This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad has Cajun chicken, bacon, and an easy homemade dressing (with NO anchovies!)! Makes a great lunch or party side dish.

One of my favorite things about summer barbecues is trying all the food that people bring along.

I recently tried a Caesar Pasta Salad just like this one: Loaded up with spicy Cajun chicken, bacon, and tons of noodles! I couldn’t WAIT to make it at home and eat it all myself.

Sharing is overrated.

Caesar dressing being poured onto Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad ingredients in a clear bowl.

Let’s start with our greens.

How do you keep lettuce from turning brown?

I have always heard that you are supposed to tear greens by hand, rather than chop them with a knife, to avoid bruising. Do you have one of those fancy Lettuce Chopping Knives made of plastic designed JUST to assist with this scenario? Guilty as charged.

But it’s SILLY. As long as your knife is sharpened, you’ll have no problems with bruising. The idea that cut lettuce turns brown is largely a myth.

Probably started by Lettuce Knife Lobbyists.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad in a clear bowl.

Cajun Chicken

I love Cajun Anything, so I spiced my chicken accordingly. I sautéed mine in a pan, but you can bake, broil, grill, or poach as you see fit.

I’ve also made this salad with leftover Rotisserie chicken. If you go that route, you can always stir some Cajun seasoning for that spicy flavor.

No-Nonsense Caesar Dressing

You’ll love my Homemade Caesar Salad dressing.

Instead of anchovies and raw eggs, this version uses staple ingredients such as mayonnaise (there are your eggs!) and Worcestershire sauce (there are your anchovies!).

Add some spicy brown mustard and lemon juice for a tangy zing, season with salt and pepper, and your new favorite dressing is ready to go. If you find the dressing is too spicy or tangy, just add a little more mayonnaise.

Caesar dressing being poured onto Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad ingredients in a clear bowl.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

No need to decide between chicken Caesar salad or pasta salad. This 30-minute lunch recipe combines both into one mash-up recipe that only gets better once you add crispy bacon and a simple homemade Caesar dressing.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 16 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 251

Ingredients 

For the Caesar dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta salad:

  • 1 pound rotini or other small pasta
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets
  • 2 tablespoons Homemade Cajun Seasoning or store-bought (see note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce chopped
  • 2 cups croutons (see note 3)
  • 8 ounces cooked bacon crumbled (8 slices)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Instructions 

  • To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, brown mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Cover and refrigerate while preparing the rest of the salad.
  • In a large saucepan or stock pot, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add rotini and cook according to package instructions, about 9 to 11 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Meanwhile, arrange chicken on a baking sheet or work surface and sprinkle both sides generously with Cajun seasoning
  • In large skillet, heat oil until shimmering. Arrange chicken in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until the temperature on an internal thermometer reaches 165 degrees, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Slice into strips.
  • In a very large bowl, combine cooled rotini, lettuce, croutons, and bacon. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing and toss until uniformly coated. Top with chicken and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Notes

  1. Caesar dressing: Or substitute your favorite store-bought brand. See my Caesar dressing recipe for a classic version (with anchovies and whole egg), or follow the homemade salad dressing instructions below for an anchovy-free option.
  2. Rotini: These short corkscrews are stellar as vehicles for a large amount of the Caesar dressing. Any small pasta works well, though. Use elbows, farfalle, gemelli, penne, or orecchiette, if you prefer.
  3. Cajun seasoning: To make your own, in a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons paprika, with 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 tablespoon onion powder. 
  4. Croutons: To make your own, cut 1 loaf (1 pound) into cubes, then toss in a large bowl with ¼ cup oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and ¼ teaspoon salt until combined. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 450-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 251kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 16gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 332mgPotassium: 363mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 3866IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 44mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

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Comments

  1. I gobble up tortellini way too fast for me to just keep on hand, but I love the idea of adding them to a salad, especially a caesar salad (one of my faves!)!

    1. Thanks Alyssa! I’m always looking for ways to get my toddler to eat more veggies, and mixing in something good like tortellini with vegetables goes a long way! If only it worked on my husband… wah wah!

  2. I love the addition of the cheese tortellini in this caesar salad. The salad looks so fresh and delicious! What a great, easy to make lunch or dinner!5 stars

    1. Thank you Danae! It’s still pretty hot in SoCal so salads like this keep me cool. :)

    1. Thank you so much Bri! Why eat just vegetables if you can also have a cheesy-filled pasta with your veggies? ;)

  3. This is a really interesting version of a classic crowd-pleaser salad, Meggan! The dressing sounds great, too!5 stars

    1. Thanks Helen! I did love the dressing, although I’m not very picky when it comes to salad dressing. :)

  4. What a wonderful way to customize Caesar salad, a nice break from chicken,I love it! I’m also not a fan of raw eggs in m Caesar dressing, so your dressing recipe is just “my type”. This salad looks fresh, I want to dig into it right now!

    1. Thanks Mira! :) Why risk it with raw eggs, right? Plus I love mayonnaise so that’s a bonus. :)

  5. This is really clever! It’s like a caesar and pasta salad had a baby, two of my favourites! Plus you’ve upped the stakes by using tortellini rather than ordinary pasta. I also like the simple dressing you’ve used and the quantity you make gets a big tick from me too! A pet peeve of mine are salad recipes that should be called “Mayo dressing with lettuce” rather than “Lettuce with mayo dressing” because the salad is DROWNING in dressing. So one of the first things I always do is check out the dressing recipe quantities and I like that yours is so sensible! Pinning!5 stars

    1. Thanks Nagi, glad you approve! :) Whew! I know what you mean though, so many times it’s something like, would you like some lettuce with your salad dressing? In this case it’s full-fat dressing all over the place too so it is definitely best to be judicious in your usage. Still trying to offer a salad here, after all! :) Thanks for the pin too!