Nudelsalat, or German pasta salad, is a favorite dish in Germany and an ideal addition to summer BBQs, picnics, and parties. With pantry staples, this budget-friendly salad can be quickly prepared without extensive planning and can be customized to suit your taste, dietary needs, or available ingredients. This classic salad is an ideal choice for serving large groups, as preparing it in advance allows the flavors to meld together and enhances its taste.
Growing up in Germany, this classic pasta salad was a regular feature at family gatherings and BBQ parties. Its make-ahead nature makes it ideal for large groups, and the straightforward ingredients of this Nudelsalat make it a budget-friendly dish that is sure to satisfy. If you’re hosting a party, this salad is a must-have addition to your menu!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick and easy
- Great for larger crowds
- Perfect for meal prepping
- Pasta – Fusilli, farfalle, macaroni, or penne all work well for this recipe. You can also opt for a wholegrain pasta or gluten-free version.
- Meat – Luncheon, pre-cooked ham, or sausages such as Frankfurters can be used for this recipe. Leberkäse is also a popular option on southern German states including Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Make sure any meat is fully cooked and cooled before using it.
- Vegetables – Red bell peppers, corn, and peas are traditionally used in Nudelsalat. You can also add finely diced red onions, cucumber, or grated carrots.
- Pickles – Pickled gherkins add texture and a tangy, slightly sour flavor to this salad which works well with the rich dressing.
- Mayonnaise – Full-fat or light mayonnaise both work well for this recipe. To make a pasta salad without mayonnaise, you can substitute this portion with sour cream but you’ll need to add extra seasoning.
- Greek yogurt – Full-fat, plain Greek yogurt gives the dressing extra freshness. You can also use a lower-fat version.
- Herbs – Fresh chives or parsley are great options to add extra freshness to this pasta salad.
- Salt & pepper – A simple seasoning of salt and freshly ground pepper rounds out the flavors.
How to make Nudelsalat
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, vegetables, and meat.
- In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss to coat evenly.
- Chill the Nudelsalat in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. Season to taste.
- Cold rinse: Italians will be shocked, but for this recipe, you have to Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. It will also ensure that the pasta won’t stick together.
- Chill the salad: Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to mingle.
- Don’t over-season: The meat, mayonnaise, and pickles are all pre-seasoned. Be conservative with the seasoning to start with and season to taste after you have chilled the pasta salad.
German pasta salad is a versatile dish that can be easily customized to suit your taste preferences and dietary requirements.
Gluten-free: Simply opt for gluten-free pasta and make sure the cooked meat doesn’t have added gluten.
Vegetarian: Omit the meat and consider replacing this portion with vegetables or boiled eggs for some extra protein.
Add spice: Sweet or smoked paprika or chili flakes can add some heat and depth to the pasta salad.
Say cheese: Emmental cheese is commonly used in German pasta salads but diced gouda and edam work well as well.
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To store pasta salad, place it in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator. Make sure to consume the salad within three to five days of preparing it. I do not recommend freezing it.
Yes, you can prepare your pasta up to 48 hours before you plan to serve it.
Pasta salad is often better the next day because, during the time it sits in the refrigerator, the pasta absorbs the flavors of the dressing and other ingredients. This allows the flavors to meld together and develop a richer taste.
Nudelsalat (Classic German Pasta Salad)
- 250 g dry pasta fusilli, farfalle, or penne
- 1/2 cup corn defrosted
- 1/2 cup peas defrosted
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup pickled gherkins chopped
- 1 cup cooked sausage or ham cubed, e.g. Frankfurters
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp juice from pickled gherkins
- 2 tbsp fresh chives
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground pepper
- Cook the 250 g dry pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.250 g dry pasta
- Let the frozen 1/2 cup corn and 1/2 cup peas defrost at room temperature. Alternatively, you can add them to the pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking.1/2 cup corn, 1/2 cup peas
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the finely chopped 1/2 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup pickled gherkins, and 1 cup cooked sausage or ham.1/2 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup pickled gherkins, 1 cup cooked sausage or ham
- Add the cooked and cooled pasta to the large mixing bowl with the chopped vegetables and cooked meat.
- In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp juice from pickled gherkins, and 2 tbsp fresh chives until well combined. Season to taste with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground pepper.1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp juice from pickled gherkins, 2 tbsp fresh chives, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp ground pepper
- Pour the dressing mixture over the pasta and vegetables, and toss gently to coat everything evenly. Cover and refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld and develop.
- Just before serving, give the pasta salad a final toss. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or pepper if needed and garnish it with chopped fresh chives. Serve and enjoy your tasty German-style pasta salad as a side dish or a light meal!