This high-protein chicken Caesar pasta salad recipe is healthy, packed with 30 grams of protein, and tossed in a low-fat Greek yogurt dressing without anchovies or mayo. You can use grilled, baked, or rotisserie chicken. An easy under 30-minute meal prep lunch and weeknight dinner.
Our favorite high-protein pasta salad
I love high-protein salads since they make for the perfect meal prep lunch and weeknight dinner. Hundreds of you have told me how much you love my Greek chickpea pasta salad, so I cannot wait to hear what you think about this Caesar salad version. The blend of flavors from the tangy Caesar dressing, tender balsamic chicken, crisp tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese is so delicious.
This recipe was actually one of my blog’s first and most popular ones. I kept the recipe the same, but I updated the pictures and added process shots so you can see step-by-step photos on how to make this easy chicken Caesar pasta salad.
This high-protein pasta salad is so easy to make that any level cook can do it! It is the best meal prep since you can keep this Caesar pasta salad stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. I love making a big batch on a Sunday and enjoying it throughout the week for lunch – easy, healthy, high protein, and delicious!
Best of all, this pasta salad is high in protein, with 30 grams per serving, since we add balsamic marinated chicken and use a Greek yogurt-based Caesar dressing. Words cannot describe how amazing the Caesar dressing is, and it has no mayo or anchovies!
Why you’ll love this healthy recipe:
- High Protein: This recipe features chicken as a lean protein source, making it a nutritious option for those looking to increase their protein intake. There are 30 grams of protein per serving.
- Fresh and Crunchy: The combination of sweet cherry tomatoes, chopped romaine hearts, and shredded Parmesan cheese adds a refreshing and crunchy element to the salad.
- No Mayonnaise: This healthy pasta salad does not have any mayo in it!
- Homemade Dressing: The homemade yogurt Caesar dressing is not only flavorful but also high in protein and healthier compared to store-bought alternatives. It’s low-fat too.
- Easy to Prepare: The recipe involves simple steps, from cooking the pasta to tossing the ingredients together, making it a convenient and fuss-free dish to make.
- Perfect for Meal Prep: This pasta salad can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated, allowing the flavors to meld together. It makes for a convenient and delicious meal prep option.
- Gluten-Free: Easily use gluten-free pasta or chickpea pasta to make this recipe 100% gluten-free.
- Try this healthy tuna pesto pasta salad or this Greek chickpea pasta salad next!
Ingredients and substitutions
This no-mayo Caesar pasta salad recipe is the perfect healthy and high-protein lunch, dinner, and side dish! It’s packed with flavor, protein, and fresh veggies. Here is a list of everything you need so you are prepared:
- Pasta: Use a shaped pasta like fusilli, farfalle bowtie, rotini, or penne so the Caesar dressing can get into all the little cracks, and the pasta salad will be extra flavorful. My favorite pasta is Banza pasta which is made out of chickpeas for extra protein. You can use any gluten-free or regular pasta too.
- Chicken: You need 2 cups of cooked chicken. You can make your own grilled chicken or baked chicken, or you can use cube rotisserie chicken.
- Balsamic Vinegar: This is optional, but I love tossing my cooked chicken with 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to give it extra flavor. You can also use balsamic dressing or glaze if needed.
- Sweet Cherry Tomatoes: I just love tomatoes, especially cherry ones, since they are sweet and crunchy. You can use grape tomatoes too.
- Romaine Hearts: It’s crunchy and fresh!
- Parmesan Cheese: Use shaved or shredded parmesan for that classic cheesy Caesar flavor.
- Caesar Salad Dressing: Make this simple, healthy Caesar salad dressing. It’s made with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. There is no mayonnaise and no anchovies.
Kitchen tools required
Here is a list of kitchen utensils you will need to make this recipe:
- Cutting Board
- Kitchen Knife
- Mixing Bowl
- Mixing Spoon
- Colander or Strainer
- Whisk or Fork
- Measuring Tools: 1/4 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 Tablespoon, and 1/3 cup.
How to make healthy chicken Caesar pasta salad
This is the best healthy chicken Caesar pasta salad recipe. It’s easy to make and very high in protein and flavor. Here are detailed step-by-step instructions with pictures for visual reference so any level cook can make it. The full recipe and ingredient measurements are at the bottom of this page in the recipe card.
First, boil a large pot of salted water and add pasta. Cook according to the package until pasta is al dente. When the pasta is cooked, strain it and run it under cold water to cool it. Then, set it to the side.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until well combined (recipe here). Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. You can also use store-bought Caesar, but I highly recommend homemade since my dressing is high in protein and healthy.
If desired, toss the cubed chicken with balsamic vinegar in a separate bowl for added flavor. This is optional, but I love it!
Combine the cooked pasta, cubed chicken, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped romaine hearts, and shredded parmesan cheese in a large serving bowl.
Finally, pour the dressing over the pasta and gently toss to coat all the ingredients. Then, taste the salad and adjust the seasonings by adding more dressing, salt, pepper, or parmesan if desired.
For the best flavor, refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Alternatively, you can serve it immediately.
The best pasta salad tips:
- Cook pasta to al dente: Trust me, slightly al dente pasta is BEST for pasta salad. I like subtracting 1 minute from the lower range of what the box says. If you overcook your pasta, it will be mushy.
- Rinse pasta with cold water: After cooking the pasta, rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool it down quickly. This helps prevent the pasta from sticking together and allows it to maintain its texture. If it’s still warm, the hot pasta will wilt the lettuce and tomatoes, making them mushy.
- Taste and adjust seasonings: Everyone has different tastes and preferences, so that is why I recommend tasting the pasta salad after you have dressed it and adjusting the flavors to your liking.
- Enjoy pasta salad cold: DO NOT heat your pasta salad. Pasta salad is meant to be enjoyed chilled or at room temperature.
- Chill before serving: Refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together. This chilling time also allows the salad to cool and become more refreshing.
- Customize with additional ingredients: Feel free to customize your pasta salad with additional ingredients based on your preferences. Consider adding extras like bacon bits, grilled vegetables, fresh herbs, or toppings such as croutons to elevate the taste and texture.
- Use chickpea or high prtoen pasta: Feel free to use high-protein pasta like chickpea or lentil pasta to make this salad even higher in protein. This Banaza pasta salad is so flavorful and has 11 grams of protein per serving!
Protein pasta salad variations:
- Shrimp Caesar: Add 1 pound of juicy seasoned grilled shrimp without tails instead of the chicken.
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad: Use whole wheat or chickpea pasta and add grilled chicken, diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, red onions, and feta cheese. Toss with a Greek dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs like oregano and parsley. Try this popular recipe!
- Southwest Black Bean Pasta Salad: Mix cooked pasta with black beans, grilled or shredded chicken, corn kernels, diced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. Dress with a lime-cumin vinaigrette for a Southwestern twist.
- Caprese. Use halved mini pearl mozzarella balls instead of the feta and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.
- Tuna and Veggie Pasta Salad: Combine cooked pasta with canned tuna, chopped celery, diced red onion, sliced cherry tomatoes, and steamed green beans. Drizzle with a lemon-dill dressing for a light and refreshing option.
- Italian Antipasto Pasta Salad: Use tri-color rotini pasta and toss with grilled chicken, salami or pepperoni slices, mozzarella balls, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, black olives, and fresh basil. Dress with an Italian vinaigrette.
- Vegan Chickpea Pasta Salad: Use chickpea pasta and add cooked chickpeas, diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, red onion, and chopped parsley. Dress with a lemon-tahini dressing for a high-protein vegan option.
How is the chicken Caesar pasta salad healthy?
This high-protein balsamic chicken Caesar pasta salad is healthy for many reasons. Here are five:
- No Mayo. Many Caesar dressing and pasta salads have mayonnaise in them. Don’t worry, there is no mayo in this recipe!
- A Lot of Veggies. This salad has fresh tomato and romaine.
- High Protein. There are over 30 grams of protein per serving of this pasta salad.
- Low Calorie. This healthy pasta salad is not only high-protein, but it only has 400 calories per serving, and this recipe makes 4 servings.
- Gluten-free. You can use gluten-free pasta or high-protein chickpea pasta to make this pasta salad 100% gluten-free.
What to serve with chicken pasta salad:
This balsamic chicken Caesar pasta salad goes well with so many dishes. Here is a list:
- Garlic Bread: Toasted garlic bread or garlic breadsticks are a popular choice to serve alongside the salad. The warm and crunchy bread complements the flavors of the salad. You can even make this super easy air fryer garlic bread.
- Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant make a delicious and healthy side dish. The smoky flavors of the grilled vegetables complement the chicken and pasta.
- Grilled Corn on the Cob: Grilled corn on the cob brushed with butter and sprinkled with herbs or spices adds a summery touch to the meal.
- Roasted Vegetables: I love roasted vegetables like carrots, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower. Their flavors complement the salad while adding additional nutritional value.
- Crispy Bruschetta: Bruschetta topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil is a great accompaniment. The bruschetta’s crunchy bread and vibrant flavors pair well with the salad.
- Salad: Serve a simple green salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and a light vinaigrette dressing. It adds freshness and extra greens to the meal. I love this strawberry goat cheese salad or this watermelon basil salad.
- Soup: If you are making this in the colder Fall or Winter months, try serving chicken pasta salad with a light soup like tomato soup or cauliflower leek potato soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes this pasta salad high in protein?
The main sources of protein in this chicken Caesar pasta salad are the cooked chicken and the homemade Greek yogurt Caesar dressing. Chicken and yogurt dressing are both great lean protein options.
How many grams of protein are in this pasta salad?
This chicken Caesar pasta salad has 30 grams of protein per serving.
What’s the best type of pasta to use for pasta salad?
The best types of pasta for pasta salad are fusilli, farfalle (bowtie), rotini, and penne since their shapes soak up all the dressing while maintaining a firm texture.
Can I use high-protein pasta?
Yes, you can use high-protein pasta like chickpea or lentil pasta. You can try this one if you are not gluten-free. However, I prefer Banza pasta since it is gluten-free and has 11 grams of protein per serving, while regular pasta has 2 grams of protein per serving.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, this balsamic chicken Caesar pasta salad is 100% gluten-free.
How many calories are in Caesar salad with chicken?
The number of calories in a Caesar salad with chicken can vary depending on the specific recipe and portion size. On average, a Caesar salad with grilled chicken can range from approximately 300 to 700 calories per serving. This recipe is 400 calories per serving.
What goes with pasta salad?
Pasta salad pairs well with various dishes, such as grilled meats or seafood, fresh green salads, or crusty bread. The versatility of pasta salad makes it a delicious and complementary side dish to many main courses. Try this garlic bread or this watermelon basil salad.
Can I use store-bought Caesar dressing instead of making it from scratch?
Yes, you can use store-bought Caesar dressing if you prefer. However, I highly recommend making the dressing from scratch since it is high in protein and healthier. Using homemade dressing allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor to your liking. Try this recipe.
Can I use rotisserie chicken?
Yes! I love using rotisserie chicken for this pasta salad. You need 2 cups of cubed chicken. I reccomend using the breasts.
Does it keep well?
This high-protein chicken Caesar pasta salad keeps very well in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
Can you freeze pasta salad?
While it is possible to freeze pasta salad, I do not recommend it. Freezing can alter the texture and consistency of the salad, particularly the vegetables, lettuce, and dressing. The vegetables may become mushy when thawed, and the dressing can separate or become watery.
How to store leftovers:
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. DO NOT heat it; enjoy pasta salad cold.
If you love this recipe, try these next!
- Greek Chickpea Pasta Salad
- Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad
- Tuna Pesto Pasta
- Orzo Pesto Salad
- Greek Yogurt Chicken
Did you make this recipe?
If you make this recipe, be sure to comment and rate it down below. Also, don’t forget to tag me @healthfulblondie on Instagram and use the hashtag #healthfulblondie so I can see your delicious creation and share it with my followers!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad (High Protein)
- 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed (grilled, baked, or rotisserie)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, (optional)
- 8 oz dried pasta, (fusilli, farfalle bowtie, rotini, or penne)
- 1 cup sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 romaine hearts, chopped
- ¼ – ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese, depending on your preference
- ⅓ – ½ cup healthy Caesar salad dressing, depending on your preference
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
- Drain the cooked pasta and rinse it under cold water to cool. Set it aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until well combined (recipe here). Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. You can also use store-bought Caesar, but I highly recommend homemade since my dressing is high in protein and healthy.
- If desired, toss the cubed chicken with balsamic vinegar in a separate bowl for added flavor. This is optional, but I love it!
- In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cubed chicken, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped romaine hearts, and shredded parmesan cheese.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta and gently toss to coat all the ingredients.
- Taste the salad and adjust the seasonings by adding more dressing, salt, pepper, or parmesan if desired.
- For the best flavor, refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Alternatively, you can serve it immediately. Enjoy!
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