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As the summer heat starts to really kick in, I find myself craving light, refreshing meals that don’t require standing over a hot stove. Salads are my go-to, and chicken pasta salads are a favorite because they combine protein from the chicken, carbs from the pasta, and lots of fresh veggies and flavor.
This simple chicken and grape pasta salad has become one of my most relied upon summer recipes. It comes together quickly in the morning, making it a breeze to pull together for a weeknight dinner or to take along to a picnic or potluck.
The combination of flavors is what really makes this pasta salad shine. Sweet, juicy grapes are balanced by the savory chicken, earthy spinach, bright pop of lemon juice, and creamy avocado. Every bite packs a delicious medley of tastes and textures.
While easy to throw together, this pasta salad is still elegant and complex enough to serve when company comes over. No one will guess how simple it is! The grapes add a gourmet flair.
Why You’ll Love This Simple Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
It’s loaded with flavor
- The mix of savory chicken, sweet grapes, earthy spinach, creamy avocado, tangy feta, and bright lemon come together to create an amazing symphony of complementary flavors.
It’s satisfying but still light
- While loaded with good-for-you ingredients like protein, veggies, and whole grains, this pasta salad doesn’t leave you feeling weighed down after eating it. The lemon juice provides brightness.
It’s endlessly versatile
- Make this pasta salad your own by switching up the veggies, pasta shape, protein, or cheese. It’s customizable based on what you have on hand!
It’s perfect for meal prepping
- Assemble the salad up to 3 days in advance and store it refrigerated. The ingredients hold up well and it makes dinner a breeze all week long.
It works for any occasion
- Bring this crowd-pleasing pasta salad to potlucks, picnics, BBQs, or enjoy at home for a weeknight dinner. It’s sure to be a hit wherever you serve it!
Tips for Making the Best Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
Allow time for the pasta to chill
After cooking the pasta, it’s important to rinse it under cold water to cool it down and prevent sticking. Let the pasta chill for about 15 minutes before adding it to the other ingredients. This helps the flavors absorb better.
Use a mix of seedless grapes
Choose a combination of red, green, and black seedless grapes for a pop of color, flavor, and texture. The grapes pair surprisingly well with the other savory ingredients.
Massage the kale
Take a minute to use your hands to gently massage and break down the kale leaves before adding the dressing. This softens them so they don’t stay tough or raw.
Make the dressing fresh
The lemon juice really brings this salad to life. Squeeze it fresh vs using bottled for the best bright, citrusy flavor. Whisk it together with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Let the flavors meld
Allow the pasta salad to chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to 8 hours) once assembled. This allows time for the noodles to soak up the flavors for maximum tastiness!
Use grilled chicken breast
For extra flavor, opt for grilled chicken breasts over poached or baked. The char adds great smoky, savory notes that pair beautifully with the grapes.
Play with crunchy toppings
Customize with your favorite crunchy toppings when serving like slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, or crumbled bacon. Toasted pine nuts are delicious too!
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts provide lean protein. Grill or poach them until cooked through and dice into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.
A mix of red, green, and black seedless grapes adds pops of sweetness and color contrast. The juicy grapes pair surprisingly well with the savory flavors.
Corkscrew or rotini pasta holds up well in pasta salads. Cook according to package directions, rinse in cold water, and chill before mixing in.
Fresh baby spinach offers texture and key nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K. Add it just before serving to prevent wilting.
Briny, creamy feta cheese crumbles add a nice salty bite that pairs beautifully with the grapes and chicken.
Creamy, buttery avocado chunks add richness. Be sure to toss the pasta salad gently to keep the avocado from getting mashed up.
Fresh lemon juice provides bright acidity that brings all the flavors together. Zest the lemon before juicing for extra citrus punch too.
Good quality extra virgin olive oil gives the dressing body a velvety texture. Use your best!
Chopped fresh parsley, mint, and/or basil add freshness. Use whatever you have on hand!
How to Make Simple Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
Step 1 – Cook the Chicken
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Allow to cool before dicing into bite-size pieces.
Step 2 – Cook the Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 16oz corkscrew or rotini pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled.
Step 3 – Prep the Veggies
While pasta cooks, wash and dry the grapes. Slice lengthwise if very large. Remove kale leaves from stems and chop leaves into bite-size pieces. Core and dice 1 avocado into 1/2-inch chunks.
Step 4 – Make the Dressing
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste.
Step 5 – Assemble the Salad
In a large bowl, combine cooled pasta, chicken, grapes, kale, avocado, feta, and dressing. Season with salt and pepper and mix gently to coat.
Step 6 – Finish and Serve
Allow salad to chill 30 mins to an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld. Top with fresh chopped herbs, lemon zest, and extra feta before serving if desired.
What to Serve with Simple Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
- Crusty baguette, ciabatta, or garlic bread
- Mixed baby greens salad
- Fresh fruit like watermelon, berries, or pineapple
- Easy weeknight proteins like grilled chicken breasts, salmon fillets, or shrimp skewers
- Oven-roasted veggies like zucchini, squash, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower
Substitutions for Simple Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
Instead of chicken:
- Diced, grilled flank steak
- Cooked shrimp, scallops, or lump crab meat
- Firm tofu, marinated and baked
Instead of grapes:
- Diced apple, pear, or orange segments
- Dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, or raisins
- Pomegranate seeds
Instead of corkscrew pasta:
- Bowtie, farfalle, penne, or rotelle
- Orzo, Israeli couscous, or quinoa
- Rice noodles or chickpea pasta
Instead of feta:
- Crumbled goat cheese
- Shaved parmesan
- Cubed mozzarella or halloumi
How long does this pasta salad last in the fridge?
Up to 5 days. Store in an airtight container. The noodles will start to absorb dressing and soften over time.
Can I use frozen spinach instead of fresh?
Absolutely! Thaw it first and squeeze out excess moisture before adding to the pasta salad.
Can I make this pasta salad vegan?
Yes, use cubed firm tofu instead of chicken. Omit the feta and add roasted chickpeas or white beans for extra protein and texture.
Do I need to use all the dressing?
No, start with about 2/3 of it and add more to taste if needed. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge.
What’s the best way to store leftovers?
Transfer to an airtight container(s) and refrigerate. Enjoy leftovers cold or reheat briefly in the microwave.
Simple Chicken & Grape Pasta Salad
- Large pot for cooking pasta
- Skillet for cooking chicken
- Mixing bowls - 1 large, 1 small
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Knives & cutting boards
- Tongs or large serving spoons
- Storage containers if prepping ahead
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 16 oz corkscrew or rotini pasta
- 1 lb seedless grapes halved or quartered if large
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 1 avocado diced
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs for garnish
- Cook chicken, slice into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and chill.
- Prep veggies and make dressing. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together.
- In a large bowl, mix together chicken, pasta, grapes, spinach, avocado, feta and dressing.
- Season with salt and pepper. Allow to chill 30 mins - 1 hour before serving.
- Garnish with fresh herbs when ready to serve. Enjoy!