Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad is the perfect side dish for your summer barbecues, but it’s also great as a filling lunch or lighter dinner! Packed with fresh, herby, and smoky flavors, this dish is so delicious AND so easy to make!
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It’s hard to beat a creamy make-ahead pasta salad in Spring or Summer!
Pasta Salads are so versatile that I can always find ways of making various versions of the same recipe, depending on what I have in my fridge at the time (which is great for those veggies you might not get to in time).
Check out my 30 Pasta Salad Recipes if you don’t believe me 😉
The combination of bacon, pasta, and cheese in the creamy ranch dressing is deliciously comforting, but it’s great because it’s also packed with veggies!
It’s a great option for making ahead lunches during the week, as it will last up to 4 days in the fridge.
We also love it for a lighter dinner during the summer or as a side dish with our summer BBQs!
If you love this recipe, you’ll also love my Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta, my Creamy Ranch Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe, and this BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Zucchini & Corn!
- Pasta: I’ve used gemelli pasta here, but you can use any kind of pasta you like. See the Variations for notes on using other pasta.
- Bacon: thick-cut bacon works well in this recipe to add smokiness and delicious crispy crunch, but any kind of bacon will work great. Don’t throw out that fat!
- Vegetables: use cherry or grape tomatoes, or on the vine if you can get them, as well as cucumbers, broccoli florets, and carrots for this salad. Feel free to mix up the veggies according to your tastes!
- Cheese: sharp cheddar cheese adds a strong cheesy flavor, but you can use your favorite cheese. I like to cube it because shredded tends to clump together.
- Ranch Dressing: creamy ranch dressing will bring some great herby flavors to this salad. Use your favorite brand from the grocery store, or make it yourself.
- Mayonnaise: we’ll add mayo to the ranch dressing to make it extra creamy.
- Salt & Pepper: use kosher salt and black pepper to enhance the flavors of the dressing.
How to Make Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
This recipe is quick and easy to make! Full instructions are included in the recipe card below.
- Cook the pasta: Follow package directions, and cook pasta until al dente. Cool pasta and set it aside.
- Make sauce: Stir together the ranch dressing, mayonnaise, bacon fat, salt, and pepper.
- Assemble pasta salad: Pour the sauce into the bowl of pasta. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, and carrots.
- Add toppings: Then add the crispy bacon bits and cheese, and stir until just combined. Chill before serving.
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad FAQs
Yes! Make it as instructed and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can store it as one big potion or make individual portions for a quick grab-and-go lunch. If it seems dry, simply add a splash of water or a bit of ranch dressing before serving.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap for 3-4 days after the dish was freshly made.
Tips and Notes
- Chill before serving. You can serve this pasta salad straight away, but for best results, chill the salad for about 2-3 hours once it has been assembled. As it chills, it will set up a bit, and the flavors will meld together too.
- Bacon Fat. I’ve used reserved bacon fat to flavor the dressing, but you can leave it out if you forgot to save it or used packaged bacon bits. It does add incredible flavor though!
- Garnishes. You can add pretty much anything you normally would into a salad or pasta dish to bring more flavor or substance to this dish. Add chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for extra pops of flavor!
- Leftovers. This is a great recipe for using up meat leftovers, just add it to the dish for extra protein. Shredded chicken would be a great add-in, as would baked ham like that from my Easy Spiral Ham recipe!
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Variations
- Change the Pasta: you can use any shape of pasta you like here, but I generally recommend short pasta cuts for pasta salad. Gemelli pasta is flat so you can pack a lot into a cup. If you are using curly pasta like rotini or fusilli, I recommend increasing the amount of pasta to 5 cups.
- Bacon: you can use any kind of bacon you like! With thin-cut, you’ll need to use a little more. Remember to reserve the fat after removing the bacon because it will help to flavor our dressing!
- Mayonnaise: you can use low-fat or fuller-fat mayo, or even natural plain greek yogurt if you prefer.
- Vegetables: use fresh veggies for the best flavor, and add in any vegetables that your family enjoys! Some great add-in options would be red onion, black olives, green peas, orange bell pepper, or red bell pepper.
- Dressing: To keep things simple I doctored some store-bought ranch dressing. If you prefer, you can use a homemade ranch dressing made with ranch dressing mix (just follow the directions on the package, adding mayo and sour cream) or add additional ranch seasoning (or onion powder and garlic powder) for more flavor if desired.
This creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad is always such a crowd pleaser. Serve it as a side dish or main dish along with Corn on the Cob, Maple Bacon Baked Beans, my Homemade Coleslaw, or another of my Best BBQ Sides for Summer!
More Pasta Recipes to Try
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Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- 4 cups short pasta (about 375 grams) gemelli pasta pictured*
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon (or 6 slices regular cut) chopped
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
- ¾ cup sliced cucumbers (70g)
- ¾ cup broccoli florets (50g)
- ¾ cup carrot matchsticks
- ½ cup cheddar cheese cubes (60g)
- ⅔ cup ranch dressing
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat (or canola oil, olive oil, or other)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Boil a large pot of lightly salted water, and cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain the pasta.
- Cool the pasta and set it aside. To cool pasta quickly, pour it into a large colander and run it under cold water. Pour cooled pasta into a large mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp and browned. Remove from pan, reserving bacon fat, and drain on some paper towels.
- Stir together the ranch dressing, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons bacon fat, salt, and pepper, and pour over the pasta. Add crisped bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, and cheese and stir just to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2-3 hours. Serve cold.
- Store: This recipe can be prepped ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If it seems dry, simply add a splash of water or a bit of ranch dressing before serving.
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