Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad is a scrumptious side dish with the feisty flavor of your favorite chicken wings! With tender pasta, fresh veggies, and a tongue-tickling dressing, this rigatoni pasta salad is perfect for potlucks, picnics, and summer cookouts!
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
My Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad combines the best flavors of buffalo chicken wings, tangy ranch dressing, garden veggies, and rigatoni pasta.
It’s one of my favorite potluck recipes, and I think it will be one of your favorites, too!
This buffalo ranch chicken pasta recipe is really easy to throw together, and you can even make it the day before. Plus, it’s easy to transport to a picnic or pool party.
I love the tangy taste of buffalo wing sauce so much! Obviously, it can be used to make the sauce for chicken wings, but there are SO many other delicious ways to use it!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Shredded Cooked Chicken – You can use any type of cooked chicken you want for buffalo pasta salad. Cook it fresh or use up leftovers.
If you’re in a hurry or feeling lazy, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store!
- Veggies – I like to keep things simple with this rigatoni pasta salad recipe, so I just use tomatoes and celery.
Feel free to add any other veggies you like. Shredded carrots or baby peas would be fantastic additions!
- Pasta – I prefer to make this pasta salad with rigatoni, but penne, rotini, or bowtie noodles would work just as well.
- Ranch Dressing – I’m a ranch dressing fan, but you can substitute blue cheese dressing or add some crumbled blue cheese if you’d like! It’s a classic flavor pairing with buffalo sauce.
Easy Ways to Shred Chicken
You have two options — both are easy to do, but one method requires some special equipment.
By hand: Grab two large forks, insert them into the chicken, and pull apart. Continue until you have good sized-shreds for your buffalo pasta salad.
They also make specialty kitchen tools, with names like “bear paws” that make this process a little easier on your wrists.
Use a stand mixer: The faster, low-effort method! Place cooked chicken breasts in the bowl and fit the mixer with the bread hook or paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer on medium-high power and run it for 3-5 minutes. It makes perfectly shredded chicken every time!
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Large Pot – You’ll need a pot to boil the noodles.
- Snap ‘N Strain Strainer – This strainer makes it so easy to pour the water out of your noodle pot without losing a single noodle!
- Pyrex Bowl with Lid – It’s perfect for transporting this pasta salad to all of your summer parties.
Tips for Making Pasta Salad with Rigatoni
- Don’t rinse the noodles!
You want to drain the water but not rinse. The extra starch is perfect for pasta salad with rigatoni — it helps the dressing stick to the noodles.
- Add dressing at the right time.
You want the noodles to still be a bit warm so they absorb some of the dressing. This helps amp up the flavor in the whole dish.
But don’t mix the two when the pasta is piping hot either! Otherwise, the dressing will absorb too much and the pasta salad will be dry.
- Make salad dressing prep easier.
The key to the feisty flavor of this buffalo chicken pasta salad is the creamy dressing, made with a combination of ranch dressing and buffalo sauce — and it’s SUPER simple to make!
Combine both in a mason jar and give it a good shake, then set it aside while you make the rest of the salad.
If you’re making buffalo pasta salad ahead of time, pop the jar in the fridge for easy storage.
Buffalo Ranch Chicken Pasta FAQ
Buffalo wing sauce does have a good amount of heat, and some brands are spicier than others. That’s why it’s often paired with a cool, creamy dressing to mellow it out.
In our buffalo chicken pasta salad, that signature heat is tamed with the addition of cool ranch dressing. You get all the flavor without setting your mouth on fire!
You bet! There’s plenty in this recipe that you could just leave out the chicken, but it doesn’t hurt to swap it for more veggies.
To still add a dose of protein, mix in canned chickpeas or black beans in place of the meat.
Generally, yes! Results will vary based on recipe ingredients, but that extra time in the refrigerator really gives the flavors time to meld together in the best way.
If you’ll be serving the dish to guests, I recommend following my make ahead tips below so the noodles and veggies don’t get too soft before they hit the table.
Rigatoni Pasta Salad Make Ahead Instructions
Whether you’re prepping for a potluck or just want to have dinner ready when you get home, it’s really simple to make the buffalo ranch chicken pasta dish in advance.
- Prepare the recipe. Combine all of the ingredients in a serving bowl with just half of the dressing, then cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Chill overnight. Store the remaining dressing separately (see where that jar comes in handy!) and place both in the refrigerator for up to a day ahead of time.
- Mix it all together. Once you’re ready to serve, toss the salad with the remaining dressing and you’re done!
When fully prepared, leftover buffalo chicken pasta salad will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container for best results.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Summer Pasta Salad Recipes
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 1/4 cup ranch dressing
- 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 5 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain in a colander.
- Add cooked pasta, cooked and shredded chicken, celery, and cherry tomatoes to a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing, buffalo wing sauce, and garlic powder. Pour dressing over the pasta and toss everything together to combine. Serve and enjoy!
- Store the rigatoni salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published May 2018, updated and republished July 2023
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