Enjoy an easy ensalada de coditos recipe (macaroni salad) that comes together in 30 minutes or less and is made with ingredients you probably already have at home!
Elbow macaroni is mixed with vegetables like dill pickles, carrots, onion, and celery, then tossed in a vegan mayo-crema-based sauce. Yum!
If you're looking for a comforting dish that delivers big on flavor without breaking the bank, you're going to love this plant-based version of Mexican macaroni salad.
What is ensalada de coditos?
Ensalada de coditos, or elbow-macaroni salad, is a dish enjoyed in Mexico and other Latin American countries, but also all over the world!
Although there are overlapping ingredients in different recipes, there's really no right or wrong way to make this meal in our opinion.
We love macaroni salad because it's easily customizable to suit your preferences, and it's a great way to use up ingredients in the fridge.
With an egg-free mayo, crema, pickle juice, and mustard-based sauce, this salad is irresistibly creamy, slightly sweet, and tangy.
Taking inspiration from our usual chickpea salad, we used vegetables like pickles, red onion, celery, and carrots. But, feel free to use other popular ingredients like the following:
- Vegan ham
With so many options to choose from, you can give this recipe a full makeover each and every time you make a batch!
Although we found it a little challenging to pinpoint the exact origin of ensalada de coditos, we thought it would be interesting to highlight how pasta made its way to Mexico (since it's not usually associated with this cuisine).
In a book by food historian Jefferey Pilcher, he wrote that Italians actually impacted Hispanic cuisine even more so than the French, which was surprising to us.
Due to the push from Europeans to replace corn-based products with wheat, a fusion of flavors formed between the two countries.
It wasn't until approximately the 1800s that wheat pasta became widespread in Mexico, and chefs here began imparting their own flavors on such a popular European food.
Now, you can find different variations of pasta in Mexico like ensalada de coditos, espagueti verde, or espagueti rojo to name a few.
Although we enjoy this vegan macaroni salad as a meal of its own, it also makes a perfect side dish to accompany some of our other favorite dishes including:
Are there any foods you enjoy serving macaroni salad alongside? Let us know in the comments!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: elbow macaroni is kind of a necessity to make this ensalada de coditos (coditos means elbows). That being said, any short pasta will do like farfalline, penne, conchiglie, or fusilli. Cook it until al dente to add a tender and chewy texture that balances out all those crunchy vegetables.
Health: elbow macaroni is not only a source of carbohydrates, but it is typically enriched or fortified with B-vitamins like folate, B1, and B2. These vitamins are essential for metabolism, blood cell development, and brain functionality.
Taste: providing a more Mexican flair to this sauce is the use of crema (genius!). We were inspired to make a dairy-free version with cashew crema, egg-free mayo, mustard, and pickle juice for extra tang. This combo is the absolute best for a cold pasta salad.
Health: by opting for plant-based ingredients like vegan mayo and crema, you'll not only receive health benefits like decreasing the risk of heart disease, but you'll also help reduce animal harm. Seems like a win-win for us!
Taste: with so many different vegetables to choose from, we stuck to our favorites in this recipe. Dill pickles for tang, carrots to add sweetness, celery for an earthy crunch, and onion for extra punch.
Although these are a great place to start, try mixing and matching with other add-ins like:
- Pickled jalapenos
- Green onions
- Bell peppers
Health: vegetables are essential in a healthy diet, with each vibrant color providing a unique set of health benefits. For example, beta-carotene found in carrots is important for maintaining overall eye health.
If you have questions about this vegan ensalada de coditos recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: cook the elbow macaroni in salted water until al dente, which takes about 6-8 minutes or so. Immediately drain and rinse the cooked macaroni under cold water and toss it with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
Step 2: in the meantime, shred the carrots and dice the celery, pickles, and onion (and whatever else you're mixing in). Add them all to a bowl with the drained macaroni.
Step 3: mix the mayo, crema, mustard, and pickle juice together in a small bowl. Add the sauce to your macaroni salad, then season it with salt and pepper to taste. Happy eating!
This Mexican macaroni salad makes a great meal to prep at the beginning of the week for those with busy schedules. Or if you are headed to a gathering, make it in advance to save time on the day of.
Your vegan macaroni salad will keep in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container to lock in the freshness. We like to use glass containers as it retains the best flavors.
💭 Pro tips
We'd like to share some tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with this vegan macaroni salad recipe:
- Don't overcook the macaroni. Make sure you're diligent in following the package instructions as you'll want al dente pasta for this salad.
- Switch up the vegetables. If you don't have all the ingredients, just use whatever you have on hand or swap in your favorites.
- Add a bit of heat. If you like spice, try adding pickled jalapeños, diced serranos, or making the sauce with chipotles in adobo.
- Rinse and toss. Rinse the pasta in cold water (to stop the cooking process) and toss it in oil (to prevent sticking).
🍴 Tasting notes
You're going to love how quick and easy vegan macaroni salad is so to make. It's:
If you try this ensalada de coditos recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Vegan Mexican Macaroni Salad
- Stock pot
- Chef knife
- Cutting board
- 8 ounces dried elbow macaroni ($0.44)
- 1 medium carrot, shredded ($0.14)
- 1-2 stalks celery, finely diced ($0.05)
- 3 dill pickles, finely diced ($0.10)
- ½ small red onion, finely diced ($0.09)
- ⅓ cup vegan mayo ($1.01)
- ¼ cup Mexican crema ($0.36)
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard ($0.02)
- 1 tablespoon dill pickle juice ($0.01)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- First, bring some water to boil in a large pot. Once boiling, salt the water and add in the macaroni. Cook according to the package directions, or until al dente. Immediately drain and rinse under cold water (optional — toss in a teaspoon of olive oil).
- In the meantime, shred the carrots and dice the celery, pickles, and onion. Add them to a mixing bowl with the drained macaroni.
- Mix the mayo, crema, mustard, and pickle juice together in a small bowl. Add the sauce to the macaroni salad, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Happy eating!
- For a spicier version, try adding chipotle peppers in adobo or pickled jalapeños and their juice in place of the regular pickle juice.
- Recipe inspired by the talented Maricruz Avalos.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more easy and hearty meal ideas, check out our:
- Espagueti verde to try an ultra-rich, creamy, and slightly spicy Mexican spaghetti dish made completely free of dairy.
- Sopa de fideo for a classic bowl of soup that's simple to make, light on the wallet, and comforting on a rainy day.
- Sopa de habas if you need a one-pot recipe that makes a quick and easy meal on busy weeknights.
- Sopa de lentejas for a fresh, simple, inexpensive, and protein-rich soup that is absolutely mouthwatering.
In general, most ensalada de coditos recipes call for ham, mayonnaise, and dairy-based crema. So no, not all will be vegan-friendly. However, this recipe doesn't contain animal-based ingredients.
Due to the use of durum wheat pasta, this recipe is not gluten-free. To make it suitable for a gluten-free diet, swap in your favorite brand of GF elbow macaroni.
While macaroni salad is not solely Mexican, it is a typical dish served alongside ensalada de papa. The use of ingredients like crema is common in Mexican recipes.