This buffalo chicken pasta salad has the perfect combination of noodles, crisp veggies, tangy buffalo chicken and a cooling ranch sauce. Topped with creamy blue cheese for an easy summer salad the entire family will love!
Need an easy recipe to bring to a BBQ? This buffalo pasta salad is it! It comes together in just 10 minutes and is full of flavor. Some of my other potluck favorites are broccoli salad with bacon, southwest cornbread salad and cucumber tomato salad.
You know the kind of ideas you get that will either be absolutely genius or a complete and utter failure if you try it? This buffalo chicken pasta salad is one of them. It takes two separately great foods and combines them into one incredible meal—cue the fanfare because this one is a total home run!
If you ask me, two of the best foods in the world are a creamy pasta salad and buffalo baked chicken wings. So why not combine two good things to make one great thing? This recipe hits all the flavor notes–tangy, creamy, cool and, thanks to carrots, even sweet. It’s enjoyable any time of the year, but if you’re looking for a way to beat the heat—try this one in the summertime.
It’s also really simple to throw together. You’ll just need some cooked pasta and shredded chicken, as well as celery and carrots for that cool crunch. The dressing is so easy because you just use bottled ranch dressing. You can also make your own homemade ranch dressing or substitute blue cheese dressing. Top it off with crumbled blue cheese and buffalo sauce and you’ve got an amazing lunch or BBQ side dish.
Tips + variations
- Pasta. I like using rotini because it is shaped with ridges and holds the sauce nicely. You can absolutely use other types of pasta, like bow tie or penne.
- Chicken. Keep it simple with shredded rotisserie chicken. Or make my easy instant pot buffalo chicken and use any leftovers to make a buffalo chicken wrap or buffalo chicken salad the next day.
- Cheese. Blue cheese is hit or miss for most people. To play it safe, you could always use crumbled or shredded mozzarella instead.
- Spice. Everyone has their own tolerance for spice, so feel free to adjust the amount of hot sauce used. The ranch does help to tame the heat down a bit, but make sure to taste as you go and add more or less depending on your tolerance.
- Let cool. Drain the pasta and make sure it has cooled completely before mixing in the other ingredients. This way the sauce will stay thick and not lose any flavor from the hot pasta.
- Gluten-free. This recipe can easily be made into a yummy gluten free dish! Just sub out the regular pasta in the ingredients for your favorite gluten free pasta. I’d recommend using gluten free rotini, penne or macaroni noodles for best results. Just make sure the noodles are not overcooked—al dente works best.
- Kid-friendly. Many kids will gobble up this dish as-is with no problem—they’ll hardly know they are eating veggies, thanks to the ranch! However, if you have picky eaters (don’t we all?!) or want to tone down the heat, try reserving some of the pasta salad without the hot sauce and just added ranch.
- Vegetarian. With all of it’s delicious flavor, this pasta salad doesn’t actually need meat. The pasta and diced veggies still make it super filling. You could always add in a few extra veggies like diced tomatoes or red pepper to bulk it up a little more.
Can you make it the night before?
I love make-ahead recipes, don’t you? This recipe can easily be made the day before or the morning of if you are planning ahead of time. Since this is a cold dish, you can pre-cook your noodles and have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go in the fridge.
A few minutes before you are ready to serve, dump all the ingredients in one bowl and toss with ranch dressing. Alternatively, you can serve the ingredients separately and let everyone pick and choose which ingredients they would like to add.
Since this is a creamy pasta salad made with ranch, it will need to be kept refrigerated in an airtight container. It holds up very well and will stay fresh for up to 3 days. The carrots and celery stay crispy and crunchy, while the sauce remains thick and flavorful. No soggy vegetables or watery sauce! Just make sure to give it a big stir before enjoying.
More pasta salad recipes:
- BLT pasta salad
- Chicken Caesar pasta salad
- Southwest pasta salad
- Macaroni Salad
- Pesto chicken pasta salad
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
- 2 cups rotini pasta , cooked to al dente and chilled
- 1 chicken breast , cooked and shredded (about 1 cup)
- 4 stalks celery , chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup ranch dressing
- 2 Tablespoons buffalo sauce , more to taste (I used Frank's Red Hot)
- 2 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
- Mix together the ranch, blue cheese and buffalo sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Test the spiciness of the dressing and add more hot sauce to taste.
- Toss the cooked and cooled rotini, shredded chicken, celery and carrots together in a large bowl.
- Pour dressing over the pasta and stir until evenly coated.
- Divide into bowls and serve!