Chicken pesto pasta salad is a quick, easy, healthy meal with fresh ingredients like homemade basil pesto, bacon, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. This summer dish is perfect for barbecues, weeknight dinners, and meal prep.
Chicken pesto pasta salad is full of chunks of tender grilled chicken and rich, creamy, savory basil pesto. This dish is light, refreshing, and perfect for the spring and summer months. There’s plenty of flavor, texture, and color in this dish so get ready for a mouthwatering pasta salad.
Why This is the Best Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe
- Perfect Summer Dish: Whether you’re casually dining on your patio or bringing a dish to a picnic, this creamy pesto pasta salad is a crowd-pleaser.
- Easy to Prepare: With premade pesto and grilled chicken, this recipe comes together in just 5 minutes.
- Versatile: This recipe is perfect for using up leftover produce before it goes bad. Mix and match ingredients according to your taste buds.
- Cooked pasta: I use cavatappi for this recipe but you can use any short pasta.
- Arugula: This adds more nutrients and a peppery flavor.
- Grilled chicken: Use grilled chicken breasts or thighs for this recipe; just make sure it’s boneless.
- Thick cut bacon: Roughly chopped for a delectable crunch and perfect salty taste.
- Cherry tomatoes: This adds color and flavor, since they’re bright, juicy, and sweet.
- Red onion: Add them diced for bite-size bits of pungent flavor.
- Basil pesto: Fresh homemade pesto is ideal and my recipe is the best! This fresh savory, herby green sauce that’s delightfully refreshing and bright.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grate the cheese for the best taste. This adds a salty, savory, cheesy taste.
How to Make Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Cook pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.
I prepped the chicken ahead of time and highly recommend it. If you are making this same day, you can season the chicken with your favorite blend of spices. I used salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Roughly chop cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Cook the bacon and chop all the vegetables.
Then combine all the ingredients (pasta, parsley, grilled chicken, bacon, cherry tomatoes, red onion, parsley, basil pesto, and parmesan cheese) in a large bowl. Toss it all together until everything is coated with the basil pesto. Feel free to add more pesto to your desire and salt and black pepper if needed. If the basil pesto is too thick, add a splash of the reserve pasta water to thin it out.
You can use store-bought basil pesto and try my homemade basil pesto recipe. It is so easy to make and very delicious.
Can Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad Be Made Ahead?
Yes. This recipe is actually great for meal prep. I highly recommend making the chicken and basil pesto ahead of time. Then all you have to do is chop up the other ingredients and combine everything. If you do make this ahead, add a bit more pesto before serving because the pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it chills.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Leftover pasta salad can be eaten straight out of the refrigerator. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil if necessary.
Recipe Substitutions or Variations
- Pasta: I suggest rigatoni, macaroni, rotini, or fusilli as alternatives.
- Cheese: Swap parmesan for feta cheese. Or for a more mild-flavored cheese, try mozzarella balls in place of parmesan.
- Pesto: Use a store-bought pesto if you want to save time.
- Protein: Save time and use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of grilling chicken. Alternatively, use grilled salmon.
- Extra Sauce: For even more flavor, add Italian dressing.
- Veggie: If you need another green, try spinach.
Do you add pesto to hot or cold pasta?
Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.
What should I serve with pesto pasta?
This is a meal all on its own but I suggest serving it with a side of roasted or grilled vegetables like corn on the cob, asparagus, or broccoli.
Can Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad be frozen?
I don’t recommend freezing this recipe because the texture of some of the ingredients will be altered.
More Pasta Recipes:
DID YOU MAKE THIS CHICKEN PESTO PASTA SALAD RECIPE?
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Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
- 2 cups Cooked pasta
- 1 cup Arugula
- 1 cup Grilled chicken
- 3 strips Thick cut bacon roughly chopped
- ½ cup Cherry tomatoes halved
- ¼ cup Red onion diced
- 1½ tbsp Fresh parsley finely chopped
- ⅓ cup Basil pesto
- 1 tbsp Grated parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.
- I prepped the chicken ahead of time and highly recommend it. If you are making this same day, you can season the chicken with your favorite blend of spices. I used salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Once the chicken is cooked, roughly chop it into bite sized pieces.
- Cook the bacon and chop all the vegetables.
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients– pasta, parsley, grilled chicken, bacon, cherry tomatoes, red onion, parsley, basil pesto and parmesan cheese. Toss it all together until everything is coated with the basil pesto. Feel free to add more pesto to your desire and salt and pepper if needed. If the basil pesto is too thick, add a splash of the reserve pasta water to thin it out.
- You can use store bought basil pesto and try my homemade basil pesto recipe. It is so easy to make and very delicious.