This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
You’ll be the envy of the backyard barbecue with this 20 minute, healthy Kale Caesar Pasta Salad. Take a break from the classic mayo-laden macaroni salad and opt for something a little tastier and lighter!
How to make a Kale Caesar Pasta Salad:
Well first you should start by making my super easy Homemade Croutons. They only take 20 minutes to make (and 15 minutes of that is baking).
Then you’ll cook your pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Let the cooked pasta cool to room temp and then it’s time to assemble! Tear kale from the stems and rip into bite size pieces. Then add olive oil.
Next squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon over the kale and get to work massaging it. This is going to take away the bitterness of the kale and help it to wilt slightly, making it even more delicious.
Then add noodles and tomatoes to the salad.
Next add croutons and Parmesan cheese.
Toss the salad a bit. Then add dressing and toss to coat everything evenly.
Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a couple fresh lemon wedges and serve!
Why you’re going to love this Kale Caesar Salad:
- It’s unexpected. Chances are good your friends haven’t seen anything like this before and they’ll definitely be asking you for the recipe! It’s got all your favorite Caesar salad flavors but it’s loaded with healthy kale, homemade croutons and rotini noodles!
- It’s perfect for meal prep. I like to make this salad year round and bring it to work for lunch. It’s healthy, filling and fuels me through a busy work day. I literally probably make this salad at least once a month because I just can’t get enough of it’s Caesar filled flavor! I make a big batch on Sunday and portion it out for lunches all week. A couple hours in the kitchen on the weekend means I spend a lot less time in the kitchen during the week.
- It’s super easy to throw together and store bought dressing means you can have it made in just 20 minutes! I used to love to spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal. Now I’m lucky if I get 10 child free minutes alone ever so convenience is key for me! Healthy store bought dressing means I can get lunch ready in a jiffy and feel good about feeding it to my family!
Tips for making the best Kale Caesar Pasta Salad:
- After you cook and strain your noodles, toss them in olive oil and add a little pinch of salt and pepper. This will keep them from sticking together and give them a little boost of flavor. I’ve seen others who rinse the noodles with cold water but I like to leave all that starchy goodness right on the noodles.
- Massaging the kale is key! The lemon juice and olive oil will work in combination to wilt the greens and make them tasty, bright and full of flavor. If you don’t think you like kale, I encourage you to massage it! It takes away the bitterness and gives it a very palatable texture.
- If you won’t be enjoying this salad right away, save the croutons for later! Although my homemade croutons do not get as soggy as store bought, they will eventually get soft when left sitting in dressing. If you’ll be eating this salad later, simply wait to add the croutons until just before serving. That will keep them perfectly crisp and crunchy!
Frequently asked questions:
- What are the best kind of noodles for this salad?
- I love rotini for this salad because it’s an easily recognized noodle that most folks are familiar with, but you could really use any small cut of pasta.
- Bow tie, penne, fussili, cavatappi, medium shells, orechiette or elbow macaroni noodles would work great too!
- Skip the spaghetti and linguine or any other longer noodle in this salad though as it won’t work quite as well.
- Is this Kale Caesar Pasta Salad healthy?
- I can already hear you health conscious foodies telling me that there is nothing healthy about a Caesar salad. All that cheese, that high calorie dressing. But hear me out!
- Then, instead of traditional caloric Caesar dressing, I like to use Bolthouse Farms Caesar Parmigiano Yogurt Dressing. It’s got that peppery, zingy Caesar flavor (and even little bits of shredded Parmesan) but they use yogurt as a base which makes for an astonishing 45 calories per 2 tablespoons!!! Note: this is NOT sponsored. I legit love their dressing and feel the need to share it with everyone.
- This salad has kale in it guys. And that’s a super food, right? Even more super is that it’s massaged with olive oil and lemon juice until it’s soft, wilty, bright green and delicious.
- You could also use whole wheat noodles to up the fiber content. And even add some chickpeas, white beans or quinoa for added protein. Making your own croutons instead of buying prepackaged ones, ensures you won’t be getting any unnecessary preservatives too!
Other pasta salads you will love:
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Dill Pesto
- Vegan Asian Pasta Salad
- Simple Antipasto Salad
- Greek Couscous Salad
This pasta salad is loaded with kale, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, tossed in a low calorie (but very flavorful) yogurt based dressing!
- 16 oz. pasta, cooked according to package directions until al dente
- 4–5 cups chopped fresh kale
- 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for drizzling pasta
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
- 1 recipe homemade garlic croutons
- 1/2 cup Caesar dressing + a splash of water (to loosen it up)
- Kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
- lemon wedges, optional garnish
- Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Toss it in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Let pasta to cool to room temperature.
- Add kale to a large serving bowl.
- Drizzle it with oil and lemon juice. Massage kale for a few minutes until it wilts and turns bright green.
- Add noodles, tomato, croutons and Parmesan and a large pinch of salt and pepper to the serving bowl. Toss slightly.
- Mix Caesar dressing with a splash of water to thin it out a bit. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat everything evenly.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and lemon wedges and serve!
After you cook and strain your noodles, toss them in olive oil and add a little pinch of salt and pepper. This will keep them from sticking together and give them a little boost of flavor.
Massaging the kale is key! The lemon juice and olive oil will work in combination to wilt the greens and make them tasty, bright and full of flavor.
If you won’t be enjoying this salad right away, save the croutons for later! Although my homemade croutons do not get as soggy as store bought, they will eventually get soft when left sitting in dressing. If you’ll be eating this salad later, simply wait to add the croutons until just before serving.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: No Cook
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: kale salad, pasta salad, Caesar salad, kale Caesar salad
This recipe was originally posted in July 2018. It was updated in March 2019 to include process shots, step by step instructions and tips for making the best Kale Caesar Pasta Salad every time!