This is a fresh and healthy Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad Recipe with tangy, creamy buttermilk dressing, parmesan cheese, short pasta, and crunchy romaine lettuce. It’s a quick dinner or make-ahead lunch, ready in just 30 minutes.
Why This Recipe Works
Here’s why we love this healthy chicken Caesar salad recipe:
- First of all, you only need one recipe for the dressing and marinade. So it couldn’t be simpler to make.
- The dressing is incredibly creamy, thick and tangy, just like our Tahini Dressing.
- It’s easy to mix up the proteins, herbs and toppings in this laid-back salad, just like this Strawberry Avocado Salad With Feta And Arugula.
- You can also prep the salad ahead of time. Just keep the components separate, then combine everything just before serving.
What Goes Into This Recipe
Here are the ingredients for this delicious chicken caesar pasta recipe:
- Parmesan cheese. You can buy shaved cheese or grate it on the largest side of a box grater.
- Pasta. Choose any short pasta like penne, ziti, or rotini.
- Chicken breast. Use boneless skinless chicken breast.
- Cherry tomatoes. For added color, use rainbow cherry tomatoes.
- Romaine lettuce. This is crisp and hardy enough to hold up to the creamy dressing.
Next, to make the dressing and marinade for the salad, you’ll need:
- Buttermilk. I use low-fat buttermilk to add tang.
- Sour cream. This adds thickness and some acidity to the dressing.
- Olive oil. I recommend using extra-virgin olive oil.
- Lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice will be the best flavor.
- Dijon mustard. You can use whole grain or yellow mustard if you prefer.
- Anchovy paste. This adds the classic savory caesar salad flavor.
- Garlic. You can mince this or grate it with a Microplane.
Here are a few simple swaps if you don’t have all of the ingredients for this healthy chicken Caesar pasta salad:
- First, you can replace chicken breast with thighs or cooked rotisserie chicken, or use leftover turkey.
- In addition, this recipe works with any short-cut pasta like penne, macaroni, ziti, or farfalle.
- Next, you can replace the parmesan with a similar hard cheese, such as grana Padano, Asiago, or pecorino romano.
- Add any herbs you like. For example, basil, parsley, thyme or oregano. I always strive for fresh, if possible!
- You can also use any tomatoes you like. Grape, vine, or Roma will work as long as you dice them into small bite-sized pieces.
- The same goes for lettuce. For example, bibb, butterhead, or iceberg work great! Spinach or kale would also be tasty additions!
- Finally, add crumbled bacon, YUM
How to Make This Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe
Follow these steps to make this easy chicken salad recipe:
Start by preparing the chicken. Cut it into bite-sized cubes. Then, in a medium bowl, combine all of the dressing/marinade ingredients. Transfer a third of the dressing mixture to a small jug or jar and place it in the fridge. You’ll use this to dress the salad, so it has to stay separated from the raw meat.
Add the chopped chicken to the bowl with the remaining dressing/marinade and stir to coat. Then marinate the chicken for 15 minutes on the counter. Or, if time allows, marinate it for up to 1 hour in the fridge. Just before cooking, drain the marinade and discard.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Then drain the pasta and set it aside in a large bowl to cool. Meanwhile, chop the lettuce and the cherry tomatoes.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Then drizzle the skillet with 1/2 tablespoon of oil and add the marinated chicken.
Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes, then add it to the bowl with the pasta along with the lettuce, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. Finally, to serve, drizzle the salad with the refrigerated dressing, toss to combine and enjoy!
To use baked chicken instead of pan-fried, preheat the oven to 400°F/200C. Keep the chicken breast whole and marinate it for 30 minutes on the counter.
When the oven is hot, transfer the chicken to a baking dish, discarding the marinade. Bake the chicken for around 20 minutes, or until it’s cooked through and no longer pink on the inside. Cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken breasts, so make sure you check by inserting a cooking thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. It should measure 165°F/75°C
Yes, fried chicken works great too for this Caesar salad recipe. You can fry it using the instructions in this Garlic Butter Chicken Bites recipe.
The best dressing is a combination of buttermilk and sour cream for tang and a silky, thick texture. Add mustard and anchovy for the umami. And lemon juice to balance the flavors with some acid. Finally, add garlic for a punch of flavor.
In a medium bowl, combine all of the dressing/marinade ingredients. Transfer a third of it to a small jug or jar and refrigerate. This will serve as dressing, and it shouldn’t touch the raw chicken.
To marinate, add chicken to the bowl with the remaining dressing/marinade and stir to coat. Allow it to marinate for 15 min over the counter; or, if time allows, up to 1 hour in the fridge. Just before cooking, drain the marinade and discard.
All you have to do is replace the sour cream and buttermilk with dairy-free yogurt and use dairy-free cheese.
Use equal parts of buttermilk and sour cream for a super creamy dressing.
Yes! Simply use gluten-free pasta.
Crusty bread would work, don’t mind me eating my pasta with a handful of bread! Otherwise, this is a delicious meal all on its own!
Keep these tips in mind when making this chicken Caesar pasta salad recipe:
- If you marinate the chicken for longer than 1 hour, (overnight is best!), keep it in the fridge. Make sure you take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking so it can come to room temperature. This will help the chicken cook evenly and also help retain its juiciness.
- To make this ahead of time, you can prepare the dressing, marinate the chicken, cook the pasta, prepare the chopped veggies and keep everything in separate bowls refrigerated. Finally, just before serving, cook the chicken and assemble the salad.
More Easy Salad Recipes
- Italian Style Pasta Salad with Artichokes and Tomatoes
- Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites Recipe)
- Keto Shrimp And Avocado Salad
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Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 1 tongs
- ¾ cup shaved Parmesan cheese - divided
- Sea salt and ground pepper - to taste
- 8 oz pasta
- 1 lb chicken breast - boneless skinless
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes - halved
- 1 large romaine lettuce
- 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp anchovy paste
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- Sea salt and ground pepper - to taste
- Chop the chicken into bite-sized cubes.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the dressing/marinade ingredients. Transfer 1/3 of it to a small jug or jar and refrigerate. This will serve as dressing and it shouldn't touch the raw chicken.
- Add the chopped chicken to the bowl with the remaining dressing/marinade and stir to coat. Allow it to marinate for 15 minutes on the counter; or, if time allows, up to 1 hour in the fridge. Just before cooking, drain the marinade and discard.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside in a large bowl to cool.
- Chop the lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of oil and add the marinated chicken.
- Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, around 12 minutes, then let it cool for a few minutes. Add it to the bowl with the pasta, together with the lettuce, tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
- Drizzle everything with the refrigerated dressing. Toss to combine and serve!
- Make sure to cut your chicken into equal-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- If you’re going to marinate your chicken for longer than one hour, do so in the fridge.
- It’s very important that the dressing doesn’t touch the raw meat, so be sure to reserve a third of the marinade and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
- This is a great make-ahead recipe, just keep all of the components separate, then assemble and dress the Caesar chicken pasta salad right before you serve it.
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