Chicken Pasta Salad packed with grilled chicken, veggies, and a herb dressing is all your need for the summer picnic, potluck, or backyard BBQ dinner. It is a perfect side-dish cum summer meal that is always a crowd favorite. I suggest preparing a large batch because it is meal-prep friendly.
A hearty chicken pasta salad is probably the best way to use all the leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken, vegetables, greens, and cold cut meats sitting in the fridge.
This pasta salad requires minimal effort and is perfect, fulfilling dish for a large crowd. Hence, making it an all-time favorite potluck salad.
Next day, pack the leftovers for the lunchbox or enjoy it for a quiet summer lunch with homemade focaccia bread and a glass of wine.
Ingredients For My Pasta Salad
Pasta: Pick bite-size pasta for making the salad. I prefer elbow macaroni, fusilli, farfalle, penne, or small shell pasta.
Chicken – From the grilled chicken, rotisserie chicken, to leftover barbecue chicken or stir fry chicken, you can use any of these to make this chicken pasta salad. If none of these available, then follow my method to quickly grill chicken for the salad. I add diced chicken salami as well in the salad.
Vegetables – When it comes to salad, please don’t restrict yourself to one or two vegetables. Step ahead and add colorful, seasonal vegetables, and greens of your choice in this chicken pasta salad. I prefer a mix of bell peppers, cucumber, onion, tomato, and olives.
Herbs – Nothing like a bunch of fresh herbs in the salad. Herbs like Italian basil, parsley, or cilantro taste great in a pasta salad.
Cheese – Fresh mozzarella, bocconcini, goat cheese, feta, or parmesan are my top five cheese for a pasta salad. The soft cheese and crunchy vegetables in a salad are like a match made in heaven.
The Herb Dressing
The USP of this chicken pasta salad is the refreshing herb dressing made from scratch at home. The taste and flavor in the salad come from this herb dressing.
This salad dressing is extremely easy to make, vegan, and gluten-free. It requires only a blender and you have the most amazing, multi-purpose herb dressing.
For this herb dressing you need:
- Cilantro or coriander or parsley
- Mint Leaves
- Garlic Cloves
- Salt & Pepper
- Juice of one lemon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Mayonnaise or Greek Yogurt
Meal-Prep For Chicken Pasta Salad
If you do not have leftover grilled chicken then follow these steps to marinate and grill chicken for the salad.
- Take two boneless chicken breasts or thighs. Clean, wash and pat dry them.
- Using a meat pounder, pound them to an even thickness. This ensures quick and uniformly cooked chicken breast.
- Next, marinate chicken breast with olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Rub the herbs and spices all over the chicken breast. Keep in the fridge until ready to grill. I do this on Sunday night. And the marinated chicken is good to use throughout the week.
- For grilling, bring the marinated chicken to room temperature. Heat a pan over a high flame. Do not put any oil. Place the chicken breast on the hot pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook chicken approximately 5 minutes on both sides.
- Transfer grilled chicken to a wooden platter. Let it rest for 3 – 5 minutes. Cut into pieces.
Boil Pasta: Start with boiling pasta as per packet instructions. Always, go for al-dente pasta when it comes to salads. Nobody likes overcooked and mushy pasta in a salad. Rinse boiled pasta with cold water. And store in the fridge for 2 – 3 days. Use the pasta for making chicken pasta salad or other dishes.
Can I assemble the chicken pasta salad in advance?
Yes, you can assemble the pasta salad 1 – 2 hours before serving and refrigerate it in an airtight container. Make sure not to leave pasta salad at room temperature more than 2 – 3 hours after adding dressing especially in hot climatic tropical regions.
Can I freeze pasta salad?
Sadly no. This pasta salad is not freezer friendly. The herb dressing, grilled chicken, cheese, and fresh vegetables, all lose their texture ad taste once frozen. It is best consumed within 1 – 2 hours of assembling or if refrigerated, then the next day.
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Chicken Pasta Salad with Herb Dressing
Ingredients For Salad:
- 2 Cup dry fusilli pasta
- 1 Cup grilled chicken, boneless and diced (see recipe notes)
- 1 Cup chopped onion
- 1/2 Cup cherry tomato, cut into halves
- 1 Cup diced cucumber
- 1/4 Cup sliced black olives
- 1/2 Cup diced chicken salami
- 1/4 Cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 Cup diced yellow bell pepper
Ingredients For Herb Dressing:
- 1 Cup fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1/4 Cup fresh mint leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon plain mayonnaise or Greek Yogurt
Ingredients For Garnish:
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
- 1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheese
- Boil fusilli pasta in salted water al dente as per packet instructions. Once cooked, drain and transfer in a colander. Rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Chop vegetables, salami, and other ingredients for the salad. Keep in the fridge until required.
- Dice the grilled chicken into bite size pieces for the salad (refer recipe notes for grilling chicken from scratch).
- Combine all the ingredients for dressing in a blender or mixer. Blend to get a smooth herb dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Combine boiled pasta, vegetables, salami, chicken, and other ingredients in a salad mixing bowl. Pour herb dressing over the salad. Mix the salad gently to coat evenly with the dressing.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley or grated parmesan cheese.
- Boiling Pasta: Boil 6 cups of water with salt. Add dry pasta and cook till pasta is al dente. Once done, transfer to a colander. Rinse with cold water. Let it sit in the colander until required or store in the refrigerator.
- Grilling Chicken: Take boneless chicken breasts or thighs. Clean, wash and pat dry them. Using a meat pounder, pound them to an even thickness. Marinate chicken breast with olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Rub the herbs and spices all over the chicken breast. Keep in the fridge until ready to grill. For grilling, bring the marinated chicken to room temperature. Heat a pan over a high flame. Do not put any oil. Place the chicken breast on the hot pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook chicken approximately 5 minutes on both sides.
- Herb Dressing: You can use a combination of different herbs like basil, parsley, coriander, or dill to make this dressing.
- Storing Salad: This salad is not freezer friendly. Store it in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 days.