This chicken pasta salad is grilled chicken with olives, cheese and fresh vegetables, all tossed in a homemade Italian dressing. A light and refreshing side dish or main course option that’s perfect for feeding a crowd!
Pasta salad is a summer staple for good reason. It’s easy to make, great for picnics and potlucks, and is packed full of flavor. This chicken pasta salad takes the classic dish to a whole new level with plenty of color and texture.
How do you make chicken pasta salad?
Start by cooking your chicken, and cutting it into bite sized pieces. While the chicken is cooking, boil some pasta until it is tender. Place the chicken and pasta in a large bowl along with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives, fresh mozzarella and herbs. Drizzle a homemade dressing over the chicken and pasta mixture, then toss until well combined. Serve immediately, or refrigerate to enjoy later.
Tips for the perfect salad
- I prefer to grill boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. That being said, other types of cooked chicken will also work just fine such as leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. Chicken thighs will also work in lieu of the breasts.
- Chicken pasta salad will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend freezing pasta salad.
- You can make the Italian dressing 2 days before you plan to use it. Want to save on prep time? Buy a bottle of high quality prepared Italian dressing instead of making your own.
- I like to use a mandoline to thinly shave the red onion for the salad.
- While I typically use kalamata olives, any type of olives will work such as green olives or traditional ripe black olives.
DOES PASTA SALAD NEED TO BE REFRIGERATED?
Pasta salad should be refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it. The salad should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. If it’s a particularly warm day, it’s best to only let the salad sit out for one hour to avoid potential food safety issues.
Chicken pasta salad flavor variations
This dish is fabulous as written, but the beauty of pasta salad is that you can add all different ingredients to customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Pasta: Instead of rotini, you can use any type of short pasta such as penne, farfalle, shells or macaroni.
- Protein: Feel free to up the protein by adding canned chickpeas, salami or cooked crumbled bacon.
- Cheese: Swap out the mozzarella with feta cheese, extra sharp white cheddar, or shaved parmesan.
- Vegetables: Add more veggies to the mix with cooked green beans, avocado, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh spinach, or grilled zucchini.
This chicken pasta salad is the ultimate simple meal. My whole family loves this one, and you just can’t go wrong with the combination of tender chicken, crunchy veggies and pasta.
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Chicken Pasta Salad Video
Chicken Pasta Salad
For the salad
- 1 pound rotini pasta
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup cucumber quartered and sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives halved
- 3/4 cup small mozzarella balls halved
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves finely chopped
- 1 1/4 cups homemade or store bought Italian dressing dressing recipe follows
- salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh red bell pepper finely minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced dried onion
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
For the salad
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken breasts and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the chicken on the grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes per side or until done. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bite sized pieces.
- Cook the rotini in salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cool water.
For the dressing
- Combine all of the ingredients in a jar or bowl. Whisk if using a bowl, or shake vigorously in a jar to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the chicken, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, mozzarella balls and parsley. Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for later use.