Dust off that zoodle maker to create the quickest vegan zucchini noodle salad in under 10 minutes. No, seriously, it’s that easy. Chop, scoop and mix, and you’ll have yourself a flavourful salad to add to your dinner party menu.
Why You’ll Love Vegan Zucchini Noodle Salad
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t always make everything from scratch. We are busy work from home mums with working partners and kids to manage.
Despite a busy schedule, we still always manage to find time to throw dinner parties, albeit very casual. For us, spending time with our friends over a meal, a glass of wine and good conversation is how we relax.
We don’t always want to make that 24-hour lamb recipe or side dishes with 15 components on these occasions. We want to create recipes that are quick and easy. I have some go-to brands for certain things, and in this instance, I grabbed my favourite vegan pesto sauce.
This recipe is fresh, uncomplicated, and not to mention healthy. It’s great as a meal on its own for two or as an effortless side dish to complement your main meal. Mid-week dinners just got easier.
What Is Vegan Pesto?
A traditional pesto sauce is made with basil, garlic, raw pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese. A vegan pesto version would, of course, mean the parmesan is omitted.
An authentic Italian pesto is one that is finely chopped and made by hand. It never gives the blender a light of day as it turns into a homogenised emulsion or paste. Essentially you want to see the small basil particles individually as you mix it through your pasta.
I have never made pesto without a blender as I guess it just makes it so much easier to put it through a machine, but one day when I have the time, I shall do it the way the nonnas do!
I also buy pre-made pesto. Like many people, I don’t always have the time to make everything. Also, pesto is versatile and something I can use in a myriad of dishes, so it never lasts very long in our household.
Who Invented Pesto Sauce?
On the Mediterranean coast of northwest Italy, the Republic of Genoa enjoyed its state independence from the 11th century to 1797. Encompassing Corsica and Sardinia, pesto is said to hail from this region dating back well into the 12th century.
The modern-day city of Genoa continues its love affair with pesto. So much so they host the bi-annual World Pesto Championships to find the best pesto in the world.
To create the best pesto, you must have access to the best produce. The best basil in the region is from a small village called Pra’, where basil is their lifeblood. Everyone agrees it is the best and only the best can be used to make pesto.
Genoa is now located within the Ligurian region, and it is famous for its olives. Ligurian olives are my partner’s personal favourites, and we’re lucky to be able to get that easily in Australia. As you can imagine, their olive oil is, therefore, second to none.
Traditional pesto is made in a mortar and pestle, made by hand and with much love. I think I need to make a trip to Genoa very soon!
Vegan Pesto Brands
There are more and more vegan pesto sauces available on our supermarket shelves. Some of the popular vegan pesto brands in the USA include:
- Biona Organic Pesto
- Zest Vegan Basil Pesto
- Organico Jarred Vegan Pesto
- Le Conserve Della Nonna Classic Green Pesto
- Amore Pesto Paste
In Australia, some popular vegan pesto brands include:
Flavours/Textures: The zoodles are fresh and shredded raw, so it has a slight crunch, only softened over time by its high water content.
The tomatoes are fresh, sweet and juicy while the herbs add to the overall flavours.
Vegan pesto is a robust flavoured sauce even without the punchy parmesan cheese.
Put them all together, and you have yourself a truly flavourful recipe with all of its aromatic basil notes and smokiness from the pesto’s pine nuts.
Ease: Crazy easy. Shred the zucchini, chop up some herbs and tomatoes and then stir through with pre-made vegan pesto. No cooking required!
Time: 10 minutes. What? Yup, 10 minutes.
Ingredients you’ll need to make Vegan Zucchini Noodle Salad with Pesto:
Cherry tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes of any kind will do. A medley packet of different varieties and colours would be ideal for lifting the recipe’s presentation. Also looks so much more enticing with its vibrant colours.
Zucchini: Get 2 large zucchinis and make sure they are of good quality. Don’t get them if they are bruised or they have indented soft spots. As you’re eating this raw, they do have to be as fresh as possible.
Make sure the colour is that bright, deep green and that they are solid to hold.
After giving them a good wash, be sure to dry them thoroughly as we don’t need to add to the zucchini’s water content.
Vegan pesto sauce: Get the brand of your choice. I have been able to find them easily from our local supermarket. If you usually shop at a vegan store, they should stock them.
You can, of course, make your own. Homemade is always best.
Parsley and chervil: Adding some much needed fresh herbs to the salad recipe. Much like you would any pasta. Both these herbs will complement the basil from the pesto and won’t overpower the flavours.
Variations and Substitutions
Other vegetables: For this recipe, you don’t have to use zucchini, or you can mix up the vegetables too if you wish. If you have a spiralizer, it can be such fun creating different vegetable noodles.
You can have carrot, cucumber, daikon and even kohlrabi.
Sweet potato and butternut squash would be great too. However, I’d recommend a quick 1-2 minute blanch in boiling water to soften them a little. Then run them under cold water and set aside to completely dry before tossing with the other ingredients.
Non Vegan: If you love your parmesan in pesto, they are easy enough to get at your supermarket. You can also shave some fresh parmesan on top of the zoodles to give it that sharp, salty flavour. Our Basil and Mint Pesto is easy to make and really delicious.
For you meat lovers, you can pan fry, sous vide or steam chicken tenderloins and add it to the recipe. That would make it a substantial lunch for two.
Chervil substitute: If you’re not able to find chervil, you can omit it altogether. Just add more flat leaf parsley.
Fresh basil will, of course, work exceptionally well if you’re after additional herbs.
Step by step instructions for how to make Vegan Zucchini Noodle Salad with Pesto:
How to Make the Salad
Wash and dry cherry tomatoes. Cut them in half.
Roughly chop flat leaf parsley to yield ⅓ cup.
Roughly chop chervil to yield ¼ cup. Keep some extra for garnish.
With the skin on, use a shredding peeler (unless you have a zoodle maker or spiralizer) to shave the zucchini to create long noodle-like strips. When you hit the seed, turn the zucchini to the other side and start again. Discard the seeds.
Do the zucchini as the last step. It has high water content and will start to get wet.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the cherry tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, chervil and zucchini noodles.
Add 4 tbsp of pre-made vegan pesto sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients gently.
Place the salad in a heap on a serving platter.
Add the additional chervil you had set aside to garnish the salad.
Great Mains for This Salad
Here are some fantastic vegan main dishes to go with Vegan Zucchini Noodle Salad with Pesto:
Harissa jackfruit balls would go perfectly with these vegan zoodles while the beet burger made with beets, lentils and pecans are the perfect veggie patties. For something a bit more substantial, this vegan lentil loaf is filled with vege goodness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Zucchini contains a lot of water, and after you slice it, it will get watery. The best way to transport this is to line a container with an absorbent paper towel and place the zoodles on top. That way, when you’re ready to assemble the salad, the zucchini is as dry as it can be.
Cut the cherry tomatoes and place in a container. If that gets too watery too, be sure to scoop them out and leave the juices behind.
Chop up the herbs and place in another container.
Assemble at the destination. If you can’t assemble at the destination, e.g. it’s a picnic, I recommend that you don’t use zucchini. Carrots and kohlrabi would be better substitutes.
The same principle applies whether you transport this salad or make it in advance.
You will have the same issues, but the components can be prepared ahead of time.
Before putting the zoodles in the fridge, line your prep bowl with an absorbent paper towel and put the zucchini noodles on top.
Only assemble when it’s time to eat.
Pesto is great for stirring through pasta. As I usually don’t have a lot left, I would stir it through one small serve of pasta, add some pine nuts and tomatoes and I pack it up for my daughter’s school lunch.
If you have a lot left you could try a pesto tofu recipe or even use it as a dip for a vegan grazing platter.
Pesto is mainly expensive due to the pine nuts. Pine nuts are sometimes eye-watering costly, and quite a bit is required to make a decent amount of sauce.
The cheapest pesto I have found is at Costco. The only problem I find with that, as with everything in Costco is that I have to buy a huge tub! So I only buy it if I’m feeding a large crowd, but it sure is affordable! And the taste is not bad too.
Done in 10-minutes, this salad certainly looks so much more than a quick throw together recipe. These no cook salad recipes are good to have up your sleeve when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands.
Again, it’s always about being a little more creative in presenting staple ingredients, quality products and very fresh produce.
More Vegan Salad Recipes
Vegan Zucchini Noodle Salad with Pesto
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Wash and dry cherry tomatoes. Cut them in half.
- Roughly chop flat leaf parsley to yield ⅓ cup.
- Roughly chop chervil to yield ¼ cup. Keep some extra for garnish.
- With the skin on, use a shredding peeler (unless you have a zoodle maker or spiraliser) to shave the zucchini to create long noodle-like strips. When you hit the seed, turn the zucchini to the other side and start again. Discard the seeds.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the cherry tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, chervil and zucchini noodles.
- Add 4 tbsp of pre-made vegan pesto.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients gently.
- Place the salad in a heap on a serving platter.
- Add the additional chervil you had set aside to garnish the salad.
- Serve immediately.
- Make the zucchini noodles as the last step of your process as it has high water content and can get wet.
- As it does get wet, this is not a salad you can make ahead of time. It is to be made as the last dish that is set on your dinner table.
- You can, of course, make your own pesto sauce. If you’re not after a vegan version, add some pecorino to the parmesan to amplify the flavours.
- Try and get a variety of cherry tomatoes to give the salad some colour.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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