Inspired by the incredible Plates and Palates recipe, this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad is the ultimate pasta salad side dish! Loaded with zesty lemon and herby tarragon, this salad is refreshing and filling. Perfect for meal prep, make a large batch and save it for lunches throughout the week!

We love loaded salads for lunch and especially as side dishes! Our Classic Potluck Broccoli Salad is a hit wherever we take it, and our Creamy Grape Salad is cool, refreshing, and doubles as both a side dish and dessert!

Overhead shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, one large bowl and 2 smaller ones, next to forks, lemon and tarragon.

Plates and Palates is a well-loved restaurant in Bountiful, Utah, and they are best known for their incredible deli salads and paninis. In fact, if you check out their menu, the first thing that appears on it is their Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad. My friend Jana grew up in Bountiful and was the one who introduced me to this deliciously creamy pasta salad. It is INCREDIBLE!

As there is only one Plates and Palates restaurant in the world, I needed to make my own version. It's loaded with bow tie pasta, chicken, grapes, green onion, celery, and almonds, just like the original, and my take on the creamy lemon tarragon dressing has mayonnaise as well as sour cream and buttermilk to make it extra rich and tangy. The dressing itself you'll want to make and keep on hand in the fridge all summer. It is so delicious as a dressing or a dip!

Side shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, one large bowl and 2 smaller ones, next to forks, lemons, and tarragon.

This pasta salad is a great way to use up leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken, and also if you have extra grapes on hand (red or green) this will take care of them in an extremely tasty way. Make this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad for lunches throughout the week (it keeps really well in the fridge!) or take it to a potluck, and watch it disappear.

Overhead shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, one large bowl and 2 smaller ones, next to a lemon and tarragon.

Key Ingredients for this Creamy Pasta Salad

SALAD

  • Pasta: I used bowtie pasta (farfalle), however fusilli, conchiglie or even penne would be great substitutes if you can't find farfalle in the store. You can also substitue gluten-free pasta if desired.
  • Grapes: I love seeing grapes in pasta salads! Red grapes are my favorite to add, green or golden grapes would work well in this recipe too!
  • Celery: Celery gives a delicious, fresh crunch and is so healthy for you! It's perfect for bulking up pasta salads without adding many calories.
  • Almonds: Slithered almonds add a hint of nuttiness along with a little crunch to keep your tastebuds guessing in this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad recipe!
  • Green onions: I wanted to elevate the fresh aroma of this recipe just a little and green onions seemed to make perfect sense!
  • Chicken: Cooked chicken breast, cubed, for a little healthy protein. Rotisserie chicken works great, and is an excellent way to use up leftovers!

DRESSING

  • Lemon: There is plenty of lemon in this dressing! Both juiced and zested, it tastes incredible next to the creamy ingredients, and is so refreshing in this pasta salad!
  • Tarragon: Tarragon is part of the sunflower family and has an intense flavor which is a mix of aniseed and vanilla. It is so delicious!
  • Mayonnaise: Mayo is often the foundation of salad dressing recipes as it acts as a blank canvas to bring out many flavors, and is also rich and creamy.
  • Sour cream & buttermilk: Tanginess comes from these two ingredients, as well as extra creaminess. The buttermilk helps to thin out the other ingredients without making the dressing too runny.
  • Sweetness: Simple white sugar adds sweetness, and honey brings a delicious aroma along with it's sweetness. It goes so well with the tarragon!
all ingredients laid out on marble counter.

How to Make Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad

  1. Boil the pasta. Firstly, cook the pasta according to the package directions in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  2. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl. Next, combine pasta, grapes, celery, almonds, green onions, and chicken.
dressing ingredients laid out on marble counter

3. Make the dressing. Blend dressing ingredients together in a blender for 30 seconds, then pour half of them over the pasta salad. Toss well to coat. Chill for 1-2 hours.

4. Toss and serve! Finally, just before serving, toss with remaining dressing.

Side shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, in stoneware bowl next to lemon and tarragon, with smaller bowl in background

Can I use another pasta for this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad recipe?

Yes! Here are a few pasta shapes that would be great substitutes for bowtie (farfalle) pasta:

  • Fusilli
  • Macaroni
  • Conchiglie
  • Penne
  • Rotini
  • Campanelle
  • Cavatappi
  • Gomiti
  • Orecchiette
  • Rotelle
  • Ziti

What can I use instead of buttermilk?

If you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a 1 cup measuring cup. Fill the rest of the way with whole milk and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then use in place of regular buttermilk.

Overhead shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, in stoneware bowl next to two smaller bowls of pasta salads, forks and a spoon

When is best to serve this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad?

You can serve this pasta salad year-round for lunch or at potlucks, but my favorite time is in the summer at BBQs and cookouts. You can make and chill it ahead of time, and it goes so well with other cookout foods!

Overhead shot of Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad, in stoneware bowl next to a spoon

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Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad

4.88 from 8 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 -10 serving
Inspired by the incredible Plates and Palates recipe, this Lemon Tarragon Pasta Salad is the ultimate pasta salad side dish! Loaded with zesty lemon and herby tarragon, this salad is refreshing and filling. Perfect for meal prep, make a large batch and save it for lunches throughout the week!

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 16 ounces bowtie pasta
  • 2 cups red grapes halved
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 bunch green onions chopped
  • 2 cups cooked cubed chicken (rotisserie chicken works great)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 lemons juiced and zested about 4-5 tablespoons lemon zest and ⅓ to ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Combine pasta, grapes, celery, almonds, green onions, and chicken.
  • Blend dressing ingredients together in a blender for 30 seconds, then pour half of them over the pasta salad. Toss well to coat. Chill for 1-2 hours.
  • Just before serving, toss with remaining dressing.

Notes

  • If you want to bulk out this salad with even more vegetables, about 1 pound of roasted asparagus or roasted green beans would be good additions.

Nutrition

Calories: 608kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 554mg | Potassium: 521mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 342IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

Recipe from Alex Daynes, by way of my friend Jana who first tried it at Plates and Palates in Bountiful, Utah.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. I don't cook with tarragon often enough. It's fresh flavor brings so much to this pasta salad. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Tarragon anything gets my attention right away! I was so happy to find this recipe on your facebook! It was a fast family favorite in our house! I am making again for the weekend!

  3. Made this for myself for lunches for this past week. My kids discovered this pasta salad and decided they wanted it for lunch, too! Definitely a hit here!

  4. Hi,

    I like your recipe, and I have fresh tarragon growing. What protein could I use instead of chicken, and how about pecan pieces instead of slivered almonds. Thanks!

    1. Shrimp would be fantastic. So would some kind of grilled or smoked pork tenderloin. And sure, pecans would be great!

  5. This recipe looks delish & I was thinking to make it for a BBQ I was invited to, my only concern is that there are a couple of ppl who are lactose intolerant, can I omit the buttermilk or milk substitute without taking away the integrity of the dish ?

    1. If you need to make a dairy-free version, there are actually a couple of pretty easy options for replacing the buttermilk and sour cream! For the buttermilk, just add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup, then fill it up the rest of the way with a dairy-free milk like almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk. For the sour cream, you can either look for a vegan sour cream at the store, which will be dairy-free (Whole Foods has it), or look for dairy-free yogurt and combine 6 ounces with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice to replicate the tangy taste of sour cream. I think with both of those modifications you'll have a winner that your friends can enjoy, but please let me know if you try it what you think and how it goes!

  6. Do you have other copy cat recipes from them? My neighbor would love the curry chicken salad recipe.