Pasta Salad is a classic dish that’s perfect for picnics, potlucks, and barbecues. Here in the South, we call them summer cookouts.

Pasta Salad is versatile, easy to make, and can be customized to suit any taste. But what goes with pasta salad? Pasta Salad can be a simple side dish or a main dish – just mix in some grilled chicken – but it also pairs well with a variety of other side dishes, too. From grilled vegetables to savory garlic bread, these sides are sure to be a hit at your next meal or gathering.

My favorite pasta salad recipe is a cold pasta dish, perfect for hot summer days. It is a classic pasta salad, loaded with juicy cherry tomatoes, veggies, and colorful rotini pasta, then its coated in a delicious Italian dressing. It’s one of our family’s favorite recipes.

A collage of images showing what to serve with pasta salad - pimento cheese, steak, chicken tenders, and deviled eggs.

Pasta Salad Add-Ins

If you’re having company and you’re looking for an easy pasta salad recipe, there’s nothing easier than starting with a blank slate and letting your guests build their own pasta salad. You can start with the base – the pasta – and let everyone add the flavors that they love. (The best thing about doing it this way is that no one (me) is going to complain that they got too many olives!) Let the main ingredient, the pasta, be the star; then, everyone can make their own customized “perfect dish” of delicious pasta salad.

Tip

If you prepare the pasta in advance, toss it in some olive oil so it doesn’t dry out.

Here are some of my favorite things to mix into pasta salad:

  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar or Lemon Juice
  • Salad Dressing – We like Italian Dressing, but for people who like creamy pasta salad, you can make a mayonnaise-based creamy dressing.
  • Fresh Herbs – I love to add fresh basil to pasta salads in the summer!
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Red Onion, diced – If you soak the onion in cold water for a few minutes, you can still serve it raw, and it won’t be as pungent.
  • Green Onions
  • Black Olives – My husband and my mom LOVE olives in their pasta salad.
  • Pickles – Yes! I like pickles.  
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – I love to use the little bite-size balls in water – Cilegine or Bocconcini.
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated or shredded
  • Cheddar Cheese, cubed or shredded
  • Fresh Juicy Tomatoes, quartered or diced
  • Juicy Cherry Tomatoes, whole or cut up
  • Fresh Vegetables – Zucchini, Summer Squash, Broccoli, Carrots, or Bell Peppers. I like to roast, grill, or blanch the vegetables so they aren’t totally raw, but they still have a nice crunch.
  • Artichoke Hearts – I love to use the kind quartered in water and just cut them up a little smaller. So good!
  • Crispy Bacon – Bacon is ALWAYS a good idea. Be sure to use the real stuff!
  • Grilled Chicken, Grilled Shrimp, or Grilled Steak
  • Cured Meats, diced or sliced – Salami, Ham (this is a great way to use up some leftover ham), Soppressata, Prosciutto, Chorizo, or Mortadella
  • Spices – Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, or Red Pepper Flakes

What Goes with Pasta Salad?

Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken is always a good choice to serve with pasta salad because it is so neutral. Season your chicken with your favorite herbs and spices – try different flavors! Chicken is a great source of protein and will make a great addition to your pasta salad meal.

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken Recipe
Grilled Bruschetta Chicken combines perfectly grilled chicken with juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and melty mozzarella cheese. It’s the perfect main dish to serve for dinner or to meal prep.
Grilled Bruschetta Chicken Recipe

Blackened Chicken 

This flavorful and spicy Cajun-style chicken is perfect to serve alongside pasta salad. The blackened crust on the chicken adds a crispy texture that complements the soft and chewy pasta. You could also slice the chicken and toss it into the pasta salad for a complete meal.

Blackened chicken breasts on a pile on a white plate.
Easy Blackened Chicken
4.91 from 10 votes
Blackened Chicken is flavored with a little Cajun heat and has a perfectly charred crust. The chicken is perfectly cooked – seared just until the spices blacken and can be used in so many dishes.
Blackened Chicken Recipe

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

A classic backyard barbecue staple, hot dogs and hamburgers are great to serve with a refreshing pasta salad. The hot dogs and hamburgers are a filling main course, while the pasta salad provides a refreshing and delicious side dish to balance out the flavors.

Grilled Blue Cheese Burgers
Blue Cheese Burgers are a great new twist on the regular hamburger. If you love blue cheese, you will love these burgers next time you are grilling!
Grilled Burger Recipe

Fried Chicken Tenders

Crispy and juicy buttermilk fried chicken tenders are a delicious addition to a pasta salad meal. The tender chicken provides a protein-packed main course that pairs perfectly with the fresh and colorful pasta salad. You could also chop the chicken tenders into small pieces and toss them into the pasta salad for added texture and flavor.

A white dish with crispy fried chicken tenders on it.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders
4.93 from 42 votes
Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders are marinated in seasoned buttermilk, breaded in seasoned flour and panko breadcrumbs, and fried in peanut oil until golden brown and crispy. They are absolute perfection.
Fried Chicken Tender Recipe

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Tender and flavorful shredded BBQ chicken from a slow cooker is a perfect pairing with pasta salad. The smoky and tangy BBQ sauce on the chicken complements the cool and creamy pasta salad, while the shredded chicken provides a hearty and satisfying main course. You could also mix the chicken into the pasta salad for a unique twist on the classic dish.

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Recipe
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken is one of our favorite slow cooker recipes and one of our favorite dinners to make. The chicken cooks slowly in the crockpot and is so tender (and tasty) when it is done.
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken Recipe

Grilled Steak

Grilled steak is a perfect main course to serve alongside a pasta salad. The savory and juicy steak provides a protein-packed component to the meal that pairs perfectly with the refreshing and cooling pasta salad. You could also slice the steak and toss it into the pasta salad for added texture and flavor. 

A large bourbon street steak on a white plate.
Copycat Applebee’s Bourbon Street Steak
5 from 8 votes
Bourbon Street Steak is tender, juicy, and packs big flavor from Cajun seasoning and a touch of honey in the marinade. It has a slight char on the outside and is cooked perfectly to melt in your mouth – every bite will bring you on a trip to Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Steak Recipe

Best Side Dishes to Serve with Pasta Salad

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled vegetables make the perfect vegetable side dish to serve with pasta salad. Toss some fresh vegetables on the grill – bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onions – and serve them alongside your pasta salad for a healthy and colorful side.

Deviled Eggs 

Creamy deviled eggs with a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning or paprika and a delicious crunch from diced pickles add a rich and indulgent touch to your pasta salad spread.

Two rows of cajun deviled eggs on a white platter.
Easy Deviled Eggs
5 from 13 votes
With fluffy, tangy, and creamy filling in perfectly-cooked hard-boiled eggs, these Easy Deviled Eggs will be your new favorite side or appetizer. Perfect for a family or a party, these deviled eggs are quick and easy to make and are a crowd-pleaser.
Deviled Egg Recipe

Pimento Cheese

A flavorful pimento cheese spread is a great side dish to serve with a pasta salad. The rich and cheesy spread adds a decadent touch to the meal, while the pasta salad provides a bright and colorful side dish with fresh ingredients that balance out the flavors.

A white bowl of pimento cheese with pretzels and crackers around it.
Homemade Pimento Cheese
5 from 4 votes
Get ready to indulge in the creamy, peppery goodness of Pimento Cheese Dip, a classic southern recipe that's perfect for any occasion. With its blend of shredded cheddar cheese, mayo, and diced pimentos, this versatile spread is not only a delicious sandwich filling but also a crowd-pleasing dip for crackers and veggies or a flavorful topping for burgers.
Pimento Cheese Recipe

Green Salads

A simple green salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and radishes adds a light and fresh component to your pasta salad feast. You can also try a Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon to add a fun twist on a salad to the menu.

A bowl of royal street salad and two slices of buttered french bread.
Blue Cheese Salad (Royal Street Salad)
5 from 3 votes
Crispy romaine lettuce, crunchy bacon, and blue cheese in a flavorful, zesty homemade dressing, this Royal Street Salad is perfect as an appetizer, side, or quick lunch idea.
Blue Cheese Salad Recipe

Fried Okra

Fried okra is a delicious and crispy side dish that pairs well with a pasta salad. The crispy and flavorful okra provides a crunchy and savory component to the meal that complements the refreshing and cooling pasta salad.

Cornmeal crusted fried okra draining on a paper towel.
Crispy Fried Okra
4.97 from 26 votes
This Fried Okra is dredged in buttermilk and breaded in a flour & cornmeal coating that's loaded with flavor. Fried until crispy in peanut oil, it’s an addictive Southern appetizer, snack, or side dish.
Fried Okra Recipe

Fried Squash

Fried squash is a tasty and crunchy side dish that complements a pasta salad perfectly. The crispy and savory flavor of the fried squash provides a great contrast to the light and flavorful pasta salad.

Fried squash slices draining on a paper towel.
Southern Fried Squash
4.88 from 8 votes
Southern Fried Squash is a summer delicacy. Fresh yellow squash and zucchini are dredged in buttermilk, breaded with flour and cornmeal, and fried until they are golden brown and crispy. It is such a delicious way to cook summer squash and is the perfect summer side dish.
Fried Squash Recipe

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob with butter and salt is a classic summer side dish that goes well with just about anything, including pasta salad. You can cook it on the grill, in an Instant Pot, or on the stove.

four cooked ears of corn in a silver bowl with orange flowers
Instant Pot Corn on the Cob
5 from 3 votes
There is no easier way to make Corn on the Cob than in an Instant Pot. It is quick, easy, and so reliable – the corn always comes out so tender and crisp.
Instant Pot Corn on the Cob Recipe

Potatoes – Roasted, Fried, or Baked

Roasted potatoes seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil make a hearty and comforting side dish. You can also throw potatoes on the grill or make french fries, baked potatoes, or sweet potato fries.

Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes Recipe
Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes is one of our favorite potato recipes – the potatoes are so flavorful, soft, and fluffy!
Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes Recipe
Oven Baked French Fries Recipe
Oven Baked French Fries are coated in olive oil, tossed in delicious seasoning, and baked until crispy. They are easy to make and are so good!
Baked French Fries Recipe
Grilled Potatoes in Foil
These Blue Cheese Grilled Potatoes in Foil are a quick and easy recipe that goes perfectly with your favorite hamburger or grilled chicken recipe.
Grilled Potato in Foil Recipe

Potato Salad

A classic and creamy potato salad is a perfect side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The soft and flavorful potatoes in the potato salad provide a hearty and filling component to the meal, while the pasta salad provides a refreshing side dish that balances out the flavors.

A bowl of creamy southern potato salad with a mustard based dressing.
Easy Southern Potato Salad
5 from 11 votes
This Easy Southern Potato Salad made with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Pickles is a summertime favorite. It has a creamy, flavorful mayonnaise dressing and is topped with Creole Seasoning for a perfect finishing touch.
Southern Potato Salad Recipe

Southern Coleslaw

Southern coleslaw is a perfect side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The crunchy and creamy coleslaw provides a refreshing and light component to the meal that balances out the rich and savory flavors of the pasta salad. Southern coleslaw is typically made with cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing, and it’s a great source of vitamins and fiber. 

Creamy southern coleslaw (shredded carrots & cabbage covered in mayonnaise) up close.
Classic Southern Coleslaw
5 from 13 votes
This Creamy Southern Coleslaw recipe is one of my favorite side dishes. The sweet, tangy dressing combined with the fresh, crunchy cabbage is so simple, yet so flavorful.
Southern Coleslaw Recipe

Baked Beans 

Baked beans are a delicious and hearty side dish to serve with a pasta salad. The sweet, savory, and smoky flavors of the beans complement the refreshing and cooling pasta salad, creating a well-rounded and satisfying meal. Baked beans are a great source of protein and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to the meal. 

Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is a classic and flavorful side dish that pairs perfectly with a pasta salad. The warm and buttery bread is infused with the aroma and taste of garlic, adding a delicious and aromatic component to the meal that complements the refreshing and savory flavors of the pasta salad.

A collage of images showing what to serve with pasta salad - coleslaw, deviled eggs, grilled chicken, chicken tenders, and pimento cheese.

Dessert Ideas to End the Meal

Fruit Salad

A fresh fruit salad with berries, melon, and citrus fruits is the perfect way to finish a meal – and is a great side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The sweet and juicy fruits provide a refreshing and healthy component to the meal that balances out the savory flavors of the pasta salad. Serve a refreshing bowl of fruit salad on the side as a refreshing palate cleanser. Some great fruits to include in a fruit salad are strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and grapes.

Buttermilk Cookies with Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

Sweet and decadent buttermilk cookies with fluffy buttercream frosting are a perfect way to end a meal that includes pasta salad. The soft and sweet cookies provide a delicious and indulgent dessert option that complements the tangy flavor of the pasta salad.

A buttermilk cookie with thick frosting and a bite taken out of it.
Buttermilk Cookies with Honey Buttercream Frosting
5 from 6 votes
Buttermilk Cookies with Honey Buttercream Frosting are like the top of a cupcake – soft, fluffy, and loaded with frosting. They are light, perfectly sweet, and so delicious.
Buttermilk Cookie Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Classic and delicious chocolate chip cookies are a great way to end a meal that includes pasta salad. The warm and gooey cookies provide a comforting and satisfying dessert option that complements the refreshing and savory flavors of the pasta salad.

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
This is the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe ever! No funny ingredients, just a simple, incredibly delicious, and easy to make chocolate chip cookie that turns out perfect every single time! 
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Looking for More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes?

  • Antipasto Pasta Salad – An Italian Pasta salad made with Italian cured meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated vegetables is a great way to add some variety to your pasta salad spread.
  • Tomato Basil Chicken Pasta Salad – This pasta salad is one of my favorite main dishes to serve in the summer. Using fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and chicken – it is the perfect combination. It might just become your new favorite dinner. 
  • Veggie Pasta Salad – Veggie Pasta Salad is made with whole grain pasta, fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers. It is the perfect summer treat.
  • Chicken Garden Pasta Salad
  • Creamy Macaroni Salad – While not a traditional “pasta salad,” macaroni salad is a great option for a creamy, cold pasta salad.

There you have it – tons of ideas of what to serve with pasta salad. Lots of easy side dishes, a few main courses, and some easy desserts. Whether you’re hosting a summer barbecue or packing a picnic lunch, these recipes are sure to please your guests and complement your pasta salad perfectly.

A collage of images showing what to serve with pasta salad - fried okra, fried squash, coleslaw, steak, chicken tenders, and deviled eggs.

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Hi, I'm Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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