Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad with Homemade Croutons

Easy and refreshing Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad recipe that goes together in no time. Serve it as a main course or side salad! 

chicken caesar pasta salad recipe

When we’re trying to think of simple dinner ideas, it’s easy to forget about main dish salads. A main dish salad can be light, yet filling at the same time. That’s why I like this Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad recipe so much. The pasta makes it hearty and filling, and the other ingredients are fresh and light. When combined, you have a delicious and simple dinner for family gatherings, potlucks, or regular weeknight meals. This salad is requested by my family every time they visit!

Why This Recipe Works

The homemade croutons are an easy way to add flavor and crunch to this salad. They can be made in advance, so all you have to do is toss them in before serving. Adding cooked chicken makes this a complete meal-in-one! I use rotisserie chicken, but leftovers from a roasted chicken or baked chicken breasts work as well. 

chicken caesar pasta salad ingredients

Ingredient Notes + Variations

For a different take on the classic Caesar salad, here are ingredient substitutions you can make:

  • Pasta: instead of penne pasta, use fusilli, rotini, or other short pasta shape. You can also use gluten-free or whole wheat pasta.
  • Lettuce: other leafy greens can be used in place of the chopped romaine, such as spinach, arugula, kale, or mixed greens. You can also add shredded carrots, red cabbage, or cucumber for extra crunch and nutrition.
  • Chicken: any other protein can be substituted for the chicken. Suggestions are canned tuna, grilled shrimp, or grilled salmon. For a vegetarian version, you can skip the meat and add firm tofu cubes or chickpeas.
  • Parmesan cheese: substitute any other hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano, Asiago, or Grana Padano.
  • Caesar dressing: use bottled or homemade dressing…whatever you prefer.

How To Make Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

  • In a large pot, boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  • Wash and chop two heads of crisp fresh romaine lettuce, and place in a large bowl.
  • Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add to the bowl of lettuce.
  • Incorporate the slightly cooled pasta along with the dressing into the bowl.
  • Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the mixture and toss once more.
  • Allow the salad to chill in the fridge for about 15-30 minutes.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Complete the dish by serving it alongside homemade crispy croutons.

Helpful Tips

  • Any kind of chicken can be used. I baked chicken breast tenders for this post, but I almost always use rotisserie chicken. This is a great meal idea to use up any sort of leftover chicken.
  • Since I spent extra time to make homemade croutons, I took a short cut on the dressing, and used this bottled creamy Caesar dressing.
  • Use whatever Parmesan cheese you have on hand. The all-time best taste comes from freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. However, I had a tub of shredded Parmesan in our refrigerator, so that’s what I used.
  • The homemade croutons are like the icing on a cake. They take the taste level up several notches, but of course, any type of store-bought croutons can be used.
chicken caesar pasta salad with homemade croutons

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of pasta works best for Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad?

Short pasta shapes such as fusilli, penne, rotini, or farfalle (bowtie) pasta work best. These types of pasta have a good surface area for the dressing to cling to, and are easy to eat with the other salad ingredients. Additionally, their sturdy structure holds up well when mixed with other ingredients like lettuce and chicken, making them an ideal choice for this salad.

Can I use store-bought Caesar dressing, or should I make it from scratch?

Yes, you can use store-bought Caesar dressing! It’s very convenient and saves time. If you prefer a fresher taste or want to control the ingredients and seasoning, making your own Caesar salad dressing from scratch is also an excellent option.
Homemade Caesar dressing typically includes ingredients like garlic, anchovy paste (or Worcestershire sauce as a substitute), Dijon mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

What is the ideal serving size for Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad?

As a main dish, a serving size is approximately 1.5 to 2 cups (350-450 grams) per person. As a side dish, a smaller portion of 1 cup (225-250 grams) per person would be appropriate, as it will complement the other dishes being served without being too filling.

Can I prepare the Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad in advance? If so, how long will it stay fresh in the refrigerator?

Prepare the pasta, chicken, and lettuce. Put the prepared ingredients in a large bowl or airtight container, but DO NOT MIX THEM. Place them in sections, like on the cutting board pictured above. Cover and store in the refrigerator. You can prep the ingredients up to a day in advance. When you are ready to serve, add the Parmesan cheese and dressing. Toss well, and top with croutons. 

What side dishes go well with Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad?

1. Bread: Garlic bread, garlic breadsticks, or homemade savory cheese bread.
2. Soup is a warm and comforting accompaniment. Suggestions are Corn Chowder or Chicken Florentine soup.
3. Fruit salad or fruit skewers: A refreshing fruit dish can cleanse the palate and balance the richness of the pasta salad.

chicken caesar pasta salad in pyrex bowl

More Easy Salad Recipes

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chicken caesar pasta salad recipe

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Easy and refreshing Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad recipe that goes together in no time. Serve it as a main course or side salad! 
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4.93 from 26 votes
Servings: 4 main dish servings
Author: Ann Drake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Refrigeration time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups penne pasta (measure before cooking)
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken breast pieces
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup Caesar dressing
  • homemade croutons

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  • Wash and chop two heads of romaine lettuce, and place in a large bowl.
  • Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add to the bowl with lettuce.
  • Add the slightly cooled pasta and dressing.
  • Toss to combine well.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and toss again.
  • Chill in refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Serve with homemade croutons.

Nutrition

Calories: 448kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 846mg | Potassium: 347mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 251mg | Iron: 2mg
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