This high protein pasta salad recipe is packed with blacked chicken, black beans, colorful veggies, and a creamy southwestern dressing made of Greek yogurt and spices.
Pasta salads are a go-to meal prep for me for busy weeks. I love this lemon chicken pasta salad as well as this California cobb pasta salad. They are great for enjoying a quick lunch or dinner because it’s packed with protein and veggies as well as a ton of flavor.
This version is a creamy southwest pasta salad recipe made with pan seared and roasted blackened chicken. The whole recipe produces several servings so it’s great to feed the whole family or even serve as a side dish for a potluck or BBQ.
Why This Recipe Works:
- High Protein: I prefer higher protein recipes because they keep me fuller, and longer throughout the day. This recipe has grilled chicken, and black beans, and you can even use a higher protein pasta (like chickpea pasta or this lower carb high protein pasta Kaizen pasta created by my friend Arash @shredhappens).
- Flavorful Veggies: Adding a variety of spicy and sweet bell pepper, grilled corn, and fresh herbs like cilantro makes it fresh and herbaceous.
- Spices: The spices throughout this recipe are slightly spicy, and smoky, and add a citrusy punch of flavor.
- Large Pot
- Collander or Strainer
- Large Bowl
- Small Bowl
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
Welcome to my virtual classroom! Use the guided notes below where I often answer commonly asked questions I get from readers and cooks just like you.
This information is meant to help you have a stronger understanding of this healthy pasta salad recipe and the process so you can find success all on your own.
Ready to begin cooking? Simply jump to the recipe card below and begin.
- 1 lb. Chicken
- 8 oz. Pasta (small cut shapes work best here)
- Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed
- Frozen or Grilled Corn
- Red Pepper
- Poblano Pepper
- Jalapeno Pepper
- Red Onion
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Avocado (I add this to the top before serving)
- Lime Juice
- Greek Yogurt
- Olive Oil
- Spice (black pepper, salt, paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Mix the spices together first in a small bowl and divide it for both the chicken and the dressing.
- To prepare the chicken, lightly oil it and add a few teaspoons of seasoning to each chicken breast.
- Place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat on the stove to sear the seasoning onto the chicken, about 2-3 minutes. When it easily lifts, flip it in the pan and then transfer the entire skillet into the oven and roast it for about 15 minutes or until the chicken hits 165 F. internally.
- Next, boil the pasta of your choice according to the box directions. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, strain it and rinse it with cold water to cool it down and stop the cooking process. Place the cooled pasta into a large mixing bowl.
- Dice all the vegetables and rinse the black beans and corn and place everything into the bowl with the pasta.
- Slice the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and toss them into the pasta bowl as well.
Creamy Southwestern Greek Dressing:
The dressing for this recipe is made with plain Greek yogurt. This is a great way to get that creaminess (and a little acidity) without having to use something like mayo, While it’s not strictly a salad dressing per se, it is a cohesive mixture that brings the whole pasta salad together.
To make it, simply combine the greek yogurt, lime juice, remaining spices, and olive oil together into a bowl and whisk to combine. Greek yogurt is on the thicker side so feel free to add a little more olive oil to it to thin it out if you prefer.
You can substitute the greek yogurt with a nondairy vegan form (though I’d caution against anything coconut based because the flavors would clash) or sub with sour cream too.
Pour the dressing mixture over the top of the pasta salad ingredients and fold until fully coated and combined.
- Don’t overcook the pasta– Pasta salads absorb the other liquids and dressing and will become more tender over time.
- You can serve this right away, but the flavors only get better over time!
- Easily keep this recipe plant based by omitting the chicken and making an olive oil and red wine vinegar based dressing instead.
- Pour individual servings into jars or glass containers for easy meal prep and grab and go options.
Creamy Southwestern Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp. Smoky Paprika
- 1.5 tsp. Cumin
- 1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
- 1.5 tsp. Onion Powder
- 1 tsp. Oregano
- 1 tsp. Thyme
Pasta Salad Ingredients
- 1 lb. Chicken
- 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
- 8 oz. Pasta I used Kaizen pasta
- 1 Red Pepper diced small
- 1 Poblano Pepper diced small
- 1 Jalapeno diced small, seeds removed
- 1/2 Red Onion diced small
- 1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro minced
- 1 Avocado cubed
- 1 can Black Beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup Frozen or Canned Corn drained
Creamy Southwestern Dressing
- 1/3 cup Olive Oil
- 2/3 cup Greek Yogurt plain
- 2 Limes juiced
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Start by mixing all the spices for the blackening seasoning together and set it aside. Some of the spice mix will be used for the chicken and some will be used for the dressing.
- Lightly oil the chicken breasts and add a few teaspoons of the seasoning on all sides of each piece of chicken.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and sear each piece of chicken on one side in the pan for 2-3 minutes or until it easily releases. Flip the chicken over and turn off the burner. Place it in the oven to finish cooking through (this keeps the chicken super juicy but nicely seared) until it hits 165 F., about 10-15 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, begin to cook the pasta of choice (see notes on what I used above in the article) to al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in a large bowl and set it aside.
- To the pasta, add in the diced peppers, onion, and cilantro. Mix to combine. Dice the chicken ad fold that into the pasta salad as well.
- In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture. Whisk to combine and then test taste and add any additional seasoning as needed.
- Fold the dressing mixture into the pasta salad until fully coated. Add the cubed avocado over the top of the pasta salad before serving and enjoy.