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Pasta salad is a summer staple for a reason. There’s something particularly satisfying about seeing light, refreshing pasta salad served alongside the smokiest dishes coming off your grill. We know, we know—pasta is a comfort food. But because pasta salad recipes call for the side to be served up cool, it feels far less heavy than your average spaghetti bolognese. (Plus, anything feels light compared to a piping hot burger or hot dog—right?)
Of course, the issue with pasta salad is that it’s so damn ubiquitous. This is, of course, both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because, as we’ve already made clear, we love pasta salad. We take full advantage of every excuse we get to eat it. And we’d be delighted if it made its way into autumn, winter and spring, as well as summer. But. No one needs to see the same exact dish served up two, three, 10 times at the same summer barbecue. We like pasta salad, but we don’t like it enough to forego all other side dishes ever. Plus, it never feels good to show up to a party with a dish someone’s already supplied. It feels obvious—lazy, even. It’s fair to assume pasta salad is so delicious it’s everyone’s go-to.
The good news? There are ways around this predicament. You can have your unique side dish and eat pasta salad, too (as it were). That’s because there’s a veritable plethora of pasta salad recipes from which to choose—some of which are far less traditional than others. So play around with some of these out-of-the-box pasta salad recipes, and let your tastebuds delight in new versions of their favorite summer side. You’re fighting the good fight against monotonous pasta salad ubiquity—keep at it.
1. 15-Minute BLT Pasta Salad
How could you possibly go wrong with a pasta salad recipe that’s basically a BLT in a bowl?
2. Asian Pasta Salad
Everything about this surprising pasta salad—from its crunchy texture to its to-die-for sesame-soy dressing—will have your friends begging for more.
3. Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Chicken, bacon, cheese and pasta tossed in ranch dressing—this chicken bacon ranch pasta salad recipe doesn’t need much selling, does it?
4. Cowboy Pasta Salad
If you’re craving something hearty with a little zing to it, look no further than this “cowboy” pasta salad. Crafted from juicy ground beef, sweet corn, black beans, bacon, tomatoes and cheese, it sounds too good to be true. Oh, and did we mention it’s smothered in a tangy, creamy southwest barbecue sauce?
5. Crab Pasta Salad
You’ll quickly become the superhero of any summer party when you surprise partygoers with this true treat—pasta salad filled with crab meat.
6. Deviled Egg Macaroni Pasta Salad
We’re not saying this deviled egg/pasta salad hybrid is a work of culinary genius—wait, actually, that’s exactly what we’re saying.
7. Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
Dill pickles are, in a word, magnificent. And this dill pickle pasta salad recipe is equally so.
8. Easy Tuna Pasta Salad
If you love tuna salad just as much as you love pasta salad, this easy tuna pasta salad recipe is sure to make you one happy BBQ attendee.
9. Lemon Herb Mediterranean Pasta Salad
When you want to whip up something simple yet sophisticated, turn to this lemon herb Mediterranean pasta salad. It’s light, summery and chock-full of fresh ingredients like cucumbers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and bell peppers.
10. Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
Mexican street corn might be one of the greatest gifts to descend upon our earth, so it stands to reason that Mexican street corn pasta salad would be a veritable dream come true.
11. Orzo Pasta Salad
Hey, there’s no rule that says pasta salad has to be made with a certain kind of pasta. We’re obsessed with the textural switch-up of this orzo pasta salad.
12. Poppyseed Chicken and Grape Pasta Salad
Anyone who’s whipped up a batch of chicken salad knows that grapes and poppyseed dressing are absolutely on the menu. This poppyseed chicken and grape pasta salad recipe fully understands that—and took things to the next level by adding some pasta into the mix, too.
13. Protein-Packed Thai Pasta Salad
How does a pasta salad that only takes 20 minutes to make manage to pack 18 grams of protein and tons of flavor? We have no idea, but this protein-packed Thai pasta salad is so wonderful we don’t even want to question it.
14. Southwest Pasta Salad
There are a handful of Southwest-style pasta salads out there, but we’re partial to this one. For starters, the choice of wagon wheel pasta is, well, inspired. And beyond that, the combo of corn, beans, roasted red peppers and creamy ranch dressing is destined to make this dish a show-stopper.
15. Taco Pasta Salad
You really can’t go wrong imbuing anything with the flavors of a taco—pasta salad, included. (We bet you’ll find the addition of crushed Doritos to this taco pasta salad recipe particularly delightful.)
16. Italian Caprese Pasta Salad
Don’t want to mess with a ton of ingredients? This Italian Caprese pasta salad recipe only calls for a few—juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, a little basil and Italian vinaigrette.
17. Hawaiian Pasta Salad
This Hawaiian pasta salad offers all the joy of Hawaiian pizza—just rendered in pasta form. And really, isn’t that what dreams are made of?