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This creamy balsamic chicken pasta salad is a great make-ahead meal. Add your favorite raw veggies, cheeses, or nuts.
Working from home somehow means that I often forget to eat lunch.
I hate having to scrounge around in the fridge that resembles a meal. Chips and salsa are not enough fuel, no matter how tasty they are.
That’s one of the reasons I love dinners that can be extended for multiple meals. This balsamic chicken pasta salad started out as a whole chicken, spatchcocked and grilled.
Whole chicken is one of our favorite things to cook all year long. Oven-roasted in the colder months, the leftovers are transformed into soups like white bean chicken chili.
Warm months? Pasta salad of course! Not only is it utterly customizable depending on what veggies are in season, you can make a huge batch of it and eat for days, which has been solving my lunch woes lately.
This chicken pasta salad features a very simple creamy dressing made with yogurt and balsamic vinegar.
This tangy-sweet combo is perfect for pairing with chicken, pasta, and crisp veggies, and you can customize the flavors to your liking.
What kind of pasta should I use for pasta salad?
When it comes to making pasta salads, I like pastas that hold their shape well and complement the variety of flavors of textures that get added to the salad.
I like cavatappi, which are shaped like corkscrews, best for this salad.
You can also use medium shells, macaroni, rotelle (wagon wheels), or farfalle.
Nearly any shaped pasta will do, but avoid ribbon, strand, or tubular pasta, with the exception of penne.
Do I chop or shred chicken for pasta salad?
When it comes to preparing the chicken, anything goes! I often have shredded chicken on hand from leftovers, but if I’m cooking up chicken specifically for pasta salad, I will often chop it.
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, about the same size as your larger veggies or the pasta shapes.
You can shred chicken quickly by using the paddle attachment in your stand mixer. Let it run for 30-60 seconds and you’ll have shredded chicken!
What can I add to chicken pasta salad?
Pasta salads are one of my perfect foods because you can add just about anything.
Broccoli? Check. Bacon? Check. Shredded cheese? Of course!
Note that some veggies will benefit from a quick blanching before adding to the salad.
This is just boiling them very briefly and then transferring to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Blanching makes your veggies tender-crisp and perfect for pasta salads.
Other things you can add to pasta salads include sunflower seeds, candied pecans, tomato confit, chopped hard-boiled eggs, or crispy fried onions.
Choose favorites that go together and create your own perfect salad.
How long does pasta salad last?
Pasta salad will last for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.
Make sure to put it in an airtight container to keep it the freshest, and so odors do not affect the rest of your fridge.
Keep in mind that as the salad sits, it will absorb more of the dressing, so you might want to have extra dressing on hand for serving.
If you are adding lettuce or other greens to your pasta salad, do so just before serving, as they will not retain their crispness after being mixed in and stored.
Pasta salad does not freeze well.
This creamy balsamic chicken pasta salad has a dairy-based dressing, so do not keep it out of the refrigerator for any longer than two hours.
Tuck this chicken pasta salad into your weekday lunch tote, or enjoy it for dinner!
Creamy Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
- 1 pound pasta
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 2-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken
- 1 cup diced cucumber
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While it is cooking, in a large bowl whisk together yogurt, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken to coat.
- When pasta is done, drain and rinse under cold water. Add pasta and remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
- Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.