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Cajun Chicken Pasta

This creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta is my homemade version of the Chili’s classic, and it’s a quick and easy weeknight dinner that’s ready in just 30 minutes!

Penne pasta in a creamy, cheesy, garlicky alfredo sauce topped with tender pieces of Cajun-spiced chicken and sprinkled with chopped fresh tomatoes, green onions, and parmesan cheese…

How amazingly delicious does that sound?

If you’ve only ever had Cajun chicken alfredo pasta at Chili’s (or never had it at all), you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how incredibly fast and simple it is to make this dish at home.

There’s only a few basic ingredients, but it’s absolutely packed with flavor!

That’s thanks to the Cajun seasoning, which is a yummy mixture of spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

And the contrast of the fresh tomatoes and green onions sprinkled on top is outstanding!

In my younger days, right out of college when I had a fancy job where I traveled and ate out lot, I had tons of lunches and dinners at Chili’s. And I ordered the Cajun chicken pasta most of the time. It was so good, I couldn’t resist it.

These days, I don’t get out to eat quite as often (one of the trade-offs of living in the country…the nearest Chili’s is over an hour away). But I’m not missing a thing because I can make this scrumptious pasta whenever I want in just half an hour.

It’s every bit as good as the original and can be made for a family dinner, and it’s also impressive enough for guests or a date night!

two bowls of Cajun chicken pasta with forks and a small bowl of parmesan cheese on the side

Ingredients you need:

  • Penne pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken tenderloins (or boneless skinless chicken breasts)
  • Cajun seasoning (store-bought or homemade; see note below)
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Heavy cream
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • Green onions

I make my own Cajun seasoning, because I already have all the ingredients I need in my spice cabinet.

My go-to recipe is Emeril’s Original Essence: 2½ tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduced from 1 tablespoon because I don’t like it quite as hot), 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme.

This will make more than you need for this recipe, but you can store the extras for another time…because you will want to make this pasta again!

Here’s a look at how to make Cajun Chicken Pasta:

2 images; one of cooked penne pasta in a colander over a pot with text that says cook pasta in salted water per package, drain and set aside; the other of bite-sized pieces of seasoned chicken being cooked in a skillet with text that says season chicken with Cajun seasoning, sauté in olive oil until cooked through
2 images; one of the cooked chicken on a plate with text that says remove chicken from pan to a plate, keep warm; the other of butter melting in the skillet with text that says melt the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat
2 images; one of garlic added to the pan with text that says add garlic, sauté stirring constantly for one minute; the other of heavy cream added to the pan with text that says add heavy cream, simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally
2 images; one of parmesan cheese and Cajun seasoning added to the pan with text that says add parmesan cheese and Cajun seasoning; the other of the finished sauce in the pan with text that says stir until cheese is melted, adjust seasoning if needed
2 images; one of the pasta being combined with the sauce in the skillet with text that says add pasta, stir until well combined; the other of the finished dish in a bowl with text that says top pasta with tomatoes, chicken, green onions, and additional parmesan, enjoy

Tips & Tidbits:

  • To get this recipe done in 30 minutes, cook the chicken and sauce while you are waiting for the pasta water to boil and then for the pasta to cook.
  • Penne is a classic with this dish, but you can really use just about any pasta shape you like.
  • The original Chili’s dish has Cajun-seasoned chicken breast that has been grilled whole and then sliced. You can cook the chicken that way if you’d prefer (an indoor grill pan would be great for this).
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs can be used instead of tenderloins or breasts.
  • For a different twist, you can use shrimp instead of chicken (or do a combo) or you could add some andouille or smoked sausage like kielbasa. Just keep the total amount of meat at one pound.
  • If the sauce is too thick once you add the pasta, you can add a little extra cream to thin it out.
  • You may not need any additional salt and pepper depending on how much is already in your Cajun seasoning.
  • This dish is at its creamy best when served immediately.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. The pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce, so you may want to add a little cream when reheating to loosen things up a bit.
  • Freezing is not recommended.
close up of a forkful of cajun chicken pasta being removed from the bowl

You can’t go wrong serving this with some garlic bread (try my easy Homemade Garlic Bread) just like they do at Chili’s. It’s a perfect match!

I hope you try this Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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Cajun chicken pasta in a white bowl with a fork

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta is my homemade version of the Chili's classic, and it's a quick and easy weeknight dinner that's ready in just 30 minutes!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Estimated Calories: 747

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized pieces (or boneless skinless chicken breasts)
  • 4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon total)
  • cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup freshly grated or shredded parmesan cheese, divided
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water as per the package directions; drain and set aside.
    Note: As soon as you put the water on to boil, proceed with the remaining steps (doing the rest of the cooking while you wait for the water to boil and then for the pasta to cook is what will get this dish done in 30 minutes!).
  • In a large skillet (I use a 10 or 12-inch), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, season with 3 teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning, and sauté, stirring frequently, just until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate; keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Add the butter and let it melt.
  • Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for one minute.
  • Add the heavy cream and bring to a gentle simmer; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes (the cream will reduce and thicken slightly during this time).
  • Add ½ cup of the parmesan cheese and the remaining teaspoon of Cajun seasoning; stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, keeping in mind that the chicken is pretty heavily seasoned (you may not need any additional salt and pepper depending on how much is already in your Cajun seasoning).
  • Add the pasta and stir until it is evenly coated with the sauce.
    Note: If the sauce is too thick, add some extra cream to thin it out.
  • To serve: Divide the pasta and sauce among 4 bowls. Top each with ¼ of the tomatoes, ¼ of the chicken, ¼ of the green onions, and 1 tablespoon of the remaining parmesan cheese.

Notes

  • This dish is best and most creamy when served immediately (the longer it sits, the more the pasta will soak up the sauce).
  • Use your favorite store-bought or homemade Cajun seasoning (go to the “Ingredients You Need” section of this post for the recipe I use to make it). 
  • Penne is a classic with this dish, but you can really use just about any pasta shape you like.
  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs can be used instead of tenderloins or breasts.
  • For a different twist, you can use shrimp instead of chicken (or do a combo) or you could add some andouille or smoked sausage like kielbasa. Just keep the total amount of meat at one pound.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. The pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce, so you may want to add a little cream when reheating to loosen things up a bit.
  • Freezing is not recommended.
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