Healthy Chicken Carbonara Pasta

By Rena |

Skip the cream and butter with this Healthy Chicken Carbonara recipe! It’s creamy, garlicky, and filling without all of the extras. Perfect for a quick and easy meal, this weeknight chicken dinner will become a staple on your rota!

top view of chicken pasta in a silver skillet

There is something so irresistible about creamy pasta carbonara. The tanginess from the parmesan, rich and creamy sauce, and all of the garlic together are just perfect. However, most chicken carbonara recipes are loaded with heavy cream, and sometimes butter. It has so many extra unnecessary calories that you’ll need to work off later – is it really worth it?

It is with this Healthy Chicken Carbonara recipe! Lightened-up with milk instead of cream and absolutely no butter, you can even save room for dessert with this one! What’s more, it’s so quick and easy to throw together and packs in a ton of flavor. You won’t be missing the heavy version when you have this healthy pasta recipe.

Why you will love this chicken pasta recipe

  • It’s easy! There is nothing difficult about this recipe. It’s so quick and easy to throw together!
  • Healthy and filling: I find that both the pasta and the chicken are so filling. A small bowl of this chicken carbonara recipe keeps me satisfied until the next meal, or even overnight!
  • Kid-friendly: I don’t know many kids who can resist creamy, chicken pasta for dinner. My kids ask for seconds every time, it’s so delicious!
  • Meal prep: This recipe is perfect for meal prep! It can easily be doubled and is delicious the next day for lunch, either hot or cold.
close up chicken pasta with parsley garnishes

Ingredients for Healthy chicken carbonara

  • Pasta: I love penne pasta in this chicken carbonara recipe. On the other hand, other tube-shaped pasta like ziti, rigatoni, and macaroni can easily be substituted. You can also use wholewheat pasta for extra fiber!
  • Olive oil: Olive oil keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan while it’s cooking. You could also try another healthy oil like avocado oil if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Chicken: This time I opted for boneless and skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips because it’s a delicious and lean cut of meat, however, thinly cut juicy chicken thighs would add a little more fat and flavor, or to keep it lean try adding thinly sliced turkey breasts.
  • Seasoning: Smoked paprika is so tasty in pasta carbonara – you have to try it! I also seasoned it with some Kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Cornstarch: This thickens up the chicken carbonara sauce perfectly.
  • Sweet peas: Fresh or frozen peas both work really well in this recipe! They add color, a little extra nutrition, and sweetness.
  • Garlic: Is it really pasta if there’s no garlic?! Feel free to add an extra clove if you love that garlicky taste!
  • Milk: Chicken carbonara recipes often call for heavy cream, so to lighten up this recipe and make it a little more healthy I mixed in milk. You can use whole milk, fat-free, or anything in-between.
  • Broth: I highly recommend sticking to chicken broth for its flavor, although vegetable stock would also be just fine. To make it even healthier, look for reduced-sodium stock.
  • Parmesan: Parmesan adds a little tang, and richness and helps to bind the ingredients together.
  • Parsley: For a fresh punch at the end, I threw in some chopped parsley. It really helps to balance the other flavors!
Ingredients on a grey table.

How to make this Carbonara Recipe with Chicken

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water in a jug, then drain. Whisk the reserved pasta water with the cornstarch until no visible lumps; Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
  3. Stir in the peas and garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until the garlic releases, its flavor. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the remaining pasta water and whisk until no visible lumps.
Cooked chicken with peas in a stainless steel pan with a purple spatula.

4. Pour the pasta water slurry, milk, and broth and stir well to combine. The sauce should start to thicken almost immediately.

5. Once the sauce is thick and coats the back of the spatula, stir in the cooked pasta.

Pasta added to the other ingredients in the stainless steel pan.

6. Sprinkle the pasta with parmesan and parsley and serve while hot.

Hand serving Chicken Carbonara from a stainless steel pan with a wooden spoon.

Tips for Success

  • To make sure there are no lumps, add the pasta water a little at a time to make the cornstarch slurry before pouring it back in with the other ingredients.
  • Use your favorite pasta shape! Macaroni, ziti, and rigatoni are all perfect for this chicken carbonara recipe. You could even try it with fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti!
  • Make it gluten-free: All you have to do is swap the penne for a gluten-free substitute.
  • Make it vegetarian: If you’d like to make a vegetarian carbonara instead, skip the chicken or use a meat-free substitute, and add vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
  • Add a little spice! Sprinkle a pinch or two of red pepper flakes if you enjoy a little heat.
  • Toss in some more veggies! Corn and diced red or yellow peppers are delicious in pasta carbonara.
  • Store any leftover chicken carbonara in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat in the microwave or in the oven covered with aluminum foil until piping hot.
top view pasta and chicken in stainless steel skillet

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Chicken Carbonara made of?

This chicken carbonara recipe consists of penne pasta, boneless skinless chicken breasts, sweet peas, garlic, parmesan, milk, chicken broth, and smoked paprika with cornstarch to thicken it up.

Is Chicken Alfredo the same as carbonara?

They are a little different! Chicken Alfredo usually has a rich sauce made with butter and parmesan, and the pasta is fettuccine. This Chicken Carbonara recipe on the other hand has a lighter sauce made with chicken stock, milk, and parmesan. Carbonara is also often made with eggs.

Does authentic carbonara have peas?

It does not! I added sweet peas in because the little bursts of sweetness they bring in every bite are addictive, and the extra nutrition is always a plus!

top view of chicken carbonara pasta in a silver pan

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top view of chicken carbonara pasta in a silver pan

Healthy Chicken Carbonara Pasta

Skip the cream and butter with this Healthy Chicken Carbonara recipe! It's creamy, garlicky, and filling without all of the extra.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Diet: Halal
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 402kcal
Author: Rena

Ingredients

  • 10 oz penne pasta whole grain, gluten-free, or lentil pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
  • 2 chicken breasts boneless and skinless, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup sweet peas
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed
  • 1 cup milk any milk of choice, you may use lite coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water in a jug, then drain. Whisk the reserved pasta water with the cornstarch until no visible lumps; Set aside until ready to use.
  • Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
  • Stir in the peas and garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until the garlic releases, its flavor. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the remaining pasta water and whisk until no visible lumps.
  • Pour the pasta water slurry, milk, and broth and stir well to combine. The sauce should start to thicken almost immediately.
  • Once the sauce is thick and coats the back of the spatula, stir in the cooked pasta.
  • Sprinkle the pasta with parmesan and parsley and serve while hot.

Notes

  • To make sure there are no lumps, add the pasta water a little at a time to make the cornstarch slurry before pouring it back in with the other ingredients.
  • Use your favorite pasta shape! Macaroni, ziti, and rigatoni are all perfect for this chicken carbonara recipe. You could even try it with fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti!
  • Make it gluten-free: All you have to do is swap the penne for a gluten-free substitute.
  • Make it vegetarian: If you’d like to make a vegetarian carbonara instead, skip the chicken or use a meat-free substitute, and add vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
  • Add a little spice! Sprinkle a pinch or two of red pepper flakes if you enjoy a little heat.
  • Toss in some more veggies! Corn and diced red or yellow peppers are delicious in pasta carbonara.
  • Store any leftover chicken carbonara in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat in the microwave or in the oven covered with aluminum foil until piping hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 729mg | Potassium: 612mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 969IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 2mg
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