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Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

pasta salad

Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad with grilled corn and poblanos has definitely changed my mind on pasta salad. I’ve never been a fan of pasta salads, but this Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad did the trick!

pasta salad

Pasta Salad has never been my thing. Of course the only pasta salad that I remember from my formative years was the standard macaroni salad. I am not a macaroni fan even if it comes as mac and cheese. I remember macaroni salad being full of mayonnaise and awfully sweet. It was never my thing which is maybe why I’ve avoided pasta salad all these years.

A few years ago I discovered a Caesar style pasta salad that was awfully good so I finally decided that I’d try pasta salad again. This cilantro pesto pasta salad is one I made while my brother was here and we all agreed that it was very good. I was very careful to not overcook the pasta, (follow package directions) and I used a hearty pasta shape that could handle the pesto without making the pasta soft. The roasted corn and poblanos helped set the mood for our trip down to New Mexico. Mark and Diane had never been to Northern New Mexico so we decided to make a quick trip down there, but more on that later when I can show you just how gorgeous New Mexico is.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

Cilantro Pesto is easily made using lots of cilantro and some pistachios. This turned the salad into one glorious green color. No cheese in this pesto but salty cheese is crumbled on top. It was so hot in Denver before we left that I decided to grill chicken which made it super easy to grill the veggies that went into this salad. Looking for a shortcut? If you don’t want to turn the grill on Trader Joe’s sells roasted corn in their freezer section and a can of green chilies could be substituted for the poblanos. It won’t be quite the same but I ‘m sure you will still be happy with this version.

Pasta Salads like this are super picnic fare. This one has no mayo and the cheese can easily be added at the last minute. Room temperature is the way to go because ice cold pasta salads just don’t taste good. You know that, right? Without a doubt this pasta salad is a winner. Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad filled with Mexican flavors is a new favorite in my book!

Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

So I went looking for a few more pasta salads that I might like. Here are a few I think I might actually fall in love with:

From Barefeet in the Kitchen…this bacon avocado tomato pasta salad with avocado ranch …like total yum

And this from Reluctant Entertainer…barbecue chicken layered pasta salad Oh My!

And last but not least this Bloody Mary Shrimp Pasta Salad from Wonky Wonderful has me craving a drink!

And a few more fun salads for summer:

Grilled Halloumi and Peach Salad

Spinach Salad with Za’atar, Dates and Almonds

Blueberry Chicken Pesto Salad

And last but not least please try, share and pin this recipe!

Cilantro pesto pasta salad

Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

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  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 Servings
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Grill/Boil
  • Cuisine: Mexican/American


Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad with grilled corn and poblanos has definitely changed my mind on pasta salad. I’ve never been a fan of pasta salads, but this Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad did the trick!


2 c packed fresh cilantro

1/2 c olive oil

1/3 c roasted salted pistachios

1 t finely grated lime zest

2 T fresh lime juice

1 medium clove garlic

2 large poblanos or 1 -2 cans green chilies, drained

4 large ears corn or about 3 c kernels

1 large red onion cut into 4 wedges (I used a white onion)

A few red tomatoes sliced for color (optional)

12 oz fusilli

1 1/2 c crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese


Combine cilantro, oil, pistachios, lime zest and juice, garlic and 3/4 t salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge but bring to room temperature before serving. If you want to just use the pesto you may want to add more oil to the mixture because this made a very thick pesto.)

Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill poblanos, turning occasionally, until well charred and tender, about 14-16 minutes. Grill the corn, turning as needed until slightly charred. Brush each onion wedge with oil and grill until tender and has some grill marks, about 8 minutes.

Place poblanos in a plastic bag and let steam. This makes them easier to peel. Cool and then slice off the top. Make a slit in the side to flatten poblano. Skin should scrape right off. A little bit doesn’t hurt. Turn over and remove seeds. Chop into 3/4″ pieces. Place in a large bowl.

Slice corn off of cob.  Reserve half of corn for garnish and place the rest in  bowl with poblanos. Slice onions into thinner slices and place in bowl.

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and transfer to bowl. Add pesto, half of the cheese and toss well. (You may not need to use all of the pesto. It is up to you how much you want on there.)

Serve topped with remaining corn, cheese and some cilantro leaves.



Thank you Fine Cooking!

Keywords: Pasta Salad

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  • Reply
    John / Kitchen Riffs
    June 19, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    I do like pasta salads, and do like some with mayo, but a vinaigrette-style is much more my preference. This pesto looks perfect — perky flavor and great color. It’s HOT here, so salads are about all we’ve been eating lately. And I need all I can get, so thanks!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2018 at 12:43 am

    Your flavors sound good — but like you, I maxed out on pasta salads a long time ago. Funny how they were so popular and now not so much. Using all fresh from-scratch ingredients makes good sense.

    best… mae at

  • Reply
    June 20, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Just in time for the 4th! I love the cilantro twist!!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Beautiful. And creative. I’m so happy I love cilantro because otherwise I’d really be missing out on a lot of enjoyment!

  • Reply
    Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    June 20, 2018 at 6:54 am

    I am a pasta salad fan, and this looks beautiful Abbe. Pinning to try very soon.

  • Reply
    Mr. Trendspotter
    June 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    This dish is terribly misnamed! It should be Poblano Pepper Pesto Pasta! The cilantro is incidental – just look at the little sprig laying on top. The poblanos deserve headlines for making its the pop from the pepper pieces that places this pasta in prize-winning position! Perhaps it’s easier to call it Green Pasta… it’s really green. Probably proper to mention it’s very tasty.

  • Reply
    Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen
    June 21, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    I’m with you on the mayonnaise-laden macaroni salads–no thank you! But this looks FABULOUS! I love pesto and I love the gorgeous green color of this salad! This is a must try 🙂

  • Reply
    GiGi Eats
    June 21, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    If I could eat pasta and pesto, I would be ALL OVER THIS recipe with my FACEEE! hahahaha!

  • Reply
    Healthy World Cuisine
    June 22, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Love the little kick in this salad from the poblanos. Fun fusion of flavors and a perfect companion to all our BBQ needs! Pinned!

  • Reply
    June 25, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I never used to like cilantro but now I’m growing fonder of it! This sounds so delicious and much more healthy than mayo-based pasta salads. Delicious recipe!

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