Spice up a boring side dish with this Cajun pasta salad! Combine pasta with bell peppers, celery and onion and top it off with a creamy remoulade style dressing for a pasta salad with a spicy kick. This easy Louisiana inspired side dish is perfect for your next cookout or potluck!
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Pasta salad is a great summer side dish, ideal for a backyard cookout or a potluck gathering. But let’s face it – it can also be kind of boring. So shake up boring macaroni salad with this spicy Cajun inspired dish!
This creamy Cajun pasta salad is a fun twist on a classic summertime favorite side dish. With an easy to make remoulade dressing it will be a hit at any picnic or barbecue!
Why You Will Love Cajun Pasta Salad
- The Cajun seasoning adds just enough kick to the recipe to make it spicy but not overly hot.
- It is an easy make ahead salad and keeps well in the refrigerator.
- My son insists this is the best pasta salad ever! And obviously he is an expert. 🙂
The basic salad consists of cooked pasta mixed with fresh vegetables. I used celery, bell peppers and onions as the vegetables because those three vegetables are considered the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking and are used as the base of many dishes like jambalaya and gumbo.
So makes sense to use those same vegetables in this dish. That way the Cajun inspiration isn’t just in the creamy dressing, but also in the ingredients.
Creamy Remoulade Dressing
The dressing has a long list of ingredients, but it is only takes a few minutes to put it together. Here are the key ones you need.
- Cajun or Creole seasoning – There are lots of different seasoning brands. The most important thing to be aware of is that some of these mixtures include salt and some don’t. If your Cajun seasoning already includes salt you will probably not want to add more salt to the dressing!
- Mustard – If you have Creole mustard use it. If not Dijon or spicy brown mustard work too.
- Hot sauce – A Louisiana style hot sauce would be perfect for this recipe. But any hot sauce is good.
- Dill pickle juice – Just take a little bit out of a jar of dill pickles. Vinegar will work too, but dill pickle juice is better.
- Horseradish – The horseradish helps give the salad its spicy kick. I use refrigerated prepared horseradish from a jar.
- Garlic – The garlic for this recipe should be grated or minced very finely. That way it disappears into the dressing and adds flavor and you don’t taste pieces of garlic.
In addition you also need pantry staples of mayonnaise, pepper, lemon juice, paprika and maybe salt.
How to Make Cajun Pasta Salad
1. Make the Pasta
Put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add your pasta and cook it according to the package directions.
Once it is done drain it in a colander and run cold water to cool off the macaroni. Put the pasta in a large bowl and toss it with a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together while you make the rest of the salad.
2. Add the Vegetables
Clean and dice the celery and bell pepper into small pieces. For the green onions separate the whites from the greens. Dice the whites to stir into the salad and reserve the green tops for garnishing the salad.
Add the celery, bell pepper and whites of the scallions to the salad bowl with the pasta. Stir it to mix it all together.
3. Add the Dressing
In a smaller bowl combine the mayonnaise, paprika, Cajun seasoning, pepper, mustard, lemon juice, hot sauce, pickle juice and grated garlic. Whisk it all together until it is creamy.
Taste the dressing and determine if you need to add salt or not! This will depend on your Cajun seasoning and your preferences. Add the salt if you are using salt and stir.
Pour the dressing over the salad in the bowl and stir it so the dressing coats all the pasta. Garnish the pasta salad with paprika and the diced green tops of the scallions.
Variations and Tips
- I can’t emphasize enough to check the amount of salt in your Cajun seasoning before you add more salt to the dressing! Too much or too little salt will ruin this salad.
- To make this Cajun pasta salad even spicier you can add 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of cayenne pepper.
- Cherry tomatoes, dill pickles or hard boiled eggs make delicious additions to this recipe.
- To make a complete meal you can add some grilled chicken or stir in crab or tuna.
This is an excellent salad to make ahead of time and refrigerate. I think it tastes best when the flavors have an hour or so to meld together and combine.
This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The dressing with thicken a little as it is refrigerated, so you might want to stir in a few tablespoons of water before serving it.
Find More Cajun Inspired Recipes
- 1 pound pasta, elbows, shells or rotini or other small pasta
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 scallions
- 1 red pepper
- 4 ribs celery
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoon mustard, Creole, Dijon or spicy brown
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning *see note
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon dill pickle juice
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- up to 2 teaspoon salt, optional *see note
- Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta as directed by the package instructions.
- While the pasta cooks clean and dice the celery and red pepper. Separate the scallion whites from the greens and dice both. Set the green parts aside to garnish the salad.
- After the pasta is done drain it in a colander. Run cold water through it to cool it off quickly. Put the drained and cooled pasta in a large salad bowl. Toss it with the olive oil.
- Add the diced celery, red pepper and white part of the scallions to the salad bowl. Stir to mix.
- In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, grated garlic, Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce, dill pickle juice, paprika and pepper. Stir to whisk it all together.
- Taste a small amount of the dressing and determine if it needs salt or not. This will depend on how much salt your Cajun seasoning includes, if any. Add salt if necessary and stir the dressing again.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta and stir to coat all the pasta. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve garnished with a sprinkle of paprika and the reserved green scallion tops.
- This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. It will thicken a bit over time. If desired you can stir in a few tablespoons of water before serving.
Brands of Cajun seasoning differ in how much salt they have. If your Cajun seasoning includes salt you might not need to add any extra to this recipe. If it has no salt you probably will want to add 1-2 teaspoons of salt. So for best results check the ingredients on your Cajun seasoning and taste test the dressing after mixing it and then decide how much salt to add.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to make this recipe spicier.
- If you don't have dill pickle juice substitute vinegar.
- Cherry tomatoes, dill pickles or hard boiled eggs make delicious additions to the salad.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 264Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 718mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 5g
Nutrition facts are estimates.