The Best Pasta Salad Recipes

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From classic pasta and macaroni salads to unique twists on familiar favorites, I’m serving up the best pasta salads recipes! Are you looking for a mouth-watering side dish for your next barbecue, picnic, or potluck? Look no further than these flavorful, unique, and totally delicious pasta salad recipe!

four images of the best pasta salad recipes Pinterest image.

Pasta salad is pretty much the most perfect side dish. (It can also makes a tasty entrée or side for lunch or dinner, and it’s pretty simple to put together.) For those reasons and more, pasta salad recipes are a staple at my house and abundant here on Inspired by Charm.

In today’s post, I’ve rounded up the best pasta salad recipes. I hope it’s handy for you to have all of these recipes in one place. If you’re like me, when you get to the end of this piece, you’ll be asking yourself, “Which one should I fix today?”

I love a good recipe collection. Need something more with your pasta salad? Check out the best ice cream desserts, my favorite mixed drink recipes, and fun and unique cookie recipes.

Pasta Salad or Macaroni Salad?

While both pasta salad and macaroni salad are popular side dishes often enjoyed during picnics, barbecues, and potlucks, there are subtle distinctions that set them apart.

  • Pasta salad encompasses a broader category, referring to a dish where various types of pasta are combined with an array of ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, cheeses, and dressings. It offers versatility in terms of pasta shapes, flavors, and ingredient combinations, allowing for a wide range of creative options.
  • Macaroni salad is a specific type of pasta salad that typically uses elbow macaroni as its base. It is known for its creamy texture, often achieved with the addition of mayonnaise-based dressings. Macaroni salad traditionally includes ingredients like diced vegetables, pickles, and hard-boiled eggs, resulting in a nostalgic and comforting flavor profile.

While both pasta salad and macaroni salad provide a delightful way to enjoy pasta in a chilled form, their distinguishing characteristics make each of them unique and well-loved in their own right.

Looking for traditional green salads? I’ve got those too. You’ll love this collection of leaf green salad recipes.

Why You’ll Love These Recipes

  • They offer a refreshing and satisfying side dish or meal option, perfect for hot summer days.
  • With a variety of unique twists on the traditional pasta and macaroni salads, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a classic pasta salad recipe or something with a little more pizzazz, this list has got you covered.
  • These recipes are straightforward and easy-to-make. It doesn’t get more simple then tossing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl and giving it a good stir. Right?

Pasta salad is a versatile and delicious dish that can be enjoyed all year round. Whether you prefer classic or unique recipes, there’s something for everyone on this list. Let’s get into the recipes.

Classic Recipes

If you’re craving a classic pasta or macaroni salad, this section is for you. These recipes are perfect for those who love simple, yet flavorful dishes.

a big bowl of macaroni salad garnished with fresh dill.

Really Good Macaroni Salad (Mayo-based)

Knowing that some folks have strong feelings about macaroni salad, it took me a while to muster the courage to share my favorite. This version uses mayonnaise and a lot of other ingredients that guarantee it’s “really good.” (This salad is also part of my “really good” recipe collection on IBC. So is the Really Good Pasta Salad recipe that’s linked later in this post.)

big bowl of Miracle Whip Macaroni Salad.

Macaroni Salad (Miracle Whip-based)

The inspiration for this recipe came from the salad my dad fixes for our family’s annual Fourth of July celebration. As with his pasta salad, mine has the familiar zip and tang of Miracle Whip. But being who I am, I’m compelled to take things up a notch with the addition of red pepper, celery, dill relish, and a few seasonings.

up close shot of a bowl of the best pasta salad recipe.

Really Good Pasta Salad

I promise you this pasta salad recipe lives up to its name. Besides corkscrew pasta and olive-oil-based Italian dressing, it has pepperoni, salami, sharp cheddar, banana peppers, green peppers, broccoli, grape tomatoes, and olives. It can’t get much better than that!

Unique Pasta Salads

If you’re looking for something a bit different than the classic pasta salad, try one of these unique recipes. These unique pasta salad recipes are sure to impress your guests and add some excitement to any meal.

Pine Nut and Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad in a big bowl and served on a small plate.

Pine Nut and Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe contains four things I love: pine nuts, arugula, feta, and pasta. The delightful flavor combination is sure to impress even the most discerning palates. And besides all that deliciousness, there’s no chopping involved!

The BEST Tortellini Pasta Salad served in a big bowl.

Tortellini Pasta Salad

Take your pasta salad game to the next level with this Tortellini Pasta Salad. Just combine cheese tortellini, pepperoni, cheese, mixed veggies, and pine nuts and toss all of that with a bold red wine vinaigrette. A new go-to for lunch? Dinner? Get-togethers? Yes, all of the above!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta served in a big bowl.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

The star of this dish is the flavor-burst from the sun-dried tomatoes. But the supporting players-garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, arugula, and feta cheese-are equally noteworthy. Your friends and family will applaud your decision to make this pasta salad recipe.

Pasta Salad with Roasted Mushrooms served in a big bowl on a orange stripe napkin.

Pasta Salad with Roasted Mushrooms

For this pasta salad recipe, you first roast tomatoes and any kind of mushrooms you like. (Your kitchen will smell heavenly.) Once cooled, they are mixed with the pasta of your choice, cannellini beans, Parmesan cheese, and an oil and vinegar dressing that has a hint of sweetness. What an easy and delicious salad!

Fall Harvest Pasta Salad Recipe in a large white bowl on a marble countertop.

Fall Harvest Pasta Salad

Although this pasta salad recipe is resplendent with the colors of fall, the flavors are wonderful year-round. Roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, red onions, dried cranberries, multi-colored pasta, and more are mixed with poppyseed dressing. My guess is you’ll be making this every chance you get.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad in a large bowl with a serving on a small plate.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is loaded with veggies-zucchini, yellow squash, onion, green and red peppers, and eggplant-that you roast on the grill or in the oven. All that goodness is combined with whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, julienned basil, and a bit of pesto. Yum!

California Cobb Pasta Salad in a large white bowl with a spoon.

California Cobb Pasta Salad

I love Cobb salad and probably enjoy it, even more, when it’s combined with pasta. The Golden State reference in the recipe name is a nod to the chopped avocado that you add right before serving. The simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing make this salad light and bright for a mid-day or evening dish.

The BEST Ramen Noodle Saladin a large bowl and served on a small plate.

Ramen Noodle Salad

This ramen noodle salad is so simple to make, full of flavor, and always a crowd pleaser. Plus it’s so easy to make and very inexpensive. You’re sure to love this easy and delicious pasta salad recipe!

Radiatori Salad in bowl.

Radiatori Salad

Pasta, romaine lettuce, homemade croutons, chopped vegetables, and Den Dressing come together to create this bold and flavorful Radiatori Salad recipe. It’s perfect for picnics, parties, and so much more! 

The BEST Cucumber Pasta Salad in a large white bowl and served on a plate.

Cucumber Pasta Salad

This Cucumber Pasta Salad is a light and refreshing take on classic pasta salad. Made with just a few simple ingredients, you can whip this recipe up in no time for a quick dinner side dish or a new picnic/party favorite.

Tortellini Antipasto Pasta Salad served in a large white bowl.

Tortellini Antipasto Salad

Flavorful antipasto and classic pasta salad come together to create this bold and beautiful Tortellini Antipasto Pasta Salad. This unique and delectable pasta salad recipe will quickly become your new entertaining go-to!

Delicious Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad in a large bowl with a serving on a plate.

Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad

Ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and roasted chicken come together to create this impressive Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad recipe inspired by one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Unique Macaroni Salads

If you’re a macaroni salad enthusiast looking to try something new, you’re in luck. There are plenty of unique macaroni salad recipes out there that will tantalize your taste buds and broaden your culinary horizons.

Broccoli and Chicken Pasta Salad in a large white bowl.

Broccoli and Chicken Pasta Salad

I recently made this salad for the first time, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It’s a mashup of classic broccoli salad and chicken pasta salad. If you enjoy either salad or both of them, this is the entrée you’ll want to whip up for that next special luncheon or supper.

the best Southwest Pasta Salad served in a large bowl.

Southwest Pasta Salad

In this fun twist on the classic, wagon wheel pasta is mixed with corn, beans, roasted red peppers, jalapeños, and ranch dressing. The touch of heat and Southwestern-inspired ingredients add up to a pasta salad recipe that’s the ideal side for any time you want to kick up your heals.

close up photo of large bowl of blt macaroni salad.

BLT Macaroni Salad

Anyone who’s a fan of the ever-popular bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich will adore this pasta salad recipe. Just as you’d expect, the dressing is mayonnaise-based. Plus, it doesn’t take long to mix up a bowl of this salad for a light summer supper or last-minute cookout with loved ones.

Tips and Tricks

When it comes to making a pasta salad, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that it is flavorful and satisfying.

  1. Choose a pasta shape that will hold up well in the salad. Cavatappi (my personal favorites),rotini, fusilli, and farfalle are all great options that can stand up to the other ingredients without getting mushy. 
  2. Make sure that you cook the pasta to al dente, meaning that it still has a firm bite to it. Overcooked pasta will turn to mush in the salad and won’t hold up to the dressing and other toppings. Once the pasta is cooked, rinse it under cold water to cool it down and stop the cooking process. 
  3. Get creative with your toppings. Vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers add color and crunch, while protein sources like grilled chicken or shrimp can make the salad more substantial. Fresh herbs like basil or cilantro can also add a pop of flavor and freshness to the dish. 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can create a delicious pasta salad that will be a hit at any gathering.

three pasta salad recipes Pinterest image.

Frequently Asked Questions 

With so many options for mix-ins and dressings, it’s no surprise that there are some questions that come up when making pasta salad. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

How far in advance can I make pasta salad?

In most cases, pasta salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Just keep it refrigerated until ready to serve.

Can I use any type of pasta for pasta salad?

YES! As you might have noticed I used a variety of different pasta shapes. While elbow macaroni is technically the classic choice for pasta salad, you can use any type of pasta you like. Rotini, bowtie, and penne are all great options.

How much dressing should I use?

A: It’s best to start with a smaller amount of dressing and add more as needed. You don’t want the pasta salad to be too soggy. Some times I will even reserve some dressing as the pasta salad can get more dry as it sits.

Can I make pasta salad without mayonnaise?

Absolutely! There are many delicious pasta salad recipes that use vinaigrettes or other dressings instead of mayonnaise. I typically refer to creamier pasta salads as macaroni salad.

How long will pasta salad keep in the fridge?

A: Pasta salad will keep in the fridge for up to five days, but it’s best to eat it within three days for the best flavor.

Even More Delicious Recipe Collections:

Which of these pasta salads do you like best? For me, it’s hard to pick just one. As regular readers of IBC know, my faves are always changing as I continue to create new recipes! I hope you’ll give one (or more) of these pasta salad recipes a try!

If you do, please leave a comment and a 5-star rating below. 

Want more from Inspired by Charm? Follow along on Instagram and TikTok for daily updates and behind-the-scenes looks at my processes. There’s even more inspiration on Facebook and Pinterest!

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  1. Michael, thanks for nudging even us adventurous cooks to expand our joy in the kitchen. Your recipes stand out and can be trusted to please. Please don’t give in to complacency or boredom in doing what you do, Even the cheerleader needs a cheerleader sometimes. So grateful you share the journey even when life feels challenging. Sending love your way..

  2. All of these look delicious! I cannot wait to try them out. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to all of your posts. You have such an eye for design. You are inspiring. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  3. Michael,
    I wanted to thank you for this recipe. I made it and it was a hit!
    Also, I want to thank you for your music playlists. I just found them on spotify, and have enjoyed listening.
    Thank you for putting the time into the playlists for our enjoyment.

  4. Hello Michael, Which one should I fix today?! That was a rhetorical question though! Okay so I have cranked up a list. Really good macaroni salad goes number 1, for its sheer presence! Followed by Pasta salad with roasted mushrooms, for the simplicity in cooking plus the mushrooms that I love. Third would be Really good pasta salad, with all my favourite ingredients. “Inspired by charm” indeed!

  5. we made the arugula pesto salad the other night and COULD NOT STOP eating it! i switched the feta for fontina, but man … what a good salad! even my picky 14-year-old who doesn’t like salad loved this. can’t wait to try your other pasta salad recipes … thanks for this one!