Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe

This turkey cranberry pasta salad is a creative mix of traditional holiday flavors in a non-traditional dish. The tangy cranberries and hearty turkey create a delightful contrast with the creamy poppy seed dressing. The pasta adds a comforting and familiar base, while the pecans and celery lend a much-needed crunch. This salad is a great way to use up your leftover holiday turkey, but it's so delicious you'll want to make it year-round.

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe
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All the ingredients in the turkey cranberry pasta salad are commonly found in most supermarkets. However, the poppy seed dressing might not be a staple in your pantry. It's a creamy, slightly sweet dressing that's often used in fruit salads. You can usually find it in the salad dressing aisle. If you can't find it, you could substitute it with a coleslaw dressing.

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Ingredients

Bow-tie pasta: This pasta shape is perfect for salads as it holds onto the dressing well and adds a fun texture.

Turkey: You can use leftover, pre-cooked, or deli turkey. This is the protein that makes the salad hearty.

Celery: Adds a refreshing crunch and a subtle savory flavor.

Dried cranberries: They add a sweet-tart flavor that complements the savory turkey and dressing.

Pecans: They bring a buttery, nutty flavor and a crunch that contrasts the soft pasta and turkey.

Green onions: They add a sharp, fresh flavor.

Poppy seed dressing: A sweet and tangy dressing that coats and binds all the ingredients together.

Mayonnaise: Adds creaminess to the dressing.

Apple cider vinegar: Enhances the tanginess of the dressing.

Sugar: Balances the vinegar's acidity.

One reader, Allen Aranda says:

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This turkey cranberry pasta salad recipe is a game-changer! The combination of tender turkey, sweet cranberries, and crunchy pecans is simply delightful. The poppy seed dressing adds a burst of flavor that ties everything together perfectly. It's a refreshing and satisfying dish that's perfect for any occasion. Highly recommended!

Allen Aranda

Techniques Required for Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe

Cooking the pasta: Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is al dente, which means it should be tender but still firm to the bite. This usually takes around 10-12 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Toasting the pecans: Place the pecans in a dry non-stick pan and toast them over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.

Preparing the turkey: If using leftover turkey, ensure it is diced or shredded into bite-sized pieces. If using fresh turkey, cook it as desired and then dice or shred it.

Mixing the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined.

Chilling the salad: After combining all the ingredients, chill the pasta salad in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld and the salad to cool.

How To Make Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

This plate of pasta salad is loaded with filling turkey and juicy bites of cranberry. Whip up a serving of this salad in just under 30 minutes.

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 25 minutes



  • 12ozbow-tie pasta,or other short pasta
  • 2cupsturkey,cooked, diced
  • ½cupcelery,chopped
  • cupdried cranberries
  • cuppecans,or almonds, sliced and toasted
  • ¼cupgreen onions,sliced
  • cuppoppy seed dressing
  • cupmayonnaise
  • 2tbspapple cider vinegar
  • 1tspsugar,optional


  1. Place the almonds in a small non-stick pan, then cook them over medium heat until lightly browned.

  2. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.

  3. Combine the poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl. Mix well.

  4. Toss the almonds, pasta, dressing, and turkey in a larger bowl.

  5. Chill for at least 1 hour.

  6. Serve, and enjoy!


  • Calories: 533.95kcal
  • Fat: 24.04g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.38g
  • Trans Fat: 0.03g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 6.64g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 12.69g
  • Carbohydrates: 59.96g
  • Fiber: 6.40g
  • Sugar: 11.92g
  • Protein: 20.95g
  • Cholesterol: 38.61mg
  • Sodium: 141.84mg
  • Calcium: 253.93mg
  • Potassium: 408.42mg
  • Iron: 2.96mg
  • Vitamin A: 12.03µg
  • Vitamin C: 1.29mg

Technique Tip for Making Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Toasting the pecans before adding them to the salad can enhance their flavor and give the salad an extra crunch. Simply heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they're lightly toasted and aromatic. Be sure to keep a close eye on them, as nuts can burn quickly.

Time-Saving Tips for Making This Pasta Salad

Prep ahead: Cook the pasta and turkey in advance, and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator. This will save time when assembling the salad later.

Use pre-cooked turkey: Save time by using leftover turkey from a previous meal or store-bought pre-cooked turkey. This eliminates the need for cooking and cooling the turkey before making the salad.

Chop in bulk: Prepare all the vegetables and nuts in one go, and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. This will streamline the assembly process and save time during meal prep.

Multi-task: While the pasta is cooking, use that time to prepare the dressing and chop the ingredients. This efficient use of time can help speed up the overall recipe preparation.

Substitute Ingredients For Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe

  • turkey - Substitute with chicken: Chicken can be used as a substitute for turkey in this recipe, providing a similar texture and flavor profile.

  • dried cranberries - Substitute with dried cherries: Dried cherries can be used as a substitute for dried cranberries, offering a slightly different flavor but still providing a sweet and tart element to the salad.

  • pecans - Substitute with walnuts: Walnuts can be used as a substitute for pecans, offering a similar nutty flavor and crunchy texture to the salad.

  • poppy seed dressing - Substitute with honey mustard dressing: Honey mustard dressing can be used as a substitute for poppy seed dressing, providing a sweet and tangy flavor with a creamy texture.

  • mayonnaise - Substitute with Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise, offering a creamy texture and tangy flavor while reducing the overall fat content of the dish.

  • apple cider vinegar - Substitute with white wine vinegar: White wine vinegar can be used as a substitute for apple cider vinegar, providing a similar level of acidity and tanginess to the salad dressing.

Best Way to Present Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

  1. Elevate the plating: Arrange the pasta salad in a circular motion on the plate, ensuring that the turkey, cranberries, and pecans are evenly distributed for a visually appealing presentation.

  2. Incorporate vibrant colors: Integrate fresh green celery and vibrant red cranberries to add a pop of color to the dish, creating an enticing visual appeal.

  3. Garnish with finesse: Sprinkle finely chopped green onions on top of the pasta salad to add a touch of freshness and a burst of flavor to each bite.

  4. Emphasize texture: Highlight the contrast in textures by placing the pecans strategically on top of the salad, adding a delightful crunch to every forkful.

  5. Utilize negative space: Allow the pasta salad to be the focal point on the plate by using negative space to create a sense of balance and elegance in the presentation.

Essential Tools for Making This Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Cutting board: A flat surface used for cutting and preparing ingredients.

  • Chef's knife: A versatile, all-purpose knife used for chopping, slicing, and dicing.

  • Large pot: Used for boiling pasta or blanching vegetables.

  • Non-stick pan: Ideal for toasting nuts or cooking ingredients without sticking.

  • Mixing bowl: Used for combining ingredients and tossing salads.

  • Whisk: Used for mixing and incorporating ingredients together.

  • Small bowl: Used for mixing dressings or sauces.

  • Spatula: Used for tossing pasta or mixing ingredients.

  • Measuring cups and spoons: Essential for accurately measuring ingredients.

  • Colander: Used for draining pasta or rinsing vegetables.

  • Serving bowl: Used for serving the finished pasta salad.

How To Store and Freeze Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

  • To store the turkey cranberry pasta salad, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. The flavors will meld together beautifully, making it even more delicious the next day!
  • If you want to freeze the salad, it's best to do so without the dressing. Cook the pasta al dente, cool it completely, and toss with the turkey, celery, dried cranberries, pecans, and green onions. Place the mixture in a freezer-safe container or resealable bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • When ready to serve the frozen salad, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Once thawed, toss the salad with the prepared dressing, consisting of poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and sugar. Adjust the seasoning if needed and enjoy your delightful make-ahead meal!
  • For optimal texture, consume the thawed and dressed salad within 1-2 days. The pasta may soften slightly due to the freezing process, but the incredible flavors will still shine through.

How To Reheat Leftover Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

  • Reheat the turkey cranberry pasta salad in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired temperature. Be careful not to overheat the salad, as it may cause the pasta to become mushy and the dressing to separate.

  • For a fresher taste, reheat the turkey and pasta separately in the microwave or on the stovetop. Once they are warm, mix them with the cold ingredients, such as the celery, cranberries, pecans, and green onions. Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.

  • If you prefer a cold salad, simply remove the turkey cranberry pasta salad from the refrigerator about 15-20 minutes before serving. This will allow the salad to come to room temperature, making it more flavorful and easier to enjoy.

  • To add a crispy texture to the reheated salad, toast some extra pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Chop them and sprinkle them over the top of the salad just before serving.

  • If the dressing has separated or the salad seems dry after reheating, whisk together a small amount of additional poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and sugar to taste. Drizzle the mixture over the salad and toss well to combine.

Random Fact About Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Turkey cranberry pasta salad is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a main course or a side dish. It's a great way to use up leftover turkey from holiday meals, and the combination of flavors and textures makes it a crowd-pleaser. Plus, the addition of dried cranberries provides a sweet and tangy burst of flavor, while the pecans add a satisfying crunch. This salad is perfect for potlucks, picnics, or as a light and refreshing meal on a warm day. It's a simple and delicious way to enjoy a taste of the holidays any time of year.

Is This Pasta Salad Recipe Economical for Home Cooking?

The cost-effectiveness of this turkey cranberry pasta salad recipe largely depends on the availability and prices of the ingredients. Turkey and dried cranberries can be relatively expensive, but the use of leftover turkey can make it more budget-friendly. The addition of pecans and poppy seed dressing may increase the cost. Overall, this recipe could be moderately cost-effective for a household, especially if the turkey is already on hand. On a scale of 1-10, the verdict for cost-effectiveness would be around 6. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people would be around $20-$25.

Is This Pasta Salad Healthy or Unhealthy?

The turkey cranberry pasta salad recipe has both healthy and unhealthy aspects. Let's break it down:

Healthy ingredients:

  • Turkey: a lean protein source
  • Celery: low in calories and rich in fiber
  • Dried cranberries: contain antioxidants and fiber
  • Pecans: provide healthy fats, protein, and fiber
  • Green onions: offer vitamins and minerals

Unhealthy aspects:

  • Bow-tie pasta: a refined carbohydrate, which can spike blood sugar levels
  • Poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise, and sugar: high in calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars
  • High overall calorie content due to the dressing and mayonnaise

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Swap the bow-tie pasta for a whole-grain or legume-based alternative to increase fiber and nutrient content
  • Reduce the amount of poppy seed dressing and mayonnaise, or opt for lighter, yogurt-based dressings to cut down on calories and unhealthy fats
  • Increase the proportion of vegetables, such as adding diced bell peppers, carrots, or cucumber, to boost the salad's nutrient density
  • Use fresh cranberries instead of dried ones to reduce the sugar content
  • Lightly toast the pecans to enhance their flavor without the need for additional oil or salt

By incorporating these changes, you can transform this pasta salad into a more balanced and nutritious meal that still retains its delightful flavors and textures. Experiment with different ingredient ratios and dressing options to find the perfect combination that satisfies your taste buds while nourishing your body.

Editor's Thoughts on Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe

This turkey cranberry pasta salad recipe is a delightful combination of flavors and textures. The tender turkey, chewy cranberries, and crunchy pecans provide a satisfying contrast, while the poppy seed dressing adds a sweet and tangy note. The addition of celery and green onions brings a refreshing crunch, and the creamy dressing ties everything together beautifully. This salad is perfect for a light lunch or as a side dish for a summer barbecue. The balance of savory and sweet flavors makes it a versatile and crowd-pleasing option for any occasion.

Enhance Your Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes with a hint of roasted garlic, perfect for pairing with the turkey cranberry pasta salad.
Grilled Vegetable Skewers: Colorful and flavorful grilled vegetable skewers, a healthy and vibrant side to complement the pasta salad.
Cranberry Orange Spinach Salad: A refreshing and tangy spinach salad with a burst of cranberry and orange flavors, a delightful accompaniment to the turkey cranberry pasta salad.

Alternative Recipes Similar to Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Creamy Chicken Alfredo: A creamy and indulgent pasta dish that combines tender chicken with a rich and flavorful Alfredo sauce.
Mango Salsa Chicken: A tropical twist on traditional chicken, featuring a zesty and refreshing mango salsa that pairs perfectly with grilled or baked chicken.
Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad: A healthy and satisfying salad that combines nutty quinoa with a colorful array of roasted vegetables, tossed in a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
Berry Cobbler: A classic dessert featuring sweet and juicy berries topped with a buttery, golden-brown cobbler crust. Perfect for any occasion!

Suggested Appetizers and Desserts to Serve With Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Savory Stuffed Mushrooms: Delight your taste buds with these savory stuffed mushrooms, filled with a flavorful mixture of herbs, cheese, and breadcrumbs. Each bite is a burst of deliciousness that will leave you craving for more.
Crispy Zucchini Fritters: Indulge in these crispy zucchini fritters, a perfect blend of shredded zucchini, herbs, and spices, all fried to golden perfection. Each bite offers a satisfying crunch and a burst of savory flavors that will keep you coming back for more.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. This elegant dessert is perfect for any special occasion or dinner party.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Savor the decadent combination of creamy cheesecake and sweet, juicy strawberries. Whether it's a classic New York style or a no-bake version, this dessert is sure to impress your guests.

Why trust this Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe:

This recipe is a delightful fusion of flavors and textures, combining tender turkey with the sweet tang of dried cranberries and the satisfying crunch of pecans. The creamy poppy seed dressing and mayonnaise blend perfectly with the slight acidity of apple cider vinegar and a touch of sweetness from sugar. The result is a harmonious medley that will tantalize your taste buds. Trust in the quality and balance of these ingredients to create a memorable pasta salad that will surely impress your family and friends.

Share your thoughts and experiences with the Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad Recipe in the Recipe Sharing forum section.
Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
Yes, you can use any type of pasta you prefer. Farfalle, penne, or rotini would work well in this recipe.
Can I substitute the turkey with another protein?
Absolutely! You can use chicken, ham, or even tofu as a substitute for the turkey.
How long can I store the turkey cranberry pasta salad?
The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Can I omit the nuts for allergies?
Yes, you can omit the nuts if you have allergies or simply prefer not to include them. The salad will still be delicious without them.
Can I make the dressing ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare the dressing ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just give it a good stir before using it in the salad.

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