Healthy pasta salad recipes are a cornerstone of summer cooking for good reason. They’re a simple way to creatively pack in a variety of yummy ingredients, like fresh seasonal produce. They’re also versatile—as perfect for meal prep as an impromptu backyard BBQ.
And while pasta salads are more classically a side dish, they’re actually ideal for a filling main course, too. Generally speaking, a satisfying meal is going to include three to four food groups—fat, protein, starch, and fruits or vegetables—for a variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients, SELF columnist Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., certified diabetes educator and cofounder of Food Heaven, previously told SELF.
Pasta salad covers all those bases pretty easily, with flavors and nutrients galore. You’ve got carbs from the noodles, of course, and it’s not really a pasta salad without some sort of crunchy veggie element and creamy fat-based dressing. Many also include a protein source like chicken, beans, shrimp, lentils, eggs, or tofu.
We’ve rounded up some of the tastiest healthy pasta salad recipes around, including plenty of fresh takes on the summer staple as well as more traditional versions.
A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.