A gluten-free, veggie-loaded pasta salad with cubes of cheddar cheese and crispy bacon tossed in an oh so delicious and creamy ranch dressing. This salad will surely be a hit whether you’re serving it as part of a weeknight family meal or weekend grill out with friends. In addition, it can be made dairy-free by omitting the cheese and tossing it with our popular Paleo ranch dressing.
Better-for-You Pasta Salad week continues with this gluten-free Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad.
Made with an ample amount of veggies, perfectly cubed cheese and crispy bacon, this salad is one you’ll want to try! While the recipe calls for broccoli, green onion, red onion, tomatoes and cucumber, you can most definitely use what you have on hand, what’s growing in your backyard garden, what’s in season or what sounds good to you. Other ideas include zucchini, yellow squash, cauliflower, celery, shredded carrots, snap peas, sweet peas, shredded cabbage and bell pepper. This is YOUR salad, make it however you please!
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Ingredients for Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad
- Pasta – elbow macaroni (pictured), shells, rotini, penne, fusilli, bowtie or whatever shape you prefer. I simply use what I have on hand. Choose a gluten-free pasta if needed. You can find several different kinds of pasta varieties on Thrive Market!
- Bacon – cooked to crisp and crumbled. I like Applegate Bacon or ButcherBox.
- Broccoli – cut into bite-size pieces.
- Cherry tomatoes – you could also use grape tomatoes or Roma tomatoes cut into bite-size pieces.
- Cucumber – sliced and quartered.
- Red onion and green onion – I love mixing the two onions in dishes, however feel free to use one or the other.
- Cheddar cheese cubes – Colby jack or sharp cheddar is also tasty. Omit the cheese for dairy-free.
- Ranch dressing – you can use your favorite ranch whether it’s store-bought or homemade! For store-bought we like Primal Kitchen Ranch. For homemade, try our Healthy Homemade Ranch Dressing which is a yogurt based dressing or for a dairy-free option, use our Paleo Ranch Dressing. Be sure to double the recipes so that you have enough dressing for the salad.
As mentioned above, feel free to mix up the veggies with what you have on hand, what’s growing abundantly in your garden, what’s in season or what sounds good to you!
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How to make gluten-free Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad
- Step 1: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Cook the bacon to crisp, place it on a paper towel and crumble it after it has cooled for a bit. While the pasta and bacon are cooking, chop the veggies, cube the cheese, and make the ranch dressing if choose a homemade option.
- Step 2: Set aside a few crumbles of bacon and slices of green onion. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the ranch overtop starting with 1 1/2 cups and stir to combine. Add more ranch to achieve your desired creaminess.
- Step 3: Top with a few extra bacon crumbles and green onion slices.
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How to store Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad?
Store the salad in a glass storage container for up to 5 days. You may need to add additional ranch before serving if it looks dry. I love to serve the leftover salad with sliced or cubed chicken for a tasty next day lunch!
How far in advance can I make Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad?
You can prep all of the ingredients a day or two before. Cook the pasta, make the bacon, cube the cheese, chop the veggies, make the dressing if using homemade. Store everything individually in airtight containers and about 30 minutes before serving, toss it all together. If you want the bacon to be nice and crisp and the noodles to have the best texture, I would recommend holding off on cooking the pasta and the bacon until the day you plan to serve the salad.
Our favorite healthy ranch dressings
We often get asked what our favorite dressings are so here is a list of our favorite options of both store-bought and homemade.
- For homemade
Can Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad be made dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan?
For a vegetarian pasta salad, simply omit the bacon. For a vegan pasta salad, use cubed avocado instead of cheese, omit the bacon and use a vegan ranch dressing.
Other pasta salad recipes you’ll love
- 12 oz. pasta of choice, uncooked (gluten-free if needed)
- 5 slices bacon, cooked to a crispy and crumbled
- 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup cucumber slices, halved or quartered
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 4 green onion, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 cup cheddar cheese cubes (omit for dairy-free)
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups ranch dressing (see options below in notes)
- Prepare the ingredients: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Cook the bacon to crisp, place on a paper towel, and crumble it after it has cooled. While the pasta and bacon are cooking, chop the veggies, cube the cheese and make the ranch dressing if choosing a homemade option (see notes for recipes).
- Set aside a few crumbles of bacon and slices of green onion. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the ranch overtop starting with 1 1/2 cups of the dressing and stir to combine. Add more ranch to achieve your desired creaminess.
- Top with a few extra bacon crumbles and green onion slices.
For Ranch dressing options:
- For homemade
- Toss the salad about 30 minutes before serving to allow time for the dressing to really soak in.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Add more dressing if needed.
- Serving Size: ~3/4 cup (Healthy Homemade Ranch)
- Calories: 190
- Sugar: 3 g
- Fat: 10 g
- Saturated Fat: 4 g
- Carbohydrates: 17 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 7 g
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About Stacie Hassing
Stacie is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian from rural southern Minnesota where she and her husband reside on 5 acres with their two pups, Walter & Lucy. She’s a creator of simple and wholesome recipes, a lover of nature, a crossfitter, a seasonal runner, and she’s on a mission to inspire as many as she can live a healthier and happier life from the inside out.