California Spaghetti Salad

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California Spaghetti Salad is a delicious pasta salad filled with fresh veggies and covered in a zesty Italian dressing.  With all those flavors and colors making one beautiful and tasty side dish, there is no doubt this will be the hit of your next gathering!

I love delicious, cool salads in Spring and Summer like Creamy Pea, Cauliflower Broccoli, and Cucumber Tomato Salad. Enjoy your salad at your next BBQ!

California spaghetti salad in a gray bowl with olives, tomatoes and fresh vegetables.

Easy California Spaghetti Salad

As the weather begins to change and warm up in the Spring, I find myself looking for recipes with a fresher and lighter feel.  I especially love quick and easy cold pasta salads! This one only took 15 minutes to make and it was amazing!  It is vegan-friendly so it is great to bring to a potluck!  It is also super versatile! Have fun choosing colorful, fresh fruits and veggies you love to add in! I sometimes swap out the olives for sun-dried tomatoes and I love it that way too!

You really can’t go wrong with this salad! It is great to make ahead because it tastes better as it sits.  I love packing it for my kids in their lunches to change it up from sandwiches every day.  We even love taking it on a picnic!  It is such a treat!  All of the amazing veggies packed inside add so much texture, flavor, and color to the pasta. The zesty Italian dressing coated throughout this pasta is so good. It is the perfect finishing touch to this pasta salad. It is easy to make at home and so incredible! I use it on tons of salads, not just this one!  Trust me when I say that this California Spaghetti Salad will be a huge hit wherever it goes!

The Best California Spaghetti Salad Ingredients

  • Spaghetti: Use thin linguine and break into 1-inch pieces to make it easier to eat.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Chopped them in half to make them more bite-sized.
  • Zucchini: Make sure you dice everything to similar sizes as much as possible.
  • Cucumber: The cucumber gives this salad the fresh taste I love.
  • Bell peppers: I used red and green but swap for yellow peppers if you prefer. Make this recipe your own!
  • Red onion: If you don’t like biting into the raw onion, marinate them in the dressing first to lessen their strong flavor.
  • Olives: The olives are very salty and delicious!

Salad Dressing Ingredients

  • Italian salad dressing: Use any Italian dressing you love because you are going to amp it up with all the other seasonings to create your own version of this staple dressing.
  • Parmesan cheese: Grated and combined with the dressing to cover each part of the salad with its great nutty flavor.
  • Sesame seeds: Add a rich, nutty flavor to the dressing.
  • Paprika: Adds great color to this dressing.
  • Celery seed: These little seeds pack all the powerful flavors of celery- earthy, grassy and slightly bitter- that balance out this dressing.
  • Garlic powder: The extra garlic powder helps the flavor stay strong even when chilled.

How to Make Spaghetti Salad

  1. Cook the pasta: Make according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  2. Combine all ingredients: Add cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, green and red bell pepper, red onion and olives to the pasta in a large bowl.
  3. Make the dressing:  Whisk together Italian salad dressing, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, paprika, celery seed, and garlic powder.
  4. Toss the salad in dressing: Pour dressing over salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
California spaghetti salad in a gray bowl.

Tips for making the Perfect California Pasta Salad

  • Vegetables: Get creative with this versatile dish and swap out vegetables. For example, try favorites like broccoli or yellow and orange bell peppers.
  • Pasta: Use other pasta shapes.  Some of my favorites like rotini or farfalle would work fantastic!
  • Cooling Pasta:This pasta salad is best when it’s fresh out of the fridge. So, keep it cooling until right before serving.
  • Make it Ahead: This is a great make-ahead recipe! It’s even better the next day, so I usually make it the day before and store it in the refrigerator overnight. This really gives all the flavors time to combine and soak into the pasta!
  • Pasta Tip: After draining the salad, dunk the pasta in an ice bath (equal parts water and ice in a large bowl) to shock them.  Then, your noodles will not soak up too much of the dressing and become gummy.

Steps to putting together the spaghetti salad.Best Places to Take California Spaghetti Salad Dish

  • BBQ or Potluck: A cookout with friends and/or family.  As the weather warms up, a cool salad is a perfect side!
  • Family Gatherings: Family reunion in a pavilion by the river.  This dish travels well, just keep it in the cooler until right before you serve.
  • Work Lunch: Potluck at work.  (Depending on where you work 🙂)
  • Lunches! This salad keeps well in the fridge for 5 days so it is perfect for make-ahead weekly lunches!
California spaghetti salad being lifted by the tongs.

California Spaghetti Salad

4.84 from 6 votes
California Spaghetti Salad is a delicious pasta salad filled with fresh veggies and covered in a zesty Italian dressing.  With all those flavors and colors making one beautiful and tasty side dish, there is no doubt this will be the hit of your next gathering!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Author Alyssa Rivers
Servings: 12 Servings


  • 1 pound thin spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes chopped in half
  • 2 zucchini medium, diced
  • 1 cucumber large, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper medium, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 red onion large, diced
  • 2 cans ripe olives 2-¼ ounces each sliced, drained


  • 1 bottle Italian salad dressing 16 ounces
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain using a colander and rinse in cold water. Add cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, green and red bell pepper, red onion and olives in a large bowl.

To make the dressing:

  • Whisk together italian salad dressing, parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, paprika, celery seed, and garlic powder. Pour over salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.



Updated on April 30, 2021
Originally Posted on May 29, 2015


Serves: 12

Calories317kcal (16%)Carbohydrates38g (13%)Protein8g (16%)Fat16g (25%)Saturated Fat2g (10%)Cholesterol1mgSodium1243mg (52%)Potassium391mg (11%)Fiber5g (20%)Sugar7g (8%)Vitamin A984IU (20%)Vitamin C37mg (45%)Calcium93mg (9%)Iron2mg (11%)

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.

Course Salad
Cuisine Italian American
Keyword california spaghetti salad, spaghetti salad
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic


Alyssa Rivers

I am Alyssa and the blogger behind The Recipe Critic. I started my blog in June of 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family.

Read More Posts by Alyssa

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      1. I used MyFitnessPal to get the calories, which is 328 calories per serving, but what is the serving size? I know you said it makes 10-12 servings. I’m thinking the serving size is a cup?


  1. I’m on a low carb program per my doctor. What are the nutritional values of this salad. Especially carbs.

  2. No…you had me right up to the Italian dressing. Boring. I’d try a small jar of oil-packed sundried tomatoes as a base, run through a blender with either raw garlic or roasted garlic and whipped with Balsamic, fresh basil and oregano, Parmesan, and chili flakes. Dash of sea salt and toss. Or avocado puree with sea salt, EVO, cumin, sesame oil, and lemon zest. Any recipe that includes Italian dressing from a bottle strikes me as laziness.

    1. You can defiantly make your own. But sometimes I am SO busy in the summer that it is nice to throw something together really quick! Most of my dressings on my site are homemade but this one comes together quickly and it delicious.

  3. How is this California? California typically means avocado is in it which there is NONE. You might want to fix the name just sayin

  4. Do you have any nutrition analysis for the recipe AS you make it? Please post SOON! Thanks!! 🙂

    1. Nutritional Facts
      3/4 cup: 257 calories, 13g fat (2g saturated fat), 1mg cholesterol, 567mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 2g fiber), 6g protein.

      Not really all that healthy with the pasta and dressing.

  5. This is the second time I have made this salad. The first I left the noodles whole, the second I broke them up. Definitely better broken.
    I Love this salad. I did customize with yellow squash and no peppers. Still just as delicious!

  6. Hi, this salad looks great and so colorful too? I like red onion but it has a really strong aftertaste and I don’t want my breath tasting or smelling like onion. How can I make the onion less string before adding in the salad or what can I add to the salad to make it less strong? Thanks.

    1. Soak the diced red onion in iced water for 5 to 10 minutes and then will not be as strong or have that aftertaste.

    2. Onions are usually “strong” when they are older. You can take some of the sting out of them by soaking them in cold water for about 15 minutes or so before you add them to the salad. Also try shallots, scallions, or Vidalia onions instead.

    3. I’d like to know how to tone down the red onion in salads too! I usually just mince them extra small and use less than called for. Would not leave it out altogether because the flavor is important to the overall dish 🙂 I might try making my own Italian dressing for this!

    4. Also now that it’s summer you can get delicious Vidalia onions. Grown in South Georgia, these super sweet onions give you all of the healthy, delicious benefits of regular onions but they have a sweet, mild flavor. It’s said you can eat them like an apple they are so sweet. Look for Vidalias that are more flat (think ufo saucer shape) than round for best flavor. Enjoy!

    5. Chop the onions, then soak in water for about ten minutes or while preparing the rest of the veggies. Drain and put in salad, they won’t be strong!

    6. Soak the onion in ice water after chopping and soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain and add to salad . Keeps the taste but eliminates the sting.

  7. I hate Italian dressing in anything. Can I use Miracle Whip or Mayo maybe? Anybody tried that? A lot of salads have Mayo in them.

  8. Hi, this recipe looks colourful, tasty and healthy☺ I love pasta so to eat more of it without feeling guilty and in a more healthy way is great! The only thing is I have always cooked zucchini and never eaten it raw…maybe I can slice it, saute it in some olive oil, salt and pepper and put in salad or I could substitute it with cucumber?

  9. The veggie possibilities are endless, the others I add additional to yours are

    I also add pepperoni either the small ones or cut the other ones in quarters

    1. I added some pepperoni to mine. This is a very good recipe. My mom made one in the late 80’s about the same. cucumber, onion, tomato and Italian dressing. This is much better! I noticed the added ingredients of the sesame seeds, garlic, parmesan cheese and paprika are about the same ingredients in McCormick’s Salad Supreme. So glad I can make it “homemade”. My only complaint is I find it a bit salty. Might just be me. Wonderful recipe!

  10. I make one similar to this. but it does not have as many vegetables. Just has: spaghetti, green bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion. Dressing is: 16 oz Italian (I use Zesty Italian) and 1 bottle of McCormick’s Salad Supreme. Really good. I will have to try yours also.

    1. I make Janice’s with tri-colored curly noodles, zucchini, mushrooms, tom, red onion, and bell pepper. Same dressing.

    2. I have made the same salad as you mentioned. It is our summer staple. I have used 3 colors of peppers and an entire bunch of celery. I use garden chives and also add some garden oregano. Yummy!
      Forgot to mention that I cut the thin spagetti to approximately 1 inch pieces (by breaking it between the thumb and first knuckle) and storing it until ready to make the salad. It taste better if the entire salad is stored in the fridge the night before and turned a couple of times. The old very large Tupperware bowl and lid makes a perfect fit.

    3. Hi Janice. Look at the back of your Salad Supreme bottle at ingredients. Nearly the same as added ones in Alyssa’s recipe 🙂 ( I also love a shake of that in my pasta salads)

      1. I’ve been making the McCormick Salad Supreme pasta salad recipe for years. It’s nice to know what you can substitute in case you don’t have that particular spice available. Everyone always loves this salad.

    4. Yours sounds good to. I make one similar. I put mushrooms, olives, bell pepper, red onion & broccoli. Then i to use the same dressing as you use.

  11. I made this last night, let it set in the fridge overnight, I had it for lunch & it was so good. A light pasta salad with the fresh crunchy veggies. I also used whole wheat pasta, love it! Already have 3 friends sharing the recipe. Thank you for an awesome recipe!

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