For a BBQ or potluck, this chicken Caesar pasta salad makes the ideal side dish. It is also a fantastic lunch or dinner option, and you can easily change it up by adding ingredients like avocado, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and more!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
This delicious chicken Caesar pasta salad is sure to please any Caesar salad fan! This recipe is incredibly simple to prepare and is ideal for any kind of gathering. It also makes a fantastic cold lunch option that you can eat straight from your lunchbox!
While the salad ingredients and pasta are being made, the chicken is marinating in a flavorful Caesar dressing (either homemade or store-bought). Following a golden brown sear, the chicken is combined with the familiar and beloved components of a Caesar salad.
A splash of color is added by fresh tomatoes, and you can also add avocado, hard-boiled eggs, crispy bacon, crisp cucumbers, and other things.
How to Make It
While you measure out the additional ingredients and start the pasta water boiling, marinate the chicken in ½ cup of Caesar dressing.
Cook the chicken through and until it is golden brown on both sides. Set aside and let it rest, then dice.
Al dente pasta should be cooked, drained, and drizzled with oil. After allowing it to cool for five minutes, mix in ¼ cup Caesar dressing.
Add ¼ cup more of the dressing and the diced chicken before tossing to combine.
If desired, transfer to a fresh bowl before serving. Serve right away or chill for up to three hours before serving.
Make Ahead Method
- Cook the chicken and marinate it a day or two beforehand. Store it in an airtight container after allowing it to cool completely.
- A day or two in advance, prepare the lettuce by chopping, washing, and drying it. Then, store it in an airtight container. You can also shred and store Parmesan cheese.
- Within three hours of serving, combine all the ingredients.
- Dressing: If I don't have enough time to make a double batch of my homemade Caesar Dressing, I substitute 12 oz. of Marie's chilled Caesar Dressing for this recipe. The grocery store's produce section is where you can find Marie's.
- If I don't have time to make my homemade croutons for this recipe, I substitute Texas Toast Caesar Croutons.
- This salad can also be topped with avocado, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and cucumbers.
- Pasta: After being boiled/drained, the pasta doesn't seem like much (quantity-wise), but when it is mixed with the other ingredients, it quickly takes on a more substantial appearance. Use ¾ lb. penne and 1 heart of romaine lettuce if you prefer more pasta and less lettuce.
- Parmesan cheese: This is one recipe where using pre-shredded/shaved cheese is acceptable rather than shredding it yourself from a block at home. Belgioioso Parmesan cheese is what I use.
For up to three days, keep in a refrigerator in an airtight container. Keep in mind that when served fresh, the consistency is perfect.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 2 large boneless/skinless chicken breast, about 1 ¾ lbs.
- 1 ½ Cups Caesar dressing, divided.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ lb. penne rigate
- 2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped/washed/dried
- ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup croutons
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded and/or shaved
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Marinade the Chicken
- Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create 2 thinner slices. Place in a gallon freezer bag (or in between saran wrap) and use the textured side of a meat mallet to pound it to ½ inch thick. Pat completely dry.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt/pepper. Place ½ cup of the Caesar dressing in a gallon freezer bag and add the chicken. Remove excess air from the bag and seal. Let it marinade at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Measure out Ingredients/Cook Pasta
- Meanwhile, measure out remaining ingredients and begin boiling salted pasta water. Once a boil is reached, cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. (Set a timer to avoid overcooking.) Drain once cooked and spread it out on a tray or on parchment paper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Sear the Chicken
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in batches for 4-5 minutes per side, until a golden crust has developed. Set aside and let it rest for 10 minutes, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
Assemble the Salad
- Add the cooled pasta to an extra-large bowl. Add ¼ cup Caesar dressing and toss to coat evenly. Add the chicken and another ¼ cup dressing, toss to coat. Add the chopped lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and remaining ¼ cup salad dressing. Toss well to evenly coat. Transfer to a clean bowl prior to serving if desired. You can serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 hours prior to serving. (Note: You will have an extra ¼ cup of dressing, which you can choose to use only if preferred.)
- Dressing: I use 12 oz. Marie’s refrigerated Caesar Dressing for this recipe if I don’t have time to make a double batch of my Homemade Caesar Dressing. You can find Marie’s in the produce section of the grocery store.
- Croutons: I use Texas Toast Caesar Croutons for this recipe if I don’t have time to make my Homemade Croutons.
- Pasta: The pasta doesn't look like much (quantity-wise), after it's boiled/drained but it quickly becomes more substantial after being combined with the other ingredients. If you prefer more pasta and less lettuce, use ¾ lb. penne and 1 heart of romaine.
- Parmesan Cheese: This is one recipe where it's okay to use cheese that is already pre-shredded/shaved, versus doing it yourself from a block at home.😁I use Belgioioso Parmesan cheese.
- Optional Additions to this salad include: Avocado, bacon, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers.
- Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Note that the consistency is ideal when served fresh.