Red Lentil Pasta Salad is a lightened up version of the classic pasta salad with a Mediterranean twist. It’s made with red lentil pasta, which is high in protein and fiber, canned chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, zucchini and olives. It’s mayo free, gluten-free, vegan and amazingly delicious!
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE
This pasta salad is a fantastic way to get your daily intake of plant-based goodness. On top of being packed with colorful vegetables, the addition of red lentil pasta and canned chickpeas makes it super high in plant protein and fiber.
Here are more reasons to love it:
- It’s a great way to enjoy lentils! Lentils are high in protein, fiber and iron.
- It has all the wonderful Mediterranean flavors, from the classic tomatoes, cucumbers and olives to my creamy homemade vegan Greek dressing!
- It’s a perfect make ahead salad that’s great for meal prep or your next potluck party.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Red Lentil Pasta: there are many brands of red lentil pasta on the market. I like the kind that only lists “red lentils” on the ingredient list. For this salad I used red lentil penne.
Canned Chickpeas: a wonderful, high-protein addition to any salads. I always drain, rinse and dry canned chickpeas on paper towels to get rid of extra sodium and tin flavor.
Zucchini: you can roast the zucchini a day or two before, let it cool and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Cherry Tomatoes: grape tomatoes or multicolor mini tomatoes will also work
Mini Cucumbers: also known as Persian cucumbers, these small firm cukes are my favorite to use in salads because they have fewer seeds and less water content than regular cucumbers.
Red Onion: my favorite onion to use in salads.
Kalamata Olives: make sure to remove any pits if your olives are not pitted. I buy my Kalamata olives in large jars at Costco or Sam’s club.
Pickled Roasted Red Pepper: sold in jars at most grocery stores. Remove the roasted pepper pieces from the liquid and chop up or slice.
Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is what you’ll need for roasting the zucchini.
Dried Oregano: to add some great Mediterranean flavors to the salad.
Fresh Chopped Herbs: parsley, dill, fresh oregano and chives will all work in this recipe.
Salt & Pepper: for seasoning. I use pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper for best flavors and texture.
Homemade Greek Dressing: made with olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon, Dijon mustard and spices.
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE: STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS
Here’s a quick visual guide on how to make this Mediterranean Red Lentil Pasta Salad. The full recipe with exact amounts can be found below in the recipe card.
STEP 1: Roast the zucchini. Toss zucchini slices with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and roast on a baking tray until tender.
STEP 2: Cook the pasta according to instructions on the package.
STEP 3: Soak the onions. Don’t skip this step! Soaking onions in cold water takes no effort and takes away the sharp taste of onion.
STEP 4: Make the dressing. Use this recipe for my Homemade Greek Dressing
STEP 5: Chop the veggies. Cut cherry tomatoes and olives in half, dice cucumbers and roasted peppers.
STEP 6: Assemble the salad. Add all the veggies to the pasta, pour in 2/3 of the dressing and toss everything together. If you like lots of dressing, drizzle more and toss until coated.
STORAGE & MEAL PREP TIPS
Because this salad uses no lettuce or greens, it keeps pretty well in the refrigerator, even when dressed. Store leftovers in an airtight container or a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. If making this salad for meal prep, make sure to use Persian cucumbers (mini cucumbers) and firm cherry tomatoes to avoid any sliminess on day 3.
SUBSTITUTIONS & VARIATIONS
As with most salads, this healthy pasta salad is highly customizable. Here are some ways you can make it your own:
- If you don’t have roasted red peppers, use fresh diced or sliced bell peppers.
- Not a tomato lover? Skip tomatoes or use sun dried tomatoes in place of fresh cherry tomatoes.
- You can soak and cook dried chickpeas if you prefer that to canned chickpeas.
- Though the recipe calls for red lentil pasta, use any pasta you like, regular wheat or gluten-free. Chickpea pasta or brown rice pasta will work very well in this recipe.
- If you would like to add some animal protein, swap chickpeas for grilled chopped chicken or canned tuna.
- Add your own Mediterranean flavors – some ideas include jarred artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, different kinds of olives, pine nuts or roasted garlic.
WHAT TO EAT THIS PASTA SALAD WITH?
This salad is a complete meal in itself, since it contains a great balance of micronutrients (healthy carbs, fats, plant-based protein, fiber and minerals). Serve it for lunch or dinner, or even a midnight snack (who doesn’t love a couple bites of delicious AND healthy pasta salad straight from the bowl in a dark kitchen lit by the light from an open fridge?).
If you prefer, you can also enjoy this salad as a side, particularly with barbequed meats or fish. It pairs really well with chicken, in my opinion. Try it with Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Thighs or Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts.
What is the texture of red lentil pasta?
Red lentil pasta is similar to chickpea pasta. It is firmer than regular wheat pasta but overall pretty similar to “normal” pasta. What I like about it is that it doesn’t get soggy or overcooked easily and holds its shape and texture nicely.
Does red lentil pasta taste like lentils?
Not really. It has its flavor that’s a bit different from wheat pasta but it’s overall pretty neutral.
Is lentil pasta gluten free?
Yes, it is, as long as the ingredients don’t list any wheat products. The lentil pasta I used is made with lentils only.
Can I use other kinds of pasta?
Sure! Any kind of pasta will work. If you want to keep it gluten-free, go with chickpea pasta or brown rice pasta.
MORE HEALTHY MEDITERRANEAN INSPIRED MEALS TO TRY
If you try my Red Lentil Pasta Salad, be sure to leave me a comment and give this recipe a rating. I would love to hear from you and see how it turned out for you! You can also share and tag me on Instagram!
No time to make it now? Just pin it now and save the recipe for later!
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Red Lentil Pasta Salad is a lightened up version of the classic pasta salad with a Mediterranean twist. It’s made with red lentil pasta, which is high in protein and fiber, canned chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, zucchini and olives.
8 oz package of red lentil penne or rotini pasta
2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
12 oz jar of pickled roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved (3 oz)
2 mini cucumbers
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 oz thinly sliced red onions
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 recipe homemade creamy Greek dressing about (about 2/3 cup)
chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into long quarters and then slice into a ½ pieces. In a large bowl toss zucchini pieces in 1 tablespoon olive oil and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until soft and lightly browned on the edges. Take out of the oven and let cool while you are preparing the salad.
- Slice red onions, place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let the onions soak for at least 15 minutes to get rid of the harsh onion flavor.
- Cook the pasta according to instructions on the package. Drain on a colander, run cold water over it and set aside to cool and drain completely.
- Make the dressing according to my Homemade Creamy Greek Dressing recipe.
- Cut cherry tomatoes and pitted kalamata olives into halves, chop cucumbers into thick quarter slices and roughly chop pickled roasted red peppers.
- Assemble the salad. Place the cooked, drained and cooled red lentil pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add rinsed and drained canned chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, soaked and drained red onion slices, kalamata olives, pickled red peppers and now cool roasted zucchini.
- Pour 2/3 of the Greek dressing in and toss the salad together. If it looks like it could use more dressing, add more to your own preferences.
- Garnish with freshly chopped basil or parsley and serve right away at room temperature or chill in the fridge and enjoy later.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: dinner, vegetarian, lunch
- Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Keywords: red lentil pasta salad, lentil pasta salad, vegan pasta salad