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Macro Friendly Italian Chicken Pasta Salad (High Protein)

published: May 18, 2023

updated: October 25, 2023

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Pasta salad is a summertime staple. Back when I was a kid, it was the only picnic/party salad I would eat, and I wouldn’t eat it if it had anything “weird” in it. So my mom always made this super simple pasta salad for us that included only a handful of ingredients and we all loved it.

Fast forward to my adult years and I still love that classic, simple salad that my mom used to make. In fact, it’s usually my go-to when we have an event that requires a dish-to-pass. And here’s the thing, I am always asked for the recipe. It’s so embarrassingly simple that I always feel weird giving it out. But here’s what I’ve learned- recipes don’t need to be hard, fancy, or complicated. For most of us, we just want to enjoy yummy food!

So I’ve taken my somehow famous pasta salad and put a macro-friendly spin on it, and by this, I mean that I’ve added more protein and shaved off some of the fat. This high-protein Italian Chicken Pasta Salad is everything you could want from a summer salad and then some.


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3 Reasons Why You’ll Love Our Macro-Friendly Italian Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe

pasta salad over the top shot
  1. High Protein: As someone who prioritizes consuming ample protein each day, I really try to be mindful of the choices I make so that I’m not left at the end of the day trying to play catch up. Our High Protein Italian Chicken Pasta Salad includes three protein sources to really give this dish a nice dose per serving.
  2. Customizable: Remember how I said that I like my pasta salad to be simple? The beautiful thing about this recipe is that you can easily customize it to meet your needs and preferences. There are so many different veggies, beans, etc. that you can add!
  3. Minimal Ingredients: There are a grand total of 6 ingredients in this recipe. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated! You can whip up a batch of this healthier pasta salad anytime.

You may also love our macro-friendly pasta salad recipe!

Ingredients

  • Protein Pasta – In order to get the most protein out of this dish, I used protein pasta to add a few grams of protein per serving.
  • Pre-Cooked Chicken – Using pre-cooked chicken is a wonderful way to save a lot of time and energy in the kitchen.
  • Mozzarella Pearls – Mozzarella Pearls are a light cheese that adds flavor and texture to the dish without a ton of extra fat.
  • Turkey Pepperoni – Turkey pepperoni adds a little spice and protein to this pasta salad without adding a lot of fat.
  • Bell Peppers – These add flavor, crunch, and some additional micronutrients to your pasta salad.
  • Light Italian Dressing – This is where the majority of the flavor comes from, but can also be a major source of extra calories if you aren’t mindful of your selection. By choosing a light Italian dressing, you can save a lot of extra calories without sacrificing taste.
ingredients for High Protein Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Kitchen Tools Required

  • Large pot
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon

How to Make High-Protein Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add your protein pasta. Cook according to the box directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, cut up your bell peppers, pre-cooked chicken, and turkey pepperonis into small pieces.
  3. Add all ingredients besides the pasta to a large mixing bowl, covering everything with the Italian dressing and allowing it to marinate while the pasta cooks.
  4. Once the pasta is finished, drain, rinse with cold water, and allow it to cool.
  5. Once the pasta is cool, add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl. Stir everything together until all ingredients all fully coated with Italian dressing.
  6. Place a lid on the bowl (or a piece of saran wrap) and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld together. Enjoy!
mixing in ingredients for pasta salad
stirring the pasta salad

Swaps or Alternatives

  • Pasta: I used a protein pasta made from chickpeas, but you can use whatever pasta variety you like best! If you’re gluten-free, try a gluten-free pasta variety.
  • Pre-cooked chicken: I grabbed a bag of pre-cooked, pre-cut chicken breast, but you can make your own chicken, used canned, a rotisserie chicken, etc.
  • Mozzarella Pearls: I like this cheese variety because it’s on the lighter side calorically speaking, but you can use any cheese you wish. Sharp cheddar cheese cubes go great with pasta salad.
  • Turkey Pepperoni – If you don’t like turkey pepperoni or don’t have any on hand, you can use regular pepperoni or even salami in its place.
  • Bell peppers – These are a classic addition to pasta salad, but you can swap them for any veggie you prefer or have on hand. Cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, and celery all work great.
  • Italian Dressing – I chose to use G Hughes Sugar-Free Italian Dressing to save on calories but you can opt to go for a full-calorie version or any other lightened-up version you can find. You can also make your own dressing!

Quick Tip(s)

Here are a couple of tips for making this the best Italian chicken pasta salad:

Allow the ingredients to soak in the dressing while the pasta is cooking to get the marination process started.

Once the pasta is cooked and stirred into the rest of the salad, stick it in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to really allow the dressing to soak in and get flavorful. I often like to make my pasta salad the day before my event and allow it to refrigerate overnight.

Macros & Nutrition Information

Serving size: ⅙ recipe

MacrosNutrition
Calories279
Protein16g
Carbs12g
Fat17g

High Protein Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Tami Smith
Bursting with flavor and packed with protein, this higher-protein pasta salad includes everything you love about this popular picnic dish but with a healthier twist. With multiple protein sources and the added nutrients from crispy bell peppers, this dish is sure to be an instant classic at your next get-together. It also makes the perfect meal prepped lunch!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 279 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Large Pot
  • 1 Large mixing bowl
  • 1 Mixing spoon

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box (8 oz.) protein pasta – I used Banza
  • 8 oz. pre-cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 25 medium Turkey pepperonis, diced
  • 3 oz. mozzarella pearls
  • 1 cup bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 bottle (355 ml) light Italian dressing

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add your protein pasta. Cook according to the box directions.
  • While the pasta is cooking, cut up your bell peppers, pre-cooked chicken, and turkey pepperonis into small pieces.
  • Add all ingredients besides the pasta to a large mixing bowl, covering everything with the Italian dressing and allowing it to marinate while the pasta cooks.
  • Once the pasta is finished, drain, rinse with cold water, and allow it to cool.
  • Once the pasta is cool, add it to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl. Stir everything together until all ingredients all fully coated with Italian dressing.
  • Place a lid on the bowl (or a piece of saran wrap) and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld together. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 279kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 16gFat: 17g
Keyword high protein, macro friendly
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About the author, Tami Smith

Hi, I'm Tami, a certified macro coach, nutritionist and personal trainer! I love creating and sharing quick and easy macro-friendly recipes, and working out in my garage gym!

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