Kale chicken pasta salad with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Works great for meal prep or a weeknight dinner.
This kale chicken pasta salad is a personal favorite of mine from our 2017 Lunch Prep Challenge...so it's about time I post the recipe on the blog!
With chicken breast, pasta, kale, dried cranberries, feta cheese and sunflower seeds, it is filling but still healthy.
And I'm showing you how you can use this recipe for meal prep (there are a few different ways to do it!).
Don't forget to pin this post to save it for later!
Reasons to love kale chicken pasta salad:
- you can meal prep it in a few different ways
- it is filling but still healthy
- you can have it ready in under 30 minutes
How to make it
There are a few components to this pasta salad, and the best part is that they are all really flexible! Don't like one of them? Swap it out (swaps suggested below)
- Pasta- I have used penne because I find it hearty enough to hold up for several days. Swaps: whole wheat pasta, bowtie pasta, fusilli, almost any pasta would work- I would be cautious of using orzo as it does not hold up as well for meal prep.
- Chicken- we are baking 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast. Vegetarian? Swap for chickpeas!
- Kale- I personally love kale, however I know some people do not. Swap it for romaine if you'd prefer. If you layer it at the very top of a mason jar, spinach can work too!
- Balsamic vinaigrette- nice and tangy and simple to prepare. Swap it for one of these Seven Vinaigrette Recipes.
- Goodies- feta cheese, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. Swap it out for your fave cheese, fruit and nut/seed.
How to turn pasta salad into a meal prep recipe
Want to make this salad last for up to four days?
- option 1- assemble as jar salads. Place the dressing at the bottom of a 1 pint jar, then layer in the following order: chicken, pasta, kale, goodies. Shake the jar out into a bowl just before serving!
- option 2- store everything separate. Keep the dressing, pasta, kale, chicken and 'goodies all in separate containers, then assemble just before serving!
With either option, kale pasta salad is good for up to 4 days in the fridge. After that you can run into food safety issues with the chicken.
Do you serve it warm or cold? I serve mine cold. I suppose you could try warming it up if you'd prefer?
How long is it good for? Assembled as jar salads, or stored separately for meal prep, this recipe is good for four days in the fridge.
Can you freeze pasta salad? No. This salad cannot be frozen.
Tips & Equipment
- for jar salads- go with 1 pint jars
- for storing separately, I like using these Rubbermaid Produce Savers for the kale, half pint jars for the dressing, and 6 cup snapware storage containers for the pasta and chicken
- looking for more healthy pasta recipes? Check out this Greek Chicken Pasta Salad, this Herbed Orzo Pasta Salad and this Meal Prep Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad
- 2 cups penne uncooked; 4.6 oz; see note 1
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast roughtly 2 large chicken breasts; see note 2
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- salt & pepper
- 4 cups kale see note 3
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup crumbled feta
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds see note 4
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- Cook Pasta - Cook the pasta according to package directions, then set aside to cool.
- Cook Chicken Breast - Heat oven to 450°F. Toss chicken breasts in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt & pepper. Bake chicken breasts according to their size: 5 oz (12-15 min), 7 oz (15-20 min), 10 oz (20-25 min), or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Prepare Kale - Use a paring knife to separate the kale leaves from the stem. Tear into bite-sized pieces, then wash in cold water. Spin until dry.
- Vinaigrette - Shake together all vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar or salad dressing shaker.
- Layer- Divide between four 1 pint or larger jars in the following order:vinaigrette (bottom)chickenpastakalesunflower seeds, feta cheese & dried cranberries (top)Seal and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Serve- To serve, shake everything out into a bowl and toss up until coated in the vinaigrette.
- you may use any pasta shape, though orzo is not recommended as it doesn't hold up for meal prep
- this recipe is also great with chickpeas
- swap kale for spinach or romaine lettuce
- sunflower seeds do not stay crunchy for meal prep; add them fresh if you'd prefer
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