Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta (Creamy Alfredo style)


Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta. A one-pot dinner of creamy Cajun chicken Alfredo.

Cajun Chicken Pasta is a creamy, chicken Alfredo-style pasta, with cajun spices to kick the heat up a few notches. It’s an easy one-pot meal in my Instant Pot, and rapidly became a regular in my dinner recipe rotation.

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I found out about Cajun Chicken Pasta by accident. I kept bumping into it when I was researching Pastalaya – Cajun Jambalaya pasta. They share penne and chicken, but other than that they are very different recipes. This Cajun Chicken Pasta is all about the cheesy cream sauce, with a bit of heat in the spices on the chicken.

This is a variation on my Instant Pot Fettuccine Alfredo, and I have to admit, Penne works better in an Instant Pot than Fettuccine. Penne doesn’t stick and clump up like the thin Fettuccine noodles. And, I may have American taste buds, but I do prefer this recipe, with the heat from the Cajun spices, to the traditional Alfredo, which is..dare I say it…a bit boring with its white meat chicken, white sauce, and white pasta. The kick of spices in this one give it a little extra that I love.

Ingredients

Ingredients for Cajun Chicken Pasta
  • Butter
  • Chicken Tenders
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Fine sea salt
  • Chicken broth (Low sodium store-bought, or homemade)
  • Diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • Hot sauce
  • Penne pasta
  • Evaporated milk
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Green onions

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Instant Pot Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

Brown the chicken

Browned chicken tender

Heat the butter in an Instant Pot set to Sauté Mode – High (use medium-high heat in a stovetop PC) until the butter melts. Add the chicken tenders in a single layer and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (and ½ teaspoon salt if using salt-free seasoning). Cook without stirring until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.

Everything in the pot

Pouring chicken broth over the penne, chicken, and tomatoes

Pour in the chicken broth (plus 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt if using homemade chicken broth). Stir, and scrape the the bottom of the pot with a flat-edged wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits of chicken. Stir in the diced tomatoes and chilies, and then the pasta, making sure all the pasta is submerged in the pot liquid.

Pressure Cook for 4 minutes with a 10-minute natural release

Instant Pot set to pressure cook for 4 minutes

Lock the lid and cook at high pressure for 4 minutes in an electric or stovetop pressure cooker. (Use Manual, Pressure Cook – high, or Pressure Cook – Custom mode for an Instant Pot). Let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining pressure. Unlock the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam.

Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese

Unlock the lid, tilting the lid away from you to avoid the hot steam. Leave the pot in “keep warm” mode and pour in the evaporated milk. Stir in half the cheese, and keep stirring gently until the cheese melts, and break up any stuck-together pieces of chicken you see. Add the remaining cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Serve, sprinkling each serving with a little extra cajun seasoning, and some minced green onions. Serve, passing hot sauce at the table, and enjoy!

Substitutions

Pasta shapes

Penne is my favorite for this recipe, but rotini and bowtie pasta (aka Farfalle) will also work. Really, any short pasta will work in this recipe, but it’s best if it has a tube shape, or nooks and crannies to hold onto the creamy sauce. If the box says the pasta should cook for 11 to 14 minutes, the recipe works as written. If it takes 10 minutes or less to cook, cut the natural release time back from 10 minutes to 5 minutes before quick releasing the remaining pressure.

Cajun Seasoning

You can get a store-bought cajun seasoning – Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere’s are two I’ve enjoyed, but there are lots of others, and any will work in this recipe. But, I usually don’t buy Cajun Seasoning, I make my own: Homemade Cajun Spice Rub. Now, if you use my homemade seasoning, remember that it is salt-free, and add the extra salt suggested in the recipe.

Hot Sauce

You want a classic Cajun hot sauce, like Tabasco or Crystal. But, you can substitute almost any hot sauce, and vary the heat to your liking. (Or skip the hot sauce altogether if you can’t take the heat – but why are you having Cajun pasta if you want no heat at all?)

Vegetarian version

Want a veggie-friendly version of this recipe? Skip the chicken, and use vegetable broth (either store-bought low sodium or homemade vegetable broth) instead of chicken broth.

Equipment

A 6-quart pressure cooker

Scaling

Doubling this recipe needs an 8-quart pressure cooker; it fills up the pot too much if you try to double it in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Cut all the ingredients in half, and this recipe will fit in a 3-quart pressure cooker. The cooking time does not change; it takes the same time to cook a single piece of penne or chicken, no matter how many are in the pot.

Storage

Creamy Cajun Pasta will keep in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. I store it in 2-cup containers, which make the perfect size for a leftover lunch from the microwave.

Tips and Tricks

Spitting Starch

Most of the time, when I make this recipe, everything goes according to plan. Occasionally – one out of every five times I make it – quick releasing the pressure starts spitting starch everywhere. If your pressure cooker spits starch when you quick release the pressure, close the pressure release valve. (Carefully – the steam is scalding hot.) Let the pot sit for a couple of minutes, then pulse the pressure release open and closed a few times to release some pressure. Then try opening the pressure valve again and see if it releases clean. Repeat as necessary until all the pressure is released.

What’s happening? The pressure drop in the pot lets the liquid jump to a rolling boil. The starch in the liquid is thrown into the air inside the pot – and then spit out through the pressure release valve. Closing the pressure release lets the liquid settle down and cool off a little more, so it doesn’t bubble up as much the next time you open the valve.

(Why doesn’t this happen most of the time? I don’t know. If you’re a pressure cooker engineer, let me know what’s happening in the comments below.)

Liquid in the pot

There will be some liquid in the pot when the Cajun Chicken Pasta finishes pressure cooking; most of it will be soaked up by the pasta as the pot rests, and the rest of the liquid becomes part of the sauce. If the pot has way too much liquid left after cooking, you probably used a 12-ounce box of pasta. (I’ve had complaints about too much liquid, and the ones I’ve followed up on were fooled by a box that looked like it was the same size as the other, 16-ounce boxes near it, but wasn’t.).

What to serve with Cajun Chicken

Garlic bread or breadsticks and a salad are my simple sides with this one pot meal. If you want to be fancier, and have a second pressure cooker, try my Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Green Beans, Pressure Cooker Kale with Garlic and Lemon, or Instant Pot Turnip Greens With Ham.

Inspired by a request from a relative to copycat: Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta https://www.chilis.com/menu/chicken-seafood/cajun-chicken-pasta

Print
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A bowl of Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta

Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta (Creamy Alfredo style)


  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Description

Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta. A one-pot dinner of creamy Cajun chicken Alfredo with Penne pasta.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • pounds chicken tenders (or boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into ½-inch thick strips)
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (if the cajun seasoning is unsalted)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth (Or 4 homemade broth or water + 2 teaspoons fine sea salt)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 2 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 12 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • Extra cajun seasoning (for garnish)
  • 3 green onions, minced (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Brown the chicken on one side: Heat the butter in an Instant Pot set to Sauté Mode – High (use medium-high heat in a stovetop PC) until the butter melts. Add the chicken tenders in a single layer and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (and ½ teaspoon salt if using salt-free seasoning). Cook without stirring until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  2. Everything in the pot: Pour in the chicken broth (plus 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt if using homemade chicken broth). Stir and scrape the the bottom of the pot with a flat-edged wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits of chicken. Stir in the drained diced tomatoes and chilies, and then the pasta, making sure all the pasta is submerged in the pot liquid.
  3. Pressure Cook for 4 minutes with a 10-minute natural release: Lock the lid and cook at high pressure for 4 minutes in an electric or stovetop pressure cooker. (Use Manual, Pressure Cook – high, or Pressure Cook – Custom mode for an Instant Pot, and set it to 4 minutes). Let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining pressure. Unlock the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam.
  4. Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese, and serve: Unlock the lid and open, tilting the lid away from you to avoid the hot steam. Leave the pot in “keep warm” mode and pour in the evaporated milk. Stir in half the cheese, and keep stirring gently until the cheese melts, and break up any stuck-together pieces of chicken you see. Add the remaining cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Serve, sprinkling each serving with a little extra cajun seasoning, and some minced green onions. Pass hot sauce at the table and enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Weeknight Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Cajun

Keywords: Instant Pot Cajun Chicken Pasta, Pressure Cooker Cajun Chicken Pasta

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Instant Pot Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
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Instant Pot Chickpea Puttanesca with Orecchiette
My other Instant Pot and Pressure Cooker Recipes

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