This creamy Chicken Pasta Salad is packed with pretty much everything you could want out of a salad and ready in under 20 minutes. A great BBQ side dish, or a hearty lunch, it is easy to adapt and can be made in advance too. Chicken, bacon, pasta, and chunky vegetables all brought together in a creamy dressing for delicious summer comfort food.
Not only is this healthy pasta salad easy to adapt with any vegetables that you have that need using, but it's also a great way to use up leftover chicken. Made our Slow Cooker Roast Chicken? Shred it up and add it to this recipe. You can eat this as a main or a side (this recipe is for a side) and it's great for work and school packed lunches too.
Why you will love it
- Quick - This chicken pasta salad recipe is ready in just 20 minutes.
- Easy to adapt - Feel free to adapt this chicken pasta salad with whatever you have in your fridge that needs using.
- Leftovers are great to take to work/school - Make extra and pack up for lunches at school or work.
- A delicious BBQ side - Pasta salads always go down well at a BBQ and it's a good way to bulk out a meal.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Chicken - We used chicken breast to keep this chicken pasta salad lean, however you could use boneless and skinless chicken breast. This would add more flavour, but it would change the nutritional information. You can either fry up chunks of chicken breast, or use leftovers from a roast chicken.
- Pasta - You can use any pasta you like, making this a great cupboard raid meal. But, we like fusilli, because the mayonnaise based sauce clings to it really well.
- Bacon - You can leave this out if you want to save on calories, but we think it adds a lot of flavour. Make it a bit more lean by using turkey bacon. This pasta salad with chicken and bacon is protein packed.
- Olives - Another easy way to add lots of flavour to a pasta salad and make it feel a bit more summery. The great thing about olives is there are so many flavours. We love stuffed garlic olives.
- Tomatoes -A must in any kind of salad. We used cherry tomatoes, as we love the sweetness. But you could chop up a larger tomato if that is all you have.
- Basil - Perfect with tomatoes, it adds a real freshness to the chicken pasta salad. You could use dill or chives too.
- Onion - Spring onions (scallions) add a nice crunchiness to this pasta salad recipe. You could use finely diced shallot instead.
- Bell pepper - You can use any bell pepper you like, but we find that red and green add a nice mixture of flavour.
- Cucumber - Another easy way to add some crunch and lighten up the whole dish.
- Feta - Cheese is a must in a pasta salad and feta not only adds lots of flavour, but some creaminess too. You could swap it for cheddar or mozzarella.
- Mayonnaise - This is the base of the sauce for the pasta salad and makes it deliciously creamy. If you wanted to make it lighter, you could use yoghurt instead, but this would add some tartness to it.
- Lemon - This really lightens up the whole dish and adds a nice freshness.
- Spinach - We love anything we can give a green veggie boost to, and adding chopped spinach is an easy way to do that.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make chicken pasta salad - Step by step
One: Put pasta in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes. Alternatively, follow the instructions for our Microwave Pasta.
Two: Add the oil to a frying pan and once hot, add the chicken and cook for 6 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
Three: Add the bacon to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, making sure the chicken is cooked through too.
Four: Add the vegetables to a large bowl.
Five: Put the pasta, chicken and bacon in the bowl. Add the dressing ingredients and mix well.
What pasta to use
You should avoid using long pastas such as spaghetti or linguine. A good sturdy pasta will work best, such as fusilli or penne. Rigatoni, farfalle or macaroni are all good choices for this pasta salad.
Meat - If chicken isn't your thing, you can replace it with turkey, ham, extra bacon or even cooked cubes of halloumi. You could add some tofu or use chickpeas to get a nice creamy texture.
Vegetables - This pasta salad is a great opportunity to add loads of vegetables. Not only does it make it more nutrient dense, but it adds lots of colour and texture too. We like a good mix of crunchy and leafy.
For this, we used cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red and green bell pepper, spring onion (scallion) and some spinach. We added some olives to that for an extra burst of flavour, but sun dried tomatoes or anchovies would work.
As for other vegetables, the options are almost endless. You could add small chunks of raw broccoli or red onion, or you could roast up vegetables like courgette and aubergine and add those. A good mix of colours is the way to go. We also like some diced avocado for extra creaminess.
Dressing - Personally, I love a creamy pasta salad, so we have kept it classic and used mayonnaise in this. However, you could use yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche to still keep it creamy without mayo.
What to serve with chicken pasta salad
This is a delicious BBQ side dish, so anything you would make for a BBQ is good. Why not try our Honey and Lime Chicken, Vegetable and Halloumi Kebabs, Peri Peri Chicken, Hidden Vegetable Beef Burgers, or Cajun Chicken Burgers.
This will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, and will actually taste better the next day. Just keep it in a bowl covered with cling-film (Saran wrap), or in an airtight container.
This can be frozen, but the pasta and the other ingredients should be frozen separately. Do not mix with the mayo if you plan to freeze this dish. Put the pasta in one airtight container and the chicken/veg in another. The mayo dressing can become grainy when defrosted, so leave this out and add fresh when the pasta, chicken and vegetables have defrosted.
This isn't the easiest recipe to make vegan, but you can with a few swaps. Swap the chicken for a meat-free alternative (you would need to season it to add some flavour) and use a vegan mayo. Leave out the bacon, or use an alternative and the same goes with the feta.
That is totally up to you. Some people like a hot pasta salad, and others want the pasta to have cooled down first.
• To make this recipe quicker, use a rotisserie chicken, our leftover Slow Cooker Whole Chicken or a pack of cooked roast chicken strips.
• You could leave the chicken out and just use extra veggies or swap it for turkey, ham or halloumi.
• If you don't love creamy dressings, you could use a honey and mustard vinaigrette instead.
• This dish is a good opportunity to add lots of vegetables. A good mixture of crunchy and leafy is good.
• Avoid using long pastas like spaghetti for this.
• We topped ours with feta, but you could use a goats cheese or a blue cheese instead.
• Fresh herbs add lots of extra flavour to this. Chives or dill work well.
More pasta recipes
Chicken Pasta Salad
- 200 g Pasta - (penne or fusilli work well)
- 1 teaspoon Olive oil
- 3 rasher Bacon
- 150 g Chicken breast - chopped into chunks
- 10 Kalamata olives - destoned and halved
- 10 Cherry tomatoes - quartered
- 4 tablespoon Fresh basil - chopped
- 4 Spring onion (Scallion) - sliced
- 0.5 Red bell pepper - chopped
- 0.5 Green bell pepper
- 0.25 Cucumber - diced
- 0.5 Lemon - juice only
- 4 tablespoon Mayonnaise
- 1 Pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 30 g Spinach
- 60 g Feta
- Put pasta in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
- Add the oil to a frying pan and once hot, add the chicken and cook for 6 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Add the bacon to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, making sure the chicken is cooked through too.
- Add the vegetables to a large bowl.
- Put the pasta, chicken and bacon in the bowl. Add the dressing ingredients and mix well.
- To make this recipe quicker, use a rotisserie chicken, our leftover Slow Cooker Whole Chicken or a pack of cooked roast chicken strips.
- You could leave the chicken out and just use extra veggies or swap it for turkey, ham or halloumi.
- If you don't love creamy dressings, you could use a honey and mustard vinaigrette instead.
- This dish is a good opportunity to add lots of vegetables. A good mixture of crunchy and leafy is good.
- Avoid using long pastas like spaghetti for this.
- We topped ours with feta, but you could use a goats cheese or a blue cheese instead.
- Fresh herbs add lots of extra flavour to this. Chives or dill work well.