Tofu pasta salad is an easy, light and healthy meal or side dish bursting with fresh summer vegetables and an easy balsamic dressing. A protein packed way to enjoy pasta salad while keeping it plant-based.
Usually pasta salads are considered a side dish. A great one for summer BBQs, cookouts, picnics, but nonetheless, a side dish to go along with something off the grill.
What I love about this pasta salad with tofu though is that it can be either!
Most pasta salads are missing a protein component (or at least enough of one to make it a meal) to make it the main course but with the addition of an entire block of tofu and the use of a gluten-free chickpea based pasta, this tofu pasta salad hits all the macronutrients in a well balanced, satiating way.
I chose to use the abundance of fresh summer vegetables available to me from the local farm stand right now but really, you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand or like in your pasta salads.
This recipe is more about the idea and method than the exact ingredients so make it your own and enjoy!
TOFU PASTA SALAD INGREDIENTS
- 1 block extra firm organic tofu
- garlic cloves
- extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt & pepper
- cherry tomatoes
- green bell pepper
- yellow wax beans (or green beans)
- fresh or frozen peas
- pasta of choice
WHAT TYPE OF TOFU IS BEST?
Since this recipe crisps the tofu up in a skillet and we want it to maintain shape and texture while doing so, it’s best to use extra firm tofu that’s been pressed and drained just like when making crispy air fryer tofu or oven baked marinated tofu.
I also always recommend organic (and even sprouted if you can find it) tofu. Soy is a highly sprayed GMO crop and it’s best to stick to organic sources when eating it.
THE BEST PASTA TO USE
While you can definitely use regular wheat pasta if preferred, we eat gluten-free and I love using chickpea flour pasta when making dishes like this. I find it holds up better to tossing, refrigerating and leftovers than brown rice or cassava pastas.
Lentil flour pasta is also another good choice for a pasta salad like this and both have a much higher protein content than wheat pasta.
Shape-wise, it doesn’t really matter but it’s typical to choose a small or medium shape pasta like these shells or elbows. I also really love rotini for pasta salad.
CHOOSING VEGETABLES FOR THE PASTA SALAD
Use what’s fresh or what you have on hand. Cherry tomatoes and bell peppers are a pretty standard pasta salad addition but after that it’s up to you!
Yellow wax beans and fresh summer peas were at my local farm stand when I made this so that’s what went into the salad this time around.
Other good options are red onions, artichokes, corn, olives, carrots and cucumber.
Summer corn can be so delicious in a pasta salad and if I’m not making this recipe, this Simple Summer Corn and Tomato Salad is another summer favorite.
Fresh herbs are a great addition too. I’ll be adding some fresh basil to this recipe next time around as it’s a great pairing with the balsamic dressing.
This salad supreme pasta salad uses broccoli florets with feta cheese in a delicious spice blend proving there’s really no right or wrong in how you make your pasta salad. Use what you like and what’s convenient!
HOW TO MAKE BALSAMIC PASTA SALAD WITH TOFU
Get started by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, prep the vegetables and tofu.
Add some of the olive oil to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, place the cubed tofu into the pan and brown on all sides.
Pour in half the balsamic vinegar and minced garlic and toss the tofu to coat in the mixture. Cook another 1-2 minutes until the vinegar has absorbed into the tofu. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Add the wax beans (or green beans) to the boiling water and blanch for about 2 minutes. Use a basket strainer to remove from the pot. Roughly chop the beans then add them to a large mixing bowl.
Bring the water back to a boil then add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package instructions which will vary based on pasta type and shape.
While the pasta cooks, add the other prepped vegetables to the bowl.
Drain the cooked pasta and rinse under cold water. Add to the mixing bowl then dress the salad with the remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine.
Gently fold in the cooked tofu and season once more if needed.
The pasta salad can be served warm immediately or after chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
This pasta salad is great as leftovers! It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week in an air-tight container. It’s perfect for quick and easy lunches or to use as a side dish for larger meal.
Want to cut the prep time down and make this balsamic tofu pasta salad even easier?
Use precooked/marinated tofu!
Trader Joe’s sells some great varieties and even regular grocery stores are now starting to carry this type of “ready to eat” tofu.
Cube up a package of this and add to the pasta salad without first needing to take the extra step of browning the tofu in the skillet.
MORE RECIPES LIKE THIS TO TRY:
Balsamic Tofu Pasta Salad
- 1 block extra firm organic tofu, pressed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
- 8 ounces shell pasta*, or other small preferred shape like elbows
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup fresh peas, thawed frozen peas can also be substituted
- 2 cups yellow wax beans, or green beans, trimmed
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- While the water heats up, cut the pressed tofu into cubes. Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-hot heat. Once hot, add the tofu and season with salt and pepper. Brown the tofu on all sides then add the garlic and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the vinegar cooks off. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Add the yellow wax beans to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot with a strainer then roughly chop and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Bring the water back to a boil then add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package directions which will vary depending on the type of pasta you're using.
- While the pasta cooks, add the remaining vegetables to the mixing bowl with the beans.
- Strain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water. Add to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour in the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper giving the pasta a thorough toss.
- Add the cooked tofu to the bowl and gently fold into the pasta salad.
- The salad can be served immediately or after chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.