Chili’s Copycat Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe

Chili’s Grill & Bar (just Chili’s to us hardcore fans) never disappoints in my book. When Chili’s first came to town when I was a kid, it was a big deal! I have fond memories of eating cheesy goodness as appetizers for dinner. Most recently, Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe has become my go-to. Both at the restaurant and home.

Chilis-Cajun-Chicken-Pasta-Recipe-in-bowl-with-cilantro-and-cheese

This copycat pasta recipe is delicious. It’s as good as the creamy cajun chicken pasta dish you get from the restaurant, but without leaving the house. Because sometimes, all you want to do is curl up with a bowl of pasta and Netflix.

Ok, now let’s address the elephant in the room: Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta clocks in at about 1,200 calories per serving! No joke. You read that right. So maybe, just maybe, making it at home is not only kinder on your wallet but also your waistline. Just some food for thought.

This copycat version of Chili’s iconic cajun chicken and pasta recipe is healthier for a few different reasons:

  • It uses half and half instead of heavy cream.
  • The chicken isn’t breaded (unlike some recipes you might find out there).
  • It uses less cheese.

If you read the above and thought these substitutions would make this recipe less delicious, you’re wrong. In this version, I added a quality hard cheese, white wine, and a hefty dose of Old Bay Seasoning. Altogether, this chicken dish is one of the tastiest I’ve made in years.

For the hard cheese, you can use any quality cheese. I used Parmesan, but you could also use some tasty Asiago!

I also made this version with gluten-free pasta and skinless, boneless chicken thighs. It’s a complete meal that’s perfect for any night of the week. Serve it up with a side of roasted veggies or a simple salad if you feel like you must get your greens. But I won’t judge either way.

Give my Chili’s Copycat Cajun Pasta a try tonight! You won’t be disappointed.

Making Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts pounded
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large beefsteak tomato
  • ¼ cup hard cheese such as Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup pasta water
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • 4 liberal dashes of Old Bay Seasoning
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup cilantro (for plating)
Chilis Cajun-Chicken-Pasta-graphic

Instructions

  1. While you’re prepping your ingredients, boil your pasta water. Remember, add salt to that water: “Salty like the sea, folks!” Cook your pasta al dente and set aside ⅓ cup of pasta water. We want that starchiness!
  1. Between two pieces of plastic wrap or in a plastic bag, pound your boneless, skinless chicken thighs until thin. Get out that aggression of the past three years. Go for it! Season generously with the Lemon Pepper Seasoning.
  1. Mince your garlic and dice your tomatoes, set aside. We’ll get back to those in a bit. 
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When your oil shimmers, add your chicken thighs and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Like I always say, trust your chicken! Don’t touch it. Let it do its thing. I promise it will be ok 😉 When your chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  1. Next, reduce your heat to low. Wait a few minutes, then add another tbsp of olive. Sauté your minced garlic. I’ve said it a million times: for the love of all garlic, don’t burn it! It’s so easy to burn your garlic. (I know from experience.) So please be patient.
  1. When your garlic is fragrant, add your diced tomatoes and continue to cook on low. After a few minutes, add your butter and let it melt. When your butter melts, add your Old Bay Seasoning and continue to cook on low.
  1. Next, add your white wine and half and half. Cook on low for 5 minutes until it incorporates. At this point, if your sauce looks like it needs to be a bit “saucier,” add the pasta water you reserved. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Finally, add your scrumptious chicken thighs back into your cast iron skillet. Baste those puppies in your delicious sauce. Slice chicken and serve over your pasta with grated cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

Recipe Note:

If you want to add some spice to your Cajun pasta dish, you can add a dash or two of cayenne pepper.

Is Old Bay Seasoning The Same As Cajun Seasoning?

It is not. Old Bay seasoning and Cajun seasoning aren’t the same. But they are very similar.

Old Bay seasoning is made with celery salt, black pepper, and other spices. Cajun seasoning, however, is a Creole spice mix that is made with chili peppers, garlic, and other spices. It is typically spicier than Old Bay seasoning.

So if you like a spicier dish, go with traditional Cajun seasoning. But if you, or someone you’re cooking for, doesn’t love spicy food, try it with Old Bay.

Chili's Cajun Chicken Pasta in bowl with pasta
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Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe

This light but flavorful Chili's Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe is the answer to all your chicken and pasta cravings.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cajun chicken pasta, cajun spice, chili’s cajun chicken pasta
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 257kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 Skinless boneless chicken breasts pounded
  • 2 large tomatoes diced
  • ¼ Grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • ¼ Half and Half
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • cup Dry white wine
  • ½ Cilantro
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  • While you’re prepping your ingredients, boil your pasta water. Remember, add salt to that water: “Salty like the sea, folks!” Cook your pasta al dente and set aside ⅓ cup of pasta water. We want that starchiness!
  • Between two pieces of plastic wrap or in a plastic bag, pound your boneless, skinless chicken thighs until thin. Get out that aggression of the past three years. Go for it! Season generously with the Lemon Pepper Seasoning.
  • Mince your garlic and dice your tomatoes, set aside. We’ll get back to those in a bit. 
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. When your oil shimmers, add your chicken thighs and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Like I always say, trust your chicken! Don’t touch it. Let it do its thing. I promise it will be ok 😉 When your chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  • Next, reduce your heat to low. Wait a few minutes, then add another tbsp of olive. Slowly sauté your minced garlic. I’ve said it a million times: for the love of all garlic, don’t burn it! It’s so incredibly easy to burn your garlic. (I know from experience.) So please be patient.
  • When your garlic is fragrant, add your diced tomatoes and continue to cook on low. After a few minutes, add your butter and let it melt. When your butter is melted, add your Old Bay Seasoning and continue to cook on low.
  • Next, add your white wine and half and half. Cook on low for 5 minutes until all is incorporated. At this point, if your sauce looks like it needs to be a bit “saucier,” add the pasta water you reserved, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Finally, add your scrumptious chicken thighs back into your cast iron skillet. Baste those puppies in your delicious sauce and serve over your pasta with grated cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 145mg | Potassium: 599mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 576IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

Cajun Chicken Pasta Substitutions

There are a few substitutions you can use in your pasta dish. Check out a few recommendations I have below.

Lemon Zest Instead of Wine

If you have a dry household, don’t like the taste of alcohol, or just don’t drink. Try substituting the white wine for lemon zest. If you go this route, however, you’ll want to replace the liquid that the wine was providing. You can do this by upping the amount of half and half or pasta water. Even better, you can use chicken broth. But use what is easiest and tastiest for you.

Heavy Cream Instead of Half and Half

If you want to substitute the half in half for heavy cream, go for it. Especially if that’s what’s already in your fridge. You can also use whole milk. I haven’t tried using a milk substitute in the recipe yet, but if you do, let me know!

But if you have a ton of half and half left in your fridge, I always do, here are a bunch of recipes to use up that leftover half and half.

Rice Instead of Pasta

Go for it and swap out the pasta for rice for a gluten-free option. We’re a big rice family, but whenever we make pasta, by default, it’s gluten-free. (I’m the gluten-free one, my wife is a saint and deals with it).

If you want to use gluten-free pasta, I’ve discovered the best gluten-free pasta out there. If you’re going to trust me on anything, trust me when it comes to pasta. I have tried them all. But by far, Rummo Gluten-Free Italian Pasta is the best. I tend to get the penne pasta because it’s easier to find around me. But all of them are good. It tastes the closest to pasta I have ever had. It also doesn’t get clumping and reheats well.

Chicken Breasts Instead of Chicken Thighs

The Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta you get at the restaurant and most of the other recipes you’ll see online use chicken breasts. You can use them instead of thighs. Lately, I’m a little obsessed with boneless skinless chicken thighs. I find them tastier and don’t dry out like chicken breasts. But you do you.

Fish Instead of Chicken

If you’re a pescatarian or looking to cut down on your meat intake, swap chicken for fish. I’m a huge fan of cod. It’s thick and meaty and will hold up in this sauce.

Spousal Rating: My wife gave this one a 9 out of 10. She thought I should have chopped up the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Fair enough. But I made this for myself while she was on a beach trip to Fire Island, and I felt lazy. But she didn’t complain when she was eating it as leftovers for lunch later in the week 😉

Go Low and Slow With Your Garlic

I’m speaking from experience here. As I mentioned above, it’s easy to burn garlic. And the thing about burnt garlic? Once it’s burnt, it’s ruined, and you have this bitter flavor that is awful in your dish. As an impatient person, I’ve been known to be impatient with my garlic. Sautéing your garlic on low may take longer, but it’s well worth not having to throw your whole dinner out.

I hope you enjoy my Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta Recipe. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them below.

Are you looking for more recipes from popular restaurants? We’ve got just that! Here’s our roundup of favorite copycat restaurants, from places like Texas Roadhouse to the Olive Garden.

Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉

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