This one-pot creamy lemon chicken pasta is a crowd-pleaser that is sure to become a staple in your weeknight dinner rotation. The creamy sauce is made with just a handful of ingredients, including heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice, and is seasoned with garlic and Italian seasoning for added depth of flavor.
Why you’ll love this recipe
This recipe is a twist on classic chicken Alfredo, but with a tangy lemon twist that adds a fresh and bright flavor to the dish. Here are just a few reasons why you’ll love it:
- It’s quick and easy to make – with just a few simple ingredients, this recipe comes together in under 30 minutes.
- It’s a one pot wonder – no need to dirty multiple pots and pans, everything cooks together in one pot for easy clean up.
- It’s creamy and flavorful – the combination of cream, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice creates a rich silky sauce that perfectly coats the chicken and pasta.
Best of all, this recipe is incredibly easy to customize to your liking. You can add your favorite veggies, such as spinach or broccoli, to up the nutritional value. You can also swap out the chicken for shrimp or even tofu for a vegetarian option.
No matter how you choose to make it, this one-pot creamy lemon chicken pasta recipe is sure to become a family favorite.
Key ingredients and substitutions
Boneless skinless chicken breast
The star of this dish is the boneless skinless chicken breast. It is important to butterfly the chicken breast before cooking so that it cooks evenly and quickly. You can also substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer.
Lemon zest and juice
The fresh lemon zest and juice add a bright and acidic flavor to the dish. Squeeze the lemon just before adding it to the dish for the best results. Avoid bottled lemon juice as it will be too bitter.
Italian seasoning blend
The Italian seasoning blend adds a savory and herby flavor to the dish. You can substitute with dried oregano or basil if you don’t have Italian seasoning blend.
Milk and cream
The milk and cream add a rich creamy texture to the dish. The pasta is cooked in the milk, then the cream is added towards the end of cooking to create the silky texture.
The recipe below uses fresh minced garlic, but you can substitute minced garlic from a jar if you prefer. Use around one teaspoon.
The chicken broth adds a savory and umami flavor to the dish. You can substitute it with chicken stock or vegetable broth if you prefer.
Uncooked angel hair pasta
The uncooked angel hair pasta is used to cook in the sauce and absorb all the flavors. You can substitute it with any other type of pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine, but the cooking time will be longer (after adding the pasta cook for 2-3 minutes less than the packet instructions cooking time).
The Parmesan cheese adds a nutty and salty flavor to the dish. You can substitute it with any other type of hard cheese like Pecorino Romano or Asiago.
How to make creamy lemon chicken pasta (in a skillet)
Step 1: Cook the chicken (in a skillet)
Begin by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up for a minute. Then, add the chicken breasts to the skillet and season them with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside on a cutting board to rest.
Step 2: Cook the sauce (in the same pan)
Using the same skillet, add another tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Then, pour in the chicken broth, heavy cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk the mixture together and bring it to a simmer. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Step 3: Add the dry pasta and cook
Add the dry pasta to the skillet and stir it into the sauce. Make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Let the pasta cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce has thickened to your liking. [Note if using another type of pasta, the cooking time will be more like 10-12 minutes]
If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a splash of chicken broth or water to thin it out.
Step 4: Slice the chicken and assemble
While the pasta is cooking, slice the rested chicken into thin strips. Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add the sliced chicken to the skillet. Toss the chicken and pasta together until everything is well combined. Serve the pasta hot, garnished with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Tips and variations
Variation 1: Add vegetables
To make this recipe even more nutritious and flavorful, consider adding some vegetables. Broccoli, asparagus, and spinach are great options that pair well with the lemony sauce. Simply add them to the pot during the last few minutes of cooking.
Variation 2: Creamy tomato chicken pasta
If you’re in the mood for a tomato-based sauce instead of a lemony one, try making a creamy tomato chicken pasta. Simply substitute the lemon juice and zest with canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Add some Italian seasoning and a splash of cream to make it creamy and delicious.
Variation 3: Lemon shrimp pasta
If you’re not a fan of chicken or want to switch things up a bit, try making a lemon shrimp pasta. Use the same creamy lemon sauce but substitute the chicken with shrimp. Cook the shrimp for just a few minutes until they turn pink, and add them to the pasta during the last few minutes of cooking.
Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta
- 7 oz chicken breast boneless, skinless, cut in half horizontally
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1½ cups chicken broth/stock
- 8 oz angel hair pasta dry
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Season the chicken breasts on all sides with salt and pepper, lemon zest, and Italian seasoning.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken (turning every 2-3 minutes) until it is golden and cooked through [Note 1]. Remove to a plate to rest for five minutes, and slice while the pasta is cooking.
- Add the garlic and cook in the oil for 1 minute, then add the chicken broth and milk. Stir to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the pasta. Cook for 4 minutes until the pasta is almost cooked [Note 2], stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking.
- Gradually add the Parmesan cheese, the cream, and the lemon juice, tossing to combine. If the sauce is too thick add a splash of hot water and toss.
- Remove the skillet from heat, add the sliced chicken, and toss to coat with the sauce. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste before serving.
- Chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F / 74°C all the way through.
- If using pasta other than angel hair (eg fettuccine or spaghetti), cook for 2-3 minutes less than the packet instructions cooking time.
Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.