Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Updated 11th June 2024

This Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken is an easy and delicious weeknight meal. Serve it cold as a summer pasta salad perfect for picnics, and BBQs or hot as a delicious winter entree! I love to use my Greek Grilled chicken recipe in this pasta dish because I always have some leftovers for meal prep. It makes a great protein add in for this pasta or pasta salad. Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad is the perfect main or side dish! Made with any short pasta of choice, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, and grilled chicken, tossed with homemade or store-bought pesto. You can also use leftover rotisserie chicken or store-bought grilled/or roasted chicken breast in this recipe to make it even easier and quicker to make.

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto makes everything better! Not only does it taste AMAZING but it’s also a great way to use up all the Basil you might be growing in your garden or planters. My recipe for Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad couldn’t be easier to make and is full of flavor. You can either make homemade pesto or buy your favorite pesto. It tastes great for days too, I like to have it for lunches and its also a fabulous side dish, especially for potlucks or at BBQs.

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Every summer, I plant several basil plants in my herb planter. I don’t have a green thumb at all but Basil seems to be easy enough to grow and flourish in my planters. I will occasionally pick off leaves for various recipes and meals, and then at the end of the summer, I’ll pull off all of the remaining leaves and make a big batch of pesto. We tend to use it all up because we love pesto so much and I use it to make pesto potatoes, spoon it over sliced tomatoes, make loads of pesto pasta of course, and i love it in this grilled chicken pasta salad. Any leftovers I freeze in little cubes and store them in a big bag in the freezer for later use. Its the perfect way to preserve all those summer flavours and herbs.

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe Ingredients:

  • CHICKEN: I usually use boneless skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs. Cooked anyway (roasted or poached) but grilled is my favorite for this pasta salad. My Greek grilled chicken recipe is great or I also love using my grilled chicken thigh recipe as well. You can also use rotisserie chicken or leftover roast chicken. Or if you prefer to make this pasta salad without the chicken that is totally fine too.
  • ROTINI PASTA: I love to use spiral pasta but any other short pasta like penne, fusilli, radiators or any other pasta would be fine. Feel free to use gluten-free pasta if desired as well
  • PESTO: I like to use my Homemade basil pesto recipe but in a pinch store-bought is also great. I like to use between ¾-1 cup of pesto. Depending on the thickness and brand of pesto you may have to thin it out a little with extra olive oil or lemon juice or a bit of both to taste
  • TOMATOES: I like to use cherry tomatoes but any variety will work here as long as they are sliced into bite size pieces
  • FRESH MOZZARELLA PEARLS: Any fresh mozzarella will work if you can’t find the pearls or baby mozzarella just chop or tear it up into bite sized pieces. Other cheese options are crumbled feta cheese or grated Parmesan cheese.
  • PARMESAN CHEESE: Two kinds of cheese are always better than one! I love to toss in or finishing this pasta salad with some but that is optional.
  • SALT & PEPPER: Adjust to taste and according to how salty your pesto is. We kept things simple here but if you would like to add mores seasoning feel free to add a dash of chili flakes or even some Italian seasoning.
  • BASIL: I love to add in some torn or chopped fresh basil leaves - it might seem over kill but I don’t think it is - feel free to leave it out if desired. IF you prefer to you can use chopped fresh parsley.
  • ALTERNATIVES/RECIPE VARIATIONS: Feel free to add in roasted or grilled vegetables, corn, sweet bell peppers, boiled eggs, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, Pine Nuts, sliced almonds, pistachios, Kalamata olives, baby spinach or baby kale, or arugula can easily be tossed in for extra greens in the pasta dish. This would also be great with grilled shrimp or even chopped up prosciutto or Genua salami or even bacon. If you prefer some plant based protein you can even add some chickpeas or white beans.

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

How to make grilled chicken pesto pasta salad:

  1. GRILL CHICKEN and slice it into bite size pieces if you are using leftover grilled chicken and prepare the pesto if making from scratch.
  2. COOK PASTA in salted water until al dente. Drain well.
  3. ASSEMBLE In a large bowl mix together the pasta, pesto, lemon juice, chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella. Toss well to combine.
  4. SERVE Check and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve or serve immediately!

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

More delicious pasta salad recipes:


Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15-20 mins
Total Time: 30 mins


  • 2-3 cups chopped chicken (1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs grilled and sliced, approx - see grilling directions below)
  • 12 oz (approx 4 cups) short pasta, I used rotini
  • 1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basil pesto homemade or store bought (my homemade recipe is simple to make)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 oz (200 grams) fresh mozzarella pearls or baby bocconcini
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice plus more for serving (optional)
  • Fresh Basil for serving (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)


  1. Boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions.
  2. Drain pasta run it under cold water if serving it cold, strain and set aside. Transfer pasta to a large bowl and toss with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
  3. To the pasta add the pesto, lemon juice, mozzarella pearls, tomatoes, and chicken. Toss until well combined and serve immediately or place in the refrigerator for 30 min or until chilled or slightly chilled.
  4. Finish with chopped fresh Basil, extra squeezes of lemon juice and freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired (optional).

Recipe Notes

  • Depending on the thickness and brand of pesto you may have to thin it out a little with extra olive oil or lemon juice or a bit of both to taste
  • Grilling chicken breast: Seasoning your chicken breast with salt and pepper is fine but feel free to use any seasoning blend you like. I use my Greek grilled chicken recipe in this pasta always because I always make loads of it to freeze and have for pastas like this. Or simply generously season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and Italian seasoning and olive oil. Grill the chicken over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes per side, or until completely cooked (165°F measured with meat thermometer). Transfer chicken to a cutting board and slice into strips or chop. Feel fret use store bought rotisserie chicken or roast or poach your own.
  • Serving: This summer pesto pasta is excellent served warm, at room temperature, or cold.
  • Storage: Store leftover pesto pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Leftovers keep very well & make for the perfect easy lunch or lazy dinner!
  • Make Ahead: This salad can be made a head and stored in the fridge up to 1 hour before. If making ahead earlier than that I recommend not adding the tomatoes until just before serving as they will start to really soften. ALSO The pasta is firm, the dressing/pesto sauce can get a bit pasty and you just can’t taste the flavours as well when it’s super cold. So I always recommend taking it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you plan to serve it to take the fridge chill out of it, and toss it well and even drizzle in a bit more lemon juice or even water to loosen it up if needed.

Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad