Made with both spaghetti noodles and zucchini noodles, this easy Cajun Chicken Pasta with Zoodles is a healthier pasta dinner you are really going to enjoy! The easy alfredo sauce and zesty, spicy chicken are a mouthwatering combination.
A Veggie-Forward Take on Creamy Cajun Chicken Alfredo
It’s no secret that we are big-time alfredo fans around here, whether it’s shrimp alfredo, pesto alfredo, or alfredo with a southwest twist. Well, let me introduce you to our newest member of the Diethood alfredo family: Cajun Chicken Alfredo! It goes perfectly with another one of my favorite ingredients – zucchini noodles, AKA Zoodles.
To make this dish, you only need a skillet for cooking up the Cajun chicken and the homemade alfredo, plus a saucepan to cook the pasta and zoodles. It’s a fast, easy, family pleasing meal that you can whip up anytime. Plus, it’s veggie-heavy and relatively low carb!
What You’ll Need
So what ingredients will you need to make this dish? Mostly, you’ll need basic pantry staples – plus some fresh chicken, and the zoodles. Here’s the list:
Pasta: I went with dry spaghetti, to mimic the size and shape of the zoodles.
Zucchini Noodles: You can make your own, or buy them at the grocery store from the produce section or frozen section.
Chicken: Chicken thighs or breasts will work, cut into small pieces. I prefer chicken cutlets, which are thin and cook up quickly.
Cajun Seasoning: Use your favorite blend!
Chili Powder: For a little added depth and earthiness.
Salt and Pepper
Butter: Salted or unsalted, whichever you prefer.
Garlic: I like to use fresh minced garlic, but you could substitute garlic from a jar or even garlic powder.
Chicken Broth: Or vegetable broth.
Heavy Cream: If you prefer, you could use half-and-half, but I wouldn’t go lighter than that.
Parmesan: Freshly-grated, if possible.
Parsley: Chopped fresh parsley is the perfect optional garnish.
How to Make Cajun Chicken Pasta with Zoodles
Now that we’ve covered the ingredients, let’s talk about the cooking method. One thing I love about this is that you don’t have to do any extra work to make the zoodles happen – you can cook them right along with the pasta. Here’s the skinny:
Make the Pasta and Zoodles. First, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. During the last five minutes of the cooking time, add the zucchini noodles, and let them boil right along with the pasta. Once both are al dente, drain and set aside.
Season the Chicken and Cook. Meanwhile, season your chicken by rubbing it with olive oil, then tossing with the seasonings. Heat up some of the butter in a large cast-iron skillet (or other skillet of your choice) and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, until done.
Make the Alfredo Sauce. Set the chicken aside. In the same skillet, melt the rest of the butter. Stir in the garlic and let that cook to release the fragrances. Whisk in the broth, followed by the cream which needs to cook for about 5 minutes. Finally, whisk in the Parmesan and keep whisking until it melts.
Finish the Dish. Add the drained zoodles and pasta to your alfredo sauce, and let it all simmer together for a couple of minutes before taking the skillet off the heat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do zucchini noodles taste like pasta?
Zucchini noodles have a mild, pleasant flavor that plays well with lots of sauces – but no, zoodles don’t taste the same as pasta. Most pastas are made of starchy grains like wheat, and they have a starchy, grain-like flavor. Zucchini still has a veggie taste and texture, but it makes a tasty, healthy, low-carb addition. You may find that you prefer this mix of spaghetti and zoodles to plain pasta!
How many carbs are in one cup of zoodles?
A cup of zoodles has only 3.5 grams of carbs, while a cup of regular wheat pasta has 14 grams of carbs. By combining them in roughly equal amounts, you’re only consuming about 9 grams of carbs – cutting the carb count by almost a third.
Should you salt zoodles before cooking?
In some recipes, yes – it’s important to salt the zoodles and let them drain before you cook with them. Since this recipe calls for a quick boil instead of pan-frying the zoodles, I find that salting and draining are unnecessary. The zoodles will give up any extra juices while they boil, which will then be poured off.
Tips for Success
Want to know more about this dish? Great! Here are my top tips and helpful hints for making this Cajun chicken pasta with zoodles the best it can be.
Zoodle Substitutes: Not crazy about zoodles? You can also make this with just the spaghetti – or you could sub in some cooked spaghetti squash. Easy!
Ditch the Heat: Dial back the heat by making your own cajun spice blend, without the cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper that usually gives the mix a little heat. You’ll need a teaspoon each of paprika, salt, and garlic powder; and half a teaspoon each of thyme, onion powder, and ground black pepper. Store in a small jar in a cool, dark place.
Cajun Shrimp: Try this dish with peeled, deveined shrimp for another low-carb twist on a favorite! You will not need to cook the shrimp as long as you cook the chicken tenders. Shrimp are done when they are pink and opaque all the way through. Don’t overcook them, or they’ll be rubbery.
As with most creamy pasta dishes, you really don’t need a complicated side dish here – let the saucy pasta and chicken be the star of the meal! Easy sides like these will round out the menu perfectly:
Salad: Any green or garden salad would be fantastic here, but I particularly love the textures, colors, and flavors in this hearty Chopped Egg, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad. It’s chock-full of goodies like avocado, jalapeno, and red onion, too.
Roasted Vegetables: You can do these so many ways, with so many flavors! If you’re new to roasting veggies, try this simple tutorial for Easy Oven Roasted Vegetables. It’s well-balanced, colorful, and so, so tasty.
Bread: If you’re not too concerned about the carbs, this dish would be amazing with some good garlic bread. But even for those who are trying to keep things on the low-carb side, bread is still possible – try these Low Carb Keto Breadsticks and enjoy!
Refrigerating and Reheating
If you have leftovers, you can store them in your fridge – just scoop the leftover portion into an airtight container, and pop it into the refrigerator. It will keep for 2 to 3 days.
Does Cajun Chicken Pasta with Zoodles Freeze Well?
Freezing is a little more complicated than refrigerating, because ice crystals will form and later melt in the food. Because of this, the sauce and zoodles may not hold up very well to freezing and thawing – you could end up with a watery, grainy dish. I don’t recommend freezing, but if you do freeze it, try adding a little extra half-and-half or heavy cream when you reheat to help the sauce stay velvety.
Prep Time 5mins
Cook Time 20mins
Total Time 30mins
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions; add the zoodles in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain.
Combine the chicken cutlets and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Add in the cajun seasoning, chili powder, salt, and pepper; toss together and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or a pan) set over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken cutlets to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes per side, or until done. Chicken is cooked through when internal temperature registers at 165˚F.
Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Return skillet to the burner and add in the remaining butter; stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
Whisk in the chicken broth and cook for 1 minute.
Whisk in the heavy cream and bring sauce to a simmer; continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
Whisk in the parmesan cheese.
Add the drained zucchini and pasta to the sauce; cook for 2 minutes.
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