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No Mayo Chicken Pasta Salad

5 from 6 votes

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This light and herby chicken pasta salad recipe features chicken breasts seasoned with Mediterranean herbs, short pasta, cannellini beans and salad greens in a bright, lemony Dijon vinaigrette dressing. Make it in advance, then serve at room temperature for a delicious picnic or lunch!

Chicken pasta salad topped with fresh parsley and vinaigrette dressing in a serving bowl.

Pasta salads — you can’t live without ’em. But are you tired of bland pasta salad recipes that feature mushy pasta and gloppy, heavy dressings?

I solved that problem with this no-mayo chicken pasta salad recipe, which features chicken breasts seasoned with Mediterranean herbs, cannellini beans and salad greens in a zesty vinaigrette dressing.

This is a great dish to make ahead, when you want a quick, one-dish supper or lunch meal you can serve at room temperature.

Bring a really delicious pasta salad to a potlucks and summer picnic, and you’ll instantly become eligible for the Marta Stewart award!

Chicken pasta salad ingredients

  • Chicken breasts: I bake boneless, skinless breasts seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper, then slice the juicy meat into chunks to combine with the pasta and salad dressing. You can also use leftover roasted chicken or cooked rotisserie chicken. You’ll need about 4 cups chopped chicken.
  • Dried pasta: Short pasta shapes like shells, bow ties, penne or fusilli (rotini pasta) are best in pasta recipes paired with sauces or dressing, because they capture the sauce and are easy to eat in one bite. Cook the pasta until perfectly al dente to be sure it doesn’t become soggy.
  • Cannellini beans: These creamy white beans complete the salad, helping to make it a hearty salad meal. Substitute with navy beans, chickpeas or other bean you enjoy (or leave them out).
  • Greens: Add whatever salad greens you like. I love nutty arugula combine with parsley leaves. Be sure to add them just before tossing with the vinaigrette so they don’t wilt.
Herbs de Provence on a white linen towel with purple flowers and mortar and pestle.
Herbs de Provence or other herb blends are delicious in chicken pasta salad.

Best dressing for pasta salad

To make a lighter dish, this recipe combine chopped chicken, greens and al dente pasta without using mayonnaise. The secret is mixing up a bright, balanced Dijon dressing that ties it all together.

  • The vinaigrette comes together in seconds! Shake all ingredients in a jar, or whisk in a small bowl.
Ingredients for making pasta salad dressing, including a jar of mustard, cup of olive oil, and bowls holding lemon, shallots, garlic, honey and dried herbs.
Ingredients for the zesty Dijon vinaigrette dressing.
  • Vinegar: Use a mild white white wine vinegar, white balsamic, apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice adds a bright citrus acidity to the dressing.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Herbs: Herbs de Provence is an aromatic French-Mediterranean herb blend, usually a mixture of many dried herbs, but the most basic ones are tarragon, thyme, rosemary, lavender and fennel. You can easily find it in supermarkets or online. To find the best blends, look closely at the jars and check that you can see actual, greenish herb leaves (rather than gray dusty bits) and lots of purple lavender petals.
  • Garlic and shallot: These aromatics punch up the taste of the vinaigrette. Use very finely chopped shallot (minced) and garlic so their flavors absorb quickly into the pasta.
  • Honey: Add a touch of honey to balance out the dressing — one tablespoon is my preference.

Steps for prepping and baking the chicken

Cooking and serving tips:

  • Chicken pasta salad tastes best when it’s served slightly warm or at room temperature, not straight from the refrigerator. To make in advance, mix the dressing and bake the chicken up to 3 days ahead.
  • Combine the warm pasta with the vinaigrette dressing for best flavor.
  • Drizzle a little more dressing over the pasta salad just before serving — the pasta will absorb the dressing as it sits.
  • Shell pasta has sturdy texture and perfect shape for capturing the dressing, but any short-cut pasta shape will work. Rather than following the package directions, slightly undercook the pasta so it keeps it shape.
  • Serve as a light main course for dinner, lunch, or as a side dish.

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Chicken pasta salad topped with fresh parsley and vinaigrette dressing in a serving bowl.

No Mayo Chicken Pasta Salad

Karen Tedesco
This light and herby chicken pasta salad recipe features chicken breasts seasoned with Mediterranean herbs, short pasta, cannellini beans and salad greens in a bright, lemony Dijon vinaigrette dressing. Serve at room temperature for a laidback lunch, supper or picnic meal.
Print Pin
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Chicken
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

Dijon Vinaigrette

  • cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped garlic, 1-2 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, or other dried herb blend
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Salad:

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1-1¼ pounds total
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • teaspoons herbs de Provence, or other dried herb blend
  • Olive oil
  • 8 ounces (225 g) pasta shells, or other bite-size pasta shape such as penne, fusilli or bow ties
  • 1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 cups baby arugula or other salad greens
  • ¼ cup (25 g) grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions 

Make the dressing

  • Put the ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until the dressing is smooth and emulsified. Season with more salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice, to suit your taste.

Make the salad

  • Preheat the oven to 425 (220 C) degrees.
  • Bake the chicken: Put the chicken breasts on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Drizzle with some olive oil, turning them over to coat. Bake the chicken about 20 minutes, turning them over halfway, until the chicken is cooked through. When it's cool enough to handle, slice the chicken into bite-size pieces. Reserve the pan juices.
  • Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.
  • Add the beans, greens and half the dressing to the pasta and toss together. Arrange the sliced chicken on top of the salad, and pour over the reserved pan juice.
  • To serve, drizzle with additional dressing to taste and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Enjoy the salad warm or at room temperature.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The salad dressing and baked chicken can be made up to 3 days ahead. For the best flavor, toss the pasta with the dressing just before serving.
  • Chicken pasta salad tastes best when it’s served slightly warm or at room temperature, rather than straight out of the fridge.
  • Drizzle a little more dressing over the pasta salad just before serving — the pasta will absorb the dressing as it sits.
  • Shell pasta has sturdy texture and perfect shape for capturing the dressing, but any short-cut pasta shape will work.

Nutrition

Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 344mg | Potassium: 288mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 226IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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