This tasty Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is a delicious meal for summertime! Whether you’re serving it as a main course or side dish, this easy pasta salad recipe is sure to become a fast favorite.
Why You’ll Love This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
I’m going to loosely assume that if you’re here, Caesar Salad is one of your favorite salads. With a creamy dressing, fresh romaine, and so much flavor, what’s not to love? It somehow gets even better in pasta salad form.
- This is an easy way to turn it into a main dish with the addition of juicy chicken and tender pasta.
- There’s so many options with salad ingredients, plus you can choose to make your own Caesar salad dressing or use store-bought.
- The cooking process is quick and simple, leaving you more time to live your life outside the kitchen!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pasta. I recommend a short shape like rotini, farfalle (bowtie), penne, orichette, or something similar. I used rotini pasta because that’s what we had in the pantry already.
- Seasoned chicken. Personally, I’m all about chicken thighs, but go with any cut of chicken you like. For an even faster prep, pick up a rotisserie chicken or used any other pre-cooked option.
- Romaine lettuce
- Sliced red onion
- Parmesan cheese
- Caesar salad dressing. It’s your call here, you can go with a store-bought, premade version or whip up an easy homemade version. I’ve got you covered with this recipe for a homemade Caesar salad dressing with no raw egg yolks.
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Swaps and Variations
The beauty of this chicken caesar pasta salad recipe is that it’s incredibly versatile and forgiving. There’s no need for exact measurements of anything (other than maybe the homemade caesar dressing) and you can add a ton of different things to the mix. I suggest these options if you’re looking for something different:
- Instead of regular pasta, swap for whole-grain or whole wheat pasta. This adds a little extra fiber and a slightly different texture. Or, if you need a gluten-free pasta option, swap for your favorite brand and cook according to the package directions.
- Experiment with different pasta shapes. I love the cellentani (twisted penne pasta) because it really holds onto the creamy caesar dressing. But you can also try rotini, farfalle (bowtie pasta), penne pasta, elbows, or any other short shape that works well in other pasta salad recipes.
- Try rotisserie chicken as a time-saving option, or pick up some grilled chicken breasts from your grocery store’s deli section. You might also try shrimp as a seafood option, especially grilled skewers with a light squeeze of lemon juice and grill seasoning. In a pinch, you can even mix in a few bacon bits!
- Add crunchy store-bought or homemade croutons if you’d like, but wait until you’re ready to serve to keep them from getting soggy.
- Mix in other vegetables like cherry or grape tomatoes, diced cucumber, or other types of salad greens if you’d like.
How to Make Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
This pasta salad recipe is super simple! If you can boil water and safely use a knife and cutting board, you’ll be in business. Grab a large mixing bowl (probably bigger than you think you need) and let’s get started!
Just follow my step-by-step tips:
- First, make a few key decisions about which version of the recipe you’re making. As in, are you making your own dressing or using store-bought? Are you cooking the chicken or using a rotisserie chicken? If that’s the case, skip ahead to Step 3.
- If you’re going the DIY route for your chicken caesar pasta salad, prep the two signature components. Whip up an Easy Homemade Caesar Dressing and stash it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Then pull out your chicken thighs or breasts and season with salt, pepper, and any other favorite seasonings. Give it a sear on the grill or griddle, or on the stovetop until fully cooked. Remember, the internal temp for chicken should hit 165 degrees F.
- Get a large pot of salted water and bring it to a boil. Then add the pasta and cook according to the package directions for al dente pasta. Meanwhile, chop up the romaine lettuce and slice the red onions.
- Once cooked, drain the pasta. Rinse under cold water to disperse most of the heat.
- From there, add the cooked pasta to a large bowl. Roughly chop or slice your chicken, then add the crisp romaine lettuce, sliced red onions, parmesan cheese, and Caesar salad dressing. Toss the pasta and gently fold together until well-mixed, hit it with a little extra parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper, and serve it up. Enjoy!
Nice and easy, right? There’s really nothing to this delicious pasta salad and you’re on your way to a great meal. Just be sure to check the notes in the recipe card for my suggestions if you’re using precooked chicken or a store-bought dressing.
Storage Suggestions & Meal Prep Tips
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container and eat within 1-2 days. Technically, this chicken caesar pasta salad is fine to eat after that but the quality and texture will go downhill. There’s no need to reheat since it uses fully cooked chicken, and you can add more dressing or parmesan cheese to spruce it up a little bit if needed.
If you plan on making this Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad as a meal prep option, here are some tips for best results:
- Undercook the pasta, but *just barely* under al dente. This will help the pasta hold its shape without becoming soggy or falling apart.
- Cook the chicken advance, but store separately from the pasta and other ingredients. This gives you the option to reheat it in the microwave if you want to and provides more options to avoid boredom.
- The lettuce will stay more crispy if you store it in a different container. This is optional, but if you’re one of those people who really likes the crunchy texture, this is essential!
- Make sure you seal it up tightly! Invest in good-quality airtight containers (personally, we love these from Rubbermaid) and at the very least, cover it tightly with plastic wrap if leaving it in a serving bowl.
Overall, I think these small changes can help stretch the shelf-life in the fridge up to 3-4 days. But keep in mind that it’s easy to lose track of leftovers or prepped ingredients, so if you can, label your containers! This can help prevent food waste since you won’t question how long it’s been in there.
If your taste buds are ready, let’s get into the full recipe for my Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- large saucepan
- measuring cups and spoons
- cutting board and chefs knife
- large or extra large mixing bowl
For the Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
- 1 cup kewpie mayo, or full fat, regular mayo
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, or the juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp anchovy paste, or 2-3 anchovy fillets, mashed
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
For the Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 1 lb pasta, such as rotini, penne, farfalle, cellentani or similar
- 1 heart of romaine, roughly chopped
- 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
- 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
- large pot of salted water, for boiling pasta
For the Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
- Combine all ingredients for the Caesar dressing in a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until creamy and thick, then cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to mix the pasta salad.
- For more detailed instructions, refer to the post for Easy Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing.
For Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and any other preferred seasonings. Sear on the grill or griddle, or on the stovetop, for 4-6 minutes on each side. If using a meat thermometer, cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta. Cook according to package directions for al dente pasta. Once cooked, drain and rinse until cold water to disperse the residual heat.
- Place the cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Chop or slice the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl. Add the chopped romaine lettuce, sliced red onion, and shaved parmesan cheese, along with the prepared dressing.
- Toss the pasta gently until all ingredients are well-mixed and coated in the dressing. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Since this Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad recipes uses a creamy dressing, be sure to serve it chilled. It’s a food safety risk to let it stand at room temperature, especially for long periods of time. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. You’ll be the new favorite at the cookout if you show up with a big bowl of this!
And as always, thanks for stopping by the Street Smart Nutrition blog! You can find more and follow along on Instagram and YouTube, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so you never miss a new post. Cheers to more fearlessly nourishing meals!