Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken and Berries

Bow tie pasta, tender chicken, sweet berries, fresh basil, toasted almonds, and baby spinach are tossed together in a creamy, decadent, honey poppy seed dressing to make the ultimate Summer Pasta Salad. This beautiful salad has it all. It can be served as a scrumptious side and makes for a satisfying lunch on its own thanks to the healthy fats, fiber, and quality protein. This make-ahead-friendly recipe is one you’ll want to try!

Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken Berries in a white serving bowl garnished with fresh basil.

This is the Ultimate Summer Pasta Salad that Everyone will Love!

Whether you’re making it for a potluck, pool party, healthy lunches for the week, or a grill out with friends, this is a salad we know you’ll love to share. The combination of real-food ingredients tossed in creamy, honey poppy seed dressing makes this Summer Pasta Salad a flavor and nutrient-packed recipe. It’s so bright and gorgeous that you’ll want to snap a photo of your beautiful meal, but we won’t be surprised if you scarf it down before that can even happen, as you ‘mmm-mmm-mmm’ away every bite! Yes, it’s that good.

Ingredients for Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken and Berries

This beautiful pasta salad is chock full of nutritious real food ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Gluten-free pasta of choice – if you do not need this recipe to be gluten-free, use any regular pasta type and shape of your choice
  • Spinach – or use any leafy lettuce greens, such as arugula or spring mix
  • Fresh berries – we opt for strawberries and blueberries, but you can use any fresh berries you’d like
  • Green onion
  • Red onion
  • Cooked chicken – shredded or cubed. For this recipe, we like to use our Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
  • Toasted sliced almonds – omit for nut-free
  • Dried cranberries – for no sugar added dried cranberries, try these ones from Thrive Market
  • Fresh basil

Ingredients for Honey Poppy Seed Dressing

This dressing is easy to make and adds so much flavor. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

Want to save big on pantry staples, like ingredients you will need to make this Summer Pasta Salad? At The Real Food Dietitians, we head to Thrive Market. Use our link to Shop Thrive Market and get the best prices on natural, organic, and specialty foods. PLUS get a free gift valued at $24 when you sign-up! 

All of the ingredients for the Summer Pasta Salad in a large, clear mixing bowl.

How to Make this Healthy Summer Pasta Salad

After you have all of the ingredients prepped, this salad comes together rather quickly. Simply combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients and add fine salt and pepper to taste. Next, pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss gently to combine.

You can serve this salad right away or place it in the refrigerator until ready to serve, tossing gently just before serving.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Make-Ahead Tips

We love make-ahead recipes. Below are some prep tasks you can complete the day before you plan to serve the salad.

  • Cook the chicken. We like to use shredded chicken in this Summer Pasta Salad. For that, we follow our Instant Pot Shredded Chicken recipe. Or you could use chicken picked from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Store the shredded chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Cook the pasta. The pasta needs to be cooked and cooled before making the salad, otherwise, the spinach will wilt and the berries will become mushy. So cooking and chilling the pasta is a great step to complete the day before. Store the cooked pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If it sticks together a little bit once it has cooled, don’t worry. The pieces will separate once it’s tossed with the dressing.
  • Make the dressing. Store the dressing in an airtight container or mason jar in the refrigerator.
  • Dice and slice the onions. Store the onions together in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Slice the strawberries. If using strawberries, you can slice these in advance and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Toast the almonds. Store the toasted almond in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature.

After you complete these steps, all that’s left to do is to combine everything in a large bowl and toss.

Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken and Berries in a speckled, white, shallow, stoneware bowl.

How to Toast Almonds: Two Way to Toast Sliced Almonds

Toasting the almonds brings out their best flavor and a step you don’t want to skip.

How to toast almonds on the stovetop:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add sliced or slivered almonds to the hot skillet, and then cook for 6-8 minutes or until they give off a toasted aroma. Make sure to watch them closely and stir often to avoid burning.
  3. Once almonds are fragrant and golden brown, transfer them to a plate to cool.

How to toast almonds in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Spread out sliced or slivered almonds on a small sheet pan.
  3. Toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning.
  4. Once almonds are fragrant and golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer them to a plate to cool.

Summer Pasta Salad in a large, glass bowl, all tossed and ready to be served.

What Makes this Summer Pasta Salad Recipe Healthy?

What a good feeling to make a nutritious meal that you know is chock full of ingredients that are good for your body and also so delicious that everyone will eat it! That’s always our aim here at The Real Food Dietitians, so we’ve loaded this Summer Pasta Salad with good-for-you foods, including:

  • Spinach – this nutrition powerhouse veg is something you should eat every week to ward off chronic inflammation, plus give your body a dose of plant-based iron and calcium
  • Fresh berries – no matter if you pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or sliced fresh cherries, this ingredient will give you an antioxidant boost, as well as beneficial fiber
  • Onions – this recipe calls for two types of onions (green onions/scallions and red onions), both of which are beneficial for lowering blood pressure and total cholesterol
  • Chicken – this excellent protein source is great for building lean muscle and maintaining bone mineral density and contains a great amount of energy-boosting B vitamins
  • Almonds – these nuts are a great source of good-for-your heart nutrients, including monounsaturated fats, fiber, and vitamin E
  • Dried cranberries – a flavorful addition that also packs a fiber benefit for ultimate gut health

You Can Make this Summer Pasta Salad Egg-free and/or Vegan if desired. Here’s How …

To make this salad egg-free use vegan mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise (regular mayo contains eggs).

To make this salad vegan-friendly, use vegan mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise that contains eggs and omit the chicken. You could add cooked chickpeas in place of the chicken for a plant-based boost of protein if you wish.

Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken and Berries in a speckled, white, shallow, stoneware bowl.

Other Healthy Summer Pasta Salad Recipes To Make!

Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad (Gluten-free)

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad (Gluten-Free)

Lemon-Dill Tuna Pasta Salad (Gluten-Free)

Greek Veggie Pasta Salad (Gluten-free)

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Let’s Get Cookin’

Summer Pasta Salad with Chicken and Berries

Bow tie pasta, tender chicken, sweet berries, fresh basil, toasted almonds, and baby spinach are tossed together in a creamy, decadent, honey poppy seed dressing to make the ultimate Summer Pasta Salad.

  • Author: Stacie Hassing
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings (1 1/4 cups per serving) 1x
  • Category: Salads
Creamy bow-tie noodle pasta mixed with shredded chicken, fresh berries, baby spinach, and creamy lemon poppy seed dressing in a low profile bowl

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 6 ounces regular or gluten-free pasta of choice, cooked according to package directions and cooled
  • 2 cups loose-packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups berries of choice (if using strawberries, slice them)
  • 2 green onion, ends trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup diced red onion
  • 2 cups cooked and diced or shredded chicken, cooled
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted (omit for nut-free)
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

For the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise (use vegan mayo for egg-free)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 of a medium lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds 
  • Fine salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss gently to combine.
  4. Serve right away or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve, tossing gently just before serving.
  5. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Notes

To toast almonds on the stovetop:

  1. Place a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add sliced or slivered almonds to the hot skillet, and then cook for 6-8 minutes or until they give off a toasted aroma. Make sure to watch them closely and stir often to avoid burning.
  3. Once almonds are fragrant and golden brown, transfer them to a plate to cool.

To toast almonds in the oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Place the almonds on a small sheet pan.
  3. Toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning.
  4. Once almonds are fragrant and golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer them to a plate to cool.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 355
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Sodium: 220 mg
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 15 g
  • Cholesterol: 59 mg

Creamy pasta salad with fresh berries and chicken in a speckled bowl topped with poppy seed dressing

All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

About Stacie Hassing

Stacie is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian from rural southern Minnesota where she, her husband and daughter reside with their two pups. She’s a co-founder of The Real Food RDs and content creator of simple and wholesome recipes. She loves all kinds of fitness and has a passion to inspire as many as she can live a healthier and happier life both in and out of the kitchen – the driving force behind the co-development of the The Real Food RDs brand.

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