High-Protein Plant-Based Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad (Vegan, GF, Oil-Free Option)
I know I know… I’m dragging out my “Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing” again, but hear me out. Out of all of the recipes I’ve written in my life, this dressing is the one thing I make more than anything else. I use it so often and in so many different dishes. It’s truly universal.
This particular use of said “Universal…Dressing” is something that I’ve recently been making for myself as I’ve had to return to the workforce. I work about 8 hours a day on my feet, getting over 13k to 15k steps in a day.
Going from being able to cook and eat what I want whenever I want, not having to worry about having enough energy for the day, to having to plan meals ahead and having to make sure that they were going to get me through a shift has been, well, a shift.
One day I just started throwing things together that I knew were going to satiate me, and this “High-Protein Plant-Based Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad” is the result.
The full printable recipe for the “High-Protein Plant-Based Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad” is below, and below that is the recipe for the “Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing”. Below THAT, is my recipe for “Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing” that I’ve used on wedge salads, but would also work perfectly in this recipe if you wanted to really up the ranchiness of the dressing.
In the end, this salad is just an idea. Make the dressing. Make some pasta. Clean out your fridge and freezer. Make a friggin’ cold salad.
High-Protein Plant-Based Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Delicious and satiating high-protein (almost 25g per serving!) pasta salad!
- 12 ounces (1 box) chickpea macaroni, or favorite dry pasta
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 batch Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing (recipe below)
- 6 ounces (1 package) Lightlife Tempeh Smoky Bacon, or favorite vegan bacon
- ½ bunch (2 big handfuls) curly kale or green of choice
- ¼ cup red onion, diced
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon dry parsley flake
- pinch red chili flake
- salad and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions, but taste for doneness more than relying on the time. You don’t want the pasta to be undercooked at all because that “al dente” texture will only get harder when the salad chills. But overcooked chickpea pasta is inedible.
- The moment the pasta is done cooking, dump the peas into the pot and stir. Immediately drain the pasta and peas, and rinse them thoroughly in cold water until the pasta is no longer steaming.
- Prepare Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing, and set aside.
- Cut the package of tempeh bacon into thirds, and place the tempeh bacon in an air fryer, trying to give the pieces as much room as possible. Cook at 400 F. for about 10 to 15 minutes, checking every couple of minutes and tossing, until dark brown and just crispy. (you can also pan fry, or bake the tempeh at 400, turning halfway, until crispy)
- Stem kale, and cut it into very small pieces. In a bowl, massage the kale until it reduces in size by half, and the leaves are tender.
- To assemble:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta and peas, kale, tempeh bacon, diced red onion, Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing, celery seed, parsley, and optional chili flake. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
For more of a distinct “Ranch” experience, use the seasoning from the Guilt-Free Ranch Recipe below.
Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing
High protein vegan mayo alternative for sandwiches and salads.
- 1 12 ounce package firm or extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
- ½ cup raw cashews* (can be halved to reduce calories)
- 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ to 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (omit to make oil-free)
- 1 small clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar (or sweetener of choice)
- black pepper to taste
- Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend for about 1 minutes, until there are no flecks of cashews, and the mixture is emulsified.
* If you aren’t using a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or even a NutriBullet, then you should soak your cashews in cool water for a few hours before blending. You can also do a “quick soak” by simmering the cashews in hot water for about 10 minutes
I created a couple of delicious wedge salads a couple of years ago (LINK HERE), and for those, I made a “Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing”. I’ve decided to just repost the recipe here because it has all of the seasonings and the measurements for you to turn the above “Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing” into the aforementioned ranch dressing.
Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing
At only about 360 calories for the ENTIRE BATCH, you can eat all of the vegan ranch you want, and the only thing you're going to gain is more protein in your diet.
- 1 batch Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing (link in notes)
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp MSG or Accent
- Sat and black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons dry parsley
- 1/8 teaspoon dry dill weed
- Make the Universal Cold Salad Dressing, and then stir in all of the seasoning. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.