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One of Jim’s favorite sandwiches is a BLT – crispy bacon, fresh ripe tomatoes, and delicious sourdough… what’s not to love? We also have a true affection for pasta and this recipe is our version of a BLT sandwich as a cold pasta salad. This creamy BLT macaroni salad has fresh tomatoes, pieces of crispy bacon, crunchy romaine hearts, and a creamy homemade avocado ranch dressing.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
This easy pasta salad recipe is super easy and perfect for any fan of the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Pasta: Any short pasta such as Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle, Bowtie, or Orecchiette will work for this pasta salad.
- Tomatoes: Choose a cherry or grape size tomato and cut them in half or quarters so they are bite-size.
- Bacon: Use your favorite bacon – turkey bacon, thick-cut bacon, or you could get a little fancy and use pancetta or guanciale. We used center-cut bacon chopped it up into 1/2 inch pieces and fried the pieces until they were crispy.
- Romaine Lettuce Hearts: This pasta salad needs a little crunch so you want to use romaine hearts which are the center of romaine leaves. They are a little more yellow and crispier than the leaves. You can substitute iceberg lettuce but use the center of the head, not the outside leaves to retain the most crunch.
- Creamy Avocado Dressing: We love avocados on our BLTs and decide to include them as part of the dressing to get a little more creaminess and good fat instead of the traditional ranch dressing. Our dressing includes fresh avocados, Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, dill, chives, and parsley.
How to Make BLT Macaroni Salad
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: As it sits in the dressing the bacon can get a little “soggy” so fry or cook your bacon until it is crispy. Also extra thick bacon holds up the best.
1. Cook the Pasta: Cook the pasta until it is al dente following the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water then set aside. While the pasta is cooking prepare the creamy dressing.
2. Prepare the Avocado Ranch Dressing: In a food processor or blender, combine avocado, yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, chives, parsley, salt, and ground black pepper. Blend until well-combined. Continue blending and add milk a tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerator until needed.
3. Prepare the BLT Macaroni Pasta Salad: In a large bowl combine the pasta, tomatoes, cooked and chopped bacon, and romaine hearts. Add creamy avocado ranch dressing and toss gently to combine.
4. Chill and Serve: Chill the pasta salad for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with additional bacon and tomatoes before serving.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: The avocado ranch dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to assemble. The pasta and bacon can be cooked in advance then refrigerated until you are ready to make the pasta salad. The tomato and lettuce should be chopped just prior to assembly to keep them fresh.
How to Store: Leftover pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
What to Serve with Pasta Salad
BLT pasta salad is great all on its own but is the perfect BBQ or potluck side. We love it with marinated flank steak, grilled chicken breast, beef kabobs, or baked fish.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Rinse the pasta in cold tap water after it has been drained to both cool it down and avoid it from being overcooked.
- Cook pasta just to al dente so that it doesn’t become mushy after it has been combined with the other ingredients and dressing.
- You can use your favorite store-bought ranch dressing as a substitute for homemade avocado ranch dressing.
- BLT macaroni salad is best when served cold. Be sure to chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely. Any short pasta will work but look for bronze-cut pasta or bronze-die pasta. Pasta cut with a bronze die will have a rough, porous texture that is great for getting the creamy avocado dressing to stick.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this cold pasta salad, we recommend checking out some of these other salad recipes:
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BLT Pasta Salad with Creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing
- Food Processor
- Large Bowl
Creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing
- ½ large avocado, skin and seed removed
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
- ½ teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- kosher salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup milk, as needed
- 7 ounces dried short pasta, such as bowtie, penne, or elbow
- 3 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1.5 cups romaine hearts, chopped
- 5 tablespoons creamy avocado ranch dressing
Creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing
- In a food processor or blender, combine avocado, yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, chives, parsley, salt, and pepper. Blend until well-combined.
- Continue blending and add milk a tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency.
- Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerator until needed.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions so that it is al dente. Drain and rinse well to cool.
- In a large bowl combine the pasta, tomatoes, bacon, and romaine hearts. Add creamy avocado ranch dressing and toss gently to combine.
- Chill pasta salad for at least 1 hour before serving.
Update Notes: This post was originally published on July 27, 2022, but was republished with new photos, instructions, tips, and FAQs in August of 2023.