This No Mayo Bacon Pea Pasta Salad recipe is a crowd favorite that always gets rave reviews! It’s light and refreshing, yet rich and creamy without a drop of mayonnaise! This pasta salad is bursting with vibrant flavor and overflowing with bacon, peas, goat cheese and a basil vinaigrette! This simple pasta side dish is quick and easy to prepare, can be made in advance, stores beautifully and can be served warm or cold!
Continue to read on for tips and tricks on creating the best no mayo pasta salad! And, don’t miss the step by step photos and recipe video included in the post! Are you looking for more easy barbecue side dish recipes?! Try these family favorites: Sweet and Spicy Coleslaw, Easy Baked Beans, Cucumber Salad, Mexican Avocado Corn Salad, Broccoli Grape Salad and Cannellini Bean Salad!
Update: This post was originally published in May 2019. I’ve made updates to the post below to include more information about no mayo pasta salad. Plus, I added a recipe video and step by step photos to show you exactly how quick and easy this macaroni salad with peas is to prepare!
Hi, friends! Happy (almost) Memorial day weekend to all my fellow Americans!
Since the unofficial start of summer is just around the corner, I figured today is the perfect time to share one of my favorite summertime staples – mayo-free pasta salad! Because, ’tis the season for picnics, potlucks and barbecues! And, you can’t (or shouldn’t) have any type of summer soiree without a proper pasta salad!
Bacon pea pasta salad: overview
This easy pasta salad is flavorful, light, refreshing and made without a drop of mayonnaise! It’s overflowing with tender pasta, bright sweet peas, salty bacon, pungent shallots and decadent, creamy goat cheese. Tossed with a zippy homemade basil vinaigrette, this is a pasta salad you are actually going to want to eat!
This mayo-free pasta salad is simple to make, can be prepped in advance, feeds a crowd, travels well and tastes best at room temperature, which makes it perfect for picnics, potlucks and backyard barbecues!
In case you are someone who lives for a creamy pasta salad, have no fear! This macaroni salad has the perfect amount of creaminess thanks to the rich vinaigrette and flavorful, soft goat cheese!
Why you will love this bacon pasta salad recipe
- Minimal prep! Most pasta salads or summer side dishes require chopping or dicing a bunch of fresh vegetables; however, this pasta salad requires very little hands on preparation and barely any chopping!
- Amazing flavor! This pasta salad is bursting with flavor – it’s fresh, bright, savory, slightly salty, a little sweet, a touch tangy and 100% delicious!
- Creamy without any mayo! Thanks to the addition of creamy goat cheese, this pea pasta salad is creamy without any mayonnaise, sour cream or heavy cream!
- Simple and fast to make! This recipe is incredibly simple and straight-forward to make! In fact, you can prepare this pasta salad – from prep to finish – in 20 minutes or less!
- Easy to find ingredients! You only need 8 easy-t0-find ingredients along with a few pantry staples to create the most fabulous pasta salad!
- Customizable! You can easily customize the ingredient list and add in your favorite vegetables or tasty extras!
- Make ahead! You can make this pasta salad ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for stress-free entertaining!
- Crowd Pleaser! This creamy bacon pea pasta salad is always a crowd pleaser, making it perfect for picnics, potlucks and barbecues (really, any summer entertaining)!
What’s in pea pasta salad?
This no-mayo pasta salad recipe requires just eight simple ingredients, along with a few pantry staples to create a salad that is so delicious and bursting with bright flavors! However, this salad is totally flexible and you can tweak any of the ingredients to your personal taste or dietary needs! (Scroll down for delicious ways to customize this recipe to make it your own!)
Ingredients in this recipe
- Pasta: You can use any small dry pasta you love to make this recipe! I typically use elbow macaroni or cavatappi; however, medium shells, bowtie (farfalle), rotini, ditalini, fusilli and gemelli all work great!
- Peas: Sweet baby peas or petite peas will provide the best subtly sweet tasting flavor! This recipe uses frozen peas, so make sure you defrost the peas under cool running water and drain them well before using!
- Goat Cheese: Soft goat cheese crumbles serve two purposes in this pasta salad! You will toss half the goat cheese with the warm pasta to create a light creamy “sauce” that coats the pasta. You will use the other half of the goat cheese as a mix-in which provides a touch of mildly tangy flavor and pops of even more creamy texture!
- Bacon: For the best texture, make sure you use crispy bacon in this pasta salad! Freshly cooked bacon tastes the best; however you can use store-bought bacon pieces if you prefer. (I recommend you stay away from those teeny-tiny bacon bits as they tend to get totally lost in the pasta salad.)
- Onion: Finely chopped red onion provides a bit of color as well as a mild sharp flavor!
- Dressing: A combination of extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, honey and dijon mustard create a dressing that is luscious, vibrant and bursting with zippy, fresh flavor!
What to add to bacon pasta salad?
This recipe is straightforward and incredibly flexible! I encourage you to use this recipe as a guide and add your own personal touch! Try tossing in a few ingredients you love to create a pasta salad of your wildest, most delicious imagination!
Variations and substitutions
- Shallots: If you prefer a mellower onion flavor, you can easily swap out the red onion for sweeter shallots!
- Celery: If I’m looking to quickly add a little more bulk to this salad, I always throw in some celery!
- Bell Peppers: Mini bell peppers or red bell peppers are a great way to add a touch of sweet, fresh flavor!
- Broccoli: You can easily make this a super green pasta salad by tossing in some broccoli!
- Cauliflower: Raw cauliflower may sound like an odd addition, but it’s another one of my go-to additions if I’m looking to make this salad more veggie-heavy!
- Hard Boiled Eggs: If I’m serving a crowd I typically throw in a few hard boiled eggs to make this salad even more hearty!
- Greens: Your favorite delicate greens are a delicious addition, especially peppery arugula!
- Avocado: Roughly diced avocado is the perfect way to add even more creamy texture to this salad!
- Nuts: If you love the salty crunch of nuts in your pasta salad, almonds, pine nuts and walnuts are all delicious additions!
- Salami: Try turning this pasta salad into a meat lover’s dream by throwing in some rich, savory salami!
- Chicken: If you have any leftover or rotisserie chicken hanging around your fridge, add it to this salad for easy grab-and-go lunches!
- Pesto: If you want to take a short cut, basil pesto makes a delicious substitution for the homemade vinaigrette!
How to make bacon pea pasta salad?
This cold pea salad is incredibly easy to make at home! This recipe doesn’t entail a whole lot of chopping and only requires just 10 minutes of hands on preparation! Plus, you can make it in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Cook the pasta and peas: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. During the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, add the peas and cook until the pasta is just al dente and the peas are bright green.
- Drain pasta and peas: Transfer the pasta and peas to a colander. Rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Gently shake the colander to remove as much water as possible and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until combined.
- Coat the pasta with dressing: Place the (still slightly warm) pasta and peas in a large bowl. Add in half of the dressing and half of the goat cheese. Toss the mixture continuously until the goat cheese coats the pasta.
- To serve immediately: Add the bacon, onions and remaining goat cheese to the pasta. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and gently toss until evenly combined. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
- To serve later: Add the red onions to the pasta and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container. Refrigerate both until ready to serve. When ready to serve, add the bacon and remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
How to make no-mayo pea pasta salad step by step photos
Expert tips for the best no-mayo pasta salad with peas recipe
- Cooking water: Do NOT heavily salt the water for the pasta. While pasta needs a lot of salt when cooking, the peas can become overly salty!
- Cooking pasta: Don’t overcook your pasta! Al dente pasta still has a little bite to it which helps ensure the pasta salad doesn’t get soggy and sad!
- Quickly rinse pasta with cool water: To stop your pasta from cooking any further, you need to quickly rinse it with water; however, do not over soak the pasta or allow it to become completely cool! You want the pasta to be a little warm when you add the dressing and half of the goat cheese. Warm pasta will better absorb the vinaigrette and slightly melt the cheese which forms a light “sauce”.
- Taste and adjust: Always taste and adjust things to your liking, this is especially true with the dressing. For a sweeter dressing, add more honey to taste. Do you like things tangy? Add more lemon or add a splash of white wine vinegar. Prefer a more nutty-salty flavor? Add more parmesan cheese. If you want a little heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Don’t serve it straight from the refrigerator: If you chill or store your pea pasta salad in the refrigerator, make sure you let the pasta salad sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes before enjoying! Serving pasta salad shivering cold, straight from the fridge not only subdues the flavors, but the texture is less appealing. Always make sure you serve your pasta closer to room temperature – just don’t let it sit out for more than 2 hours to avoid any food-poisoning scenarios!
No mayo pea pasta salad: FAQ
How do you keep bacon pasta salad moist?
To keep pasta salad moist, toss your warm al dente pasta with either olive oil or an oil-based vinaigrette dressing. Tossing freshly cooked, warm pasta with oil will not only keep your noodles moist and flavorful, but it also prevents them from sticking together!
Should you rinse the cooked pasta?
You should quickly rinse (shock) your pasta in cool water prior to making this pasta salad! Rinsing serves two purposes – it stops the cooking process and it prevents the pasta from becoming gummy and sticking together.
However, since this no-mayo pasta salad uses a vinaigrette dressing, you want to make sure the pasta is still slightly warm when you add the dressing! Warm pasta will soak up the vinaigrette better. Therefore, it’s imperative you do not overly rinse your pasta – just rinse the cooked pasta quickly (about 30 seconds) with cool water to stop the pasta from cooking further.
Take away: Only rinse your cooked pasta with cool water for 30 seconds or less! Rinsing the pasta any longer will cause it to become waterlogged and prevent it from soaking up the vinaigrette dressing!
Can you make pea pasta salad the night before?
The great thing about pasta salad is it gets better with time! This pea pasta salad actually tastes better once the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the dressing! Because of this, I recommend making this no-mayonnaise pasta salad at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours, in advance!
- To make this pasta salad in advance: Toss the warm pasta and peas with the red onion, half the goat cheese and half of the dressing. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, add in all the bacon and more of the dressing to taste (as well as the chives and parmesan if using). Toss the pasta salad well, then and adjust for seasoning before serving. (Tip: Make sure you add the second half of the dressing as close to serving as possible to prevent your pasta from becoming both soggy and dry!)
How long will pasta salad keep in the refrigerator?
To maximize the shelf life of your pea pasta salad, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, it will stay fresh for up to 3 to 5 days.
Can you reheat it?
I do not recommend reheating this bacon pasta salad. However, you can let the pasta salad sit on the counter for 30-45 minutes to remove the chill – just make sure you don’t let it sit out any longer than 2 hours!
Are you looking for new and exciting ways to serve your pasta salad? Below are a few of my family’s favorite ways to serve and enjoy this recipe!
What goes with pea pasta salad?
Bacon pea pasta salad is incredibly versatile and pairs well with a wide variety of dishes – anything from charcuterie boards, finger sandwiches and coleslaw to hotdogs, burgers, barbecue chicken and more!
12 delicious dishes to serve with no-mayo pasta salad
- Fresh fruit: Fresh fruit, such as watermelon, berries, cantaloupe and honeydew, or vibrant fruit salads are the perfect healthy and refreshing pairing option for pasta salad!
- Salads: Leafy green or light summer salads, such as caprese or avocado and tomato salad are a delicious way to lighten things up!
- Slaws: Crisp slaws and coleslaws provide the perfect contrast to the creamy flavors in this pasta salad!
- Summer soups: Your favorite summer soup, such as gazpacho, corn chowder and spring minestrone, and pasta salad make a wonderful dynamic duo!
- Sandwiches: Finger or tea sandwiches and warm artisan sandwiches, such as paninis, make a simple, yet delicious pairing option for pasta salad!
- Grilled vegetables: Your favorite vegetables, such as corn on the cob, zucchini and vegetable kebabs are a great way to incorporate more seasonal vegetables into your meal!
- Potato Salad: Is there anything more classically summer than the pairing of potato salad and pasta salad?
- Beans: Beans, especially baked beans or 3 bean salads, are a must at any barbecue!
- Seafood: Pasta salad pairs perfectly with your favorite fish or shellfish straight off the grill! I especially love this bacon pasta salad with salmon!
- Chicken: Chicken breasts, kebabs, burgers and chicken sausages are always a hit for any non-beef eating guests!
- Meats: Smoky ribs, juicy burgers and beefy steaks all pair beautifully with pasta salad!
- Pork: Savory, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork pairs brilliantly with rich pasta!
Recipe testimonials – What people are saying about this recipe
See below to find out what readers are saying about this tried and true pea pasta salad recipe!
- “This recipe was a huge hit!! My husband doesn’t care for peas so I noticed a little pile on his plate at the end of the meal haha but I loved it just the way it was!!” – Jordan
- “I’m a big pasta salad lover, pretty “eh” on goat cheese and really like this recipe. Easy to make, nice mix of flavors and textures and I couldn’t stop eating it. Will definitely be making it again! I may add some arugula for extra greens next time.” – Val
- “I added chick peas and used lime juice instead of lemon… very good!” – Jackie
This no-mayo bacon pasta salad is flavorful, simple to make and will become a family favorite! It’s perfect for picnics, barbecues, lunches, easy dinner or whenever the craving for pasta strikes!
Until next week, friends, cheers!
The best Bacon Pea Pasta Salad recipe👇
Bacon Pea Pasta Salad
- Large Pot
- Mixing bowls (2)
- 12 ounces uncooked Cavatappi or Macaroni Pasta - or other small pasta of choice
- 12 ounces frozen Sweet Peas – thawed (SEE NOTES)
- 6 ounces Goat Cheese – crumbled, divided
- 8-10 Slices Center Cut Bacon – cooked until crisp & crumbled
- 2/3 Cup Red Onion – finely chopped (about 1/2 small red onion)
- Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
Dressing: (yield - 1 1/2 cup)
- 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves – packed and finely chopped, plus more for garnish
- 6 TBS Freshly-squeezed Lemon Juice
- 6 TBS Parmesan Cheese – finely grated, plus more for garnish
- 2 TBS Honey
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Optional for Garnish: Finely grated Parmesan, Sliced Chives
- Cook the pasta and peas: Add 12 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the water. (SEE NOTE). Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook 2 MINUTES SHY OF AL DENTE according to package directions. During the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, add the peas and continue to cook until pasta is just al dente and peas are bright green.
- Drain pasta and peas: Transfer the pasta and peas to a colander. Rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Gently shake the colander to remove as much water as possible. (SEE NOTES)
- While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Season with 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper (SEE NOTES).
- Coat the pasta with dressing + cheese (SEE NOTES): Place the warm cooked pasta and peas in a large bowl. Add in HALF of the dressing and HALF of the goat cheese. Toss continuously until the goat cheese coats the pasta.
- To serve immediately: Let the pasta sit on the counter for 15 minutes to cool completely before adding the bacon, onions and remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with more dressing to taste and gently toss until evenly combined. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
- To serve later: Add the red onions to the pasta and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container. Refrigerate both until ready to serve. When ready to serve, add the bacon and remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy.
- Peas: Quickly thaw the peas by placing them in a colander and rinsing them with cool water.
- Salting Pasta Water: Do NOT heavily salt the water for the pasta. While pasta needs a lot of salt when cooking, the peas can become overly salty!
- Cook pasta to AL DENTE: Take care to NOT overcook your pasta. Al dente pasta still has a little bite to it which helps ensure the pasta salad doesn’t get soggy.
- Rinsing Cooked Pasta: While you need to run cool water over the cooked pasta and peas to stop the cooking process, make sure you don’t allow the pasta to become completely cool. Just quickly rinse the pasta and peas - about 30 seconds! The pasta should be a little warm when you add the dressing and half of the goat cheese. Warm pasta absorbs the vinaigrette better. As well, the warm pasta will gently melt the goat cheese and form a light sauce to coat the pasta.
- Dressing: You may not need all the dressing depending upon how "wet" or "dry" you like your pasta. I tend to use about 3/4 of the dressing. I save the remaining dressing and use it on the leftovers as the pasta tends to become dried during refrigeration.
- Seasoning Dressing: Always taste and adjust things to your liking, this is especially true with the dressing. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey. If you like more tang, add more lemon or add a splash of white wine vinegar. If you like a more nutty-salty flavor, add more parmesan cheese. If you want a little heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Dressing Storage: The dressing can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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