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What Meat Goes with Cold Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad, with its medley of flavors and textures, has long been a staple on tables in the South. While fresh vegetables and dressings often take center stage, the addition of meat can transform this classic dish into a hearty and satisfying meal. But when it comes to pasta salad, why settle for the ordinary? Let’s venture beyond the expected and explore what meat goes with pasta salad. 

This is a overhead shot of the completed Spaghetti Pasta Salad Recipe

What is Pasta Salad?

Pasta salad is a versatile and refreshing dish made primarily from cooked pasta, which is then chilled and mixed with a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, cheeses, and dressings. It is typically served cold or at room temperature, making it a popular choice for picnics, potlucks, barbecues, and other casual gatherings.

This image is a close up of a classic pasta salad that has spiral noodles of different colors, black olives, cheese, tomatoes, and ham.

There are many recipes for Pasta salad from the classic pasta salad to a creamy pasta salad. There is a macaroni salad and a Greek Pasta salad. Some include olive oil, black olives, and red wine vinegar. There are loads of fresh veggies that you can include and the options are endless. You can opt for red bell pepper for a pop of color and a burst of subtle sweetness or go with the traditional green. 

My go-to pasta salad has to be this spaghetti pasta salad. It is a very easy pasta salad recipe and It utilizes lots of fresh veggies, red onions, black olives, summer squash, Parmesan cheese, and a zesty dressing. I love to cook the noodles al dente, which have just a little bite. Before you attend your next backyard BBQ this summer, check out this recipe. It is such an easy side dish to make. 

What Meat Goes With Pasta Salad: My Go-To List

​There are so many great options to choose from when it comes to what meat goes with pasta salad, but these are my favorite dishes to serve. 

1. Steak

Imagine thinly sliced strips of juicy, medium-rare steak mingling with tender pasta and crisp vegetables. Steak brings a rich, savory flavor and satisfying texture to pasta salad, making it a luxurious option for meat lovers.

How Long does it take to cook a steak on the George Foreman Grill.

Marinate the steak in your favorite herbs and spices before grilling, then slice it thinly and toss it with pasta, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and a balsamic vinaigrette for a sophisticated twist on traditional pasta salad, or serve the steak as the main dish and the pasta salad as a side dish. 

If you are looking for a quick way to cook a steak, check out this article I wrote on cooking a steak on a George Foreman grill.

2. Fried Chicken

Crispy, golden-brown fried chicken adds a comforting crunch and indulgent flavor to pasta salad. Whether you opt for boneless chicken tenders or crispy fried thighs, the contrast of textures between the crunchy chicken and tender pasta creates a delightful eating experience.

This is a image with southern fried chicken on the left and a brown background on the right with words written over it. The words say Southern Fried Chicken. Then Pairs well with Pasta salad.

Fried chicken is one of my favorite meats that goes with pasta salad in my opinion. 

3. Grilled Pork Chops

Grilled pork chops bring a smoky sweetness and hearty protein to pasta salad, elevating it to new heights of flavor. Marinate the pork chops in a tangy barbecue sauce before grilling to infuse them with irresistible flavor, then slice them thinly and toss them with pasta, grilled corn, black beans, red onion, and cilantro for a Southwestern-inspired twist on pasta salad that’s the perfect for summer gatherings.

This is a image of a grilled pork chop that is sitting on a dark plate. just above the pork chop is grilled asparagus.

If you do not want an all-in-one dish, serve the grilled pork chops with the pasta salad as a side dish.

4. BBQ

In the South, when we mention a Barbecue, we are talking about BBQ pork. Anytime you attend backyard BBQs, there are two dishes you will see as sides, Potato salad, and Pasta salad. These two dishes just go hand in hand.

This is a close up image of southern style barbecue. This image is here because it is one one of the meats that I recommend to serve with Pasta Salad.

BBQ pulled pork adds a bold and smoky flavor that pairs well with pasta salad. If you love a vinegar-based sauce, the addition of Pasta salad works well with the acidity of the vinegar. 

5. Baked Chicken

Tender, juicy baked chicken breasts or thighs make a delicious addition to pasta salad. The salad’s light and fresh taste pairs wonderfully with the hearty flavor of baked chicken. If you’re wondering what meat goes with pasta salad, baked chicken is an excellent choice.

Whole chicken breast recipe (Juicy Cajun Style) Featured Image

It’s tender, and juicy, and adds a satisfying element to the meal. Whether you’re hosting a family dinner or a casual get-together, this combination is sure to be a hit.

6. Meatloaf

Meatloaf may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about pasta salad, but its savory flavor and hearty texture make it a surprisingly delicious addition. Pasta salad makes the perfect side dish for this meat.

This is a closeup image of meatloaf. Half of the meatloaf is sliced where you can see the texture and the ingredients in it.

Next time you are wondering what meat to serve with pasta salad, think about meatloaf!

7. Hamburgers

Grilled hamburgers are an excellent choice to serve with Pasta salad. Hamburgers and pasta salad make a great pair because they offer a satisfying balance of flavors and textures. The juicy, savory taste of hamburgers complements the light and refreshing qualities of pasta salad.

Plus, the versatility of both dishes allows for endless customization, making them a crowd-pleasing duo for any occasion. Whether you’re enjoying a backyard cookout or a casual dinner, hamburgers and pasta salad are sure to satisfy everyone’s cravings.

8. Hot dogs

Pasta salad and hot dogs are a match made in culinary heaven, each complementing the other in a symphony of flavors and textures that elevate any backyard BBQ or casual gathering. Hot dogs are a beloved cookout staple known for their savory flavor and satisfying simplicity.

this is a image of a man holding a plate. The plate has grilled hot dogs on it. Some are plain and some are in a bun. The man is wearing a blue shirt with a white apron on.

However, they can be quite rich and heavy on their own. Pairing them with pasta salad adds a refreshing element to the meal, balancing out the richness of the hot dogs with the lightness and freshness of the salad. 

If you love a good hot dog and like to top it with chili, you should try this Southern Food Junkie Hot Dog Chili sauce recipe.

9. Grilled Chicken

Pasta salad and grilled chicken go great together! The pasta salad is light and refreshing, while the grilled chicken is savory and delicious. They balance each other out perfectly. So, if you’re wondering what meat goes with pasta salad, grilled chicken is a top pick.

This is a image of two pieces of grilled chicken sitting on brown paper. Behind it is some dipping sauce that looks like ranch dressing. There is some green lettuce and some cherry red tomatoes in the background.

It’s tender and juicy, and it adds a lot of flavor to the meal. Whether you’re having a cookout or a casual dinner, this combo is sure to please everyone.


In conclusion, when it comes to pasta salad, the possibilities are endless. From steak to fried chicken, grilled pork chops to barbecue, baked chicken to meatloaf, and hamburgers to hotdogs, there’s no shortage of creative and delicious meat options to explore.

So, the next time you’re craving pasta salad, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with unexpected meat pairings. Who knows? You may just discover a new favorite dish that’s sure to delight your taste buds and impress your guests.

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