Bacon ranch pasta salad is coated in creamy ranch dressing, crisp bacon and sharp cheddar all tossed together to make the perfect chilled side dish. It’s a delicious spring and summer side that goes great with grilled burgers and steaks.
Today we’re making a delicious bacon ranch pasta salad that’s perfect for spring or summer cookouts, potlucks, parties, or BBQs. This side dish recipe is quick and easy but delivers big and bold flavors with tangy ranch dressing, salty crispy bacon, sharp cheddar cheese and fresh green onions with some bite.
It’s cool, creamy, zesty and an easy crowd pleaser that takes less than 30 minutes to whip up. For more salad ideas, try this creamy potato salad, the vibrant Italian pasta salad, a warm German potato salad, or the classic tuna pasta salad. If you want to try some summer slow cooking instead of grilling, pair it with some BBQ pulled chicken, a French dip sandwich, or an Italian beef sandwich for a hot and sloppy sandwich option.
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Ingredients
BACON RANCH PASTA SALAD RECIPE TIPS
- Pasta – The recipe works with other kinds of pasta like rotini, fusilli, shell, bowtie, or corkscrew pasta.
- Bacon – I used thick-cut Oscar Mayer bacon, which I baked and crumbled. If you want a shortcut, 1/2 cup of real bacon bits is a good substitute.
How to Bake Bacon
Line a baking sheet with some foil and arrange bacon slices on it, trying not to overlap them so they cook evenly. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crisp you like your bacon. Thick-cut bacon will take a little bit more time than regular bacon. Transfer to a paper-lined plate and drain before chopping. If desired, pour the bacon fat into a container to reserve for cooking.
- Tomatoes – Cherry or grape tomatoes both work for the recipe. I used 1 pt. of grape tomatoes which is about 16 oz. or 2 cups worth.
- Black olives – I used a can of large pitted black olives and sliced them up myself but you can find pre-sliced canned black olives to save yourself the work.
- Cheddar cheese – This recipe uses sharp shredded cheddar cheese since you’re competing with other ingredients that have strong, bold flavors. You can also use smoked cheddar, Pepper Jack, or Colby Jack cheese.
- When added to the pasta while hot, the cheddar melts a little and makes the pasta creamier. If you prefer to bite into some cheese chunks instead, try using block cheddar cheese and cube them into bite-sized pieces.
- Green onions – These add a wonderful crisp and sharp flavor that compliments the bold flavors of bacon, ranch and cheddar well.
- Salt – There should be enough salt from the dry ranch seasoning mix but if you feel there’s still more seasoning needed, add some to taste.
- Ranch dip seasoning mix – I used one (1 oz.) packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning.
- Mayonnaise – This is the base of the dressing where you add in the dry ranch mix, garlic powder, sour cream and milk as needed. My go-to brand for mayo is Duke’s.
- Milk – This is part of the dressing mix of mayonnaise, sour cream and ranch dressing. Add more milk to the pasta salad as needed if you feel it’s too dry or later when eating it as leftovers.
- Leftovers – This will keep up to 3-4 days in the fridge. If the pasta salad feels too dry after sitting in the fridge, restore its creaminess by stirring in a little milk and mix.
- Add more flavor – Add more flavor with red onions, parsley, or hard-boiled eggs.
- Herbed dressing – Add some herbs to the dressing like fresh dill, chopped parsley, or chives.
- Cubed cheese – Switch from shredded cheese to cubed block cheddar.
And that’s about it. Enjoy this creamy bacon ranch pasta salad and let me know how you liked it in the comments below!
This post was originally published on April 30, 2013 and updated on July 24, 2022.