Chicken Pasta Salad with Apricots, Spinach, Bacon, and Feta is a fantastic Summer salad that makes a light dinner, lunch, or snack. Tossed with the homemade Honey Dijon Mustard Lemon Dressing, this healthy salad is packed with fruit, veggies, protein, and fiber. It will be a definite crowd-pleaser at Summer potlucks, picnics, BBQ parties, and cookouts.
Summer chicken pasta salad
This summer pasta salad features seasonal produce (apricots), skinless boneless chicken thighs (cooked in delicious seasonings), bacon, feta cheese, and very light homemade summer dressing! The whole recipe takes only 30 minutes and makes a beautiful appetizer, light meal, or even dinner! Your family and friends with love the fresh, savory, and sweet combination of flavors! If you love summer pasta salads, be sure to check out this popular corn pasta salad with bacon and refreshing peach chicken pasta salad with spinach, and tomatoes.
- Chicken. I pan-seared skinless and boneless chicken thighs, then sliced them thinly. To make this recipe even simpler, use leftover cooked chicken, grilled chicken, or pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.
- Pasta. I used penne. You can use any kind of short-cut pasta, such as fusilli (spiral pasta) or bow-tie pasta (farfalle).
- Apricots. Buy apricots that are firm and crisp. They should be plump and firm (or slightly soft) to the touch, with unwrinkled skin. Avoid overripe apricots that are easily indented when touched or the ones that have cuts or wrinkled skin.
- Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s high in fiber and a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, iron, and calcium.
- Feta cheese is quite nutritious, as well, and is a great source of calcium. This delicious cheese has a soft texture and briny flavor.
- Cooked bacon. I cooked bacon in the oven to minimize the cleanup. A good substitute for bacon is prosciutto. I would quickly crispy up the prosciutto in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes.
Honey Dijon mustard lemon dressing
- Salad dressing ingredients include extra virgin olive oil, honey, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. I recommend using freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (not the bottled kind) and extra virgin olive oil. You can use either maple syrup or honey.
- Just combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar and whisk with the fork (or close the jar with the lid and shake it vigorously to blend the flavors).
What kind of chicken to use
- Skinless and boneless chicken thighs. That's what I used for this summer chicken pasta salad - the dark meat of chicken thighs is juicy and tender and is usually quite forgiving to cook.
- Chicken tenders are also a perfect choice for this recipe. Make sure to avoid overcooking as chicken tenders cook fast.
- Skinless and boneless chicken breasts tend to dry out faster, so be sure to watch your cooking times closely, ensuring that the chicken is cooked through quickly, without drying out.
- Cooked chicken. This is a perfect recipe for leftover cooked or grilled chicken.
- Rotisserie chicken. Shred it into small pieces and use it in this pasta salad.
- Cook pasta al dente. To cook pasta al dente means to cook the pasta so that it's soft yet firm at the core of the noodle. It should feel firm to the bite, hard under your teeth, while being soft yet not mushy. This kind of texture works best with the apricot chicken pasta salad.
- Do not overcrowd the pan when cooking the chicken. Creating space between the chicken thighs will allow the chicken to sear nicely instead of steaming. Use a large enough pan to accommodate all of your chicken or work in batches. The cast-iron pan works the best!
Recipe tips and recommendations
- Use fresh firm apricots. Fresh apricots work beautifully for this summer chicken pasta salad. Fresh apricots have a short season (May through August) so take advantage of this delicious Summer produce!
- Do not peel the apricots. Keep the apricots' skin on - not only does it add color and vibrancy to the dish, but why also get rid of the fiber contained in the peaches' skin?! However, be sure to wash apricots thoroughly in warm running water to get rid of any dirt and debris.
- Use leftover chicken. This is a great recipe to use the leftover cooked or grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- Use different greens, such as arugula, garden greens, or lettuce.
- Bacon can be replaced with prosciutto.
- Make it gluten-free by using brown rice pasta, lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, or any other gluten-free choices.
- Add nuts for crunch and texture. Toasted pine nuts, pecans, almonds, and walnuts will work well.
- Use a different kind of cheese. My favorites include feta, parmesan, Gruyere, and goat cheese.
- Serve it warm or at room temperature. This apricot chicken pasta salad tastes the best when it's a bit warmed up.
How to store it
- The apricot chicken pasta salad keeps well refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- For best results, add spinach only when ready to serve.
Tips for making it ahead
- Make ahead the salad dressing. Keep it in a clean glass jar (such as a mason jar) with a lid. Refrigerate for up to a week.
- To make the salad ahead, combine sliced apricots, cooked pasta, sliced cooked chicken, sliced cooked bacon (skip adding spinach), and feta cheese and mix well. Add salad dressing right before serving.
- Add spinach last - right before serving. Otherwise, it will wilt too much.
Other summer pasta salads you might like
- Fusilli with Spinach, Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Corn Pasta Salad with Bacon and Creamy Pesto Dressing
- Greek Pasta Salad with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta Cheese
- Chicken pasta salad with spinach, and tomatoes
- Mexican street corn pasta salad
Chicken Pasta Salad with Apricots, Spinach, Bacon, and Feta
Bacon and pasta
- 6 strips bacon
- 8 oz penne pasta
- 1 lb chicken thighs skinless, boneless
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh salad Ingredients
- 5 oz fresh baby spinach
- 1 lb apricots throughly washed, pitted, and sliced
- 6 oz Feta cheese crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread bacon in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Cook for about 15 or 20 minutes or more until cooked through and crispy. Remove from oven.
- Remove bacon (being careful not to burn yourself) from the baking sheet onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain fat.
- Proceed with the recipe as you wait for the bacon to cook.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook pasta al dente according to the package instructions.
- Proceed with the rest of the recipe while the pasta is cooking.
- When the pasta is done, drain. Keep the drained pasta in the same pot where you cooked it.
- Generously season the chicken thighs with Italian seasoning, paprika, chili powder, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Heat an empty cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. This allows the cast-iron skillet to heat through. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chicken thighs. Cook the chicken on medium heat for 5 minutes on one side, without moving it.
- Flip the chicken thighs over, reduce heat to low-medium, and cook for about 5 more minutes or longer on the other side, undisturbed, until it's cooked through. The meat thermometer should register 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the chicken. Remove from heat.
- Slice the chicken thinly.
Make salad dressing
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Whisk well with a spoon, until emulsified.
- Wash, core, and slice apricots.
- In a pot where you cooked and drained the pasta, combine warm, cooked, and drained pasta together with spinach and the salad dressing. Mix well.
- Add sliced apricots, crumbled feta cheese (saving ⅓ of it for later), and sliced cooked bacon. Toss to combine.
- When serving, top each individual portion with thinly sliced cooked chicken and the remaining ⅓ of crumbled Feta cheese. Or, simply mix in sliced cooked chicken into the pasta salad.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.