This simple pasta salad has the works! Bacon, crisp peppers, broccoli, feta cheese, grilled chicken, and tomatoes covered in a creamy buttermilk greek yogurt dressing. Easy, quick, and makes great leftovers.
Hello hello! Welcome to my favorite “I don’t feel like actually cooking anything, so I’ll just put all leftovers into a bowl with pasta and broccoli” dinner.
Truth is, Kevin and I make this pasta salad on the regular in the summertime. Pasta + chicken + bacon + cheese + easy. There’s no way NOT to love it. And it all comes together with a tangy dressing that is impossible to pass up.
I don’t even really like pasta (I know, so weird), but I love this pasta salad. Maybe because there is more “stuff” in the salad than pasta. It is soooo good.
Since it’s a little heavier and we are both watching what we eat before the wedding (besides dessert CLEARLY), I always serve this pasta salad with extra veggies on the side and then I mix it all together on the plate to make it look like it’s a bigger serving of pasta salad but it’s really just more vegetables. Did you even understand that run-on sentence?
I got this recipe idea from my mom. She makes a killer pasta salad in the summer with chicken, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, cheddar cheese (sometimes pepperjack… yum) and pasta. But living with Kevin, I obviously have to add bacon. And I switch up the cheese because I’m a fool for salty feta. And I add broccoli. And and and… I use a little greek yogurt in the dressing instead of all mayo. Can’t even tell the difference, trust me.
We almost always have leftover chicken in the fridge – shredded, grilled, diced, whatever. Just use whatever you have on hand. I like to cook a bunch of chicken on Sundays and use it to make Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salads and this pasta salad during the week.
If it’s a vegetable and you have it on hand, you should throw it into this pasta salad. I’ve tried just about anything, and it always works. Like artichokes, olives, shredded carrots, leftover cooked spinach, diced cucumbers, chickpeas, you get the idea. Use whatever shape pasta you and the family like the most. I love fusilloni the best because it holds onto so much of the creamy dressing, little bacon bits, and feta cheese crumbles inside all the spirals.
The dressing! What a cinch. Even though there is already so much to love in this pasta salad (the chicken, the bacon, the fresh veggies), the dressing truly makes the whole dish come together. It’s naturally low fat as well. The base is low fat Greek yogurt and low fat buttermilk. Add a little mayo, fresh parsley, a squeeze of lemon, a drop of white vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Tangy, lush, perfection.
If you don’t have Greek yogurt, sour cream is your best bet. And unfortunately, I have no recommendations for any substitutions for the buttermilk. I’ve tried it with regular milk and the dressing is lacking. For the best results, just follow the dressing recipe as written.
This creamy chicken pasta salad makes an easy dinner and if you have leftovers, an even easier lunch. Bring it along to a potluck and get ready to have everyone beg you for the recipe. That’s a lot to say about a pasta salad, I know!
But trust me. Once you taste the creamy buttermilk dressing with the crispy bacon crumbles and salty feta, then you know what I’m talking about.
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Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad
This simple pasta salad has the works! Bacon, crisp peppers, broccoli, feta cheese, grilled chicken, and tomatoes covered in a creamy buttermilk dressing. It's for those of you who like the "stuff" in pasta salads, more than the pasta itself! Simple, quick, and makes great leftovers.
Creamy Greek Yogurt Buttermilk Dressing
- 3/4 cup (180g) plain low fat Greek yogurt1
- 1 cup (240ml) low fat buttermilk (no substitutions)1
- 2 Tablespoons low fat or regular mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 roasted garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound dry pasta (we use fusilloni)
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, grilled/cooked and chopped
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups (350g) small broccoli florets
- 1 orange, green, yellow, or red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup (76g) crumbled feta cheese
- 3 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
- Make the dressing first: Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Taste, and add more salt/pepper/garlic/whatever you feel it needs. I usually add more roasted garlic and parsley. Stick the dressing in the refrigerator as you prepare the rest.
- Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, then rinse with cold water to cool. Pour into a large bowl. Add the chicken, tomatoes, broccoli, and pepper. Pour 3/4 cup of the dressing over the pasta salad and gently toss to combine. Add a little more dressing if you'd like. Leftover dressing is great on salads - store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Add the feta cheese and bacon and stir up the pasta salad again. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day before serving to allow the flavors to settle. This makes great leftovers! Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make ahead tip: Make the dressing a couple days in advance. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. You can make the entire pasta salad a day or two before serving as well.
- For the dressing: if you don't have Greek yogurt, sour cream works! Buttermilk is key for flavor, trust me. I've tried it with regular milk and there's no comparison.
Get creative! Add your favorite veggies like chopped cucumber, squash, zucchini, artichokes, olives, shredded carrots, leftover cooked spinach, diced cucumbers, chickpeas, you get the idea.
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Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad – a weekly regular.
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