This cozy Chicken Pasta Salad comes together in just 30 minutes. It's a crowd-pleasing recipe with only 5 main ingredients: chicken, bow-tie pasta, pecans, dried cranberries, and green onions. The creamy salad dressing is made completely from scratch (and lighter!) using mayo, Greek yogurt, mustard, honey, and poppy seeds.
Chicken pasta salad
This recipe features traditional ingredients, such as creamy dressing, chicken, pasta, and green onions. Dried cranberries (Craisins) and chopped toasted pecans add even more flavor and texture. The dressing is made with ½ cup mayo and ¼ cup Greek yogurt to lighten it up without any loss of flavor. It's a perfect side dish (or lunch/dinner) to share with your family year-round. You can also make it for the holidays or bring it to picnics, potlucks, cookouts, and other festivities. If you love homemade salads, don't miss this delicious Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad or this simple Broccoli Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad.
Why make it
- Easy, 30-minute salad. It's a really simple recipe especially if you use leftover cooked chicken or cooked rotisserie chicken.
- Lighter yet creamy dressing. The dressing is made with ½ cup mayo and ¼ cup Greek yogurt to lighten it up without any loss of flavor.
- Perfect for sharing. Make a double batch of this chicken pasta salad and bring it to picnics, potlucks, backyard parties, cookouts, barbecues, and other festivities year-round.
- Side dish, lunch, or dinner! Because it's packed with protein (chicken), you can serve it as a weeknight dinner (or lunch) for your family or as a beautiful side dish when entertaining guests. Made in just 30 minutes, it's the perfect chicken pasta salad!
How to serve it
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Cold chicken and cold pasta are simply not very appealing. This salad keeps well refrigerated, and it's even better the next day or 2 days later. It's a perfect recipe for meal prep, or to make ahead for lunch.
- If making this ahead, don't add pecans. Add them only when ready to serve salad otherwise, they will quickly get soggy if mixed with the salad.
- Serve it on both weeknights and special occasions. Even though this creamy chicken pasta salad is simple enough to serve as a salad with your weeknight dinner for your family and friends, it makes a beautiful presentation when prepared for a special occasion or holiday. You will love the combo of bow-tie pasta, chicken, pecans, cranberries, and green onions.
- Chicken. I pan-seared skinless and boneless chicken thighs, then sliced them thinly. To make this recipe even more simple, use leftover cooked chicken or pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.
- Pasta. Short pasta works best in pasta salads as it easily absorbs the dressing and is bite-sized just like other ingredients in this salad. Here I used bow-tie pasta (farfalle). Fusilli (spiral pasta) or rotini will be your next best choice. Or, you can use penne and rigatoni.
- Pecans add crunch and texture. They are also highly nutritious and a great source of fiber! I toasted them lightly in the oven for more flavor (at 350 F for about 5 or 10 minutes). You can also use walnuts or cashews.
- Dried cranberries. I used Craisins. They add sweetness. You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries.
- Green onions are a must-have in this recipe. They have a milder flavor than regular onions and I love using them in recipes!
- Seasonings include salt and pepper and Italian seasoning for searing the chicken.
- Olive oil is used for searing the chicken.
Creamy poppy seed dressing
Chicken pasta salad pairs beautifully with a simple creamy homemade dressing. The ingredients include mayo, Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, honey, and poppy seeds. Combine all salad dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl or in a mason jar and whisk well until emulsified. You can use this homemade poppy seed dressing not only with this chicken pasta salad but with any other salad of your choice!
Recipe tips and recommendations
- Use leftover chicken. This is a great recipe to use the leftover cooked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken.
- Cook pasta al dente for the best texture. That means the pasta should feel firm to the bite while being soft yet not mushy. This kind of texture works best with pasta salad especially if you want to make it ahead. To cook pasta al dente, you normally have to boil pasta 2 minutes shorter than normal. For example, if the package instructions tell you to boil pasta for 10 minutes - cook the pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes instead.
- Make it gluten-free. Use the gluten-free pasta of your choice. Lentil or chickpea gluten-free pasta will taste great here.
- Serve it warm or at room temperature. Who likes cold chicken? This chicken pasta salad tastes the best when it's a bit warmed up or brought to room temperature.
- Add prosciutto or bacon. Sprinkle chopped cooked bacon over the salad. If adding prosciutto, crispy it up in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes.
- Add greens such as spinach, arugula, garden greens, or lettuce.
- Add cheese. My favorites include shredded or cubed parmesan, cheddar, or pepper jack cheese.
- Store leftover chicken pasta salad in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Tip: If you plan on refrigerating the salad, you can combine all the salad ingredients (including the salad dressing) but don't include pecans. Add the nuts only before serving otherwise they will get soft and soggy quickly.
Other pasta salads you might like
- Fusilli with Spinach, Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Corn Pasta Salad with Bacon and Creamy Pesto Dressing
- Broccoli Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Sweet Peas, Cheddar cheese, and a creamy Ranch dressing
Chicken Pasta Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- 8 oz pasta farfalle (bow-tie)
- 1 lb chicken thighs or breasts (skinless, boneless)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup pecans toasted, chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries Craisins
- 4 green onions chopped
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- salt to taste
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain. In the meantime, proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- In a large skillet, cook chicken seasoned with salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning, until cooked through. Slice into thin strips once the chicken is cooked.
- In a medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, honey, Dijon mustard, and poppy seeds. Whisk until well combined. Add salt, to taste.
- In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients: cooked and drained pasta, sliced cooked chicken, toasted pecans, and cranberries. Add salad dressing and toss to coat. Add salt, to taste, if needed.
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.
I enjoyed this recipe!! I ate it two days after I fixed it and served it warm with walnuts. The only thing I did differently was use Greek Yogurt with Vanilla because I didn't have plain yogurt. I didn't add green onions because I cannot eat them and I bet they are good with them in it. I miss eating onions but you develop a taste without them. Really great recipe!!
Barbara, thank you for taking the time to share such a positive comment! I am glad you tried this salad and loved it! I bet walnuts were so tasty in this recipe!
Hi, Is this a cold salad or hot? Going to make it.
She says to serve it “a little warmed up, or at room temperature.”
Nancy, that's correct!
Diane, I would serve this warm or at room temperature. Just not refrigerator cold.