Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta is made by combining penne pasta and Cajun chicken in a rich and flavorful cream sauce and topped with fresh tomatoes!
Have you ever been to a restaurant and ordered something so delicious, you knew you had to create it at home? That is the way I feel about Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta. The first time I ever had it, I was addicted. I knew I would never be able to rest until I learned how to make it at home.
I don’t remember where I found the starting recipe, but I have refined it over the years. Once I made it for my family, they also fell in love with it. To this day, they often request it for dinner!
Even though, I have given the recipe to my family, they claim it never tastes the same unless I make it. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I am sharing all my “secrets” to make my yummy, signature dish.
Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Ingredients
Copycat Chili’s Cajun Pasta contains a lot of seasonings! And that explains why this recipe is bursting with flavor! Even better, all of the ingredients are simple and can be found at your local grocery store.
First, let’s talk seasonings. For this recipe you will need:
- Cajun Seasoning
- Garlic Powder
- Lemon Pepper
- Salt and Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- Weber’s Kick’n Chicken Seasoning (optional)
For any of these seasonings, try to look for low-sodium, or no salt added. Garlic powder, lemon pepper, salt and pepper are not unique ingredients, so I won’t go in depth about them.
Over the years, I’ve learned the Cajun seasoning used is critical to the final flavor of the dish. When you make this at home, try to use a low-sodium Cajun seasoning. If you cannot find a low-sodium Cajun seasoning, do not add the salt to the chicken. Additionally, you may want to reduce the amount of salt you use to season your pasta water.
I’m always trying to find the perfect Cajun seasoning, so I’m always trying new ones. Unfortunately, I’ve made this dish with poor quality Cajun seasoning, and the flavor was too salty or bland.
While I haven’t found the perfect Cajun seasoning yet, I recommend a few brands that are widely available: Louisiana Cajun Seasoning, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, or Slap Ya Mama All Natural Cajun Seasoning.
Optional Ingredients for the Perfect Spice Blend
For the perfect spice blend, here’s my secret: I substitute one teaspoon of the Cajun seasoning with Weber’s Kick’n Chicken Seasoning. It is so delicious! This seasoning has a hint of citrus, and I always have the BEST tasting Cajun pasta when I add it.
Additionally, I like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to give the dish some spicy heat! These ingredients are totally optional, but they really make a difference.
One of the great things about penne pasta is the outer ridges that the sauce clings too as the sauce thickens and cools. In a pinch, I’ve also made this recipe using bowtie pasta or rigatoni.
As the pasta cooks, starch, from the pasta, is released into the cooking water. Reserving some of the cooking water and adding it to the sauce helps flavor and thicken the sauce.
For this recipe, I do what Chili’s does, and I use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. I have never tried to use chicken thighs or other parts of the chicken.
Chicken breasts are an economical cut of meat. Additionally, chicken breasts are amazing at taking on the flavors they cook in.
Before cooking the chicken, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. As it cooks, this allows more of the chicken to be covered in the seasoning mixture.
If I had to describe my least favorite kitchen task, it would be cutting tomatoes. I hate it! Although, using diced fresh tomatoes in this dish is very important. They provide a fresh cooling element to the dish. Also, they prevent the dish from being too spicy.
Please don’t skip the tomatoes! If you hate cutting them as much as I do, ask a family member or dinner guest for help!
Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Preparation
Chili’s restaurant cooks the chicken separately from the sauce and the pasta. However, I add the chicken to the sauce instead of setting the chicken aside and topping the pasta with it. This helps keep the preparation simple.
TIP: I love using this deep sided skillet because I can cook the chicken and the sauce in the same pan without any spillage. I use this pan more than any other pan in my cupboard!
In this recipe, the component that takes the longest to cook is the pasta. So, before cooking your chicken, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Also, add salt your pasta water (about 1 tsp of salt) to season the pasta as it cooks.
After cooking your pasta for about 9 minutes, taste the pasta for doneness. The pasta should be slightly firm but not too hard. Avoid overcooking the pasta, or the final dish will be mushy.
While the pasta is cooking, add the chopped chicken, half of the butter, Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes (if using), and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper to a large skillet. Saute the chicken for about 6-8 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.
Once the chicken is cooked through, add the remaining butter, lemon pepper, garlic powder and heavy cream (or half-n-half) to the skillet. Next, bring the sauce to a boil, and then, reduce the heat to low.
Before draining pasta, save 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add it to Cajun chicken sauce. When the pasta is done, drain pasta over a colander in the sink. Then, add the drained pasta to the Cajun chicken sauce.
Next, remove the skillet from the heat and add Parmesan cheese. Initially, the sauce may be runny. But as it cools, the sauce will thicken and start to coat the pasta. For best results, allow the pasta to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Finally, portion the Cajun chicken pasta on serving plates, top with a hearty scoop of tomatoes and additional Parmesan cheese. Last by not least, enjoy the deliciousness that is Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta!
Love my Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta?
Love Copycat Recipes? Me too! It’s one of the things that inspires me to cook at home!
If you love this recipe for Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta, you should check out my other copycat recipes here!
I am always increasing my collection of Copycat recipes on Pinterest (including this one I want to try for Copycat Chili’s Salsa). So be sure to save both recipes, and give me a follow! Thank you for reading!
Copycat Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta
- 1 lb Chicken Breasts Boneless, Skinless
- 4 tsp Cajun Seasoning*
- 1 tsp Salt (reduce if Cajun seasoning is salty)
- 1 tsp Pepper
- 1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- 4 tbsp Butter, Salted Divided
- 1 tsp Lemon Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 3 cups Heavy Cream or Half-n-Half
- 1 lb Penne Pasta
- 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1 cup Roma Tomatoes Diced
- In a large pot, bring 4 – 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to taste (about 1 tsp). Add pasta to pot, and stir gently. Return to a boil, and cook pasta until al dente (about 9-11 minutes).
- Meanwhile, chop chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp butter, chicken, Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes (if using), and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink (about 6-8 minutes).
- Add remaining 2 tbsp butter, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and heavy cream. Bring mixture to a boil (about 3 minutes), and reduce heat to low.
- Before draining pasta, add 1/2 cup of cooking water to Cajun chicken sauce. Drain pasta over a colander in the sink.
- Add drained pasta to the Cajun chicken sauce. Remove from the heat and add Parmesan cheese. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.
- Portion Cajun chicken pasta on serving plates. Top with tomatoes and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve!