One of my biggest summer goals this year was to dine outside as frequently as possible, and this Shrimp Pasta Salad has been my faithful sidekick. It travels well, comes together in minutes, and in the unlikely event that my friends don’t eat it all, I’ve been loving having the leftovers on hand for fast, healthy lunches during the week.
This summer Shrimp Pasta Salad is a lighter spin on the Southern shrimp pasta salad that I remember making frequent appearances at our church potlucks and family reunions growing up.
Like the original recipe, it has a creamy dressing, baby salad shrimp, and is super duper easy to make. The flavors aren’t too strong, so it pleases a variety of palates. Shrimp Pasta Salad is also easy to make ahead and highly portable.
All of the above are ideal qualities when you’re brainstorming a side dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ.
Unlike the original, however, this Shrimp Pasta Salad is bright and nutritious. Yes, you can bring it for a side, but it’s also well-rounded enough to serve as a standalone meal.
How to Make a Healthy Shrimp Pasta Salad
Three small but impactful adjustments are at the heart of this Shrimp Pasta Salad’s healthy, modern twist.
- Fresh Veggies. I loaded the Shrimp Pasta Salad with peas, red bell pepper, and celery, with a sprinkle of green onion for punch. They make the pasta salad crunchy, colorful, and nutritious.
- Greek Yogurt. Typically southern Shrimp Pasta Salad is made with mayo (or in a pinch, bottled Italian salad dressing). I ditched both in favor of protein-rich Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is just as creamy as mayo, but it’s healthy and gives the Shrimp Pasta Salad a pleasant tang.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Instead of white pasta, use whole wheat! Whole grains = more fiber, protein, and nutrients. I bet no one will even notice the swap.
Which Pasta Shape Is Best for Shrimp Pasta Salad
- The majority of the time, I prefer my pasta salads to have short, easy-to-spear noodles, like the bowties in this Mexican Pasta Salad or this rotini in this Pepperoni Pasta Salad.
- For Shrimp Pasta Salad specifically, my favorite is elbow macaroni. I adore the way the little elbows mimic the shape of the shrimp. The two intertwine, and every forkful is a surprise.
That said, Shrimp Pasta Salad is and should be a laidback affair.
- You can swap the elbow macaroni for a different short pasta.
- Or ignore my advice completely and make Shrimp Pasta Salad with spaghetti. It is your pasta salad after all!
(PSA: If you love shrimp and spaghetti together, you can check out my Garlic Shrimp Pasta. It’s a completely different take but makes the best of both spaghetti and shrimp!).
Shrimp Pasta Salad—A Fresh, Creamy Dressing
To give the Shrimp Pasta Salad extra flavor, I boosted the Greek yogurt dressing with a few additional ingredients.
- Lemon. It lightens and brightens. For an even more pronounced lemon Shrimp Pasta Salad, try adding the zest of a lemon too.
- Dijon Mustard + White Vinegar. The combination of these two with the lemon juice gives the pasta salad dressing complexity and zip. I realize it might seem a bit high maintenance to call for all three, but I promise you won’t regret it.
- Honey. To keep the dressing in balance.
- A Baby Pinch of Cayenne. To keep us on our toes. Don’t worry, the dressing is not spicy; the cayenne is ultra subtle and simply provides a more well-rounded taste.
- Fresh Dill. It makes every bite sing with summer!
Storing, Serving, and Making Shrimp Pasta Salad Ahead
Shrimp Pasta Salad is one of those magical potluck dishes that tastes better an hour or two after you’ve prepared it.
- While you cannot freeze shrimp pasta salad (the whole ordeal will turn to mush), it does refrigerate well for several days.
- You can serve this recipe directly from the fridge as a chilled shrimp pasta salad or let it come closer to room temperature.
What to Serve with Shrimp Pasta Salad
You have many choices! Shrimp Pasta Salad goes with most any main dish you’d find at a classic BBQ. A few suggestions:
- Crockpot Ribs (or Instant Pot Ribs)
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- Burgers, like Avocado Burgers, Green Chile Grilled Chicken Burgers, or Super Food Black Bean Burgers
- Green salads, like this Anytime Arugula Salad or this Strawberry Spinach Salad
You also can enjoy it as we do: all on its own as a healthy, all-in-one meal.
I can vouch from experience that Shrimp Pasta Salad tastes especially delicious when eaten out of a Tupperware container on a picnic blanket with friends.
Is anyone else hoping potluck season lasts forever? I know I am!
If you try this Shrimp Pasta Salad for your next gathering or for a fast, healthy meal, I’d love to hear what you think. Please let me know how the recipe turned out in the comments section below!
Shrimp Pasta Salad
For the Shrimp and Pasta:
- 8 ounces uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni or similar small pasta, such as mini shells (about 2 cups uncooked macaroni)
- 1 pound frozen salad shrimp thawed and patted dry, or use roughly chopped peeled and deveined cooked shrimp
- 1 cup diced celery about 2 stalks
- 1 red bell pepper cored and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 2 green onions finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
For the Dressing:
- 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 1/2 lemon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Shake off as much water as possible. Let the colander with the pasta sit in the sink or on a towel to continue draining while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients: Greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, white vinegar, Dijon, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
- In a large serving bowl, place the shrimp, celery, bell pepper, peas, green onion, and dill. Shake the pasta once more, then add it to the bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
- If time allows, place the pasta in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour prior to serving. Enjoy directly from the fridge or at room temperature.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Stir to recombine and top with a bit of additional lemon juice and pinch of salt to wake up the leftovers.
- To make gluten free: Use gluten-free pasta noodles (be VERY careful not to overcook them, and drain them immediately).
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