Spooky Salad (Halloween Side Dish)
This fun and colorful Halloween Salad is the best spooky side dish. With pepperoni bats, vibrantly colored tortellini and mozzarella cheese skulls, it’s also the most delicious!
This Spooky Pasta Salad makes a great Halloween Side Dish!
My husband and I have always loved Halloween, but having a little kid running around has made it even more fun. Truly, seeing Halloween joy through her eyes is even more magical than Christmas for us!
One thing I don’t see much of on the internet is Halloween side dishes! But everybody needs to eat dinner on Halloween to get their energy up for trick-or-treating.
Usually, I will serve something easy like crock pot beef stroganoff or a slow cooker soup for an early supper right before trick-or-treating. But I never knew what to do about a side dish until this year.
Enter this fun and colorful Halloween salad recipe. With pepperoni bats, spooky tortellini and mozzarella cheese skulls, it’s just as delicious as it is perfect for All Hallows Eve.
Halloween Themed Pasta Salad ingredients
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- salad greens – I like spring mix, but arugula or spinach, or a combination of those things would work well for a Halloween-inspired salad, too.
- mozzarella cheese – pearl-sized mini mozzarella balls work best for the cheese skulls, and I’ll discuss this more below.
- tomatoes – any variety of cherry or grape tomatoes works well here.
- olives – pitted Kalamata olives kind of look like little eyes, which is why they’re cool here. Green olives are spooky, too!
- mini peppers – these add lots of color and flavor to this Halloween salad recipe. If you end up with a half a bag left over, make them into a fajita vegetables recipe.
- pepperoni – we’ll be using thickly sliced pepperoni to make “bats,” which I also discuss below.
- tortellini – you can use fresh or frozen tortellini for this Halloween side dish, and any variety! I used refrigerated cheese tortellini.
- food coloring – for dying the tortellini. I find that the gel food coloring gives the deepest color.
- silicone mold – I like this small silicone skull mold to make cheese skulls that are about 1 inch tall, but any kind of spooky Halloween shape would work for this salad.
- cookie cutter – you will need a small spooky cookie cutter for the pepperoni. I like the smallest size of these bat cookie cutters, but again, any Halloween shape is great.
How to make Halloween Salad
How to make mozzarella cheese skulls:
^ That’s a weird sentence I never thought I’d say. But I’ve already made Halloween cupcakes that look like bloody brains, so here we are.
Your first step is to try to buy pearl size mozzarella, if possible. They’re really the perfect size for 1″ skull molds.
You could also use a large ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into small pieces to fit the molds. The most important thing is that you buy fresh mozzarella, as it melts the best.
To make the skulls:
- Blot the cheese very dry with paper towels.
- Place one mozzarella pearl in each skull in the silcone mold. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Keep a close eye out for any bubbling, as you don’t want to BROWN the cheese but just SOFTEN it.
- Once the cheese is soft and melty, use the back of a spoon to press the cheese down into all the crevices of the mold.
- Transfer the mold to the fridge. Once the cheese has cooled and re-solidified (about 5 minutes), pop the cheese skulls out of the molds and toss them into your Halloween salad.
How to dye tortellini for a Halloween side dish:
Whatever kind of tortellini you have (and I hope you bought an extra package for tortellini soup with sausage), cook it according to package directions and drain it.
Then, in three separate bowls, add a few drops of gel food coloring to 3/4 cup of cool water, stirring to dissolve one color into each bowl.
I think orange, green and purple are the best colors for this Halloween salad recipe, and I already had the food coloring on hand from Halloween deviled eggs.
Divide tortellini evenly among the 3 bowls and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, drain the tortellini and rinse it with cold water. Pat the tortellini dry with paper towel.
The hue of the tortellini will depend on how strong you make the colored water. If you aren’t getting a strong enough color, try adding more of the food coloring.
Soaking it for longer could make the tortellini waterlogged, so you don’t want to do that.
Use a cookie cutter to make pepperoni bats:
I already had a small bat-shaped cookie cutter on hand from when I made bat tortilla chips for my Halloween food ideas platter, so it made perfect sense to make some pepperoni bats for this salad.
I used Boar’s Head deli pepperoni for this Halloween side dish, and I asked at the deli for the pepperoni to be thick sliced (I use this same pepperoni for my football themed charcuterie board, too). Salami would also be a good alternative if you can’t find pepperoni.
And either salami or pepperoni bats would be perfect for a Halloween charcuterie board!
Red wine vinaigrette ingredients for this Spooky Salad
- red wine vinegar – it can’t be red wine vinaigrette without red wine vinegar!
- dijon mustard – this acts as an emulsifier between the oil and the vinegar.
- garlic – minced garlic adds lots of flavor to the vinaigrette for this Halloween-inspired salad.
- salt and pepper – you MUST season homemade salad dressings for them to taste great.
- dried oregano – this adds a special Italian flavor to the vinaigrette for Halloween salad.
- olive oil – use a good quality oil, because you will taste it in the finished vinaigrette.
Other dressing ideas for this Halloween Salad
Not a fan of red wine vinaigrette, or your kids aren’t? That’s totally fine!
I do prefer something that is along the lines of a vinaigrette so that it’s somewhat transparent and all of the spooky ingredients are still nice and visible once it’s dressed.
For a shortcut, you can use a good quality bottled vinaigrette for this spooky salad. And hey, if the kids insist on ranch dressing, give them ranch dressing!
Ideas to customize this Spooky Pasta Salad
This Halloween salad idea is very easy to customize with whatever veggies you have on hand.
Cucumber slices or cut-out shapes would be a great addition to this Halloween side dish. Try adding pickled red onion, pepperoncini, or shaved red cabbage, too.
Can I make this Halloween Side Dish in advance?
Just like candy corn shots, this is a great make-ahead recipe! All of the elements for this Halloween salad idea can be prepped in advance and kept separately in the fridge.
Put it all together and dress it just before you’re ready to eat, so the spooky salad does not wilt.
How to serve Halloween Themed Pasta Salad
They key to this Halloween salad is the presentation. Use a Halloween-themed bowl or even a black cauldron as your serving vessel.
Skeleton hand salad tongs are highly encouraged. And I recommend keeping the dressing in a glass lab flask and bringing it to the table for that mad scientist vibe as you add the dressing and toss everything together!
How to store this Spooky Salad
I recommend eating this Halloween side dish on the same day that it’s tossed together with dressing. Storing salad greens already tossed with dressing is a recipe for sogginess.
If you suspect you will have leftovers, you can simply drizzle dressing over each individual serving. Then, you can store the leftover salad and dressing separately in airtight containers in the fridge for up to a day.
For the Red Wine Vinaigrette:
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Halloween Salad:
- 4 ounces pearl size fresh mozzarella balls
- 8 ounces fresh or frozen tortellini
- Gel food coloring, for dying tortellini (I like orange, green and purple)
- 8 ounces spring mix or arugula
- 4 ounces thick-cut pepperoni, cut into shapes or cubed
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 6 mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced crosswise
- Make the Red Wine Vinaigrette: In a jar or dressing bottle with tight fitting lid, add garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper. Close lid and shake until emulsified and thickened. Set aside.
- Make the Halloween Salad: Blot mozzarella pearls dry with paper towel and place one pearl in each opening of a 1-inch skull-shaped silicone mold. Microwave on high 30 seconds, keeping an eye out for any bubbling. You do not want to brown the cheese, but just soften it. Once cheese is softened and melty, carefully use the back of a spoon to press the cheese down into the crevices of the molds. Transfer the mold to the fridge. Once the cheese has cooled and re-solidified (about 5 minutes), pop the cheese skulls out of the molds.
- Meanwhile, cook tortellini according to package directions, and drain. In three separate bowls, add a few drops of gel food coloring to 3/4 cup of cool water, stirring to dissolve one color into each bowl. Divide tortellini evenly among the 3 bowls and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, drain the tortellini and rinse with cold water. Gently pat the tortellini dry with paper towel.
- Just before serving, add spring mix, pepperoni, tomatoes, peppers, olives, cheese skulls and dyed tortellini to large bowl. Toss salad and lightly dress with vinaigrette to taste. Serve with any remaining vinaigrette.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 791mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 15g
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.