This recipe for chicken & red pesto pasta salad is a wonderful, flavorful dish that’s perfectly prepared ahead for picnics or backyard barbecues.
Use my homemade recipe for, red tomato pesto to make this dish extra special.
I love pasta salad. As soon as the warm weather hits, I start creating new versions to make for picnics, days at the beach and backyard barbecues.
Why this recipe works:
- For the chicken, I used some roasted chicken breast that I had leftover, but store-bought (freshly cooked) from your grocery store works well too.
- The mayonnaise mixed with the pesto creates creaminess with tons of flavor.
- This is a really versatile recipe. I used roasted red peppers, green onions, and cucumber, but tomatoes, celery or even some mozzarella (for a vegetarian version) work really well too.
I see a lot of recipes for pasta salads that use traditional green pesto, but since I’m not a big fan of green pesto, I almost always use red pesto when I want to add a kick of flavor. My homemade version is really easy to make!
I use sun-dried tomatoes instead of roasted red peppers, although you can use whatever you prefer. If you don’t have time you can also use store-bought, but I always think homemade is always worth the extra effort!
The first time I made it was for our first barbecue of the season. It was a huge hit, and there wasn’t a bit left. I gave the second batch to a friend (I always have an overflow of food in this house) and she texts me raving about how good it was.
I can always tell that I’m on to a winner if someone who doesn’t live under my roof gives a dish such a glowing review!
- Not a fan of red peppers? Sun-dried tomatoes are also great in this.
- Swap out the red pesto for green pesto for a different version of this salad.
- For a lower fat option, use low-fat mayonnaise or a mixture of mayonnaise and non-fat Greek yogurt.
Picnic Food Safety in Warmer Weather:
- To prevent bacteria in food from rapidly growing, picnic food has to be kept at certain temperatures. The key is to not allow your food to sit unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, or if the outdoor temperature is higher than 90° F, limit the time to one hour.
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- 2 cups dry pasta of your choice cooked, rinsed, and drained
- 2 cooked chicken breasts cut into cubes
- 3 green/spring onions sliced into rounds
- 1-2 jarred roasted red peppers sliced into smalls strips
- 1 unwaxed cucumber chopped
- 1 tablespoon red pesto plus more to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- fresh herbs of your choice chopped (I used parsley & basil)
- ½ cup mayonnaise plus more to taste
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl combine the pasta, chicken, green onions, roasted red peppers, and cucumber.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, lemon juice, herbs, mayonnaise, salt & pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
Update Notes: This post was originally published in June of 2015, but was republished with tips in June of 2018.