Italian Chicken Pasta Salad
This Italian Chicken Pasta Salad is easy, ready in 20 minutes, and showcases some of my favorite summer ingredients. It’s perfect for summer potlucks and BBQs, or as a no-fuss family dinner!
The Best Chicken Pasta Salad
I eat tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil year-round. Love them. That’s my go-to trifecta for salads, but everything just tastes so much better in the summer. There’s flavor and texture galore in every bite of this dish.
Tender chicken, al dente pasta, juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, the peppery bite of basil, salty parmesan cheese, all perfumed with lemon juice, lemon zest, and Italian seasoning.
It’s healthy, perfect for busy nights, and makes a big enough batch that you can have some planned leftovers for work or school lunches. You can serve it warm or chilled, and since there’s no mayo it’s great for potlucks, picnics, and parties.
How to Make Pasta Salad
To make this rotini pasta salad, you’ll first need to cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the pasta salad sauce ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, Italian seasoning, lemon zest, salt and pepper). Set the dressing to the side.
Cook the chicken in a skillet, seasoning simply with salt and pepper. When the chicken is almost done, pour in the sauce you just made and let it bubble away until slightly thickened. Make sure to flip the chicken throughout this process!
Once the chicken is fully cooked, dice it into small cubes and add it to a large mixing bowl, along with any drippings left in the skillet.
Add the tomatoes, cucumber, basil, pasta, and Parmesan to the bowl and toss to combine. Give the tri color pasta salad a taste to see if it needs any additional seasoning (salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, etc).
What’s the Best Pasta for Pasta Salad?
I love a classic rotini pasta salad, but any sturdy pasta will work! I’d steer clear of spaghetti and long pastas like that. Rotini, bow tie, and macaroni are all good choices for this Italian chicken pasta salad recipe.
How to Store Pasta Salad
This Italian chicken pasta salad keeps in the fridge for up to five days if stored in an air-tight container. This can be enjoyed as a cold pasta salad straight from the fridge, or you can warm it up just before serving the leftovers.
You may need to toss the homemade pasta salad leftovers to redistribute the juices, too.
Tips for the Best Pasta Salad
It’s important that you don’t cook the rotini past al dente. The pasta will soak up the dressing as it sits in the fridge, and if you over cook it you run the risk of making soggy pasta salad!
Also, fresh basil is key to this recipe. You can’t substitute dried herbs in this recipe — the fresh basil really makes the flavors pop!
If you’d like to make this Italian pasta salad vegetarian, you can use chickpeas instead of chicken. To be honest, I haven’t tried this myself. But I imagine this pasta salad would still turn out delicious that way!
More Easy Pasta Salads:
- BLT Pasta Salad — This 15-minute pasta salad feeds a crowd and is loaded with bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes!
- Taco Pasta Salad — Perfect for picnics and parties, this taco salad is made with corn, black beans, cilantro, avocado, and more.
- Garden Fresh Tortellini Pasta Salad — Cheesy tortellini is paired with tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil in this simple recipe!
- Smoky Chicken, Peppers, and Spinach Pasta Salad – Juicy chicken, crisp bell peppers and pasta with smoked paprika! Fast, easy, healthy and a hit with everyone! Great for picnics, potlucks, or easy weeknight dinners!
- 12 ounces rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used tri-color rotini)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for sauce + 1 tablespoon for cooking chicken
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional and to taste
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced*
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves (laid loosely in measuring cup), sliced thinly
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, or more if desired
- Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, place in a large bowl, and set aside.
- To a medium bowl or large measuring cup, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice (zest the lemon before juicing it), apple cider vinegar, honey, Italian seasoning, lemon lest, salt, pepper, and whisk to combine; set sauce aside.
- To a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, add chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, flipping intermittently so all sides cook evenly. Cooking time will vary based on thickness of chicken breasts and sizes of pieces. Chicken should be about 90% cooked through.
- Add the sauce and allow it to bubble at a medium-fast boil for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce has reduced some and chicken is cooked through. Stir sauce and flip chicken intermittently throughout. Add chicken and any cooking liquid to the pasta bowl.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, cucumber, cheese, and toss gently to combine. Taste and check for seasoning balance, making any necessary adjustments (more Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, splash of lemon juice, etc.) before serving. Will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days. Serve cold or reheat gently prior to serving if desired.
*Cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half, or your favorite tomatoes may be substituted.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 558 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 11g Cholesterol: 134mg Sodium: 1634mg Carbohydrates: 44g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 13g Protein: 55g
Even More Salad Recipes:
Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad – Big juicy chicken chunks and texture galore from the rainbow of crispy veggies! Fast, easy, fresh and healthy! Great for picnics, potlucks, and easy dinners!
Loaded Chicken Taco Salad with Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing – Fast, easy, fresh and healthy!! All your favorite taco flavors in one big kickin’ salad that everyone will love!
Lighter Chicken Salad – Hello to easy, flavorful, healthier chicken salad! Goodbye mayo, hidden fat, and empty calories! You’ll never miss them in this fresh twist on the classic!