Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies

Our go-to Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies is a summer staple! Simply toss al dente pasta, grilled lemon chicken & veggies, and mozzarella cheese into homemade basil pesto sauce for a fresh & satisfying summer dinner or side dish. This easy pesto pasta salad with chicken is perfect for summer potlucks & cookouts, meal prep lunches, weeknight dinners, & so much more!

An endlessly versatile recipe with meal prep & make-ahead instructions provided.

An overhead shot of a large bowl of prepared pasta salad topped with pesto, sitting alongside a wooden cutting board, bowl of basil leaves, striped dish towel, jar of pesto, and bowl of pepper atop a white surface.

Win Over Every Potluck with this Fresh & Fun Pesto Pasta Salad!

Here at the PWWB House, few dishes are as big of a crowdpleaser as this Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad. 🤩 I make this recipe all the time for everything from summer meal prep to potlucks, & it gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it – including you! We first published this recipe years ago & it continues to be a PWWB reader favorite during the warm months.

After all, what’s not to love about the combination of homemade basil pesto, lemony grilled chicken, charred summer veggies, & twirly al dente pasta?! This pesto pasta salad recipe is super fresh, layered with smokiness from the grill, & honestly just a lot of fun. And it’s beyond easy to throw together. Grill up the chicken & veggies, boil your fave pasta, & toss it all together with fresh mozzarella & pesto – done!

Plus, this chicken pesto pasta salad recipe is super flexible by design – enjoy it warm or cold, as a show-stopping potluck dish or easy weeknight dinner, & feel free to get creative with ingredients. Use what you love & embrace simple shortcuts like rotisserie chicken or jarred pesto to make prep even faster. No matter how you make it, there’s nothing not to love!

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe Highlights

This is the perfect pasta salad for summer & beyond. You’ll come back to this recipe time & time again because it’s…

FRESH & FEEL GOOD. Loaded with grilled veggies, homemade lemon basil pesto, & pops of fresh mozzarella cheese, this chicken pesto pasta salad boasts all the best flavors of summer!

A BACK POCKET RECIPE. Make this easy pesto pasta salad recipe over & over, all summer long. Enjoy it at summer potlucks & cookouts, as a meal prep lunch, or an easy weeknight dinner. It’s perfect for just about any occasion & everyone LOVES it!

SUPER FLEXIBLE. Use your favorite seasonal veggies, swap in rotisserie chicken or jarred pesto for ease, or opt for your favorite pasta shape or tortellini. Pesto pasta salad shortcuts & customization are highly encouraged! 🙌🏼

What’s not to love about that?! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

Among the many reasons why we love this pesto pasta salad recipe is that its ingredients are all simple summer staples.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need…

  • PastaCavatappi (pictured here) is great for pasta salad because its corkscrew shape captures creamy pesto sauce beautifully. You can also use whatever pasta shape you love most. Try making a bowtie, orecchiette, or tortellini pasta salad with pesto – it’s up to you! More Tips! How to Cook Pasta Perfectly.
  • Lemon chicken – Our Grilled Lemon Chicken pairs beautifully with a lemon basil pesto sauce & it couldn’t be easier to make. Simply toss juicy chicken thighs with olive oil, lemon, & garlic then toss ’em on the grill. Super fast & flavorful!
  • Veggies – Summer is the best time of year for veggies, so don’t be shy here! Since the grill is already fired up for the chicken, we love adding grilled zucchini, red bell peppers, & blistered cherry tomatoes to this chicken pesto pasta salad. Feel free to use whatever you already have on hand or love most!
  • Mozzarella – Something about herbaceous & bright pesto begs for for creamy mozzarella cheese. We love using fresh mozzarella pearls, which are the perfect size for tossing into a pasta salad. If you prefer something with bolder flavor, like goat or feta cheese, go for it!
  • Lemon basil pesto – Our quick & easy homemade pesto is a simple mix of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon, parmesan, & EVOO. It’s SO good & seriously easy to throw together!

Easy Recipe Variations & Shortcuts

The fun thing about this pesto chicken pasta salad is there’s really no way you can go wrong, so feel free to make this recipe your own! It’s extremely versatile & shortcuts are encouraged – use whatever you love most & have fun with it! A few ideas to get you started…

Choose another pasta shape. There are endless varieties to choose from! Feel free to use any short pasta you like, such as rigatoni, penne, rotini, orecchiette, or bowtie pasta. A cheese tortellini pesto pasta salad is also an always-fantastic idea!

Skip the grill & use rotisserie chicken for ease. Doing so eliminates a cooking step & is a great way to use up any leftovers that might be hanging out in your fridge. Feel free to use dark meat or chicken breasts.

Swap in your favorite jarred pesto. Our all-time favorite is from DeLallo – it has amazing fresh flavor & you can see the bits of pine nuts throughout. 😍 Tip!The best way to brighten up store-bought pesto sauce is with a squeeze of lemon juice. Its acidity helps bring all of the pesto’s fresh flavors back to life.

Grill up other summer veggies like red onion, mushrooms, broccolini, or whatever you love most. If you have some greens on hand, toss them on in! Fresh spinach or peppery arugula are great add-ins.

For a vegetarian pesto pasta salad, simply skip the chicken. For a vegan pesto pasta salad, skip the chicken & mozzarella pearls & omit the parmesan from the basil pesto. Feel free to double down on veggies too!

Homemade Lemon Basil Pesto Sauce

This is our go-to homemade pesto here at the PWWB House. You may recognize it from other recipes like our Lamb Pasta with Springtime Veggies, but it’s also a no-brainer for pesto pasta salad with chicken. It’s super fresh & bright, & it couldn’t be easier to make!


Finely chop the aromatics. Add fresh basil, garlic, lemon zest & juice, finely grated parmesan cheese, & pine nuts to a food processor, then pulse to combine. Tip! ⇢ For a creamy, dreamy pesto, be sure to pulse gently, stopping occasionally to scrape down any bits on the sides so everything combines.


Drizzle in the olive oil. With the food processor running, slowly stream in olive oil until the pesto sauce reaches the perfect consistency. Why? ⇢ Slowly streaming in the olive oil gives it time to mix & form a smooth pesto.

Meal Prep Tip!

Once it’s mixed, the lemon basil pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Pesto oxidizes quickly, losing its bright green color, so be sure to seal it tight!

Prefer store-bought? ⇢ While we love whipping up a quick & easy pesto, store-bought options also work great for chicken pesto pasta salad. DeLallo Simply Pesto is our forever fave! Try folding in a little fresh lemon zest & juice to bring its flavors back to life.

Lemony Grilled Chicken & Veggies

We love bulking up pasta salad with a quick protein & lots of veggies. A garlicky lemon marinade & super quick char on the grill gives them both an extra-special touch that tastes especially summery, adding layers of bright & smoky flavor to this otherwise simple pasta salad. Plus, it’s super simple – the grill does most of the work!


Prep the veggies. Cut the zucchini & bell peppers into wide planks that are big enough to rest on the grill grates. You can leave the cherry tomatoes whole, but be sure to thread them on a skewer to prevent them from falling through the grill grates. Learn more! ⇢ A-Z Guide to Grilled Veggies.


Season the chicken & veggies. Whip up a quick lemony garlic marinade with EVOO, lemon zest & juice, & garlic. Toss the veggies in the mixture, coating them well, then remove & add in the chicken. Feel free to let the chicken soak while the grill preheats, 20 minutes tops. Why? ⇢ This mixture is super acidic, so marinating the chicken any longer impacts the texture of the meat. Plus, it’s so flavorful that it really doesn’t need much time! 🙌🏼


Grill the chicken & veggies. Preheat the grill with medium-high direct heat, then add the chicken & veggies. The veggies will cook a little faster than the chicken – the tomatoes need just a few minutes to blister & soften, while the peppers & zucchini char up perfectly after about 3-4 minutes per side. The chicken will be juicy, charred, & cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F after about 5 minutes per side.

Meal Prep Tip!

Feel free to grill the chicken & veggies ahead of time to cut down on chicken pesto pasta salad prep required at dinner time. Once cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces & store in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Assembly & Serving

Once your pasta is cooked, the chicken & veggies are grilled, & the pesto is ready, then all that’s left to do is assemble. Simply toss the pasta, chicken, veggies, & mozzarella pearls in a bowl & combine until everything is coated in pesto – easy!

Don’t worry too much about serving temperature if you’re making chicken pesto pasta salad for a potluck or cookout. This recipe is equally delicious prepared hot before dinner, at room temperature on the buffet table, or cold right out of the fridge – you can’t go wrong!

Make-Ahead Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad. ⇢ You can prep this pesto pasta salad recipe ahead of a summer party & keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days. The leftovers also make an awesome easy lunch or dinner during the week!

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad FAQs

What is the best pasta for pasta salad?

We like using cavatappi in this pesto pasta salad recipe. The creamy pesto clings nicely to the corkscrew shape & it also easily captures bits of grilled veggies & chicken. Our other go-to shapes for pasta salad are rigatoni, shells, radiatori, bowties, or tortellini.

Do you let pasta cool before making pasta salad?

We like to mix pasta salad while the pasta is still warm because it helps the sauce coat everything. This creates a more unified pesto pasta salad!

Can pesto pasta salad be eaten cold?

Yes! This particular summer pesto pasta salad with chicken is great served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Can you make pesto pasta salad the night before?

Absolutely! This chicken pesto pasta salad holds really well in the fridge overnight. The next day you can take it to-go to your potluck or dig right in & enjoy.

How long does pasta salad last in the fridge?

You can store leftover chicken pesto pasta salad in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. We love eating leftovers for an easy lunch or lazy dinner!

I can’t wait for you to try this Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies! It embodies some of our favorite things about summer – like fresh flavors & grilling – & couldn’t be easier to make. No wonder everyone who tries it loves it!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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An overhead shot of a large bowl of prepared pasta salad topped with pesto, sitting alongside a wooden cutting board, bowl of basil leaves, striped dish towel, jar of pesto, and bowl of pepper atop a white surface.

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dish, Side Dish
  • Method: Grilled, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


I have a well-documented love for a good ol’ summer pasta salad, & this Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies just might be my favorite. It’s a dish I prep all the time during the warm weather season for everything from meal prep to backyard cookouts & it gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it. 

There are 3 key components at play in this chicken pesto pasta salad recipe:

  1. Homemade lemon basil pesto sauce: This is my go-to pesto recipe, which comes together quickly in a food processor with a generous amount of summer basil & grated parmesan cheese, but the secret ingredient is the zest & fresh juice of a lemon – a small addition that makes all of the other ingredients sing. 
  2. Grilled chicken & veggies: Seasoned with a quick marinade of lemon & garlic & tossed on the grill for irresistible smoky-charred flavor. Here’s where this recipe gets a lot of its flexibility – feel free to use whatever veggies are in season & let the grill do all the work!
  3. Al dente pasta: Of course! I often opt for perfectly twirly cavatappi, but you can use whatever you short pasta you already have on hand. For an especially fun twist, swap in some cheese tortellini!

You can serve it warm, cold, or at room temperature, making this pesto pasta salad a perfect weeknight dinner recipe, meal prep lunch, or even a summer BBQ side dish – an all-purpose summer meal!


  • lemon basil pesto, below
  • 8 ounces cavatappi, or other short pasta of choice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 34 flat planks
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound chicken thighs or thinly pounded chicken breast
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
  • kosher salt ground black pepper, to season

for the lemon basil pesto:

  • 1 ¼ ounces fresh basil leaves & tender stems (about 1 cup loosely packed)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon, zested & juiced
  • ¼ cup finely grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 34 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season


  1. Prepare the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. Once preheated, clean the cooking surface by firmly brushing a wire brush over the grates. (If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, you can also preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.)Weber Genesis II Propane Grill on a deck.
  2. Prep the lemon basil pesto: Place all listed ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed. With the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Set aside, or transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.Blended lemon basil pesto in a food processor carafe, atop a white surface surrounded by additional pesto ingredients that are out of focus.
  3. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water. Add in the pasta and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, then rinse with cold water & set aside.An overhead shot of cooked noodles in a silver strainer resting in a cast iron pot atop a white surface.
  4. Prep the chicken & veggies: Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, prep & grill the chicken & veggies. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest & juice, & garlic. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Toss the bell pepper, zucchini, & cherry tomatoes through the marinade. Transfer to a large plate or small baking sheet, stringing the marinated cherry tomatoes on a skewer, & set aside. Add the chicken to the bowl tossing to coat in the remaining marinade.A baking dish with ready-to-grill zucchini, red peppers and skewers of tomatoes, and a bowl of marinated chicken thighs sit atop a white surface. Small bowls of salt and pepper sit alongside them.
  5. Grill the chicken & veggies: Place the chicken & veggies on the prepared grill, ensuring the tomato skewers & zucchini are positioned perpendicular to the grill grates to help prevent them from falling through the grates as they cook. Grill vegetables until as softened & charred as desired – tomatoes will grill in about 2 minutes per side, while bell pepper & zucchini need 3-4 minutes per side. Grill the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, or until fully cooked through. Remove from the grill & set aside to cool slightly.An overhead shot of a baking dish with grilled tomato skewers, red peppers, and zucchini, and a plate of grilled chicken atop a striped towel on a white surface. A jar of pesto and bowl of pepper sit beside them.
  6. Assemble the pesto pasta salad: Once cool enough to handle, chop the grilled chicken, bell pepper, & zucchini into bite-sized pieces. Add the cooked pasta, prepared lemon basil pesto, grilled chicken, grilled veggies, & mozzarella pearls to a large bowl. Toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt or ground black pepper as needed. Enjoy!An overhead shot of a large bowl of prepared pasta salad ingredients, sitting alongside a wooden cutting board, bowl of basil leaves, striped dish towel, jar of pesto, and bowl of pepper atop a white surface.


  • Ingredient Notes & Recipe Variations: This pesto pasta salad is a very flexible recipe, so feel free to adjust to your liking or take shortcuts if needed! Swap grilled chicken with shredded rotisserie chicken (or omit altogether for a vegetarian dish), opt for store-bought pesto instead of homemade (I always mix a little fresh lemon juice into my favorite jarred pesto to liven up its flavor), or use whatever veggies you happen to have on hand. Have fun with it & make it your own!
  • Make-Ahead & Storage: This pesto pasta salad is great served warm, at room temperature, or cold. Leftovers will keep for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make it ahead of time for meal prep or summer party prep or enjoy leftovers as an easy lunch or dinner during the week!
  • Meal prep: You can make this summer pesto pasta salad recipe in its entirety ahead of time (serving, storage notes above), or you can partially prep its components in advance to make throwing together dinner during the week even quicker. 2 meal prep options:
    • 10-Minute Meal Prep: Slice the red bell pepper & zucchini and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Prep the zesty marinade according to Step 3 of Recipe Directions. Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. At dinnertime, cook the pasta, grill the chicken & veggies, & toss it all together with very little prep work involved.
    • 20-Minute Meal Prep: Prep and grill the chicken & veggies according to Steps 3-4 of Recipe Directions. Chop & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. At dinnertime simply cook the pasta & toss it all together – easy!

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.


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  1. 8.10.21
    Whitney said:

    This was ridiculously easy and delicious. I happened to have a jar of homemade pesto in the freezer so I used that. Found out I didn’t have fuel in the grill so the meat and veggies went into the air fryer at 350. Chicken for about 17 minutes, veggies for 10. For leftovers it’s good cold, or if you pop a bowl full in the microwave for a minute just to soften up the cheese a bit and take the cold edge off. Will make again.

    • 12.29.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks Whitney, we’re so glad you enjoyed!! Love that you were able to use up some homemade pesto – that sounds SO good! & thank you for sharing your air fryer & leftover tips – always helpful for other readers!

  2. 8.29.20
    Meghan said:

    I made this for a family BBQ. Grilled the veggies the night before, cooked the pasta the day of and tossed it all together. It was SO good. A nice change from the traditional pasta salad and those who don’t care for hamburgers and hot dogs enjoyed the grilled chicken in the salad. Big hit!

    • 5.28.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Meghan! So glad to hear that it was a hit – be on the lookout for even more grilled recipes & summer goodness coming soon this year! 🙂