Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad is loaded with all the flavors you love like zesty Ranch dressing, salty bacon, seasoned chicken, and tender pasta noodles.
This chicken bacon ranch pasta salad recipe was the very first pasta salad recipe to be published on the blog. We were still living in Florida, contributing our work to another blogger, and needed a post to share to her site.
John opened the cabinets and fridge, and said, “I’m going to make a cold pasta salad.” My immediate thoughts went to a macaroni salad of sorts, but that’s not what he had planned at all.
He started pulling out all these random ingredients like bacon, chicken, and pasta, and said they for pasta salad. I learned a long time ago not to question his cooking methods, because he’s brilliant at pulling things together.
A short time later later, he had prepared one of the best chicken pasta salads I’ve ever tasted. I’ve been completely hooked on this chicken bacon ranch pasta salad ever since. Actually, I’ve been hooked on pasta salads in general.
We’ve added several to the site since this recipe was created. A couple of my favorite pasta salads are our Greek Pasta Salad and Southwest Pasta Salad. The Greek Pasta Salad is full of Kalamata olives, feta cheese, purple onions, and topped with a homemade Greek salad dressing. The Southwest Pasta Salad is loaded with black beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, and tossed in a creamy Southwest dressing.
Enough about our other pasta salads, let me tell you how to make the chicken bacon ranch pasta salad!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Ingredients:
Let’s start with ingredients. Here’s what you will need to make this cold pasta salad:
- Pasta: We used rigatoni in the photos and penne in the video. Any short or small pasta will work. Examples of short pasta types are ziti, rotini, cavatappi, penne, rigatoni, farfalle, shells, orecchiette, and campanelle.
- Chicken: We generally use raw chicken breasts. However, chicken thighs could also be used. The cook time would vary slightly. Make sure to season the chicken with salt and pepper before cooking. Seasoning the chicken adds so much additional flavor to this dish.
- Bacon: As a rule of thumb, I always use center cut bacon. It tends to have less fat and better looking lean meat. Additionally, I tend to shy away from maple, apple wood, or hickory flavored bacon for this pasta salad. The added flavors in the bacon can throw off the other flavors in the dish.
- Cheese: Sharp cheddar cheese in my go-to. I’ve found that mild and medium cheddar tends to get lost with among all the other ingredients. However, that is subjective, so choose your favorite.
- Ranch Dressing: Sometimes we break down and purchase our favorite bottled ranch dressing from the grocery store. However, my preference is to make our homemade spicy ranch dressing.
- Green Onions/Chives: These add a nice freshness to the pasta salad. I do use them sparingly, since they can be quite strong.
I recommend saving a little ranch dressing or using a little extra the following day to freshen up the cold pasta salad. The noodles have a tendency to soak up a lot of the dressing after its been placed in the refrigerator.
Another recommendation is to save some of the bacon, cheese, and green onions to use as garnishes. They add a nice texture to the finished bacon chicken ranch pasta salad.
How to Make Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad:
- Cook the Chicken: Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes, then season it with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and spray with cooking spray. Transfer the chicken to the pan, and cook on all sides until cooked completely (about 7-10 minutes). Set aside.
- Cook the Noodles: While the chicken cooks, cook the noodles according to package directions. After they are cooked to desired texture, drain, then transfer to an ice bath. Drain again from the ice bath, and set aside.
- Prepare the Bacon: Cook the bacon according to package directions and to desired crispness. After the bacon finishes cooking, blot off the grease with a paper towel and cut into pieces. Set aside.
- Toss Everything Together: In a large bowl, toss together the diced chicken, drained noodles, bacon, shredded cheese, onions, and ranch dressing. Combine well so ingredients are mixed and evenly coated.
- Chill: Transfer the pasta salad to a container with a lid, then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Add optional garnishes just before serving.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Variations:
- Pasta: We really like penne or rigatoni for this recipe, but use whatever you have on hand.
- Ranch Dressing: Use your favorite brand or homemade version.
- Bacon: I like to keep it simple by using center cut; however, thick cut would work well in this recipe. Use whatever you like, thick, center cut, cured, or uncured. 🙂 Precooked would be another good option.
- Chicken: Chicken breasts have always been our go-to for this pasta salad, but chicken thighs could also be used. The cook time will need to be adjusted. Canned chicken is also an option (make sure it’s well drained if there is liquid). Rotisserie chicken is another idea.
- Cheese: Sharp cheddar is my favorite for this recipe, but if you don’t like cheddar swap it out with something different.
- Green Onions: If the green onions are too strong, omit them completely.
- Add extra ingredients: Nothing says you can’t add more bacon, cheese, ranch, or chicken. Adjust the ingredients to fit your tastes.
More Pasta Salad Recipes:
Need more hot and cold pasta salad recipe inspiration? Here are a few favorites:
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- 1 Lb. Chicken Breast (cooked, chopped)
- 1/2 Pound Bacon (cooked, chopped)
- 2 Ounces Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1 Cup Ranch Dressing (store bought or homemade)
- 8 Ounces Dry, Penne Pasta
- 1/4 Cup Diced Green Onions or Chives
- First, spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray, and dice the raw chicken into 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the chicken and cook it over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is done. Set it aside for later.
- While the chicken cooks, begin cooking the pasta per the box instructions. Once done, drain the noodles and place them in an ice bath to suspend the cooking process. Drain the water from the ice bath, and set the pasta aside.
- Next, cook the bacon per the package instructions. When it's done, dice it into small pieces.
- Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, then toss to combine. Mix well to ensure the ingredients are evenly coated with ranch dressing.
- Store the pasta salad in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to serve. Once you are ready to serve it, portion it out and sprinkle the cheese, green onions, and bacon on each serving.