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Easy Protein-Packed Pasta Salad Recipe

protein pasta salad featured Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

Mix up the typical pasta salad you bring to the summer picnic or potluck with this protein-packed pasta salad recipe. You won’t regret it. I promise.

You know that creamy deli pasta salad that’s loaded with mayo? This recipe isn’t it. It’s even better. This protein-packed pasta salad is made with seasonal summer veggies, dressed in a creamy balsamic dressing, and has a few secret ingredients to sneak protein into the bowl.

protein pasta salad 3 Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

I’ve never really thought twice about pasta salad. Or fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw. Maybe it’s because these summer picnic favorites were never a regular in our house growing up.

Or maybe it’s because I tried to steer clear of most fried foods and anything drenched in mayo since I can remember.

Baked beans however, oh man. I crave them. Check out my recipe makeover using healthy swaps to create healthier baked beans here!

Anytime friends and family are getting together for a holiday or party, I’m usually the one to bring a salad. But sometimes, I get tired of being “that girl.” [The one who always has to bring something super healthy].

Related Post: How to Get Protein Through Plant-Based Foods

Easy Protein Packed Pasta Salad - 1

I started making a pasta salad that was to-die-for from a recipe that I found on Pinterest years ago. It was my go-to for beach weekends and summer holiday gatherings.

I thought I could create my own version by piggybacking on what I loved most about this recipe — the balsamic dressing.

I believe all pasta salad would be made better with a balsamic vinaigrette vs. creamy mayo dressing!

Related Recipe: 5-Ingredient Nut-Free Pesto Pasta

protein pasta salad 1 Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

The Protein-Packed Pasta Salad Details

This easy protein-packed pasta salad is loaded with summer’s freshest veggies — zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli and even purple cabbage for vibrant color.

The real secret to this pasta salad recipe, though, are the ingredients that no one will even notice. We are swapping regular pasta for lentil or chickpea pasta for a healthy dose of fiber and protein, plus a sprinkle of hemp seeds for even more protein and healthy fats. Yep, I’m going there.

Did you know that just three tablespoons of hemp seeds have 10 grams of protein?!

I’m all about foods that add more nutritional value to the plate without taking up a lot of extra bulk, and hemp seeds are one of my favorite ingredients to keep on hand.

As with all other pasta salads, this easy protein-packed pasta salad just gets better with age. The best-case scenario when preparing food for a party because you can make it ahead of time!

protein pasta salad 2 Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

Serve this easy protein-packed pasta salad on its own for a quick meal, or as a side with other summer barbeque classics. I promise you … this dish is going to be your new go-to recipe, just in time for Memorial Day.

Want to build out your BBQ menu? Check out these summer-friendly recipes!

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protein pasta salad featured Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

Easy Protein-Packed Pasta Salad

  • Author: FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Diet: Vegan


This protein-packed pasta salad is made with seasonal summer veggies, dressed in a creamy balsamic dressing, and has a few secret ingredients to sneak protein into the bowl.


Units Scale
  • 8 ounces lentil pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/3 cup olives

Creamy Balsamic Dressing


  1. Make the pasta according to the package. Drain and set aside. 
  2. To make the dressing, add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. 
  3. Add the pasta, veggies, hemp seeds and olives to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the balsamic dressing and toss to coat. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


  • Serving Size: 2 cups
  • Calories: 253
  • Sugar: 9g
  • Sodium: 271mg
  • Fat: 17g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 15g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Protein: 9g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: pasta, pasta salad, balsamic dressing, protein, balsamic, vegan, summer, potluck

Pasta la vista,

-Carly Paige

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29 Responses

  1. This is excellent! I’m savoring each bite as I type this review. The dressing is perfect! I added some andouilli sausage for my meat eating man and fresh veggies from my garden. Saving this for a quick, protein packed go-to meal! Thank you so much! xoxo

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  3. Easy protein-packed pasta salad is a great dish for a quick and healthy meal. It is packed with protein and fiber from the chickpeas, pasta, and vegetables. The dressing is light and refreshing, and the salad can be customized to your liking with different vegetables and toppings.
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  4. I’m going to make this salad this weekend! Do you think that a little bit of olive tapenade would work since I don’t think my kids will eat olives if they see them? 🙂 Thanks Carly! Your recipes are the best!

  5. Carly, your dish looks absolutely delicious! I was curious, can you opt for using just one type of berry at a time? In some cases, our local markets only stock specific berries depending on the season.

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  6. Move over, mayo-laden pasta salads – Carly’s protein-packed pasta creation just stole the spotlight at my summer gatherings! Who knew lentil pasta and hemp seeds could turn a side dish into a superhero? It’s so good; I might start bringing salad to parties too… as long as it’s this one! 😄

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Hi! I’m Carly Paige, a culinary nutrition expert and chef who believes that healthy doesn’t have to be frustrating, boring or restrictive. I’m here to show you how through my Simply Swapped Method so that you can feel more energized and confident from within. You’ll find tips for focusing on nutrition in the kitchen, along with plant-powered, gluten-free recipes that proves healthy can be delicious.

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