This delicious and easy Fruit Pasta Salad is loaded with juicy grapes, celery, chicken, mandarin oranges and tossed in an amazing lower calorie, creamy ranch dressing. (gluten and dairy-free options)
This is the Mary Poppins of pasta salads – perfect in every way! I’m a big fan of easy dinners, and this is the perfect example. It’s just a matter of throwing together five simple ingredients, whipping up a yummy creamy ranch dressing and mixing it all together! Plus, it’s crazy easy to make gluten and dairy free and still tastes AMAZING!
I first tried this salad when I was thirteen at a bridal shower for one of my church leaders. It was so dreamy that I asked for the recipe and held onto all these years. That’s how big of a food nerd I am. I honestly don’t know where the original recipe came from, but I’ve made a few alterations over the years, mostly changing the dressing to a healthier, lower calorie version. The original contained whole buttermilk and more mayonnaise, but I use low fat buttermilk (or cashew milk if I’m making it dairy free) and honestly I like it just as much. Juicy red grapes, crisp celery, tangy and sweet mandarin oranges and a creamy light ranch dressing. This salad has both sweet and savory elements and delightful textures that make this salad absolutely irresistible. It’s perfect for a summer BBQ side dish but can really shine anytime of the year! Trust me, I make it all the time. Any gathering, potluck or party, this is my go to winner! Best part? It keeps nicely in the refrigerator for several days so you can easily make it ahead of time. In fact, I like it even better the next day!My secret for making this salad so easy – rotisserie chicken! While you can use any chicken you like, I am a huge believer in saving time when possible. Grabbing a rotisserie chicken from Costco or your local grocery store is the definition of a time saver. Tip: pick up a few, take them home, shred (or have your husband/significant other if you are SCARED TO DEATH of touching chicken like me) and freeze them in quart size freezer bags. I seriously always have like 10 bags of them in my freezer at all times and rotate through them so quickly for easy weeknight dinners. They are perfect in soups, salads, tacos, really anything that calls for chicken when you need some fast or don’t feel like cooking any. Plus, they are perfectly seasoned and add great flavor to any dish!P.S. You don’t have to cut each grape individually. A little trick I learned (from Fixate on Beachbody On Demand, yes you can laugh at me) is to simply sandwhich your grapes between two rimmed plastic lids (lids facing in toward each other) and slice through them with a large serrated knife, all in one stroke. This seriously cuts your prep time in half, and you can use this trick with any small round food like cherry tomatoes, blueberries, olives, etc. Click here for an easy tutorial with great visuals.
P.S.S. Go make this now!Print
Fruit Pasta Salad
This delicious and simple to make Fruit Pasta Salad is loaded with juicy grapes, celery, chicken, mandarin oranges and tossed in an amazing lower calorie, creamy ranch dressing. (gluten and dairy-free options)
- 1 box shell pasta cooked and drained*
- 2 cups shredded chicken (I like to use about half of a rotisserie chicken)
- 2 cans of mandarin oranges, drained
- 2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 packages Buttermilk ranch salad dressing
- 1 cup low fat buttermilk (or cashew milk if making dairy free)
- 3/4 cup mayonaise
- Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a hand whisk or fork until smooth and incorporated. Cover and place in fridge to thicken.
- Cook pasta shells according to instructions. Drain and place in a large bowl in the fridge to cool.
- Dice celery, halve grapes and shred chicken. Add to the pasta in the large bowl.
- Add the drained mandarin oranges to the bowl and pour dressing over the top.
- With a large spoon, carefully mix the ingredients with the dressing without smashing the oranges.
- Refrigerate leftovers. Keeps well for up to 3-4 days.
- You can easily make this dish gluten and (mostly) dairy free by using gluten free noodles and your favorite dairy free milk alternative (I love cashew milk).
- I say mostly dairy free because there’s a tiny amount of dairy in the buttermilk ranch packet mix. It’s less than 2% and doesn’t phase my husband who gets pretty sick with small amounts of dairy, but if you are allergic or can’t have even the smallest amount, this may not be the best for you.
You can also find great recipes at Weekend Potluck.