Seafood pasta salad packed with crab, carrot, celery and a creamy Italian dressing. A family favorite for summer BBQs, game nights and holiday get togethers! This is my Mom’s famous recipe.
Seafood Pasta Salad Recipe
Growing up this seafood pasta salad was my favorite pasta salad! My mom has perfected the ratio of pasta, vegetables, seafood and creamy Italian dressing. Whenever a birthday was coming up I was always more excited for this salad than the cake.
Pasta salad is a versatile side dish that can be served any time of the year. It’s a great refreshing side dish for a summer BBQ but it is also a great way to add some fresh summer flavor to a cold winter dinner!
What is Seafood Pasta Salad?
Seafood pasta salad is a delicious appetizer, side dish or main course. It is a combination of pasta, fresh vegetables, imitation crab and a creamy Italian dressing. Store bought or homemade Italian dressing can be used for this salad and a small amount of mayonnaise is also mixed into the dressing.
This is a healthier pasta salad compared to a mayonnaise dressing based salad. The salad is packed with celery, carrot, parsley, green onion and dill. It is a perfect fresh pasta salad for BBQs, game nights and holiday get togethers. It also makes a great lunch when prepped in advance as the flavors develop overnight.
What to Serve with Seafood Pasta Salad
Seafood pasta salad is the perfect side dish for a BBQ dinner, or sliders dinner. Pair with one of my most popular recipes:
- Pork Souvlaki
- Pollo Asado (Grilled Chicken)
- Bruschetta Chicken
- Roast Beef Sliders
- Big Mac Sliders
- Meatball Sliders
What is in Seafood Pasta Salad?
- Macaroni – macaroni is one of the most common pastas for pasta salad. You can use any pasta you have on hand, or your favorite pasta.
- Imitation Crab – a great budget friendly ingredient! The texture of imitation crab is different than using crab. Fresh crab is more flakey. You can definitely use fresh crab for this recipe if you prefer, but the imitation crab has a perfect texture and flavor for this salad.
- Carrot – my Mom’s secret for adding carrots to pasta salad is to shred them! The carrots are thinner, tender and softer than if you cut them into cubes.
- Celery – thinly sliced celery adds a nice crunch and flavor to the salad.
- Italian Dressing – my Mom uses store bought Olive Garden Italian Dressing for this salad. It is packed with flavor and makes this a quick recipe as you don’t have to prep the dressing from scratch. You can definitely use a homemade Italian dressing instead but we just love the flavor of Olive Garden Dressing.
- Mayonnaise – the trick to keeping this pasta salad dressing healthier than a classic mayonnaise based dressing, is to use a combination of Italian salad dressing and mayo. This way you only need to use a few spoons of mayo and you still get a perfectly creamy salad dressing.
- Dill – the addition of dill into the salad gives it a fresh pop of flavor and brings out the natural sweetness of the seafood.
- Parsley – fresh chopped parsley adds a pop of color and freshness.
- Green Onion – adds a subtle onion flavor to the salad
- Salt and Pepper
How to Make Seafood Pasta Salad
Full Printable Recipe at Bottom of Page
1 If using homemade Italian Dressing, prepare the dressing and refrigerate while you prepare the salad.
2 Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions for al dente pasta. Rinse with cold water, drain and add to a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the macaroni and toss gently to combine.
3 Add the remaining salad ingredients to the macaroni.
4 If serving within the hour: toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. Although you can serve salad immediately, I highly recommend refrigerating for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and salad to chill.
5 If serving later: Gently toss ingredients to combine but do NOT add remaining dressing yet. Cover and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. This salad is excellent the next day.
Serve and enjoy!
Tips for the Best Seafood Pasta Salad
- Pasta – I love using a small pasta for pasta salad. That way each and every bite gets a perfect mix of pasta, vegetables and seafood! You can use macaroni, bowties, wagon wheels, penne, or really any pasta you like. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions as the pasta will continue to soften from the dressing. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to cool it down and stop the cooking process. Then, toss with half the salad dressing to flavor the pasta. This way the pasta gets a chance to soak up the flavor from the dressing before the remaining salad ingredients are mixed in.
- Dressing – I highly recommend using Olive Garden Italian dressing if you can find it. We get ours from Costco but you can also buy it right from the restaurant. Olive Gardens Italian dressing is even more flavorful than other brands of store bought Italian dressing. The best part about the dressing for this salad is that it only uses 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise for the whole recipe! It adds just the right amount of creaminess to the dressing.
- Vegetables – we have always loved the simple combination of carrot and celery for this salad. Shredding the carrot makes them long and thin pieces so they stick to the pasta and imitation crab. You can use a box cheese grater to shred the carrots. You can also thinly slice the carrots or dice them into small cubes but I really love the texture of shredded carrots.
FAQs Seafood Pasta Salad
Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days (be sure to check the best before date of your imitation crab and adjust accordingly).
Yes! Seafood pasta salad is even better made a day in advance. Follow the recipe as per usual and dress the salad with half the dressing. Just before serving add the remaining dressing, toss until combined and enjoy!
Yes! This seafood pasta salad is a healthy recipe as the dressing uses only a small amount of mayonnaise. You can also use Greek yogurt, Icelandic Skyr or plain yogurt for an even healthier recipe.
For a gluten free seafood pasta salad, follow the recipe as per usual but use a gluten free pasta.
Flavor Variations Seafood Pasta Salad
This pasta salad is customizable, you can add as little or as much or each different vegetable you prefer. Below are some different mix in’s you can add into the pasta salad:
- Seafood – for an extra seafood packed salad add in:
- Cooked shrimp
- Cooked baby scallops
- Cooked calamari
- Vegetables – I love the combo of celery and carrot but you can also add in:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Red Bell Peppers
- For a spicy kick you can even add some finely diced jalapenos
Looking for More Easy Pasta Salads?
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn me a small commission.
Best Seafood Pasta Salad
- 1 cup Olive Garden Italian Dressing, or 1 cup Homemade Olive Garden Italian Dressing, or 1 cup store bought Italian Dressing
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise, or plain Greek yogurt
- 3 cups macaroni, uncooked
- 3 stalks celery , thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
- 2 cups imitation crab meat, cut into bite size pieces
- 3 tbsp green onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp dried dill, or 2 tsp fresh dill
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
- If using homemade Italian Dressing, prepare the dressing and refrigerate while you prepare the salad.
- Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions for al dente pasta. Rinse with cold water, drain and add to a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the macaroni and toss gently to combine.
- Add the remaining salad ingredients to the macaroni.
- If serving within the hour: toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. Although you can serve salad immediately, I highly recommend refrigerating for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and salad to chill.
- If serving later: Gently toss ingredients to combine but do NOT add remaining dressing yet. Cover and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. This salad is excellent the next day.
- Serve and enjoy!