This healthy grilled chicken pasta salad is full of fresh summer flavors and smoky BBQ sauce! The creamy dressing is lightened up with Greek yogurt.
I loosely modeled this pasta salad on the flavors of a BBQ chicken pizza. Red onions, cilantro, grilled chicken, BBQ sauce, and cheddar often appear on those tasty pizzas. I used smoked cheddar in this recipe to add even more of that delicious smoky flavor to this cold chicken pasta salad.
There's nothing stopping you from serving this with hot-off-the-grill chicken, but it's just as good cold. 🙂
This BBQ chicken pasta salad is one of those easy things you can throw together for a summer BBQ, picnic, or potluck gathering that will please a crowd. It also makes some tasty leftovers!
How to grill chicken for this pasta salad
I made a quick marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, a couple dashes of Italian seasoning, and garlic for the chicken breasts.
I butterflied them and cut them in half lengthwise (I often do this because it's easier to cook chicken this way without it going dry), put them in a large Ziploc with the marinade, and let it sit for about half an hour.
I will mention that if you have a preferred way of marinating your grilled chicken, you can do that, and it's not going to make or break the recipe.
I then brushed on some BBQ sauce while grilling the chicken, and 10 minutes later I had tender, juicy chicken to add to my pasta salad.
I used penne for this summer pasta salad recipe, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand or prefer.
While the chicken is marinating, you can cook the pasta and prep the other ingredients. This recipe definitely isn't too time-consuming at all. The whole thing can be ready in about half an hour.
Have you been getting outside and doing fun summery activities? I'm definitely going outside more, but I haven't quite figured out the sunscreen situation yet. Story of my life!
I hope you will give this grilled chicken pasta salad a try!
Made it? Let me know in the comments below.
Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad
- 2-3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
- 4 cups uncooked pasta
- Handful cilantro chopped
- 1/4 medium red onion chopped (or to taste)
- 1 cup smoked cheddar grated
- 1 avocado chopped
- BBQ sauce for brushing on the chicken (start with 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 dashes Italian seasoning
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
- 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Butterfly the chicken then cut it in half lengthwise to make thinner cutlets. Add the chicken and the marinade ingredients to a large Ziploc bag and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing and set it aside until needed. Prep your cilantro, onion, cheddar, and avocado.
- Start boiling a large salted pot of water. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Preheat your BBQ/grill to high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook the chicken for about 4 minutes/side or until it's cooked through but not overdone. Brush both sides of each piece of chicken with the BBQ sauce as needed.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse it with cool water. Make sure it's drained thoroughly. Add it to a large bowl.
- Add the cilantro, onion, cheddar, avocado, and dressing to the pasta. Toss. Slice the chicken and top the pasta salad with it after it cools for a few minutes. Gently mix the chicken in if desired. Season the salad with extra salt & pepper if needed.
- I used my gas BBQ to grill the chicken. Please note that every BBQ/grill/grill pan is different, and my cooking instructions should be used as a general guideline only.
- If you're going to make this ahead of time, I suggest not adding in the avocado until just before you serve it.
- Serves 4-6.