This easy to make BLT Pasta Salad Recipe has a couple healthy twists and is packed with flavor! It’s the perfect side dish for any summer BBQ, potluck, or picnic.
Out of all my childhood memories, I remember summer vacation most vividly. Those memories seem to be brighter, louder, and definitely more full of delicious smells and tastes.
We basically lived off what we cooked on the grill during summer months. No matter what grilled meat or veggies we made, my mom always paired them with more fresh produce.
We enjoyed things like fresh-sliced tomatoes with my mom’s signature sweet creamy sauce. Steamed green beans seasoned with butter and salt. Zucchini sautéed in olive oil with garlic sprinkled with fresh basil.
And if we were going to a party, mom would always make her two signature side dishes: baked beans and taco salad, which were always the hit of the party. Sometimes her two side dishes eclipsed the main dish! On the rare occasion that we went to a party and she didn’t have both those sides, oh boy did she hear about it.
I don’t have a signature summer dish; I think I enjoy switching things up too much. Now that I think about it, I need to ask mom for her signature dishes and share them.
Just in time for Memorial Day, I came up with a healthier twist on BLT Pasta Salad! This recipe uses less pasta and adds white beans. Instead of a heavy mayo-based dressing, I whipped up an easy, flavorful vinaigrette.
BLT Pasta Salad Recipe
This dish has everything that a lovely BLT sandwich has to offer, with a few extras as well.
Flavorful baby spinach leaves take the place of lettuce. Not only are they full of nutrition, but there’s no need chopping required!
In this salad, half of the pasta has been replaced with white beans, which makes it a sturdier side, and of course also adds nutrition in the form of protein and fiber.
To keep this BLT Pasta Salad Recipe on the healthier side, bacon is more of an accent flavor or seasoning than a main component. Feel free to double the amount of bacon if you want.
Since this is summer picnic/BBQ/potluck food, instead of using a creamy mayo-based dressing I opted for a lighter, but still super flavorful vinaigrette.
BLT Pasta Salad Ingredients
With minimal ingredients, you might have almost everything you need to make this BLT Pasta Salad Recipe on hand.
- Canned no-salt-added white beans, such as Navy beans or Cannellini beans
- Bowtie pasta
- Cherry tomatoes
- White onion
- Beef bacon
- Baby spinach leaves
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Black pepper
How to Store BLT Pasta Salad
Once you mix together the salad components (except for the bacon and spinach), you can refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Right before serving, toss in the bacon and spinach.
Variations on This Recipe
- Cubes of cheddar or Monterey jack, little mozzarella balls, or even crumbled feta or blue cheese would be delicious in this salad.
- Use any type of lettuce you instead of baby spinach leaves. Chopped kale would also be delicious!
- Instead of whipping up a vinaigrette dressing, this BLT Pasta Salad Recipe is also delicious with a creamy dressing. I like to mix 1/3 cup mayo and 1/3 cup ranch and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Rinse the pasta under cool running water after you cook it to al dente. This helps stop the cooking process, and also rinses off excess starch to prevent the pasta from becoming gummy.
- Don’t add the bacon and spinach until right before serving. This will help minimize the spinach wilting and keep the bacon as crispy as possible.
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BLT Pasta Salad Recipe
- 32 ounces canned no-salt-added white beans such as Navy beans or Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 ounces bowtie pasta or any small pasta shape you like
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes rinsed (leave them whole or cut them in half)
- 1 small white onion quartered and thinly sliced
- 4 ounces beef bacon cooked until crispy and crumbled
- 8 ounces baby spinach leaves
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Rinse, drain, and let it cool to room temperature.
- Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl.
- Toss the beans, pasta, tomatoes, and onion in the dressing. Serve or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Right before serving, toss in the bacon and spinach; serve cold.
- Instead of using canned white beans, you can use 8 ounces (230g) dried white beans (such as Navy beans). To cook them, add the beans to a large bowl and fill the bowl about 3/4 full of cold water. Soak the beans overnight and then drain. Add the beans to a medium-large pot and fill the pot 2/3 full of water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down slightly, cover the pot, and simmer until the beans are cooked through (taste a few to make sure they’re soft). Stir them occasionally and be sure to add more water if needed (the beans should always be covered by a few inches of water). Once they’re cooked, drain and cool the beans.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on May 22, 2014. I updated it with more information on May 28, 2021.
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