Easy Protein-Packed Pasta Salad

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. But that’s a recipe redo for another day.

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].

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!

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.

protein pasta salad featured Recipe FitLiving Eats by Carly Paige

Easy Protein-Packed Pasta Salad

  • Author: Carly Paige – FitLiving Eats
  • Yield: Serves 6 1x


  • 1 box lentil or chickpea pasta
  • 1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1½ cups broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1½ cups shredded purple cabbage
  • 1½ cups zucchini, sliced
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ⅓ cup olives 

Creamy Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt



  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.

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

Pasta la vista,



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headshot of Carly Paige from FitLiving Eats

Hi! I’m Carly Paige, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Cooking Instructor whose fiercely passionate about making healthy simple (both on and off your plate) to increase confidence and energy from within. Welcome to my virtual kitchen where I share easy and nutritious recipes and show you how to live your best life through simple lifestyle swaps.

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