This creamy Cajun chicken pasta dish is easy to make in only about 35 minutes. This is the perfect indulgent dinner recipe for a date night at home!
Note: this post was originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021 with new photos and improved instructions.
Creamy Cajun pasta is one of my husband's favorite dishes, so I developed my own at-home version just for him! It's spicy, super creamy, and deliciously indulgent. (And feel free to up the spice if you love heat!)
The best part is that this Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe is ready in only about 35 minutes! If you are looking for an elegant, indulgent and luxurious pasta recipe, without a ton of time or effort, look no further.
(A quick disclaimer - this is not an authentic Cajun recipe by any means, just my own interpretation of one of my husband's favorite restaurant dishes!)
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- Boneless skinless chicken breast: you can substitute chicken thighs if you like. I give some other protein ideas in the Recipe FAQs section below.
- Cajun seasoning: you can use your own homemade mix, but I just grabbed some at the store (available in the spice isle). If you are using a store-bought mix, look to see if it has salt in it or not, this will let you know whether you should be sparing when adding additional salt.
- Bell pepper: use any color you have on hand; I used red bell pepper because I think the bright red color looks pretty!
- Onion: any kind is ok. I used a yellow onion.
- Plum tomatoes: these are good to cook with because they are lower moisture than other types of tomatoes, so it won't make the sauce too watery. If you want, you can substitute canned diced tomatoes.
- Pasta: feel free to use any shape you like. I used pappardelle here because it seems "fancy" to me and hold the sauce well! You can also use tagliatelle, another wide noodle shape, as I did in this recipe for creamy tomato pasta. Here is a great article on pairing pasta shapes with different types of sauces!
Step by step photos
1. Set a large pot of water on the stove to begin boiling for the pasta. When the water boils, add a generous pinch of salt and cook the pasta according to the package instructions (see the Tips and tricks section for more info on timing for the pasta!).
Meanwhile, prep the veggies: thinly slice the bell pepper and onion, and finely dice the tomato. Set the veggies aside for now.
2. Finely shred the Parmesan cheese and set aside.
3. Cut the chicken breast into about 1 inch pieces.
4. Sprinkle the chicken with some of the Cajun seasoning and a sprinkle of salt. Toss the chicken to distribute the spices evenly on each piece.
5. Heat some of the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet with high sides. Add the seasoned chicken to the hot pan and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the chicken is nicely browned on all sides.
Don't stir too frequently, this will allow the chicken to form a nice brown crust on the exterior.
6. Add in the sliced bell pepper and onion, plus more Cajun seasoning and a pinch of salt. Continue to cook and stir for an additional 2 - 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are softened. Scrape up any brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan!
7. Remove the chicken and veggies to a medium bowl, tent loosely with foil. Add the rest of the oil and the tomatoes to the pan, plus the remaining Cajun seasoning and another small pinch of salt.
Cook the tomatoes for 2 - 3 minutes, or until they start to break down and some of the liquid released evaporates.
8. Add the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese to the pan.
9. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the sauce is creamy and slightly thickened (it will thicken further as it cools down). Taste the sauce and add more salt and/or Cajun seasoning if needed.
10. Add the cooked pasta, chicken and veggies to the pan. Be sure to add any accumulated juices from the bowl of chicken as well!
11. Toss the chicken pasta with the sauce to combine. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan sprinkled overtop.
Tips and tricks
Timing the pasta to be finished when sauce is ready
If you want to enjoy this delicious pasta dish as soon as possible, it's helpful if you can time the pasta to be finished right when the sauce is done. To accomplish this, these tips will help:
- Start heating up the pasta water right in the beginning.
- Take note of the pasta cooking time before you start cooking and use that to inform when you will need to start the pasta. For pasta with a 10 minute cook time, try starting the pasta around when you finish cooking the chicken and bell pepper (this gives you a couple minutes wiggle room to finish the sauce!).
- If your pasta water starts boiling before you are ready to add the pasta, just turn down the water slightly to keep it at a simmer. Then, a minute or two before you need to add the pasta, turn it up again and it should get up to a boil quickly.
If you missed the timing on the pasta, it's better to err on the side of finishing the sauce first. The sauce will easily sit on the stove on the lowest heat setting while the pasta finishes cooking (just stir occasionally!).
Other tips and tricks
- Be sure to use a large sauté pan (this pan has straight sides about 3 - 5 inches high), or a skillet with higher sides. You don't want a low-sided pan since it will need to contain the sauce, and you need room to toss the pasta at the end without the risk of anything of spilling over the sides.
- To easily grate the Parmesan, I recommend using a Microplane. I tried grating the Parmesan with both a regular box grater and a Microplane, and the Microplane was so, so much easier and faster! I have this Microplane (affiliate link).
- Make sure you generously salt the pasta water! This is really your only chance to get seasoning into the pasta itself and will make sure the final dish doesn't end up tasting under seasoned. Think a few large pinches, rather than just a sprinkle.
- Drain the pasta very well before adding it to the sauce. If the pasta has a lot of water clinging to it (which can happen with tube shaped pasta if not drained well), it can make the sauce too watery.
There are a lot of options if you aren't feeling the chicken breast. As I mentioned in the Recipe ingredients section, you can easily swap boneless skinless chicken thighs for the chicken breast.
And you can forego the chicken altogether - try cubes of pork tenderloin, whole peeled and deveined shrimp, or even slices of pre-cooked sausage. If you are using a quicker cooking protein like shrimp, cut the cooking time listed in the recipe so you don't overcook the shrimp. Then remove the cooked shrimp from the pan before sautéing the onion and bell pepper.
For a meatless option, try cubes of extra firm tofu!
This creamy pasta will taste best if served immediately. However, leftovers will last in the fridge, tightly covered, for 3 - 4 days. To reheat leftovers, microwave a single serving on 50% power 1 minute at a time, stirring in between. Or, heat in a covered skillet set over low heat, stirring occasionally. You may want to add in an additional splash of cream if the pasta seems a little dry.
Since this dish is a little more heavy due to the cream, I suggest going lighter with the sides. For example, try a simple tossed green salad, roasted vegetables, or sautéed broccoli. Garlic bread would never go amiss with a pasta dish however!
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a star rating and/or review in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And sign up for my weekly newsletter to get recipes delivered straight to you!Print
Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
A spicy, creamy Cajun sauce envelops tender pasta and sautéed chicken breast, bell peppers and onion. A quick yet indulgent recipe, perfect for a romantic night in!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: main course
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: American
- 1 bell pepper, any color
- 1 small or ½ large onion
- 2 cups (325 g) finely chopped plum tomatoes (about 4 plum tomatoes)
- 16 ounces (454 g) boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 cup (32 g) finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon neutral oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) Cajun seasoning, divided (see note 1)
- salt, to taste
- 8 ounces (227 g) pasta (suggested shapes: pappardelle or tagliatelle)
- 1 cup (237 ml) heavy whipping cream
- Set a large pot of water over high heat to boil. While waiting for water to boil, proceed with the following steps. Once water is boiling and you are ready to cook the pasta, add a couple generous pinches of salt and cook according to directions on the box. (See notes 2 - 4 below about how to time the pasta cooking with making the sauce.)
- Prep vegetables and cheese: thinly slice the bell pepper and onion. Finely chop the plum tomatoes. Finely shred the Parmesan cheese. Set aside (keep bell pepper and onion separate from tomatoes).
- Cut chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning. Toss the chicken to evenly coat in the salt and Cajun seasoning.
- In a large sauté pan or high-sided skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add seasoned chicken to the hot pan in an even layer. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring only occasionally to allow the chicken to develop a brown crust on the exterior.
- Add the bell pepper and onion to the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and add an additional 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Cook the bell pepper, onion and chicken, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened and chicken is fully cooked, about 2 - 3 minutes. Scrape any brown bits up from the bottom of the pan during cooking. Remove chicken and vegetables into a medium bowl. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the hot pan. Add finely chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt, and remaining 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down and some of the moisture begins to evaporate from the tomatoes, about 2 - 3 minutes.
- Add heavy cream and finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Let simmer until sauce is slightly thickened and creamy, about 2 - 3 minutes. Turn the heat down if necessary to maintain the simmer. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and/or Cajun seasoning if needed.
- When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it well and add it to the sauce, along with the chicken, bell pepper and onion mixture (and any juices accumulated at the bottom of the bowl). Using tongs, toss the pasta, chicken and veggies together with the sauce to evenly combine. Serve immediately with additional shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Before you start cooking, check to see if your Cajun seasoning has salt in it or not. If it does, be sparing when adding additional salt; you can always add more if needed. The amount of Cajun seasoning listed here results in a medium level of spiciness (in my opinion!). Adjust the amount of seasoning to your own tastes.
- The pasta will taste the freshest if it finishes cooking right when the sauce is done or a little after. Before you start the sauce, check how long your pasta needs to cook and time accordingly.
- If the pasta water is boiling before you are ready to add the pasta, turn the heat down slightly to maintain a simmer, then turn the heat back up a minute or two before you are ready to add the pasta.
- If the sauce is ready before the pasta has finished cooking, just turn the heat down to the lowest setting to keep the sauce warm, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.
- The nutrition information below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator; the nutrition counts of your dish will vary based on the amount and brand of seasoning(s) and ingredients you use. This nutrition estimate should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, health, or nutritional advice. See our full nutrition disclosure policy.
- Serving Size: ¼ recipe
- Calories: 507
- Sugar: 5.7 g
- Sodium: 368 mg
- Fat: 21.6 g
- Saturated Fat: 8.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 42 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 35.2 g
- Cholesterol: 161 mg
Keywords: creamy Cajun chicken pasta, Cajun pasta