Chicken pasta salad with creamy dressing! Loaded with classic salad ingredients, plus a sweet punch from pineapples and cheese cubes for a nice contrast of flavor.
What I love about this recipe is the dressing. It is mayo-based lightened up with yogurt for a smooth and creamy texture. It’s super easy to whip up, making it the perfect choice for summer potlucks, dinners, lunches, or whenever you need a tasty side dish.
Chicken Pasta Salad Ingredients
Here’s what I use to make this chicken pasta salad:
When it comes to adding chicken to pasta salad, there are several delicious options to consider. The type of chicken you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the overall flavor profile of the pasta salad.
In this recipe, I used boiled chicken breast. It is the easiest and most accessible ingredient you can use for pasta salad.
Here are the vegetables that I recommend that go well with the creamy salad dressing:
- Bell peppers – Use red, green, or yellow, bell peppers to add vibrant color to the salad.
- Red onions – Thinly sliced or diced red onions bring a mild, savory bite to the salad
- Carrots – Grated or finely diced carrots offer a touch of natural sweetness.
- Pineapples – Canned diced pineapple or pineapple tidbits.
💭 Tip: For best results use fresh vegetables and ensure they are thoroughly washed to maintain their quality.
There are numerous other pasta shapes you can use to create variations of this chicken pasta salad recipe. Different pasta shapes can provide unique textures and enhance the overall experience of the salad.
Here are some types of pasta you can consider:
- Elbow macaroni – a classic choice for pasta salad.
- Shell pasta (Conchiglie)
- Fusilli – Spiral-shaped pasta
- Farfalle – Bow-tie pasta)
- Rotini – Corkscrew-shaped pasta
- Penne – Tubular pasta with angled ends
These are just a few examples of pasta shapes you can use for pasta salad. You can get creative and mix different shapes to add visual interest and unique textures to your salad.
Remember to cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain it well, and cool it before mixing it with the other salad ingredients and dressing.
Creamy Pasta Salad Dressing
Smooth, velvety, and full of flavor, this creamy pasta salad dressing features a delightful balance of subtle tanginess and sweetness that beautifully complements the pasta and vegetables.
To make it, you will need:
- Mayonnaise – Use your favorite mayo or find the best quality of mayonnaise you can find. My personal favorites are Lady’s Choice or Best Food as they tend to be on the tangy side.
- Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream – This is the secret to a creamy and smooth salad dressing. Use yogurt if you prefer a light, yet creamy dressing, and use sour cream if you prefer a richer salad dressing.
- Vinegar or Lemon Juice – Cuts through the richness of mayonnaise and or yogurt and sour cream.
- Mustard – Use yellow mustard, dijon mustard, or honey mustard.
- Salt and pepper – Simple seasoning that gives the dressing depth of flavor. Don’t skip this.
Do you need sugar in creamy salad dressing?
Sugar is not necessary when making creamy salad dressing. It is a matter of personal preference. Some people enjoy a touch of sweetness in their creamy dressings, while others prefer a more savory or tangy flavor without any added sugar.
I personally prefer a touch of sweetness in my salad dressing as it enhances the overall taste of the salad.
How to Make It
Here are my best tips for making the best creamy chicken pasta salad:
Boil the chicken in seasoned water
Boil the chicken breasts in seasoned water to infuse the chicken with flavor and to keep it moist and tender. As simple as salt and black pepper would do or dried herbs if you’re feeling fancy.
Don’t rinse the pasta
Rinsing pasta removes the starchy surface that naturally forms during cooking. This starch is essential for helping the pasta salad dressing adhere to the pasta and coat it evenly, creating a creamy and flavorful salad.
Instead of rinsing the pasta, follow these steps:
- Cook the pasta until it reaches your desired level of tenderness.
- Drain the cooked pasta in a colander but do not rinse it with water.
- Allow the pasta to cool down to room temperature or slightly warm.
Use a large mixing bowl
Make sure you have a spacious bowl to accommodate all the pasta, veggies, and other salad ingredients. This will allow you to toss the salad more effectively without spilling over the sides.
Drizzle the creamy dressing over the pasta and ingredients. It’s a good idea to start with a smaller amount of dressing and gradually add more as needed, so you can avoid making the salad too wet.
To evenly coat the pasta and ingredients with the dressing, use a gentle tossing motion. Use salad servers or two large wooden spoons. Be careful not to be too vigorous, as it may break up the pasta or cause other ingredients to mush.
Keep tossing until all the pasta and ingredients are thoroughly coated with the dressing, and everything is well combined.
Refrigerate Before Serving
For the best flavor, cover the bowl or place it in an airtight container and refrigerate the chicken pasta salad for at least a couple of hours before serving. I usually refrigerate overnight to allow all the flavors to meld and develop.
What to Serve with
You can serve creamy chicken pasta salad as a standalone dish, perfect for a light lunch or dinner. However, if you want to create a more elaborate meal, consider serving it as a side dish for grilled or roasted meats, BBQ dishes, and crispy fried chicken.
💭 Top Tip: If the pasta salad seems a bit dry or you prefer a creamier texture, you can add more dressing before serving. This will enhance the creaminess and ensure every bite is well coated.
Here are more add-ins you can add to your creamy chicken pasta salad:
- Celery – Trim the ends of the celery then chop it into bite-sized chunks, slice diagonally, or into thin strips.
- Peas – Use thawed frozen peas for convenience.
- Hard-boiled eggs – diced into tiny pieces.
- Corn – Canned corn kernels are much more convenient to use than fresh ones.
- Grilled chicken adds a smoky and slightly charred flavor to the pasta salad.
- Leftover Rotisserie chicken is a time-saving option and is readily available in many grocery stores.
- Canned Chicken – For ultimate convenience, canned chicken can be used. It’s cooked and ready to use, making it a quick option for assembling the pasta salad.
Storage and Shelf-life
As a general rule, any perishable food, including chicken pasta salad, should be refrigerated promptly. The mayo-yogurt dressing contains dairy and mayonnaise, which are susceptible to bacterial growth at room temperature.
Store the chicken pasta salad in an airtight container to help maintain its freshness and prevent it from absorbing odors from the refrigerator.
Keep the salad refrigerated. Avoid leaving it out at room temperature for an extended period, especially in hot weather.
The shelf-life of chicken pasta salad with mayo-yogurt dressing typically ranges from 3 to 5 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. However, it’s essential to use your judgment and assess the freshness of the salad before consuming it. If the salad appears or smells off, it’s best to discard it.
If possible, store any leftover dressing separately from the chicken pasta salad to prevent the pasta from becoming too soggy.
While it’s not recommended to freeze pasta salad with mayo-yogurt dressing (as mayo and yogurt can separate and change in texture when thawed), you can freeze cooked chicken and other components separately for future use in other dishes.
Always practice good food safety measures and trust your senses when it comes to assessing the freshness of any food. If you have any doubts about the safety of the chicken pasta salad, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it. Enjoy your chicken pasta salad while it’s fresh and at its best!
More pasta recipes
- Tuna Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
- Easy Chicken Spaghetti Recipe (No Bake)
- Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta (One Pot!)
- Baked Spaghetti with Cream Cheese
- Creamy Ham and Cheese Pasta
Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad
- 8 oz chicken breast (note 1)
- water (for boiling)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
Pasta and Add-ins
- 250 grams elbow macaroni (or any short pasta, note 4)
- 1 cup mild cheddar cheese (diced)
- 1 small carrot (grated)
- 1 med-size bell pepper (red or green or both, diced)
- 1 small red onion (diced)
- 1 can 15 oz pineapple tidbits (drained)
- Boil chicken breast in water, seasoned with salt and black pepper. Cook until tender, around 15 to 20 minutes. Let it cool, then shred or slice. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt then add pasta. Cook per package directions. Do not overcook. Drain then let it cool. No need to rinse.
Creamy Salad Dressing
- In a bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients. Stir until well combined. Do a taste test, adjust sugar/vinegar based on preference.
- Place pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked chicken and the rest of the salad add-ins. Pour dressing and toss using two large wooden spoons until well coated.
- Do a taste test. Adjust, mayo, yogurt, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and pickles based on preference.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours, best overnight before serving. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Chicken – you can also use left-over grilled or rotisserie chicken and canned chicken for ultimate convenience.
- Yogurt vs Sour Cream – Use yogurt if you prefer a light, yet creamy dressing, and use sour cream if you prefer a richer salad dressing. Start by using 1/2 cup sour cream. Adjust based on preference.
- Sugar – add more or use less based on preference.
- Short Pasta – you can also use, shell pasta, fusilli, bow-tie pasta, rotini, and penne.
- Other salad add-ins – diced celery, thawed frozen peas, corn, and hard-boiled eggs.
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