Skinny Avocado Ranch Pasta Salad is a nice creamy flavorful summer side dish with loads of mix-ins like avocado, corn, and red onion.
You don’t need too much ranch dressing for this pasta salad because the creamy avocado doubles as a bit of dressing adding moisture and texture to the salad. If you like a little more dressing, feel free.
Chop em’ big or small
For this type of pasta salad, I like to chop everything fairly small so you get a little of everything in each bite. But, if you prefer nice big chunks of something like red pepper, by all means, make em’ big.
I call this a Skinny Avocado Ranch Pasta Salad because I used my Skinny Buttermilk Ranch Dressing as my inspiration.
The Skinny Buttermilk Ranch is easy to mix together, and super yummy. Even my yogurt-adverse husband liked it.
If you’re yogurt-adverse as well, feel free to use sour cream in place of the plain yogurt in the Skinny Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. Or, make some ranch with one of those packets if you like; following the package directions for the dressing. Or, if you have a bottled ranch you like, give that a try here. I have yet to find a bottled ranch that I like. Hey, in fact, if you know of a good bottled ranch, tell me the brand in the comments so I can give it a try.
There are lots of ways to customize this pasta salad. Make it a main dish. Serve it as a side dish. Simply leave it as is. I love the ease and convenience of that!
- Shredded chicken
- Tuna, especially Island Trollers Tuna
- Cooked shrimp
- Blackened Cajun shrimp
- A can of drained white beans
- Crumbled Bacon
- Chopped boiled egg
- Crumbled blue cheese
- Cherry tomatoes
- Chopped cucumbers
- Crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
- Use gluten-free pasta
Can pasta salad be healthy?
Yes! Yes it can. With lots of veggies, and a dressing that isn’t just loaded with bad fats and simple sugars, this Skinny Avocado Ranch Pasta Salad can be good for you. You could make it a little healthier by using high protein pasta. Use a Whole-wheat pasta. Or a gluten-free pasta if you are so inclined.
In addition, this pasta salad is served cold, and when pasta cools, it changes its chemical structure into something called “resistant starch,” which can promote fat oxidation and weight loss.
Avocado is filled with good for you fats and nutrients, so adding avocado to your diet is healthy! I skipped the cheese in my version of this pasta salad to cut back on cholesterol and fats.
How long does pasta salad last out of the fridge, or in the fridge?
Bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F; pasta salad should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
If you want to make this pasta salad in advance, the pasta does soak up some of the moisture, so check it before serving to see if it needs a little more dressing. Also, you may want to add the avocado chunks in a the last-minute, as avocado can turn brown of left exposed to the air. I kept mine with the avocado for a couple of days, but the avocado that I used was home-grown, and I have noticed that it lasts longer than the store-bought ones. Extra big shout out to David, my mom’s husband, for the awesome avocados!!!
Pasta salad will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Make sure to cover it tightly with plastic wrap, or store it in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
Why do you say to cook the pasta until slightly underdone?
Soft overcooked pasta can fall apart when you toss it with dressing. And if you let your salad marinate for several hours, the pasta absorbs extra moisture and turns even more mushy.
I went with Rotini for my pasta for this pasta salad. I think it’s a fun shape that fairly easy to eat with just a fork. No cutting or twirling of the pasta needed. Bow ties or macaroni would also work well.
And the other cooking method that you may notice is that I say to place the chopped red onion and the corn in the strainer and pour the pasta cooking water over it. I do this to slightly cook my red onion; it softens to just enough to take the harsh raw bite out of it, but it still retains the nice crunch. And, the corn just gets a little softer, and fully defrosts with this method.
Other salads to take to the summer block party
Click on the photo to get to the recipe
Loaded Southwestern BBQ Pasta Salad
Peach, Nectarine, and Strawberry Fruit Salad with Lime Honey Basil Syrup
Wild Rice Salad
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Skinny Avocado Ranch Pasta Salad
Skinny Avocado Ranch Pasta Salad
- ½ pound Pasta
- ½ small Red Onion finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups fresh corn or defrosted frozen corn kernels
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 Avocado diced
- 1 recipe Skinny Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or 1 cup ranch dressing of your choice
- Cook pasta until tender, but just slightly underdone. While pasta cooks, place chopped red onion and corn kernels in the bottom of a strainer. Once pasta has just finished cooking, pour the boiling water over the onion and corn through the strainer, and strain the cooked pasta. Place the drained pasta, onion, and corn in a large bowl and allow to cool.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the pasta mixture, and gently toss to combine.
- In a smaller separate bowl, stir together skinny ranch dressing. Fold the dressing into the pasta salad.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.