Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad
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Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad – This chicken pasta salad is loaded with flavor, ready in minutes, and showcases Mediterranean-inspired ingredients! It’s perfect for summer potlucks and barbecues (no mayo!) and feeds a crowd. Or make it as an EASY family dinner with planned leftovers!
Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe
There’s Mediterranean-inspired flavor and texture galore in every bite of this fresh and easy pasta salad!
Tender lemon pepper chicken, al dente pasta, chickpeas, crunchy cucumbers and red bell peppers, healthy fresh spinach, the peppery bite of basil, all perfumed with oregano, lemon pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and red onions.
The recipe makes a very big batch making it ideal for parties, picnics, potlucks, or barbecues. It’s also a good dish to make for a hassle-free weeknight dinner knowing you’ll have planned leftovers.
However, you can halve the recipe to make a more modest amount.
You can serve it warm or chilled, and since there’s no mayo, it’s great for summertime.
Ingredients In Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad
To make this fast and easy pasta salad with lemon pepper, you’ll need:
- Rotini pasta
- Olive oil
- Chicken breasts
- Lemon pepper seasoning
- Dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Fresh spinach
- Red bell peppers
- Red onions
- Fresh basil
- Lemon juice
- Feta cheese, optional
How To Make Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad
To make this rotini pasta salad, you’ll first need to cook the pasta until al dente and then transfer it to very large mixing bowl. Trust me when I say you’ll want to grab the biggest mixing bowl you have!
While the pasta is cooking, cook the chicken in olive oil before adding chickpeas and seasoning with lemon pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute until it’s fragrant.
Transfer you chicken and chickpea mixture into the bowl the cooked pasta and stir in spinach. It looks like a lot but it wilts dramatically from the carryover heat coming from the pasta and chicken.
Stir in red bell peppers, cucumbers, red onions, basil, lemon juice, and toss everything extremely well.
Make sure to taste your pasta salad a taste to see if it needs any additional seasoning such as additional lemon pepper, salt, or pepper. You’re seasoning a very large batch of food and my advice is to not be shy with the salt or pepper. Nothing worse than bland pasta!
What’s the Best Pasta for Pasta Salad?
I love a classic rotini pasta salad, but any small-shaped pasta will work such as bow tie, ziti, orecchiette, wheels, small or medium shell, or your favorites.
Whole wheat pasta would be fine in this recipe, too.
Stay away from long thin pasta like spaghetti or angel hair and all will be well.
Variations On Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad
Pasta salads are a great way to mix-and-match or improvise with ingredients based on what you have on hand, and what you enjoy.
Apart from swapping out the actual pasta, you can tweak other ingredients such as:
- Cannelloni beans rather than chickpeas, or omit the beans
- Italian seasoning instead of oregano
- A spring mix of greens rather than spinach
- Mint for basil
- Any color bell peppers
- Incorporate tomatoes such as cherry, grape, Roma, or heirloom
- Grated Parmesan cheese instead of the optional feta
- Add artichokes
- Include your favorite olives
How Long Does Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad Last?
The spinach and basil will deepen in color as time passes. They may even look borderline black. This doesn’t mean they’ve gone bad – they’re just not quite as visually appealing on day 5 as on day one.
However, feel free to store this pasta in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Serve it gently re-warmed, at room temp, or chilled straight from the fridge.
Tips For The Best Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad
Lemon pepper seasoning can be a bit of a wild card. Some brands have quite a bit of added sodium whereas others don’t.
The same can be said for the amount of onion and garlic powder various brands contain.
My advice is to not be shy with the lemon pepper when you’re seasoning the chicken and chickpeas in the skillet since it’s a key flavor element in this recipe.
However, if you’re doing additional seasoning at the end, add the lemon pepper slowly, stirring well after each addition so you don’t accidentally over season, or shall I say over salt, your pasta salad.
- 1 pound dry rotini pasta
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1.50 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces
- one 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used low sodium)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning*, or as desired (See Notes)
- 3/4 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or as desired
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as desired
- 3 to 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 4 cups fresh spinach, or as desired (about 4 huge handfuls)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
- 1 medium cucumber or English cucumber, diced into small pieces
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, chiffonade-cut (fine ribbons)
- Juice from 1 medium fresh lemon
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional and to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, place in a very large bowl; set aside. While pasta is boiling, begin cooking the chicken.
- To a large skillet, add 4 tablespoons oil, chicken, and cook over medium-high heat for about 6 to 7 minutes, or until done, flipping intermittently so all sides cook evenly.
- Add the chickpeas and evenly sprinkle with the lemon pepper seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper, and stir to combine. Cook for about 1 minute. If mixture looks dry, add additional olive oil, to taste.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir nearly constantly.
- Transfer the chicken and chickpea mixture to the very large bowl with the cooked pasta.
- Add the spinach and stir to combine. It will look like a lot but it will wilt dramatically as it warms from the carryover heat of the pasta and chicken.
- Add the red bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, basil, lemon juice, and stir to combine. If the mixture looks at all dry, add more olive oil, to taste. I added another 3-4 tablespoons.
- Taste the pasta salad, and based on personal preference, add additional lemon pepper, salt, pepper, etc., to taste. Don't be afraid to add salt and pepper; this is a very large quantity of food and you don't want it to be bland.
- Optionally, add the feta (note if you don't want it to melt, wait before adding it until the mixture cools down), and serve, or if desired, chill it before serving. Pasta salad will keep airtight in the fridge for 5 days and can be served warm, at room temp, or chilled.
*Lemon pepper seasoning can be a bit of a wild card. Some brands have quite a bit of added sodium whereas others don't. The same can be said for the amount of onion and garlic powder various brands contain.
My advice is to not be shy with the lemon pepper when you're seasoning the chicken and chickpeas in the skillet since it's a key flavor element in this recipe.
However, if you're doing additional seasoning at the end, add the lemon pepper slowly, stirring well after each addition so you don't accidentally over season, or shall I say over salt, your pasta salad.
That being said, I added about 2 1/2 teaspoons total to the entire pasta salad since again this really makes a big batch!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 328Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 865mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 31g
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