A few weeks ago my friend Jenni sent me a link to this recipe for Tzatziki Pasta Salad with the comment that, “it isn’t too Budget Bytes friendly (too many splurgy ingredients), but it’s really good!” I looked over the recipe and quickly decided that A) I needed to make it because it DID look really good, and B) I needed to budgetize it! My version, which I’m just calling Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad, is a little less splurgy, but still awesomely delicious! So good, in fact, that I almost ate a few forkfuls for breakfast this morning! 😜
Budget Swaps for Creamy Lemon Dill Pasta Salad
To make this pasta salad more budget friendly, I first had to identify the budget breaking ingredients, and there are a lot of them: Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, feta, red onion, Greek yogurt, artichoke hearts, and fresh dill.
To minimize the budget-killing effect of these ingredients I had to either cut back or substitute where I could, while maintaining the “feel” of the recipe. Here’s what I did:
- I reduced the amount of feta in the salad to just 2oz. because feta is pretty potent, so I knew I could get away with using less.
- I used dried dill in place of fresh, and fresh tomatoes in place of sun dried (funny how one ingredient can be less expensive dried than fresh, but vice versa for a different ingredient).
- While I would have loved to have just reduced the amount of kalamata olives, I couldn’t find a good deal on them on this particular day, so they went on the cut list.
- Since I cut the olives, I kept the artichoke hearts. Nixing both would have deviated a little too far from that Greek salad feel I was going for.
- I kept the red onion, but vowed to make use of the leftovers either in another recipe or by pickling them.
- And lastly, I kept the Greek yogurt because that’s the cornerstone of the flavor profile, but made sure to buy one of the little cups that were on sale.
The resulting Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad might be a little more expensive than most pasta salads, but at $1.73 per large servings (1.5 cups each, give or take some) it’s still a bargain and is enough to make a nice light lunch.
Oh, one more thing! I know dried dill is not that common of an ingredient, so if you can’t get it or don’t want to buy it just for this recipe, oregano also goes great with these flavors. It will make a dressing very similar to the marinade for my Greek Marinated Chicken.
Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad
CREAMY LEMON DILL DRESSING
- 1 5oz. container plain Greek yogurt ($1.00)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise ($0.28)
- 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 1 fresh lemon ( $0.67)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)
- 1/4 tsp dried dill ($0.05)
- Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
- 1 lb. penne ($1.29)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes ($1.25)
- 1 cucumber (about 2 cups chopped) ($1.69)
- 1 15oz. can quartered artichoke hearts ($2.59)
- 1/4 red onion ($0.34)
- 2 oz. feta ($1.12)
- Prepare the dressing first so the flavors have time to blend. Use a zester or small-holed cheese grater to remove the zest from the lemon. In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest, salt, dill, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.
- Cook the pasta, in lightly salted water, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse briefly with cool water to bring the temperature down. Let the pasta drain until it's slightly dry and tacky on the surface.
- While the pasta is cooking, slice the cucumber, then cut the slices into quarter rounds. Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Finely dice the red onion. Drain the artichoke hearts, then roughly chop them. Crumble the feta cheese.
- Once the pasta is cooled and drained, Place it in a large bowl and combine with the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta, and creamy lemon dill dressing. Stir to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Scroll down for the step by step photos!
Step by Step Photos
Begin by removing the zest from one lemon. You’ll need about 1/2 tsp of the zest for the dressing, but you can keep the rest to use as a garnish.
Prepare the dressing first, so the flavors have time to infuse into the yogurt. In a small bowl, stir together one 5oz. container of Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of the lemon zest, 1 Tbsp of the lemon’s juice, 1/4 tsp dried dill, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. If you can’t find a single-serving container of Greek yogurt that is exactly 5oz, no worries. That part is flexible. It seems like every brand is a different size, but anywhere between 5-7oz. will be okay.
Refrigerate the dressing until you’re ready to use it.
Cook one pound of penne pasta in lightly salted water, according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water to bring the temperature down. Let the pasta drain until it’s slightly tacky or sticky on the surface. This will allow it to grip the dressing better than really wet pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. Slice about 1 cup of grape tomatoes in half, cut one cucumber into quarter rounds (about 2 cups), dice 1/4 red onion, drain and roughly chop one 15oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts, and crumble 2oz. of feta.
Combine the drained pasta, the vegetables, and feta in a large bowl.
Pour the creamy lemon dill dressing on top, then stir to coat.
And you’re done! You can garnish with any extra lemon zest or a light sprinkle of dried dill.
Fast, easy, delicious, and a little more budget friendly. ;)
…and I DID end up having a bowl of this Creamy Lemon Dill Greek Pasta Salad for breakfast as I wrote this post. LOL. What can I say? The photos got to me. :)
I used the dressing on my own mix of pasta and veggies. Really good. I skipped the mayo, so ok, didnt follow it exactly. But still, wasnt led astray with pure yogurt.
The dressing is excellent on fish! Like 100x better than tartar sauce. Sometimes I just make the lemon dill sauce to serve with crunchy fish fillets, though we do really like this pasta salad :)
This is a tasty recipe! My partner hates tomatoes, so I swapped them for Kalamata olives that I had leftover from making the Greek chicken sheet pan dinner recipe the other night. I also added a can of drained chick peas to bulk it up a bit so the salad would be a full meal. There’s lots of room for customization here!
This was delicious! I used fresh dill, and (as always with pasta salads) I put in all of the things to make it tasty – I had a fresh bell pepper that needed using and some ham, so threw that in along with the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts that I had. I would like to try it again with roasted peppers (piquante maybe?). Lots of ways to play with this recipe, so I will have fun in the future.
This is delicious, and so much lighter- and fresher-tasting than most creamy pasta salads using primarily mayonnaise in the dressing. I had some fresh dill so I used that instead of dried, and I had about a quarter of a jar of kalamata olives that were approaching geriatric status in the fridge so they got halved and tossed in.
Currently eating this and had to comment because it’s SO GOOD. The dressing seemed thick at first but it ended up perfect exactly as written! I love these “refrigerator salads” for road trip meals.
OMG! That is all I can say, I have made the dressing so many times, but never got around to making the pasta salad, my husband kept using it for his vegetables, so , today finally made the salad.. splurged a little, and added shrimp cut up into bite sized pieces and left out the feta and artichokes( husband doesn’t like them) Anyway Thank-you for a great alternative to bought bottled dressings
I should admit up-front that I went off-recipe, but thank you so much for sharing this! I may not have followed the instructions exactly, but I followed the spirit of the recipe and I loved the end result!
The biggest difference was I used pre-made tzatziki sauce instead of making it from scratch. Also, I used whole wheat penne because I thought it would add nice flavor (not to mention lots of fiber). And finally, I didn’t have any regular onions on hand, so I used green onions.
The resulting salad was delicious! I’ve been using tzatziki sauce in place of salad dressing for a while now since I found it at the local grocery store and I can’t believe it never crossed my mind to use it in a pasta salad. This was delightful and made for a tasty refreshing lunch, and I’ll definitely make it again!
Ok this is amazing. I could (and did) eat this dressing plain… I doubled the amount of dried dill called for and used sun dried tomatoes and highly recommend them, I think I’d use them over the artichokes if I had to pick one.
I made this today, and the flavors combined are delicious. I added way more dill because it is a favorite of mine. Thank you for an easy and delicious recipe. This will be added to my favorites.
How long can I refrigerate leftovers?
We recommend 3-5 days in your refrigerator when properly stored.
This was really good! I happened to have some kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes left over, so I threw those in. Omitted the artichoke because I didn’t have any and I threw in an orange bell pepper that needed to be used up. Looked gorgeous and tasted even better, thanks!
Ooh great additions and swap!
Loved this! I made it for lunches for husband and I this week, and I think it will hold up pretty well. I did make some substitutions, and they worked well for anyone else interested. In the dressing, I replaced the dill with some dried sumac, chopped parsley, and dried oregano since my husband doesn’t like dill. (I still topped my servings with a lil dill!). We also substituted bell peppers for the cucumber, because I think it holds up better over the week. I’ll probably add cucumber to mine day-of. Also added a can of rinsed garbanzo beans, but left out the red onion.
To make it more of a meal, I marinated 1.3 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs in a marinade of some of the extra ingredients I had (~ 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, lemon zest, salt and ground pepper). Baked these off, and topped the salad servings with the diced chicken later in the day – so basically a half a thigh per serving. Along with the garbanzo beans, this made it a bit more hearty.
That’s a bunch of changes, but I thought it might give other folks ideas because the base recipe really is very customizeable!
I tried this once before and loved it. Made it again last night just for the sauce and used whatever ingredients I had in the fridge for a pasta salad. I still have about half of the dressing left; what are some other uses?
I would probably be a good spread for stuffed pitas!
I just made this recipe because I’ve found myself wanting Greek food for dinner and it’s so delicious! I skipped on the lemon zest because I did not have any tools, but I served the pasta dish over a bed of arugula and added baked chicken. New favorite lunch dish!