Mix-Ins That Will Take Your Pasta Salad To The Next Level

If you're sick of limp lettuce and soggy croutons, you need to explore the world of pasta salad. With a mixture of perfectly al dente noodles, veggies, proteins, and sauces or dressings, it's a more robust alternative to classic salad and is perfect on hot days. However, even pasta salad can get boring after a while if you stick to the same old recipe. That's why we're taking on mix-ins that have the power to elevate your pasta salad creations to unparalleled heights.

Bid adieu to the conventional pasta salads of the past as we delve into a treasure trove of ingredients capable of transforming your meal into a masterpiece of flavors and textures. Join us as we share tips on how to strike the perfect balance of ingredients to make your pasta salad worth shouting about. Whether you prefer zesty Mediterranean flair or a comforting fusion of global tastes, our collection of mix-ins promises to ignite your culinary imagination and redefine the very essence of pasta salads.

Discover how a medley of seemingly simple ingredients can blend harmoniously to create pasta salads that are anything but ordinary. Get ready to impress family, friends, and guests with pasta salads that will leave their taste buds tantalized and craving more. Whether you're a seasoned chef looking to add a fresh twist to your repertoire or a home cook searching for a delightful surprise at your next potluck, these mix-ins are guaranteed to take your pasta salad to the next level.


Creamy, rich, and packed with healthy fats, avocados have emerged as a superstar ingredient in the culinary world — and rightfully so. While they have long been cherished as a beloved addition to salads and sandwiches, their versatility extends far beyond the usual pairings. Enter the realm of pasta salad, where avocados are a game-changing mix-in that elevates the dish to extraordinary heights.

There are two main ways to incorporate avocado into pasta salad — sliced or mashed. You can either add firm chunks or slices of avocado to your salad or mash it up and mix it through the pasta, where it will become part of the dressing.

Beyond their sumptuous taste and texture, avocados pack a nutritional punch. They're a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. By adding avocados to your pasta salad, you infuse it with essential nutrients, making it satisfying and nourishing.

Not to mention that avocado's stunning emerald green hue looks great on the plate. When mixed into pasta salad, it brightens the entire ensemble, enhancing the overall appeal and making it an enticing addition to potlucks, picnics, and family gatherings.

Plus, the mild, buttery flavor of avocado harmonizes effortlessly with a wide range of ingredients. Whether combined with tangy tomatoes, zesty citrus fruits, crisp cucumbers, or aromatic herbs, avocado acts as a culinary chameleon, enhancing existing flavors and giving pasta salad a well-balanced taste profile.

McCormick Culinary Salad Supreme Seasoning

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to spruce up your pasta salad without having to empty the whole contents of your spice rack into the recipe, try McCormick Culinary Salad Supreme Seasoning. This seasoning is specifically designed for salads — and is great in pasta salad, as well as more conventional varieties.

You might be asking yourself, "But, what exactly is McCormick Culinary Salad Supreme Seasoning?" Well, it's a blend of spices and other ingredients specially formulated to add some pep to any salad. The spices include paprika, poppy seed, celery seed, and black pepper. It has added cheeses, including romano cheese and pepper. If that wasn't enough to get your mouth watering, it also contains garlic and buttermilk powder.

This might not sound like the obvious addition to pasta salad, but it's quite delicious, adding a rich earthiness from the paprika and a little bit of texture from the seeds.

Artichoke hearts

With their subtle yet distinctive taste and unique texture, artichoke hearts bump pasta salads up a notch. Bursting with flavor, these edible flower buds are a perfect mix-in. Their slightly nutty, tangy flavor adds depth and complexity to pasta salads. Whether they come marinated or in their natural state, their taste elevates the overall dish, making it stand out among more traditional elements.

Let's not forget about texture. The tender yet slightly firm texture of artichoke hearts introduces a delightful contrast to the softness of pasta. Artichoke hearts provide a pleasant chewiness that complements the pasta's smoothness.

Artichoke hearts also pair wonderfully with a vast range of ingredients, making them a versatile addition to pasta salads. They harmonize well with various vegetables, cheeses, herbs, and dressings, allowing for endless creative combinations to suit different tastes and preferences.

Plus, they're versatile and easy to add to your salad since they're available in various forms – canned, frozen, or marinated. This accessibility and convenience make them hassle-free. Simply drain and chop, and they are ready to enhance your meal.

Pickle juice

Stop what you're doing — don't you dare throw that pickle juice down the sink because it's about to become your new favorite pasta salad mix-in. While unconventional, pickle juice is a hidden gem that can breathe new life into your pasta salad. This zesty liquid, often discarded once the pickles are gone, is packed with flavor and offers a delightful twist.

Adding a tablespoon or two to mayo or crème fraîche cuts through the richness, giving you a dressing for your pasta salad that's at once creamy and light. If you've ever found creamy pasta salads too sickly, pickle juice will solve that problem for you.

Pickle juice has a robust tanginess that comes from the vinegar used in pickling the cucumbers. When incorporated into the pasta salad, this bold flavor creates a delightful contrast to the mildness of the pasta, adding extra flavor to every mouthful.

It's also great for people who hate food waste. Using leftover pickle juice as a mix-in is a clever way to repurpose an ingredient that is too often thrown away. Instead of pouring it down the drain, transform it into a culinary asset.

Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes

Yes, we all know that you can add fresh tomatoes to a pasta salad. While good tomatoes can be wonderful, it can still get boring when you add the same ingredients to your salad time after time. Plus, out-of-season tomatoes can be watery and flavorless. However, there's an easy way to remedy this — by making slow-roasted cherry tomatoes.

Sometimes called tomato candy, this delightful mix-in is made by halving cherry tomatoes and roasting them on a low heat for several hours. The resulting tomatoes have a highly concentrated, super sweet flavor. You can also use grape tomatoes for a similar result.

Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes are an exquisite addition to pasta salad, infusing it with bursts of concentrated flavor and enhancing its overall appeal. These little gems, with their intensified sweetness and tender texture, bring a touch of culinary flair to your dish.

If you happen to have a tomato refuser in your household, they're likely to change their mind when introduced to this magical mix-in.


Everyone knows the effect that asparagus has on your pee, but fewer people are aware of what an excellent mix-in it makes for pasta salad. Whether blanched, grilled, roasted, or left raw, this vibrant vegetable should make it onto your shortlist.

Asparagus has a slightly earthy flavor that sets it apart from other vegetables. When added to pasta salad, its distinctive taste adds complexity and depth. It also contributes a pleasing textural element to pasta salads. Whether left crunchy or roasted until tender, its texture complements the softness of the pasta, creating an enjoyable interplay of textures in every bite.

What's more, asparagus's vibrant green color adds visual allure to pasta salad, making it more inviting and appetizing. The bright pop of green amid the pasta and other mix-ins creates an appealing, eye-catching presentation.

It's also true that asparagus is often associated with spring and early summer, making it a lovely seasonal treat. Added to a pasta salad, it imparts a fresh and seasonal touch that celebrates the best of the season's produce.


Cheese lovers, don't worry! We haven't forgotten about you. We know that cheese can add a lot to a pasta salad, but it's all about choosing the right pairing. The cheese you pick should work harmoniously with the rest of your pasta salad ingredients. It should hold up well texturally and not be too overpowering but still be strong enough to come through next to other mix-ins.

With its firm yet crumbly texture and bold salty, tangy flavor, feta is an excellent addition to pasta salad. It works especially well with fresh ingredients that contrast with its heaviness, such as cucumber, tomato, and freshly chopped parsley.

Fresh mozzarella balls or pearls are perfect for pasta salads. Their soft, milky texture and mild taste pair beautifully with a wide range of mix-ins and don't overwhelm stronger flavors.

Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese brings a nutty, salty richness to pasta salad. Its umami depth enhances the overall flavor profile, while its firm texture adds a satisfying crunch to the dish.

Goat cheese is another great choice. Creamy and tangy, its distinct flavor and consistency contribute an indulgent flair. Since it's a fairly strong choice, it can overwhelm other flavors, so it's best to use it sparingly and keep it simple with other mix-ins.

Raw broccoli

Crisp ingredients are wonderful in pasta salad, providing contrast to the softness of the noodles. If you're tired of the usual suspects, such as cucumber, pickles, and carrots, why not give raw broccoli a try? It adds a satisfying crunch to the pasta salad, making it more enjoyable to eat. Plus, it retains its crispness even when mixed with the pasta salad dressing, ensuring that it stays fresh and crunchy even if you keep the salad in your fridge for a couple of days.

Its mild, slightly earthy flavor pairs well with a lot of different ingredients. Its neutral taste allows it to complement and enhance the flavors of other mix-ins and dressings without overpowering them.

Raw broccoli is also highly versatile, so you can use it in various pasta salad recipes. You can chop it into bite-sized florets, julienne the stems, or thinly slice it, adapting to your preferred texture and presentation.


Pasta salads often use vinaigrette dressings or creamy mayonnaise-based dressings, but we all love variety, so it's good to mix it up every now and then. If you're looking for a new sauce to try out, pesto is a perfect choice. This dressing is a delightful addition to pasta salads, infusing them with a complex burst of flavor, as well as vibrant color.

You might be aware of traditional basil-based green pesto, that's made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese, but pesto goes much further than this. There's also tomato-based red pesto, as well as lesser-known varieties, such as kale pesto or arugula pesto. You can either use storebought pesto or make your own if you really want to elevate your salad.

Pesto brings a bold, herbaceous flavor and incredible aroma to pasta salads. Basil pesto is a classic, but you get easily get adventurous with other flavor profiles.


Zucchini, with its mild flavor and versatile texture, is a marvelous mix-in that brings a refreshing and nutritious twist to pasta salad. This summer squash adds a touch of color, a pleasant texture, and a boost of vitamins and minerals, making it a fantastic addition to your dish.

One of the many great things about zucchini is how versatile it is. Want a quick, fresh addition to your salad? Then you can simply shred it or turn it into zucchini ribbons using a peeler. It's also great raw in thin slices, where it adds a nice crunch. However, cooked zucchini is also delicious in pasta salads, whether roasted, grilled, or lightly pan-fried.

Zucchini has a mild and slightly sweet taste that complements various pasta salad ingredients without overpowering them. Its neutral flavor allows it to blend seamlessly with other mix-ins, dressings, and sauces. It tastes good with all kinds of other mix-ins and dressings, from pesto and olives to feta cheese and fresh parsley.


It might not be a classic pasta salad pairing, but if you want to get wild, consider adding fruit to your next attempt. Fruits can bring sweetness, juiciness, and vibrant color to pasta salad, adding a refreshing and unexpected twist to the dish. When choosing fruits for pasta salad, consider their flavor profiles and how they pair with other ingredients. Some work better than others.

Strawberries are great in pasta salad, offering a bold contrast to the mild flavor of pasta. They work surprisingly well with other bold flavors, such as balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, resulting in a robust salad that will delight the tastebuds.

Sweet, juicy grapes are a popular choice for pasta salad. Red, green, or black grapes add a burst of freshness and a pop of color, complementing various pasta salad ingredients. Grapes are also delicious when roasted, giving them an extra layer of complexity.

Crisp, crunchy apple slices or shredded apples add a refreshing element to pasta salad. Opt for sweet varieties like Gala or Fuji, or tangier options like Granny Smith, depending on your taste preference.

You should also consider adding pomegranate seeds to your salad. These ruby-red jewels bring a pairing of sweetness and crunch to pasta salad. Their unique texture and vibrant color make them an eye-catching addition.


Although olives are divisive, they certainly have a place in the pasta salad mix-in canon. If you're an olive fan, they're an obvious addition to a salad of this sort, bringing their bold, punchy flavor to kick things up a gear.

Olives have a unique and robust flavor that stands out in pasta salads. Their briny, salty taste brings depth and complexity to the table. Although too many olives in a pasta salad can overwhelm milder flavors, they really shine when used sparingly or when deliberately made the star of the show.

Another great thing about olives is that there are a wealth of varieties and each brings its own strengths. Black olives are the mildest, so they're less likely to take over from other salad ingredients. Green olives have a firm texture and a slightly bitter and tangy taste. They're stronger and so hold their own better in the mix. Then you have other varieties such as rich, bold, slightly bitter Kalamata olives and nutty, buttery Castelvetrano olives.

Roasted vegetables

Is your pasta salad missing something and you're not sure what? Try adding some roasted vegetables. If you don't like a vegetable, you should try it roasted and see what you think. Bringing out the sweetness and complexity of each vegetable, the roasting process is culinary magic that transforms basic veggies into something even more delicious.

Although it adds an extra step to the process, the time it takes to roast a tray of vegetables is well worth it for the delicious flavors they bring to pasta salads. Just one or two varieties of roasted vegetables can turn a boring pasta salad into something special.

Since pasta hails from Italy, it makes sense to add Mediterranean vegetables into the mix. Some great choices to roast for your salad include zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers. But, why stop there? Roasted cauliflower and roasted broccoli are also delicious mix-ins. And, roasted mushrooms have a juiciness and concentrated flavor that it's tough to beat.

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are a traditional ingredient commonly used in Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. As the name suggests, preserved lemons are lemons that have undergone a preservation process. This process serves to enhance their flavor and extend their shelf life. It involves packing lemons with salt and allowing them to ferment over time. The result is a tangy and intensely flavored ingredient that you can use to elevate a wide range of dishes — including pasta salad.

What should you expect from preserved lemons? Well, they have an intense lemon flavor that is unlike that of fresh lemons. The fermentation process concentrates the citrusy taste, providing a more robust and complex lemony essence to the pasta salad. They also have rich umami notes that you wouldn't usually get from lemons — and this brings something special to any recipe.

These lemons have a softened texture due to the fermentation process. The rind becomes tender and develops a pleasant chewiness, creating an interesting textural contrast in the pasta salad. You can chop them finely and mix them into the pasta salad or slice them into thin strips for a beautiful garnish.

Peanut butter

It might seem like a mistake adding peanut butter to pasta salad, but stick with us for a moment here. The confusion comes from viewing pasta as an exclusively Italian affair and therefore assuming you should be choosing a flavor profile for your pasta salad to match. But, what if you think of pasta as the kind of noodles used in a range of Asian cuisine? Then peanut butter becomes part of a rich, creamy satay dressing and starts to make more sense as a mix-in.

You might already have an existing satay recipe that you could adapt to use in a pasta salad. But, if not, try mixing your peanut butter with an acid — such as lime juice or rice vinegar — and giving it an additional boost of flavor from garlic and ginger. You can thin it down with water or use coconut milk for an extra rich and creamy result.

Keeping the other mix-ins light and fresh keeps peanut butter from becoming cloying or overwhelming. Think cucumber, shredded raw carrot, and green onion.