This chicken Caesar pasta salad recipe is loaded with pan fried chicken, crispy bacon, homemade croutons, pasta, and the most delicious homemade Caesar dressing. It's perfect for summer gatherings!
Need a party appetizer? Try my Chicken Caesar Crostini.
Why you'll love it
Caesar salad. It's my absolute favorite. It always has been and always will be. So when I decided to combine it with pasta salad, what happened? The perfect summer salad was born, that's what! As the weather warms up, I find myself serving this up all the time for BBQs and parties. It's Caesar salad but elevated.
Picture yourself sitting on a patio with a bowl of this pasta salad on a summer evening. In every forkful you get a crunch from the garlic croutons, the tender bite from the chicken and pasta, and each piece of lettuce is coated with irresistible garlicky dressing. A glass of wine is optional but totally recommended. Are you sold yet!?
Ingredients you need
- Pasta - I used penne, but any similar sized pasta shape will do
- Bacon - these kitchen shears make it simple to cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces
- Chicken - we're using chicken breasts here
- Garlic powder - along with salt & pepper, seasoning the chicken directly infuses so much flavor
- Lettuce - romaine is the classic variety for Caesar salad
- Croutons - homemade garlic croutons are a game changer!
- Caesar dressing - you can use the stuff from a bottle, but I highly recommend trying my 10-minute easy Caesar dressing from scratch.
- Parmesan cheese - I always keep a block in my fridge and grate it myself with a zester. It just tastes so much better.
- Lemon juice - totally optional, but a squeeze of fresh lemon on top adds a hint of brightness
How to make chicken Caesar pasta salad
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Prepare your homemade dressing and croutons if using.
- Boil the pasta. Meanwhile, fry the bacon. Set aside on a plate, and then pan-fry the chicken until golden.
- Drain the pasta, and then add to a large salad bowl with the romaine lettuce. Add in the chicken, croutons, bacon, and dressing. Toss, and garnish with freshly grated parmesan!
Can I make it ahead?
- Absolutely! Make the dressing and croutons ahead of time, boil the pasta, fry the chicken and bacon, wash the lettuce, grate the cheese, and then store everything separately.
- When you're ready to serve it, assemble the salad and toss for easy entertaining!
Tips for success
- If you want to take a few shortcuts, you can use rotisserie or shredded chicken, store-bought Caesar dressing and croutons, and buy the bacon bits. But it might not taste as special 😉
- Feel free to use grilled chicken instead of the pan-fried chicken. It would take that summer flavor over the top!
- This does make a large amount of salad, so you could halve the recipe or even eyeball the ingredients. It doesn't need to be precise.
- The clean-up from the frying is much easier with a splatter guard.
What to serve with it
- I'm a big fan of serving this hearty salad along with a big BBQ or potluck spread that includes these Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs, my Grilled Corn on the Cob, and this Easy Potato Salad with Bacon!
- If you're serving it as a meal on its own, it'll pair great with a simple slice of crusty bread.
Leftovers and storage
- Once you toss it all together, leftovers probably won't fare so well after a couple of hours, and the lettuce will wilt.
- However, you're welcome to store extra dressing in the fridge in a covered container for 3-4 days! The croutons will keep as well. Simply assemble a new salad with fresh lettuce and cheese.
Questions? Tried this recipe? It's so fresh and so summery. I'd be happy to hear from you in the comments below!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 1 pound uncooked pasta
- 6 strips bacon cut into small pieces
- 2 large chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 4 cups romaine lettuce chopped or torn
- 2 cups croutons
- 3/4 cup Caesar dressing or to taste
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese finely grated or shaved
- Lemon juice (optional, to taste)
- Boil a salted pot for the pasta. Cook it al dente according to package directions. Once it's done, drain it and rinse it with cold water. Let it sit in a colander/sieve so it drains thoroughly while you're doing other steps in the recipe.
- Meanwhile, cut the bacon into bite-size pieces (I use kitchen shears to make this easy), and cook it over medium-high heat until crispy (about 10 minutes). Once it's finished, take the pan off the heat and remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate, and leave the fat in the pan.
- Cut your chicken in half lengthwise and season both sides with the garlic powder and salt & pepper. Return the skillet to the heat (medium high), and when the fat is hot, fry the chicken for about 5 minutes/side or until it's golden and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it cool a bit prior to slicing it into strips.
- Once your pasta, bacon, and chicken are all ready, it's time to assemble the salad in a large bowl. Toss it with the dressing (feel free to add more if needed). I like to squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on top of the salad prior to serving. I suggest eating this salad as soon as you've added the dressing.
- You can easily halve this recipe (or halve it and keep the chicken the same) if you don't need a big batch.
- This recipe is very forgiving, so you don't need to stick to the ingredient quantities I suggest. I encourage you to add more/less of something to suit your tastes. And feel free to swap the chicken with rotisserie chicken!
- Prep time will be longer if you make the Caesar dressing and/or croutons from scratch. I count some of the prep time in the cook time since you can multi-task pretty easily in this recipe.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.