Learn how to make your own versatile pasta salad dressing in just a couple minutes. You can mix up this easily adaptable recipe with your favorite oils, vinegars, and spices and herbs!

Skip the bottle of store bought dressing and create your own – it’s so much easier than you might think!

Once you learn the base recipe for this simple dressing, you’ll be whipping up a batch every week!

easy bowtie pasta salad in a mixing bowl
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School is out and the unofficial start of summer is here! I have dreams of afternoons by the pool, trips to the lake house, and visiting attractions around St. Louis. 

One thing I love about summer is all of the gatherings! Enjoying time with family and friends to celebrate Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and our nation’s birthday on the Fourth of July.  

It seems every summer event centers around the meal. We sit down and visit while enjoying a little BBQ, with a side of fresh pasta salad. 

I tend to gravitate towards all the sides more than the main dish itself, I just love all the variety and flavor profiles!

I’m such a fan of pasta in every format, and pasta salad is a longtime favorite. In fact, I’ve got an entire recipe collection dedicated to rounding up all the reader-fave Easy Pasta Salad Recipes around here. Don’t miss it– you’ll want to pin and save it for later!

A glass bottle with a gold spout, full of pasta salad dressing.

Pasta Salad Dressing

This pasta salad dressing is easy and amazing. It makes it so easy to create a traditional side dish that’s always a crowd pleaser.

This versatile dressing comes down to a simple equation. You’ll want a little oil/fat, a little acidity (vinegar or citrus) and then herbs, spices etc. It’s a simple formula that allows you to customize your dressing to suit any need or occasion!

Why You’ll Love It

  • Just Four Ingredients – And full of zesty flavor!
  • Adaptable – Add your favorite flavored oils, unique vinegar options, and fresh herbs and spices for your own spin.
  • Keeps Well – This pasta salad dressing stores well in your refrigerator for up to two weeks!
bow tie pasta salad with lemon vinaigrette basil and cherry tomatoes

Ingredients and Substitutions

See printable recipe card for complete ingredients and instructions.

  • Oil – Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my go-to, but you can substitute Canola oil, avocado oil, etc.
  • Vinegar – Your favorite! Red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic or rice wine vinegar are all favorites.
  • Mustard Seed – This comes in a shelf stable jar just like any other spice. Adding grain mustard seed creates more texture and acidity too.
  • Minced Garlic – You can use fresh garlic cloves (learn how to mince garlic here) but I often opt for minced garlic available in a jar in the produce section of the grocery store.
  • Optional: Salt and Pepper – I like to use large flakes of black pepper (just adjust your pepper grinder) to add a little color and texture. 
  • Optional: Herbs – Your choice, the options are endless! Fresh is always wonderful but you can use dried, too.
A glass bottle with a gold lid, full of pasta salad dressing.


  • Make it Creamy – If you prefer a creamy pasta salad dressing, you can always add mayo, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to the recipe. Simply swap it for the oil in the recipe.
  • Add Fresh Herbs – Basil, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, mint, and more.
  • Seasoning – You can also replace the seasoning in this basic recipe with your own. If you’re replacing the mustard, garlic and herbs in this recipe with dried seasoning, use 1-2 tablespoons of dried herbs to taste.
  • Spice it Up – Add Chipotle Seasoning or red pepper flakes.
  • Cajun Seasoning
  • Fiesta Ranch
  • Ranch Seasoning Recipe
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • Zesty Homemade Italian Seasoning Recipe

The Ultimate Vinaigrette Recipe Guide

It’s one of my favorite ways to upgrade a salad – homemade dressings never tasted so good! Don’t skip this free recipe guide to upgrade all your salads.

How to Make

  1. Measure out your ingredients and pour into a large bowl or pour into a mason jar.
    puring ingredients in a jar to make pasta salad dressing
  2. Shake or whisk vigorously.  
  3. After your pasta salad dressing is prepared, toss with the noodle of your choice in a large pot or mixing bowl.
    pouring pasta salad dressing onto pasta salad
  4. Allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours.


  • Rinse – Rinse the noodles in cold water before combining them with your pasta salad dressing. If you’re making a creamy dressing, dry the pasta off as much as you can so the dressing can stick.
  • Refresh Pasta Salad – If the pasta seems dry after marinating, add more pasta salad dressing and stir! You can also leave a little water when draining the pasta to keep it moist and use less dressing.
  • Marinate – This dressing is great for traditional salads as well. They often make a great marinade for your favorite chicken or fish, too! 
A hand holding a glass jar with a spout lid, full of pasta salad dressing

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep pasta salad from absorbing dressing?

One of the best ways to serve pasta salad is to dress it two times! Add half your dressing to marinate the salad in the fridge for several hours (or overnight), and then add the remainder just before serving.

Should you rinse pasta when making pasta salad?

While the general rule is to never rinse your pasta after cooking, pasta salad is the only time it’s a suggested rule of thumb! Rinsing can help keep the pasta from continuing to soften and cook. It “shocks” the pasta and helps it easily accept the dressing!

bow tie pasta salad in a bowl with cherry tomatoes basil and feta

Serving Suggestions

How to Store

  • Room temperature – As written, this homemade pasta salad dressing can sit out at room temperature safely for storage for several days. The vinegar is acidic enough to keep the mixture fresh! However, if you add citrus or fresh herbs, be sure to refrigerate.
  • Refrigerate – This pasta salad dressing will store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Use a container with a tight seal to seal in fresh flavor!
pasta salad dressing in a jar

More Dressing Inspiration

A hand holding a glass jar with a spout lid, full of pasta salad dressing
5 from 22 votes

Pasta Salad Dressing

Make your own easily adaptable pasta salad dressing in just minutes! Mix up this TRIED + TRUE recipe with your favorite oils, vinegars, and spices and herbs!
Prep: 3 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 3 minutes
Servings: 6
Pin Rate Print



  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon herbs fresh or dried


  • Measure out your ingredients and pour into a large bowl or pour into a mason jar.
  • Shake or whisk vigorously.
  • After your pasta salad dressing is prepared, toss with the noodle of your choice in a large pot or mixing bowl.
  • Allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours.


Substitutions and Variations

  • Vinegars to Use – Try this recipe with balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar
  • Vinegar Substitutes – Don’t like the flavor of vinegar? Try white wine, lemon juice, lime juice, or pesto instead. 
  • Oils to Use – Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, or even melted butter. 
  • Mustard Substitutes – You can switch out the mustard and/or garlic in this recipe with dried seasoning, just add 1-2 tablespoons of dried herbs to taste.

To Store

Store in an airtight container refrigerated up to two weeks.
Calories: 87kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 23mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.

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