This Chicken Pasta Salad with colorful veggies, dreamy mozzarella pearls, juicy chicken, and whole wheat noodles tossed in a simple Italian dressing solves one of life’s greatest conundrums: What should I eat for lunch today?
Why You’ll Love This Easy Pasta Salad
- It Does It All. Need a dish for a potluck? This is it! Need an easy, healthy lunch? You’ve got it! Need a family-friendly dinner idea? Coming right up! You can eat chicken pasta salad cold right out of the fridge or enjoy it at room temperature, and it’s perfectly portable for lunches and gatherings.
- It’s Begging You to Go Outside. Pasta salads are a summertime staple (Italian Pasta Salad, Tuna Pasta Salad, and Mexican Pasta Salad agree). This chicken pasta salad is the ideal companion for a sunny day picnic!
- Substantial Enough for a Meal. Thanks to ingredients like whole grains, lean protein, and veggies, this healthy chicken pasta salad hits every food group in a single bowl. Creamy mozzarella pearls and extra-virgin olive oil also add the necessary fats that are key to making you feel satiated.
- Bright and Refreshing. Fresh herbs, garlic, and red wine vinegar wake up the salad and make it one you’ll want to eat again and again.
5 Star Review
“Absolutely delicious!”— Shari —
How to Make Chicken Pasta Salad
For the Salad
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Whole wheat pasta contains more fiber and iron per serving than white pasta, making it a nutritious swap (I promise no one will notice!).
- Chicken. Using one of my foolproof methods below, you can prepare perfectly cooked, tender chicken breast for this salad. It helps make the salad more filling.
Cut this recipe time even further by swapping in precooked chicken or leftover chicken made with one of these easy methods (or use store-bought rotisserie chicken):
- Asparagus. Bright green and crisp-tender, the asparagus adds texture to the salad. It’s also extremely healthy. Asparagus is packed with fiber and antioxidants.
- Red Onion. Adds a subtle bite.
- Red Bell Pepper. Crisp, sweet, and colorful.
- Artichoke Hearts. Adding canned artichokes is an easy way to sneak in another tasty veggie.
- Tomatoes. Juicy, sweet, and perfect in this pasta salad.
- Mozzarella. Mozzarella pearls are the ideal size for a pasta salad like this one.
- Basil. Fresh basil is a simple finishing touch that makes a world of difference. Fresh parsley can also be used here.
For the Italian Dressing
- Olive Oil. The base of the dressing; this is a chicken pasta salad without mayo!
- Red Wine Vinegar. For acidity and tang.
- Dijon Mustard. The tang and distinct flavor of Dijon is part of what makes this dressing so delicious.
- Garlic. A scrumptious addition to salad dressings.
- Spices. I used salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes for flavor and a hint of spice.
- Cook and Cut the Chicken. You can dice it or shred it.
- Cook the Asparagus. Add it to an ice bath afterward to stop the cooking.
- Cook the Pasta. Al dente texture is ideal for this salad.
- Add the Other Salad Ingredients to a Bowl. Make sure it’s big enough for the whole salad.
- Prepare the Dressing. I love using a liquid measuring cup for this.
- Add the Pasta and Dressing. Stir everything up.
- Add the Basil. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate pasta salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, cook and cube the chicken, chop the onion, asparagus, red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and garlic.
Even a small amount of leftovers can become a meal. Stir rinsed and drained canned chickpeas into the leftovers to make them even more filling. Add arugula or spinach to bump up the veggies.
What to Serve with Chicken Pasta Salad
- Vegetables. Roasted Broccoli, Air Fryer Cauliflower, or Sauteed Carrots would pair well with this salad.
- Another Style of Salad. Serve chicken pasta salad with Fruit Salad or Arugula Salad.
- Bread. Rosemary Olive Oil Bread is the perfect complement to this dish.
- Soup. For a delightful soup and salad combo, pair this pasta salad with Asparagus Soup.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Use the Veggies You Have. One of my favorite things about this pasta salad is that you can make it with just about any veggie. Swap in your favorites, or use what’s in season. I think chicken pasta salad with peas or green beans would be wonderful.
- Don’t Overcook the Asparagus. Stringy, mushy, overcooked asparagus is not enjoyable. Make sure to remove it to an ice bath as soon as it reaches a crisp-tender texture.
- Fresh Herbs Are the Move. While you could swap dried herbs in a pinch, fresh herbs are essential for making this simple pasta salad taste its best.
- Keep a Creamy Element. If you prefer not to use the mozzarella, you can swap another cheese like feta or goat cheese, or use diced avocado for a dairy-free version.
Chicken Pasta Salad
- 3 cups cooked, cubed chicken about 3 medium breasts
- 1 pound asparagus or green beans trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional for cooking the asparagus and pasta
- 16 ounces whole wheat bowtie pasta or similar short, tubular pasta
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion about ½ small
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar divided
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts drained, cut into bite-sized pieces, and patted dry
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 4 ounces mozzarella pearls about 1 cup
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Prepare an ice bath and set it near the stove. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender and bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes (green beans may need a minute longer). With a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath to stop its cooking (do not drain the boiling liquid). Let the asparagus cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then with the slotted spoon, transfer it to towels and pat dry.
- Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain into a colander, then rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Shake the colander several times, then set the colander on towels or a plate and allow the water to continue to drain. You can also set it in the sink to drain (just don't forget about it and accidentally add soap).
- In a VERY large bowl, place the onion. Add the 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Add the asparagus, bell pepper, artichokes, tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and chicken (no need to stir again just yet).
- In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup with a spout, briskly whisk together the oil, mustard, garlic, oregano, black pepper, red pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar until the ingredients all come together into a smooth dressing.
- Shake the pasta in the colander once more to remove any last water, then add it to the bowl with the vegetable mixture.
- Pour in about 2/3 of the dressing, then stir to coat.
- Stir in the basil.
- Taste, add additional dressing, and season with additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover pasta salad in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make this recipe without the chicken. If you need the recipe to be vegetarian, you could try swapping in rinsed and drained chickpeas or white beans for extra protein. You can also just omit the chicken.
For a different protein option, use my Shrimp Pasta Salad for inspiration and try this recipe with shrimp instead.
This recipe is not spicy as written. If you enjoy your pasta salad with a kick, you can add more red pepper flakes to taste. You can reduce or omit the red pepper flakes if you prefer to have no trace of spice.
If your grocery store doesn’t sell mozzarella pearls, you can purchase sliced or unsliced fresh mozzarella instead. Cut the mozzarella into small cubes before adding it to the salad.