Macaroni Salad

This summertime macaroni salad is egg- and oil-free. And while most macaroni salad recipes call for sugar in the dressing, in this recipe a couple of dates take its place, resulting in a dressing that is reminiscent of Thousand Island.

2 cups dry whole-grain macaroni pasta (brown rice or quinoa are good)
water for boiling pasta

3 ribs celery, small diced
2 carrots, grated
1 red onion, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 15-oz. can black olives, sliced
1 cup parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

½ cup water
½ cup raw cashews
2 medjool dates, pitted and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, place cashews and pitted, diced dates in the ½ cup water; set aside. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions; drain, rinse in cold water.

2. In a large bowl, toss the celery, carrot, red onion, bell pepper, olives, parsley and basil.

3. In a high-speed blender, blend all of the dressing ingredients: soak water, cashews, dates, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and pepper until smooth.

4. Add the pasta and dressing to the bowl of vegetables and mix everything. Garnish with avocado, chopped parsley and/or basil.

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 12-15 minutes (for pasta)
Serves: 6-8


If you do not have dates on hand, a ½ cup of apple juice may be substituted for the dates and water.

You may also make the dressing without the cashews, it just won’t be creamy, but will still taste good (and lower calorie).

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  1. Rose Drain says

    Hmmm. In the original Esselstyn book, both olives and cashews were not a part of the diet and the photo with this salad looks like it is garnished with avocado, which adds a lot of fat while making the salad look more appetizing, even though avocado is not mentioned in the recipe. What is up here?

    • says

      Every plant-based chef and practitioner does things a little differently. Dr. Esselstyn’s main message is to people with, or approaching, heart disease, so indulgence in high-fat foods is not recommended. Avocados and nuts are both high-fat plant foods, but they are not totally forbidden in my recipes (the avo is mentioned in the directions as optional). Typically I use them as garnishes or sparingly to provide a little richness now and then. But you always have the option to leave them out or reduce the amounts. In this case, you could leave the avo and olives out, and then make the dressing without the cashews, and it would also taste great.

    • Billy says

      Avocado is mentioned in step 4 garnish with avocado or basil or chopped parsley. It’s just not listed in the ingredients. Avocado fat is a good fat and we need a certain amount of fat to survive.

  2. Bonnie Romney says

    What a wonderful salad! I have been running out of ideas for the bumper crop of basil and parsley we have had this year and this will be perfect. Thanks for sharing:)

  3. Ryan says

    Made this yesterday and it was INCREDIBLE! My fiancé and I both agreed it was the best macaroni salad we’ve ever had. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

  4. Hina says

    this looks so good and can’t wait to try. I have one question about mustard.

    are you talk about mustard leaf?
    Mustard seeds?
    or mustard that we use for hot dogs?
    Please advice, can we use something else if we don’t like mustard?

    • says

      Hi Hina, “prepared” mustanrd refers to the wet mustard you buy for hot dogs, yes. You can leave the mustard out or try something else (ketchup?). :)

  5. Dominique says

    I just made this for dinner tonight and absolutely LOVED it! My husband is even taking it for lunch tomorrow – that means that this salad is delicious! Thank you!

  6. Quinta Peterson says

    Just made this recipe, waiting to sit down to dinner and see if it passes the fussy eaters test (15 yr old non-plant strong son, and husband who is willing to eat as long as he puts mayo or cheese on it). I am excited to try it!!!

  7. Gary says

    For a Mother’s Day gathering at my brother’s place, I made this for the first time and everybody, including my Mom, loved it! I had to leave behind the leftovers for everyone. Luckily, I had some stored away in the fridge before heading off to my brother’s place. Thanks again Cathy! :-)

  8. says

    Made this last week, it was delicious! Thank you for this recipe, I can see it becoming a favorite summer recipe :) Do you mind if I post about it on my blog and link to your recipe?

  9. Lisa says

    I just made this and it’s fabulous! I did switch out the lemon juice and used Wickles pickle juice instead, plus threw in some chopped pickles, and it’s really delicious!

  10. Beth Anne says

    Thanks Cathy! you are so sweet..I just sent your meal ideas for simple eating to my son for him to begin changing his eating habits.

  11. Julie says

    This is OH.MY.HECK!!!!!!! yummmmmmyyyy!!!!! I like my macaroni salad just a bit moister so I added just a bit more water, cashews and 1 more date, kept everything else the same for the sauce….so good!!!!! (Oh, and I don’t like onions crunchy much so I put 2 TBLS in with the sauce-great flavor!!!!!)

  12. Doxilvr4 says

    It was 95 here in Chicago today and I was wanting something cool for lunch. So I made this for the first time. OMG I’m in love! I have left out nuts and avocados and am now reintroducing them. This was AMAZING !!!

    • says

      That’s about what it is here today in Northern CA! Too hot! All the cats are melting. :) So glad to hear you enjoyed the salad. That’s a fav of mine. Stay cool. 😉

  13. Doreen Karp says

    I’ve made this salad a couple of times now. I’m made it with cashews as per the recipe and the next time, I substituted almonds for the cashews. It was delicious!

  14. faye says

    Hummm, I was going to buy some cashews,but I have sliced almonds I’ve been needing to use…This recipe sounds awesome..I love your recipes!!

  15. Gynetha says

    Help! I just bought Medjool dates for the first time out of an open box at the grocery store. What is the best way to store them for 2 or 3 days?

  16. LynnCS says

    Hi Cathy. I just found you. Someone linked your site over at the McDougall forums. This was their favorite dish to take to gatherings. I can see it might be mine too. I will try it without the nuts and avo too for myself, and with for friends. I like your site. I need to get acquainted and get some ideas. Thanks for the recipe. Lynn

      • LynnCS says

        Thank you. I just realized I posted before. Posted again today in hopes of getting your alternative ideas for non/low fat dressing. I went to an activity Sat and the macaroni salad someone made was beautiful but full of mayo etc. I remembered yours and would like to adapt it. Did you say it came from an Esselstyn book. Don’t have them yet. Luv ur :-)

  17. Eli says

    Just got everything I need in the market to make a second batch for the Fam. So amazing. Thank you!

  18. Cindy says

    Hi Cathy, I just made this salad first time today for a potluck tomorrow. My husband & I ended up eating half of it….so yummy!!! NowI have to make another. We love your site.

  19. Rayanne says

    I made this today and it was amazing. Perfect for summer. I may get brave and attempt the lentil loaf this fall. :p Thanks!

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