Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad - Cooking Up Happiness

After making my last recipe, spaghetti squash pasta, it got me thinking about pasta and how high it typically is in calories and carbs. Once it starts to get warmer – especially here in Florida – light and fresh meals are definitely the way to go!

When I started to run through some ideas, cold pasta salad sounded great for a make-ahead lunch. Especially since you can make a big bowl of pasta salad loaded with grilled chicken, fresh veggies and topped off with a light dressing.

The way to get those calories down is to use a smaller amount of pasta and more of your protein… That way, you still get the taste of a pasta salad, but it’s lower in calories. Another positive thing to adding that pasta is because of the amount of carbohydrates, it tends to fill you up and keep you going until your next meal!

Southwest Pasta Salad - Cooking Up Happiness

This southwest pasta salad has everything you want for a delicious and balanced meal, from the grilled chicken to the tasty (filling) pasta, fresh tomatoes and corn lightly coated in a cilantro lime dressing and crumbled Cotija cheese… YUM!

This pasta salad will have you looking forward to your lunches all week and would also be a great dish to bring to cookout… Definitely a crowd pleaser 🙂

Southwest Pasta Salad Ingredients:

For the Pasta Salad:

1/4 box (3 oz.) of orecchiette pasta (or whatever pasta you want to use)
15 oz. grilled chicken
1/2 cup loosely packed pickled jalapenos (measure and then diced for pasta)
4-5 green onions, chopped
1 cup corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1-2 oz. cotija cheese, crumbled

For the Cilantro Lime Dressing:

1 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup fat free plain greek yogurt
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Once pasta is cooked, drain into a strainer and start to rinse with cold water. Place strained pasta in the fridge while you put together the rest of the salad.
  2. Next is to prep the chicken; you can use grilled chicken or rotisserie (I used some frozen grilled strips just for convenience). Weigh out to 15 oz. and chop into bite-sizes and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add your chopped picked jalapenos (you can use fresh for an extra kick), corn, green onions, and tomatoes to the bowl with the chopped chicken. Place in the fridge while you make the dressing.
  4. Using a food processor, pulse together cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, greek yogurt, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until all broken up and fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove pasta and chicken mixture from the fridge, add pasta to the chicken and stir to combine.
  6. Pour cilantro dressing over and toss gently to combine and fully coat.
  7. Crumble in the Cotija cheese and toss gently to combine.
  8. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Southwest Pasta Salad - Cooking Up Happiness

Nutritional Information:

Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup or 8oz. of pasta salad

Calories: 280
Fat: 13 g
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 3 g
Protein: 22 g

Southwest Pasta Salad - Cooking Up Happiness


EMILY NESS is a full-time food and lifestyle author who’s passionate about developing simple yet mouth-watering recipes that anyone can make. Since founding her website in 2013, she’s went on to share her passion for cooking healthy and tasty recipes with the thousands of people around the world.
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Emily Ness - Cruise

Sharing a passion for food and fitness to live a healthy lifestyle - with the occasional hint of chocolate.