This kale chicken pasta salad is made with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. A healthy meal that works great for meal prep, or an easy weeknight dinner!
Pasta salad is such a delicious comfort food that the whole family will enjoy! While we love Greek chicken pasta salad as well as orzo pasta salad with mint and feta, this kale chicken pasta salad is perfect for packed lunches.
Tangy balsamic vinaigrette paired with salty feta and perfectly baked chicken breast - this pasta salad is packed with delicious flavors. A simple recipe that you can make with just a few staple ingredients.
This healthy pasta salad works great as an easy weeknight dinner, or for meal prep. There are a few options for meal prepping this recipe, which we have laid out below!
Reasons You'll ♡ This Recipe
- it has the perfect balance of flavors from the tart cranberries, vinaigrette, salty feta cheese, and juicy oven baked chicken
- it is filling and packed with healthy ingredients
- it's ready in under 30 minutes, and there are two options for meal prep storage
- Pasta - we have used penne because it is it hearty enough to hold up for several days. Alternatively, you could use whole wheat pasta, bowtie pasta, or fusilli. Almost any pasta would work, though orzo is not reccomended 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 - we 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. We're using this balsamic vinaigrette recipe, or you can swap it for one of these seven vinaigrette recipes.
- Toppings - feta cheese, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds add some nice texture and flavor. Swap it out for your fave cheese, fruit and nut or seed.
Step by Step Directions
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.
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.
Shake together all vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar or salad dressing shaker.
Divide between four 1 pint or larger jars in the following order:
- vinaigrette (bottom)
- sunflower seeds, feta cheese & dried cranberries (top)
Seal and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Toss everything together in a large bowl, and enjoy! If you intend to eat out of the jar, you may want to use a larger size, such as a 1 quart jar.
Want to make this salad last for up to four days? Here are two options for how you can meal prep it:
- 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!
- Store everything separate: Keep the dressing, pasta, kale, chicken and topping all in separate containers, then assemble just before serving!
- Fridge - Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, keep vinaigrette separate. After that, you can run into food safety issues with the chicken.
- Freezer- this recipe may not be frozen.
- swap kale for romaine or spinach
- swap dried cranberries for dried blueberries or cherries
- swap sunflower seeds for pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts or almonds
- swap chicken for chickpeas
- swap feta for goat cheese
- swap pasta for ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
We serve this pasta salad cold. You could try warming it up if you'd prefer, though the kale or greens you've included would wilt.
Assembled as jar salads, or stored separately for meal prep, this recipe is good for four days in the fridge.
No. This salad cannot be frozen.
- 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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