Chipotle-lime chicken bacon pasta salad. A FLAVORFUL alternative to traditional summer pasta salad.

Looking for a pasta salad recipe with some punch-you-in-the-face flavor? Me too!

A lot of pasta salads are bland, but there’s no reason why they have to be.

I recently went on a mission to create a picnic-ready pasta salad that was bursting with flavor.

And I totally succeeded.

Chipotle-lime pasta salad, with chicken and bacon. Lots, LOTS, lots of flavor

What Makes This Salad So Flavorful?

Lots of things. Don’t skimp on these ingredients:

  • Fresh garlic. I used three whole garlic cloves in the dressing. Want more garlic flavor? Use 4 or 5 cloves.
  • Adobo sauce. I love the smoky flavor of adobo sauce. I also love the spiciness of it. My trick to using adobo sauce? Buy a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Throw the contents into a blender until you have a smooth sauce. Place in a tight-lidded container and freeze. Scoop out desired amount when you need it.
  • Lime: Lime adds a tangy citrus flavor. Add more if you desire!
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: There is a time and a place for sharp cheddar cheese, and this salad is both. Look for extra sharp cheese if you can find it.
  • Apple cider vinegar: The pasta is “soaked” in apple cider vinegar and additional vinegar is added to the sauce. See below.
  • Scallions: I add scallions to everything. Scallions are great for adding onion flavor to a dish without being overwhelming like raw onion can be. And they’re cheap too!

Ingredients for chipotle-lime chicken bacon past salad. This salad's got FLAVOR!

How To Flavor Pasta With Vinegar

Infusing pasta with flavor has traditionally been limited to salting the water while the pasta cooks. I took it a step further and added apple cider vinegar to the pasta after it has cooked and been drained. I saw this tip on another website (sorry, can’t remember the name) and thought I would give it a try while attempting to make a summer pasta salad that is jam-packed with flavor. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Add salt to cooking water.
  • Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to the cooking pot.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar per pound of pasta.
  • Let the pasta cool. As it cools, the pasta will take on some of the vinegar flavor. Once the pasta is cool, it’s ready to be made into salad.

More pasta salad recipes:

Summery BLT salad

Chicken spaghetti salad

Zucchini “pasta” salad with mozzarella and basil



Like what you see? Follow along on Instagram for more recipes, money-saving tips, and lots of food pics.

Chipotle-Lime Chicken Bacon Pasta Salad

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

As with all pasta salad recipes, feel free to play around with the amount of spices and flavorings you add.


For salad

  • 1 pound of pasta (your choice, I used radiatori)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup shredded chicken (I used rotisserie)
  • 1/2 cup chopped bacon
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped

For dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half (or heavy whipping cream)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Apple cider vinegar; optional, to taste


  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour in apple cider vinegar and mix. Let the pasta cool.
  2. Place all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper, and apple cider vinegar to taste.
  3. Combine pasta with salad ingredients. Reserve some of the add-ins (like bacon bits, scallions, corn, etc.) to place on top for presentation. Stir in sauce and mix well. Chill. Top with reserved toppings and serve.

Did you like this recipe?

Please give it a 5-star review on the recipe card above!