Pasta salad is just as emblematic of the American cookout tradition as a juicy cheeseburger, whether you prefer yours with bow ties or macaroni, diced celery or bell pepper, or creamy mayonnaise or zesty vinaigrette. But what you might consider a modest serving could very well pack enough sugar and fat to knock you into a dreaded food coma for the rest of the day. If you’re eager to indulge in this classic summer side dish a whole lot more now that barbecue season is upon us, consider trying new ways to lighten up your go-to recipe. Reducing the mayo and cutting the sugar in the dressing — and loading up on wholesome, in-season vegetables — are excellent places to start.
American Macaroni Salad
Food Network Kitchen’s lighter take on macaroni salad has all the creaminess that’s expected, even though the recipe requires just half a cup of mayo. A little bit of sour cream is also mixed in, adding a tangy element — along with the cider vinegar — to this typically mild dish.
Minted Squash-Orzo Salad
Usher in another season of sweet summer squash with Claire Robinson’s healthy orzo salad. Toss the tender cooked pasta with salty feta crumbles and cubes of golden, caramelized squash for a low-fat side dish that’s ready in just 30 minutes.
Radicchio Pasta Salad
Radicchio’s firm burgundy leaves double as a pasta salad mix-in and a stunning serving bowl in Rachael Ray’s easy side dish recipe. Toss the cooked orecchiette with a sweet and tangy orange vinaigrette to balance the radicchio’s slightly bitter taste.
Corn and Pasta Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Store-bought salad dressings are often loaded with sugar and sodium; skip the bottled stuff and dress your picnic salad with Food Network Kitchen’s garlicky ranch dressing instead.
Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Chicken and Roasted Peppers
Tender bow tie pasta meets shredded rotisserie chicken, diced tomatoes and bell peppers in this crowd-pleasing cookout side. Don’t forget to dress the salad with Dijon vinaigrette, as the dressing adds a tangy kick for few extra calories.
For more, check out these pasta salad recipes from our friends:
The Mom 100: Pasta Salad with Chicken, Picholine Olives and Ramp Vinaigrette
Homemade Delish: Spring Orzo Salad
Devour: Pasta Salads That Go Beyond Mayonnaise
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pasta Salad with Arugula, Bell Pepper & Spring Onion
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Chicken Pasta Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing
Taste with the Eyes: Refreshing Rice Noodle Salad, Lime Ginger Dressing
FN Dish: Picnic-Ready Pasta Salads with Hundreds of Sky-High Reviews