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

4.91 from 11 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.

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  1. Made this tonight for my family with my vegetarian daughter in mind. We all love it and made it with spiral noodle instead of spaghetti.

  2. I make mine with your ingredients plus hard boiled eggs and I use Kraft Peppercorn dressing and sour cream (half and half) with a little sugar and last I use a little celery seed.


    1. Sometimes you can leave it out.
      This is what I found when I searching:
      Asiago is another of Italy’s great dry cheeses. It is a bit sweeter than Parmesan and most brands aren’t quite as hard in texture. It is a widely used substitute for Parmesan in pasta dishes and on pizzas, providing good flavor.
      Hope that helps!! Xo

  4. This salad looks good. Thing is I don’t like raw onion and really don’t care for bell peppers. Do you really have to use them?

    1. Use either red or yellow bell peppers, they are sweeter and taste much better. I don’t like the green bells either. As far as onion, use onion powder instead and just a little so that the flavor has a chance to marry in the salad.

    2. I leave out green pepper and it still tastes great. If you don’t like onion, use onion in half and half without onion. This makes a LOT.

  5. This salad has always been a hit. Love this salad. But notice some put crab meat or lil salad shrimp in theres. Going to go that way next time I make it.

  6. I made it using small shell pasta, adding fresh parsley, mint and basil from the garden and some cooked shrimp. I added Salad Supreme, some salt and pepper. Used just a little of the Italian Dressing. Sprinkled grated parmesan over each serving. To die for !!!!

  7. Hi I’m about to prepare this salad for a picnic tomorrow can anyone get back to me and let me know if you should the Cucumber or not.

  8. Love the salad but next time I’m only going to use half of the dressing too oily for me. But still very good!

  9. This recipe sounds wonderful and all the good stuff in it, must try to make this before summer is gone. My only change would be for using another type of more sturdy pasta for my taste, cant envision “sketti” in this, would try fusilli or more sturdy pasta and use whole grain which I believe would bring pasta more to forefront, just my tastes, not for everyone……love the dressing too…

  10. What makes it California? Some things from cali aren’t always good, I prefer local. Really a basic recipe that anyone can modify with whatever ingredients and salad dressings they want. I can’t believe some people asked if they could add this or that, or don’t know how to add vegan protein. Hope you don’t get paid for this crap.

    1. Yes. Why not make the dressing from scratch? And I’d have to substitute the onions as raw, especially red onions, do not agree with me. Maybe I’ll use chives. Any suggestions? After I try the recipe, I will rate it.

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