Don’t know it ‘till you try it—this dill pickle pasta salad will absolutely surprise you. It’s fresh, flavorful and loaded with pickles, celery and little bites of Cheddar. It’s got just enough going on without being too much.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe works because, well, it just does. The harmony of savory, tangy and bright flavors are mouth waters. And each bite is creamy, crunchy and crisp all at once.
We find most pasta salads are a little heavy and gloopy—not this one. We intentionally keep the amount of mayo to a minimum and bulk of the pickle brine, which creates something of a creamy vinaigrette.
Then finally, we drive home the pickle theme with a good dose of fresh dill thrown in, which elevates the dish from potluck to an anytime side dish.
Any small to medium pasta shape will work here. We like Cavatelli, but orzo, shells, or elbows all work well. Feel free to use whole-wheat pasta or any bean/lentil-based pasta.
We love to use olive oil mayonnaise in this pasta salad. Just as delicious as regular mayo with a touch more flavor. Feel free to use whatever mayonnaise you like. To make this recipe vegan, use vegan mayonnaise and skip the Cheddar cheese.
Fresh Pickles + Pickle Brine
It is SO important that you seek out fresh pickles sold in the refrigerated section (we use Gillo’s—they’re amazing). We find fresh pickles have more flavor and a better texture than those sold in the pantry section. If you do end up using pickles sold in the dry-good area, add the brine (aka dill pickle juice) incrementally instead of all at once. It’s likely to be saltier than fresh pickle brines—add it to taste then thin out the dressing with a splash of water if needed.
We think every great pasta salad needs some fresh veg, and celery is just the thing for this salad. It add crunch and brightness without imparting too much flavor.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Aged sharp white Cheddar, such a Cabot, is absolutely delicious in this Dill Pasta Salad. We don’t recommend using regular Cheddar—there’s just something about the sharpness of aged white cheddar that pairs beautifully with the dill.
If there was ever a recipe to really drive home a specific flavor profile, this is it. Load the salad up with even more dill flavor in the form of fresh dill (because if it isn’t fresh we don’t want it). Feel free to add in whatever fresh herbs you like—chives would be dynamite.
- We haven’t tried this, but for a lighter option, feel free to try using whole milk Greek yogurt in place of some or all of the mayonnaise.
- We prefer fresh dill over dried dill, but in a pinch you can use dried. Start with 2 teaspoons and adjust to taste from there.
- You can absolutely use baby dills in place of pickle spears, just be sure to season with the brine to taste, as they may be saltier.
Pasta and Potato Salads to Try
- Our Mediterranean Pasta Salad is always a hit in the summer. It’s light, fresh and uber-healthy.
- This Greek Orzo Pasta Salad is a must-try. It’s loaded with veggies, is savory and kinda briny from smashed olives.
- Our Miso and Za’atar Potato Salad is easily one of our favorite recipes to date. It’s got a lot of unique flavor and is so savory.
- If you love classic potato salad, you’ve got to try out herby Sour Cream Potato Salad.
- For a vinaigrette-based potato salad, try our French Potato Salad with dill (another great way to use your fresh dil)!
Test Kitchen Tips
- Add the pickle brine incrementally to avoid over-seasoning the pasta salad. Start with ¼ cup then add my tablespoon until you reach your desired saltiness and texture.
- This salad can easily be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Stored this way, it should last up to 4 days.
Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces small-shaped dry pasta, such as cavatelli (2 cups)
- ½ cup olive oil mayonnaise
- ½ cup pickle brine
- 1 cup chopped fresh pickle spears*
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 4 ounces diced aged white Cheddar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- Cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Saeson with 2 tablespoons kosher salt, add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together mayonnaise, pickle brine and dill.
- Drain pasta then immediately add cooked pasta to bowl with dressing; toss to combine then let rest 5 minutes.
- Add pickles, celery, and Cheddar; toss to combine then season with black pepper and additional dill or brine to taste.
- Make it vegan: use vegan mayo and skip the cheese.
- As the pasta salad cools and sets, the dressing will thicken. Adjust with additional pickle juice to mayo to preference. Same goes with taste. All pickles and brines are different, so season to taste with additional pickle brine and black pepper to taste.
- The type of pickle you use matters! We recommend using fresh pickles sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Aside from being fresh, they’ve also got a better flavor. If you’re not using fresh pickles, add the pickle brine in 2 tablespoon increments as it will likely be saltier.