imagine what else would account for the bitter flavour. It’s possible that your olive oil had a naturally bitter/peppery flavour as well that was more pronounced since the oil takes up a large volume of the dressing. Have you tasted the oil alone before cooking with it? Hope that this answer is at least a little bit helpful.
      Thanks for your comment!
      -L

  • Tiana Miller-Leonard

    Made this with a few tweaks and it was sooooo delicious! trying to go a little lower cal so I cut the oil in half and used 1/4 cup water in the sauce, and used chickpea pasta (surprisingly good!). also added dill and sundried tomatoes! that lemony sauce is amazing and loooove the high vegetable to pasta ratio

  • Corrie Duffy

    I was on a diet control program and so I came across this recipe which seemed perfect for my diet. I made it and loved it. The second time, I added chicken sausages to it. The third time, I was short of asparagus, so I put broccoli into it. All the times it was awesome due to magical lemon sauce.

  • Katie

    Made this for Easter yesterday- we all (including my 17-month old) loved it! Might add some more herbs to the leftover- maybe basil, to complement the lemon.

  • Suzanne

    Just made this for Easter lunch tomorrow and had to do a taste test of course….it is delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Anne Van Acker

    I caught this recipe at just the right time- going to an Easter dinner tomorrow and I’m the only vegetarian at the table. I just finished making this, and it tastes so good- and I’m sure it will taste even better tomorrow! I’m quite sure everyone else will love it, too. My only minor substitution was tiny wedge-shaped slices of watermelon radish for the regular radishes – the color looks great in this salad!

  • Carolyn

    Made this for dinner last night, as a hot pasta dish and it was delicious! The dressing was wicked good and flavorful and i loved that there were as many veggies as pasta!

  • Alina

    I can’t wait to try making this pasta salad! The grocery stores near me are overflowing with asparagus at the moment.

    • Laura

      That sounds like heaven! Still waiting for the super good homegrown stuff here ;)
      -L

  • Emily Frigon

    I’m going to a brunch on Saturday and have been brainstorming what to bring. This is going to be perfect, thanks Laura!

    • Laura

      Hope that you and your people love it! :D
      -L

  • Marcy youker

    Love it, love it, you have the best recipes, thanks for sharing.

    • Laura

      Thank you so much, Marcy!
      -L

  • Anne

    This recipe looks great to take to Easter celebrations as my WFPB offering. Do you have a suggestion for making the dressing oil-free? Thanks advance.

    • Laura

      Hi Anne,
      My go-to substitution would be to soak about 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds for about 2 hours. Drain the seeds and put them in the blender along with about 1/4 cup water to start. Add all of the other non-oil ingredients and blend on high, adding more water if necessary to get everything moving. Once it’s creamy and smooth, give it a taste and add more lemon/zest/salt etc to your liking. The dressing will be more on the creamy end, but will still work nicely for the pasta salad I think. Also, you may have a bit more dressing than you need (you kind of have to make a minimum amount when dealing with nut/seed-based dressings made in a blender). You need about 3/4 cup of dressing for this recipe total.
      -L

      • Anne

        Thanks, Laura. Sounds good to me.

    • Jen Zetina

      I would replace the oil for water and use Xantham gum. (Probably start with 1/4 tsp)

  • Jauquetta

    This looks positively yummy! All the things i love. Will put this on my list of recipes to try very soon. I’m gluten free and dairy free, the last for 38 yrs! Such a wonderful sounding dressing, too! Thank you for sharing.

    • Laura

      Thank you for this comment, Jauquetta! Hope that you give this a try :)
      -L