This Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad is excellent for an easy family dinner or a crowd-pleaser side dish. Tender chicken, crispy bacon, cooked pasta, and fresh vegetables tossed in a creamy ranch dressing for the most delicious and hearty summer salad.
You will love this chicken bacon pasta salad! It’s light and refreshing yet hearty and packed with protein, keeping you feeling fuller longer. The best part is this delicious meal comes together quickly in under 30 minutes if the chicken and pasta are cooked and ready (I love using rotisserie chicken)!
There’s something magical about chicken and carbs coated in a creamy homemade Ranch dressing. And I assure you, you will want seconds! This cold pasta salad recipe only gets better the next day, so double it, especially if making it for large family gatherings.
Make this for an easy family meal tonight, or bring this yummy pasta salad to a potluck dinner next time.
Love the combo of chicken, bacon and ranch?! Try these amazing Chicken Bacon Ranch Tacos!!
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this delicious Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad:
Chicken: Any cooked chicken will work great in this recipe if you shred or dice up the meat. Try this Easy Blackened Chicken, Oven-Baked Chicken Breast, Pan-Cooked Chicken, or shredded chicken in the air fryer to make your chicken. Additionally, you can use store-bought rotisserie chicken for a hassle-free protein source and pull off all the meat.
Pasta: You can use your favorite pasta in this easy ranch pasta salad. A shaped pasta such as rotini is great because the corkscrew-like shape traps the dressing incredibly well. Other great pasta substitutes are fusilli, farfalle, and penne.
Ranch Dressing: Use homemade Wingstop Dressing or your favorite store-bought Ranch dressing.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN BACON RANCH PASTA SALAD: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Prepare the salad dressing. Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk, dry Ranch seasoning, and salt in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Step 2: Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Cook bacon pieces until crisp. While bacon cooks, cook pasta in a large pot according to package directions.
Drain and cool pasta when done cooking.
To assemble the salad, add cooked and cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl. Top with bacon crumbles, halved tomatoes, diced red onion, celery, and chicken.
Step 3: Toss the salad with Ranch dressing until everything is coated well. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to marry.
I like reserving a little of the dressing and adding more before serving.
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- Meal prep: This salad is excellent for meal prep for more extended storage. Cook pasta, chicken, and bacon and store in an airtight container separate from chopped veggies. Prepare the salad dressing per instructions and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. When ready to serve, combine all the ingredients for a quick dinner.
- Cooking pasta: Follow your taste buds and cook pasta according to package directions, but with minor modifications. Pasta package directions give you cooking time for al dente pasta. This works exceptionally great when tossing pasta in a warm sauce like spaghetti sauce or alfredo. But for pasta salad, some may prefer softer pasta. In that case, add one more minute to the cooking time. If you want to stick to al dente pasta, immediately remove it from the heat and drain well.
Impress your friends and serve this delicious side dish at a potluck. Prepare all the ingredients in advance, then toss them together in a large bowl for a quick, refreshing, yet hearty salad.
STORAGE & REHEATING
- Storage: When dressed with the salad dressing, this delicious pasta salad keeps well for a few days when kept in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Freezing: For longer storage, this pasta salad is best frozen without dressing or fresh vegetables. You can freeze pasta, chicken, and bacon together for up to 1 month. Then thaw in the refrigerator overnight and toss with the fresh ingredients and dressing.
Additions & Substitutions
- Cheese: Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese for creamy flavor and texture.
- Fresh herbs: Green onions or curly parsley would also be great for a pop of color and zesty flavor.
- Spice it Up: Season with freshly cracked black pepper or some red pepper flakes for a delish finishing touch and a bit of heat.
- Chicken/Bacon: Use any combination of chicken you have on hand. It’s a great way to use up leftover chicken. It is hardly noticeable when tossed in the salad with the other ingredients. Likewise, feel free to substitute bacon bits for fresh bacon.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The easiest way to make a pasta salad that is delicious and not dry is to use juicy ingredients. A combination of tender chicken and fresh vegetables adds great flavor and natural moisture. Additionally, using pasta like rotini or fusilli with grooves to trap the salad dressing will help keep the salad perfectly moist in every bite.
I also like to reserve a bit of the dressing to our over the salad right before serving.
The best way for the salad dressing to adhere to the pasta is to leave some of that natural residue from the starchy cooking water. That’s why it’s best to skip the rinsing.
Once done cooking, drain the pasta well. It helps to swirl the colander over a large sink to remove all excess pasta water, but rinsing is unnecessary.
There’s a delicate balance between undercooked and overcooked pasta when cooking pasta for pasta salad. Since we’re not adding the pasta to a hot sauce to finish cooking, we want our pasta to be a little more cooked than al dente.
However, it’s also important not to overcook the pasta. Otherwise, it will turn mushy after tossing it with the salad dressing. A good rule of thumb is to add another minute or two to the cooking time as instructed on the package.
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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- 1 lb. rotini pasta (or similar)
- 12 oz. bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 2 cups chicken breast, diced See Note 1
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
- 2-3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 cup ranch dressing highly recommend: Wingstop Ranch Dressing (recipe below). You can also use your favorite store bought ranch dressing.
Wingstop Ranch Dressing (optional)
- 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1 oz. packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix or other ranch mix, about 4 tablespoons
- 1/4 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
- Prep: Prepare dressing (if using). Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing, and refrigerate until ready to use. Cook bacon until crisp. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool.
- Assemble: In a large bowl, add pasta. Top with cooled bacon, tomatoes, red onion, celery, and chicken. Toss with dressing until everything is well-coated. Refrigerate at least an hour to allow flavors to marry. I like to reserve a little of the dressing and toss it in right before I am ready to serve.