This Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad recipe is the ultimate flavor medley. Tender chicken, crispy bacon, various vegetables, and delectable cheese are tossed in a creamy ranch dressing, creating a mouthwatering combination that will leave you craving every savory bite.
You will love this easy pasta salad recipe, perfect for picnics, a summer barbecue, and your next potluck dinner; use leftover chicken, making this recipe even easier. Hearty enough to be a main dish or serve as the perfect side dish.
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Why You Will Love this Recipe
- Make-Ahead Magic: This chicken bacon pasta salad is a time-saving superhero!
- Bacon, Bacon, Bacon!: Need I say more? Crispy, smoky bacon takes this salad to epic levels of deliciousness. Let’s do the bacon happy dance!
- Ranch Dressing Bliss: Creamy, tangy, and oh-so-satisfying, the ranch dressing in this salad is a flavor bomb that elevates every ingredient.
Simple Ingredients for Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Recipe
- Pasta | I used farfalle, but use any short pasta, like penne, macaroni, or rotini pasta; cooked al dente according to package directions. Like this easy bow-tie pasta.
- Chicken | To make this even easier, I used rotisserie chicken, but you can use leftover chicken, or quickly cook some chicken
- Bacon | Bacon baby! Cooked and crumbled, reserve for a topping; you’ll need about 16 slices of bacon or one package; I used thick sliced bacon.
- Vegetables | I used yellow bell pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and green onions.
- Cheese | Use your favorite cheese here, I used sharp cheddar cheese diced.
Quick Ranch Dressing Ingredients
Make this yummy, creamy, quick ranch dressing or use your favorite store-bought variety.
- Creamy | Mayonnaise and Sour cream are the stars here; use regular or light.
- Red Wine Vinegar | Adds a little tang and things it out ab it.
- Herbs | You will use dried parsley flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried chives, dried dill, kosher salt, and black pepper; use fresh herbs; use my substitutions chart as a guide.
- Milk | Use cow’s milk or your favorite plant-based milk if preferred.
How to Make Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad
Step 1 | Cook Bacon
Cook bacon either in a skillet or oven. Oven instructions: at 350°F (175°C) for 20-25 minutes until crispy. Place cooked bacon on paper towels to drain and cool. Once cooled, cut into pieces or break apart using paper towels. Set aside.
Step 2 | Cook Pasta
While bacon cooks, cook pasta. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it reaches the desired al dente consistency. Once cooked, drain the tender pasta in a strainer and rinse it briefly under cold water to halt the cooking process.
- Be sure to follow the package instructions and cook the pasta until it is al dente, which means it is cooked but still slightly firm to the bite. Overcooking the pasta can result in a mushy texture for the salad.
Step 3 | Make Quick Homemade Ranch Dressing
Prepare the quick homemade ranch dressing in a small bowl by combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, red wine vinegar, dried parsley flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried chives, dried dill, salt, pepper, and milk. Stir vigorously until the dressing is smooth and well combined.
If the dressing is too thick, add more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency. Or use your favorite store-bought ranch dressing.
Step 3 | Assemble Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Recipe
In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta with the diced chicken breast, crumbled bacon (reserve some to add at the end), diced yellow bell pepper, diced cucumber, sliced grape tomatoes, chopped green onions, and diced cheddar cheese. Stir well to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
Pour the ranch dressing over the pasta salad mixture in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, ensuring all ingredients are evenly coated, yielding a creamy pasta salad. I used a large spatula or wooden spoon to gently toss and combine everything together.
Garnish the pasta salad with a fresh dill sprinkle for extra flavor, fresh herbs will make this easy ranch pasta salad pop! And don’t forget to sprinkle reserved crispy crumbled bacon on top.
Step 4 | Chill Pasta Salad
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and chill the chicken bacon ranch pasta salad recipe in the refrigerator for at least one hour. This chilling time marries the flavors, resulting in a more delicious meal.
Once chilled, give the salad a final stir before serving and sprinkle with reserved bacon pieces, hello, crunchy bacon bits and garnish with a little fresh dill for that final pop of flavor!
- Refrigerate the salad for at least one hour after mixing in the dressing; this cold pasta salad recipe is even better the next day!
- Cook your bacon and chicken (if not using rotisserie) ahead of time for a time saver.
Variations & Substitutions
Here at The Fresh Cooky we are all about making it yours, so what’s your twist? Here are a few suggestions below:
- Add finely minced red onion, shallots, and sliced black olives, or try my easy pickled red onions.
- Swap bell peppers, using your favorite, like green, yellow, and even roasted red peppers.
- Swap Pastas: Use any short, bite-sized shape or texture. Other options are rotini, fusilli or penne; try using tri-color to make it even more visually appealing.
- I use rotisserie chicken in this recipe for ease and flavor. However, you can use diced chicken breast if you prefer. It’s a great way to use any leftover rotisserie chicken.
- Add or subtract veggies to make it your own; this would also be delicious with quartered artichoke hearts, and garbanzo beans.
- Try using my Homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing or this delicious Green Goddess dressing to change things up.
- Use shredded cheddar cheese instead of dicing it.
How to make this Bacon Ranch Salad Gluten-Free
Simply swap your pasta for quality gluten-free pasta, and cook al-dente according to package directions. Make sure any store bought dressing is gluten-free too.
Dairy-Free Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Make or purchase your favorite dairy-free ranch dressing, substitute the cheese, or omit it altogether. Mayo is dairy-free; substitute the sour cream with your favorite non-dairy alternative.
Vegetarian Ranch Pasta Salad
Many ask if they can omit the bacon to make a vegetarian version of the salad. Of course! If you prefer a vegetarian option, omit the bacon and the chicken (but, BACON!) I have many vegetarian friends where bacon is the exception!
My Favorite Bowls
- Durable high-quality tempered glass
- Convenient sizes nest to save space
- Bowls resist stains and do not absorb food odors or flavors
- Bowls are dishwasher and microwave safe
- BPA-free plastic lid is top-rack dishwasher and microwave safe
Check it out
Refrigerate promptly: After preparing the chicken bacon ranch pasta salad recipe, store it in an airtight container or cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap for to 3-5 days.
Do not freeze: Because this delicious pasta salad has mayonnaise and fresh vegetables, it’s not recommended to freeze.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! While the recipe calls for farfalle pasta, you can use any pasta shape you prefer or have on hand. Penne, fusilli, or rotini are great alternatives that hold the dressing and ingredients well.
Yes, you can! In fact, making the salad ahead of time allows the flavors to develop and meld together. Prepare the salad, cover it tightly, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving. Give it a gentle toss before serving to redistribute the dressing.
Certainly! If you prefer a lighter option, you can use Greek yogurt or a combination of Greek yogurt and a light mayonnaise substitute. This will provide a tangy and creamy dressing while reducing fat content. Check out my homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing recipe.
Absolutely! Feel free to add more vegetables to customize the salad to your liking. Some popular additions include diced avocado, sliced black olives, roasted red peppers, or blanched broccoli florets.
Ways to Serve Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- As a main course: Pair it with some crusty bread or garlic bread for a complete meal. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner, especially during warmer months when you’re craving a no-cook meal.
- Delicious side dish: Serve along with barbecue chicken, kebabs or steak. It’s an excellent choice for potlucks, picnics, or family gatherings.
- Lunchbox or Meal Prep: Pack individual portions of the salad in airtight containers for a convenient and delicious lunch or meal prep option, perfect for on-the-go or work lunches.
How Long Can Pasta Salad Sit Out?
According to Does It Go Bad, if the pasta salad has been sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it’s best to discard it. Bacteria can multiply quickly between 40°F (5°C) and 140°F (60°C), so it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep your pasta salad properly refrigerated to prevent any potential foodborne illnesses. See tips for how to keep food cold outside.
5 Tips for how to keep food cold outside
- Chilled serving dish: Start by placing the pasta salad in a serving dish pre-chilled in the refrigerator or freezer, or make sure it comes straight from the fridge to the table.
- Keep it in a cooler: Place the serving dish of macaroni salad inside a cooler filled with ice or ice packs. This helps to create a cold environment and keeps the salad chilled. Ensure the cooler’s lid is closed tightly to maintain the cold temperature.
- Serve in smaller portions: Instead of serving the entire pasta salad at once, divide it into smaller portions. This way, the portion being served stays cold for a longer duration.
- Ice bath: Place the salad in a larger container or bowl filled with ice. This acts as an ice bath, keeping the macaroni salad cold while being served.
- Find Shade: Set up your serving station in a shaded area. Direct sunlight can quickly raise the temperature and compromise the quality of the macaroni salad.
Best Drinks to Serve with Pasta Salad
Pink Lemonade Vodka Cocktail
Looking for a simple, homemade pink lemonade vodka cocktail? With a few simple ingredients this fresh and delicious all-natural pink lemonade vodka drink will become a summer favorite! This easy cocktail recipe can be made by the glass or by the pitcher!
Blueberry Gin Cocktail
Learn how to make this gorgeous, layered Blueberry Gin Cocktail or as I like to call it, Blueberry Gin Gin Fizz. Made with a layer of homemade blueberry syrup on the bottom, spicy ginger beer in the middle and topped with this beautiful gin. Easy steps to create this lovely ombré layered look by a simple "float" process.
Great Sides for BBQ, Potluck and Family Gatherings
Great ideas of some of my most popular side dish recipes!
Bacon Balsamic Macaroni Salad
Crisp bacon pieces strewn throughout this delectable, creamy bacon balsamic macaroni salad that is loaded with crunchy celery, bright red grape tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese and topped with a mouthwatering creamy balsamic ranch dressing.
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Creamy Smoked Mac and Cheese has a twist on the familiar favorite. Everyone loves this ridiculously good smoked mac and cheese!
Easy Corn Casserole without Jiffy
Easy corn casserole without Jiffy is so simple, using everyday, all-natural ingredients. This corn pudding recipe, simply put — is the best corn side dish. Plus easily adapt this recipe to be gluten-free.
Best Ever Cowboy Baked Beans
BEST EVER Cowboy Baked Beans are the perfect hearty side dish for your summer BBQ, Father’s Day, Picnic or July 4th celebration!
More Summer Salads
Nothing screams summer like fresh, crisp salads; try these family favorites.
- Best Easy Italian Chopped Salad Recipe
- Skip the pasta and make this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad from my friend Eliza!
- Best Steakhouse Wedge Salad Recipe (with Romaine)
- Green Goddess Salad with Chicken (Panera Copycat)
- Delicious Italian Pasta Salad
- Best Italian Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes
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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Recipe
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- 1 pound farfalle pasta or any short pasta, like penne, elbow, rotini or fusilli
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken diced, or use leftover chicken or make your own, cooled
- 1 cup bacon cooked crisp, crumbled (about 12-16 pieces of bacon)
- ½-1 cup yellow bell pepper diced (or use your favorite)
- ½-1 cup cucumber diced, I like English cucumbers and leave the skin on
- ½-1 cup grape tomatoes halved, or use cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup green onions chopped, whites and greens
- 4-8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese diced or shredded, or use your favorite cheese
Quick Homemade Ranch Dressing
- ¾ cup mayonnaise regular or light
- ¾ cup sour cream regular or light
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley sub with 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried chives sub with 1 tablespoon fresh chives
- ½ teaspoon dried dill sub with ½ tablespoon fresh dill
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup milk regular or plant-based
- Fresh dill minced for garnish
- While bacon cooks, cook pasta. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it reaches the desired al dente consistency. Once cooked, drain the tender pasta in a strainer and rinse it briefly under cold water to halt the cooking process.
- Dressing: In a small bowl by, combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, red wine vinegar, dried parsley flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried chives, dried dill, salt, pepper, and milk. Stir vigorously until the dressing is smooth and well combined. If the dressing is too thick, add more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency. Or use your favorite store-bought ranch dressing
- In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, diced chicken breast, crumbled bacon (save some for later), yellow bell pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes, green onions, and cheddar cheese. Stir well to distribute evenly.
- Pour the ranch dressing over the pasta salad mixture in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, ensuring all ingredients are evenly coated, yielding a creamy pasta salad. I used a large spatula or wooden spoon to gently toss and combine everything together.
- Sprinkle fresh dill for flavor and a pop of freshness. Top with reserved crispy bacon crumbles for an irresistible finish.
- Chill for at least one hour to allow the flavors to meld, up to 24 hours.
- Add minced red onion, shallots, or sliced black olives
- Use bell peppers like green, yellow, or roasted red peppers.
- Swap pasta shapes such as rotini, fusilli, or penne.
- Opt for rotisserie chicken for convenience and flavor, but diced chicken breast works too.
- Make it your own by adding or subtracting veggies like artichoke hearts or garbanzo beans.
- Switch up the dressing with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch or Green Goddess for a flavorful variation.
- Use shredded cheddar cheese instead of diced.