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.
Love this easy pasta salad recipe? You may also like my caprese pasta salad, my classic macaroni salad, or my Mexican street corn pasta salad.
This was SoOo good. Used it on a day when it was 114° and needed to serve something cool to company.
Yay!! That's great to hear. Thanks for leaving me a comment!
I’ve been dying to try this recipe since I discovered and pinned it since it has so many of my favorite things in it! It doesn’t seem like my husband’s type of dish but he’s out of town and I’ve taken this opportunity to make it. It’s SO good!! I’m only 3 bites in and wanted to share how much I love it! Will definitely be putting this in my menu rotation.
Yay I am so happy you liked it! It's fun making stuff just for yourself when the husband is away haha... I do the same!
What type of vinegar?
Hi! Try white or cider. Balsamic would even be fine.
Thanks for sharing! I kind of forget about cold pasta salads. It's a great alternative to heavy, hot pasta for dinner in the summer.
Thanks! I haven't made it in a couple of years, but it'll definitely keep in the fridge for a few days. The dressing may dry out a little, though.
This looks so good! Grilled chicken makes every dish better in the summer! Does it keep well?
Katrina Hadcock says
Made this recipe. Needs to eaten in one
setting otherwise the dressing absorbs into the pasta and it is dry the next day.
Great flavor and would make again with about 3/4 the pasta it calls for to see if it survived overnight also I did add double the cheese (apple smoked cheddar) and added an extra 1/4 cup BBQ sauce to the entire dish just for more flavor.
I am glad you liked it, Katrina! 🙂
My 16 year old daughter made it and it was amazing. I have shared it with everyone I know. Make it because you won't be disappointed.
Wonderful! So happy to hear this. Thanks for letting me know and for sharing the recipe. 🙂
We made this tonight and used mozzarella instead of cheddar. It is a definite keeper!!!
So great to hear that, Megan!
Hi! Can I please get the calories for this recipie please?
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says
This pasta salad looks fabulous Natasha! Love the dressing and that you grilled the chicken. Perfect for a summer luncheon or light dinner!
Candice McNair says
This was delicious! I'm so glad I found you on Instagram!
So happy to hear that! I'm glad you found me too. 🙂
Juventia | Foodiestory says
This is such a great idea as well to use some of the leftover roast chicken that we normally buy in the supermarket. Love the idea! 🙂
Thank you! That would definitely work. Hope you enjoy the recipe.