As a light lunch or as a side dish for a BBQ party, Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is always a huge hit. Put simply, it’s a tasty pasta salad inspired by the classic Caesar Salad. This pasta salad is made with seasoned pan-seared or grilled chicken, homemade Caesar dressing, some romaine lettuce, green bell pepper, and of course, crunchy croutons!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Of all the pasta salad recipes I love, this chicken Caesar one just might be my newest favorite. It combines everything I love about a Caesar salad with all the delights of a pasta salad. I’ve served this pasta salad as a light lunch for friends and as a BBQ side dish for family. No matter how it’s plated, it’s always thoroughly enjoyed!
What really sets this Caesar pasta salad apart from the others is the homemade Caesar dressing. While I’ve tried some store-bought brands that have been tasty, not a single one of them can hold a candle to this homemade dressing. It’s tangy, salty, and wonderfully flavorful. While it might take a small amount of effort more to make compared to just opening a bottle, it’s well worth that effort.
This pasta salad is also incredibly hearty and filling. Both the chicken and pasta are sure to satisfy in this recipe. When I enjoy this pasta salad as a lunch, it always holds me over well until dinner time. I love the amount of protein this pasta salad provides, while also being downright delicious! When you’re craving a pasta salad that really checks all the boxes, this is the recipe to turn to.
Ingredients in Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
For pan-seared chicken:
- Chicken Breasts – Chicken tenderloins will also work, since you’ll be cutting the chicken into cubes anyways. Just pay attention while cooking if you choose tenderloins, as they tend to cook a little faster than chicken breasts.
- Garlic Powder – If you want extra garlicky flavor, add an additional 1/2 tsp to the mix.
- Dried Oregano – This peppery herb always makes me smile! However, this amount of oregano is just enough to stand out while not being too much.
- Dried Basil – Dried basil has a slightly more minty flavor than fresh basil, which perfectly compliments the other two dried herbs in this recipe.
- Dried Parsley – This herb provides a savory balance between the basil and oregano.
- Salt and Black Pepper – Use these ingredients conservatively, especially the salt.
For the homemade Caesar dressing:
- Mayonnaise – For the best, creamiest results, use a full fat regular mayonnaise with no added flavors.
- Dijon Mustard – This can not be substituted with plain yellow mustard! Dijon mustard is delightfully tangy and just a bit spicy.
- Worcestershire Sauce – This sauce how a potent flavor that can be described as both sweet and salty. It blends with the other powerful ingredients perfectly, but be careful not to use too much.
- White Wine Vinegar – In a pinch, apple cider vinegar will also work well.
- Lemon – Use fresh lemon juice, not the store-bought bottled juice from concentrate!
- Parmesan Cheese – Grated parmesan cheese is necessary for the best flavor. Personally, I like to grate my cheese straight from the block.
- Anchovy Paste – If you’re not afraid to handle the little fish, you can also use 2 anchovy filets instead of the paste.
- Garlic Cloves – Fresh garlic cloves, not the container of pre-minced garlic, will provide the best flavor.
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Olive Oil – Rich extra virgin olive oil will provide the best flavor.
For the pasta salad:
- Dry Pasta – Any type of noddle will do! I recommend buying shorter noodles with shape, though, as they will grip the sauce the best and are the most traditional noodles to use for pasta salad.
- Green Bell Pepper – These bell peppers are less sweet than the others, which is why I love tossing them into this savory, yet fresh pasta salad.
- Croutons – While you can omit the croutons if you’d like, I highly recommend tossing them in!
- Romaine Lettuce – Be sure to thoroughly rinse the romaine lettuce before chopping it.
- Parmesan Cheese
How to Make Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Before making the rest of the ingredients, cook and drain the pasta according to package instructions, then set aside to cool.
Then, make the chicken! Season the uncooked breasts with the dried herbs and seasonings on both sides. Cook the seasoned chicken in a pan over medium heat until they’re fully cooked through.
Allow the chicken to cool to room temperature before chopping it into cubes.
Make the Caesar dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor until it’s nice and smooth.
Then, place all of the ingredients for the pasta salad, except for the dressing, in a large bowl and gently mix.
Pour the salad dressing on top of the ingredients, then toss to thoroughly combine. Make sure everything is evenly coated in the delicious dressing!
Can I make this pasta salad ahead of time?
I do not recommend preparing the whole salad too far ahead of time because the lettuce will wilt, the croutons will get soggy, and pasta will soak up most of the dressing.
If you want to make this pasta salad ahead of time, cook pasta and chicken and store it them an air-tight food storage containers until you’re ready to mix in other ingredients. You can also make the dressing ahead of time, but make sure to store it separately in a glass jar with a lid.
Can I make homemade croutons?
Absolutely! Making homemade croutons is a great way to elevate this pasta salad even further. All you need is Italian bread, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and a pinch of salt.
Toss the chopped bread with olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt in a mixing bowl until evenly coated. Then, bake the croutons in an oven preheated to 375°F for approximately 10-15 minutes. It’s that easy!
More Pasta Salads To Enjoy!
Antipasta Pasta Salad – loaded with salami, mozzarella, black olives, artichokes, pepperoncini peppers, and cherry tomatoes
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad – loaded with delicious grilled vegetables and it infuses the whole pasta salad with smoky grill flavors
Avocado Pasta Salad – made with cucumber, onions, scallions, avocados, and cilantro lime dressing
Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta Salad – made with roasted tomatoes, garlic and dressed in creamy dill sauce
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 1 to 1.25 lb chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- black pepper
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 lemon – juice only
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovies
- 2 garlic cloves
- black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 lb dry pasta
- 1 large green bell pepper diced
- 2-3 oz croutons
- 4-5 oz romaine lettuce
- 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to the box instructions, drain, and set aside to cool completely.
- You will want chicken and pasta to be no warmer than room temperature when mixing the salad.
- Cut chicken in half, widthwise, if the chicken breasts are very thick.
- Season chicken filets with salt, pepper, herbs, and garlic powder on both sides.
- Preheat a cooking pan over medium heat, add some oil. Cook chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side, until completely cooked through. (Exact time will depend on the thickness of each chicken breast.)
- Cool chicken to room temperature and cut into cubes.
- Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor.
- Start to pulse the ingredients and slowly drizzle in olive oil through the opening at the top. When it's all smooth, turn off the food processor and scrape sides and bottom of the bowl if needed.
- Combine cooked and cooled pasta, cooked chicken, diced bell pepper, chopped Romaine lettuce, croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing together in a large bowl. Carefully mix until it's all evenly coated in dressing.