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When I set out to create this Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe, I had two goals in mind: to capture the bold, zesty flavors of Louisiana cuisine and to craft a dish that would be both comforting and convenient to prepare. The result is a mouthwatering fusion of Cajun and Italian cuisines. With tender, vibrantly spiced chicken, al dente penne, and a luscious, creamy sauce studded with fire-roasted tomatoes, it’s a combination that delivers on all fronts.

Closeup of creamy cajun chicken pasta photographed at an angle.

What I love most about this recipe is its versatility. It’s easy to adapt based on your preferences or what you have on hand, whether that means swapping in a different pasta shape, adding in some extra vegetables, or adjusting the amount of Cajun seasoning to get the heat level just right. And with a cook time of just 25 minutes, it’s a dish that can fit into even the busiest of schedules without sacrificing flavor or heartiness.

Ingredients for Cajun Chicken Pasta

Cajun Chicken Pasta Ingredients arranged in bowls on a granite surface.
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts: I always look for plump, firm breasts with a light pink color. If there’s a lot of liquid in the package, that’s a sign the chicken might not be as fresh as you’d like.
  • Cajun Seasoning: Store-bought Cajun seasonings can vary wildly in terms of salt content, so I prefer to use a salt-free blend and add my own salt to taste. 
  • Penne Pasta: Choose a high-quality brand with a nice, ridged texture. Those little ridges are perfect for grabbing onto the sauce,  so that every bite is packed with flavor.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is the way to go here, so you can adjust the seasoning to your liking. If you can splurge on a high-quality, European-style butter, even better.
  • Olive Oil: A good, extra-virgin olive oil is key here. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle on the shelf, but make sure it’s got a nice, clean flavor.
  • Garlic: Fresh is always best! Look for firm, plump cloves with no signs of sprouting or shriveling.
  • Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes: These add such a lovely, smoky depth to the sauce. If you can’t find them, regular diced tomatoes will work. (Or, make your own Fire Roasted Tomatoes with my simple recipe to make them in the oven.)
  • Heavy Cream: Don’t be tempted to substitute half-and-half or milk here. The richness of heavy cream is essential for creating a luxurious, velvety sauce that coats the pasta perfectly.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan is non-negotiable in my book. Pre-shredded cheese just doesn’t melt as well, and it can have a slightly grainy texture. It’s worth taking a minute to grate your own –for the difference in flavor and texture.
  • Fresh Parsley: This is optional, but I love the bright, fresh flavor that parsley adds to the finished dish. If you can find flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, that’s my preference – it’s got a bolder taste than the curly variety.
Overhead photo of 2 bowls of creamy cajun chicken pasta

6 Recipe Tips

  1. If you’re sensitive to spice, start with less Cajun seasoning than the recipe calls for. You can always add more to taste, but it’s harder to dial back the heat once it’s there.
  2. Don’t overcook your pasta – aim for al dente, which means it should have a slight bite to it. The pasta will continue to cook a bit once it’s tossed with the sauce, so it’s better to err on the side of undercooking.
  3. Be sure to reserve a cup of the starchy cooking water before you drain it (I keep a glass measuring cup nearby to remind me). This is liquid gold for creating a silky, cohesive sauce that coats the penne perfectly.
  4. If your sauce looks a little thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. The starch in the water will help the sauce cling to the pasta without making it gummy.
  5. For an extra layer of flavor, try adding a splash of dry white wine to the sauce along with the heavy cream. 
  6. Don’t be afraid to let your chicken get some color when you’re sautéing it. Those little browned bits add depth to your finished dish.
Overhead photo of creamy cajun chicken pasta in black bowl.

How to Store and Reheat

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a splash of reserved pasta water (if available) before refrigerating. Reheat gently on the stovetop, stirring occasionally, until heated through, adding a splash of milk or cream if needed to loosen the sauce.

How to Make Cajun Chicken Pasta

Toss diced chicken with Cajun seasoning. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add seasoned chicken to the skillet, cooking until just done.

Transfer chicken to a plate, then add tomatoes with liquid to the skillet and cook until reduced by half. Stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese, simmering until thickened.

Meanwhile, cook penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water before draining.

Penne pasta in colander

Add cooked pasta, chicken, and any accumulated juices to the skillet, tossing until heated through and sauce reaches desired consistency, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season to taste with additional Cajun seasoning, then serve hot, garnished with parmesan and parsley if you like.

Recipe Video

Cajun Chicken Pasta

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Southern
Calories: 564
Servings: 4 people
A spicy, creamy pasta dish with tender, Cajun-seasoned chicken and a luscious, tomato-infused sauce.

Ingredients  

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts  diced into bite size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning or more to taste (recipe note #1)
  • 8 ounces penne pasta or other short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces grated parmesan cheese about 2/3 cup, plus more for garnish
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Instructions 

  • Combine diced chicken and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.
  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook penne according to package directions until firm to the bite (al dente). Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add garlic, then cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook and stir until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes; transfer to a clean plate with a slotted spoon.
  • Add tomatoes with liquid to same skillet and bring to boil; cook and stir until liquid is reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese; bring to simmer. Cook and stir 3 minutes, or until cheese has melted and sauce thickens.
  • Add drained, cooked pasta, chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet; cook and stir until heated through and sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Or, for a thinner sauce, add reserved pasta water a little at a time as desired. Taste for seasoning and add more Cajun seasoning if needed. Transfer to serving platter or individual pasta bowls and garnish with parmesan and parsley (optional); serve hot.

Notes

  1. The amount of salt in Cajun seasoning varies widely by brand, so start out with a bit less than the recipe calls for and add more taste. If you’re using a salt-free seasoning (my preference), add 2 teaspoons of seasoning and ~1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt. Then add more of each to taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 564kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 126mg | Sodium: 415mg | Potassium: 647mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1545IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4 Comments

  1. Ben | Havocinthekitchen says:

    5 stars
    I love to marry traditional Italian pasta with other cuisines / dishes myself (although Italians may disagree!) Loving your fusion of Cajun and Italian cuisines – this pasta looks and sounds wonderful!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, Ben!

  2. Mimi Rippee says:

    Such great flavors! Love the color of the pasta.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks so much, Mimi!