Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe elevates your favorite everyday ingredients into a comforting, family-friendly, 30-minute dinner that everyone will swoon over!

This Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe is a quick and easy cozy dinner homerun on your table in 30 minutes!  It combines juicy bites of chicken, tender broccoli and al dente penne with the dreamiest, creamiest homemade Parmesan garlic Alfredo sauce. This recipe can be made indulgent with heavy cream, half and half or save calories with evaporated milk! Serve this cozy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo with Caesar salad or roasted Parmesan broccoli along with some Parmesan breadsticks for a dizzyingly delicious weeknight meal.

Alfredo is one of life’s decadently delicious pleasures.  If you love Alfredo as much as we do, don’t miss classic Fettuccine Alfredo, Panko Crusted Chicken Alfredo, Blackened Chicken AlfredoLemon Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo, Million Dollar Chicken Alfredo Bake, and Cajun Chicken Alfredo. If you are looking for a lighter version, I created a low-fat fettuccine alfredo called healthy Alfredo HERE.

HOW TO MAKE VIDEo chicken broccoli alfredo recipe

 
top view of chicken broccoli alfredo recipe in a pan showing how creamy the pasta is
serving Chicken Broccoli Pasta with Alfredo Sauce with penne and chicken

Ingredients for Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

The star of this Chicken Alfredo with Broccoli is the homemade Alfredo Sauce; store-bought versions don’t even compare.  While most Alfredo sauces are made with only 3 ingredients, which means they are lacking in both flavor and texture, this recipe includes extra seasonings, cream cheese and chicken broth to make it ultra-creamy without feeling as heavy – AKA more delicious.  Here’s the breakdown of what you’ll need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

The Chicken, Broccoli and Pasta

  • Pasta: I used penne pasta, but any sturdy pasta shape will work. 
  • Broccoli florets:  I prefer fresh broccoli florets rather than frozen, but feel free to use frozen if that’s what you prefer. You will need to cook them a little longer.
  • Chicken breasts: You’ll need 1 pound of chicken breasts for this recipe. Cut the chicken into larger chunks so it remains super juicy after being cooked.
  • Seasonings: The chicken is flavored simply with a little paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Olive oil: Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for best results.

THE Alfredo Sauce

  • Parmesan cheese: For optimal salty nuttiness, use real Parmigiano-Reggiano right off of the block and not any powdered or pre-shredded cheeses. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting completely, leaving your sauce grainy no matter how long you cook it. Plus, these cheeses don’t taste nearly as good! Parmigiano-Reggiano is Parmesan produced in Italy in one of the following areas: Bologna, Mantua, Modena, or Parma that has been aged for at least two years. In the U.S. you can still find tasty “Parmesan,” but it is not regulated, and typically only aged 10 months so it’s not as flavorful/complex. 
  • Butter: Use unsalted butter, otherwise reduce the salt in the recipe.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic is sautéed over medium-low heat with the butter to infuse the sauce with garlicky goodness.  I highly suggest fresh garlic as opposed to powder in this recipe. I use 6 cloves of garlic for a real garlic kick, but use more or less depending on your garlic love. You may substitute with 1 teaspoon garlic powder – but the real stuff is so much better.
  • Chicken broth: Broth is more flavorful than just cream and has less calories. Use reduced sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt.
  • Heavy cream: Also known as heavy whipping cream, is the signature ingredient in Alfredo sauce. It makes for an ultra-rich, creamy, decadent pasta.  Note, the substitutions for lighter versions below.
  • Cornstarch: This speedy thickening agent allows us to make the Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo “saucier” without adding more cups of cream or half and half. The cornstarch helps thicken the broth so the sauce maintains its coveted lusciously creamy consistency.  
  • Cream cheese: This optional ingredient gives the homemade Alfredo sauce extra body and makes the sauce extra smooth and creamy so it just melts in your mouth. I also love the slight tanginess it adds.
  • Chicken bouillon: Just 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon imparts a complex, savory, goodness to the sauce. You may use granulated chicken bouillon, bouillon cubes, or better than bouillon. Add the bouillon to the sauce dry, do not dissolve it into water first. 
  • Seasonings: The homemade Alfredo sauce is seasoned with red pepper flakes (it’s not spicy, just flavorful!), dried basil, parsley, and oregano, and onion powder. 
serving broccoli chicken alfredo in a bowl showing how creamy it is
  • Penne: can be swapped with any sturdy pasta shape. 
  • Heavy cream: can be substituted with half and half, evaporated milk or DIY half and half made with equal parts heavy cream and whole milk.  With all of these substitutions, whisk in an additional 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
  • Fresh garlic: swap with 1 teaspoon garlic powder. 
  • Cream cheese: can be omitted entirely, if desired. 
  • Broccoli: can be subbed with another veggie or omitted.

How to Make Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

You’ll be amazed at how quickly this Broccoli Chicken Alfredo comes together! The basic steps for this recipe include searing cubed chicken until golden, cooking the pasta al dente, and preparing a simple whisk-together and simmer Alfredo sauce. I’ve given detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here’s an overview of the recipe:

Step 1: Make the Pasta & Broccoli 

  • Cook the broccoli florets in a large pot of salted water for 2 minutes. Remove with a sieve/slotted spoon and place the broccoli in an ice bath or run cold water overtop to stop it from cooking.
  • Add the pasta to the same boiling pot of water and cook al dente according to package directions.
showing how to make Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe by cooking broccoli in pasta water

Step 2: Cook the Chicken 

  • Cube the chicken, then while it’s still on the cutting board, season with salt, pepper, and paprika. 
  • Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan or braiser (this is the exact one I use) over medium-high heat; cook the chicken until golden and cooked through.
showing how to make Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe by sautéing chicken in a pan

Step 3: Make the Homemade Alfredo Sauce

  • Melt the butter in the chicken drippings, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds.  
  • Whisk in the broth/cornstarch mixture, heavy cream, cream cheese, and all of the seasonings. Reduce the heat and cook until melted and smooth.
  • Add the grated Parmesan cheese a handful at a time, whisking until smooth in between each addition. 
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and continue to cook until it starts to thicken and the Parmesan is completely melted. 
showing how to make Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe by making homemade Alfredo sauce by sautéing garlic then adding heavy cream

Step 4: Combine and Serve 

  • Add the chicken and broccoli to the Alfredo sauce, followed by the penne and stir to combine.
  • Taste and season with additional freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.
a collage showing how to make Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe by stirring chicken, broccoli and penne in to the Alfredo sauce
Chicken and broccoli Alfredo with penne in a pan garnished with Parmesan cheese
  • Don’t overcook the chicken.  Cubed chicken may take less time to cook than you think, so make sure to check a piecer sooner rather than later for doneness so it remains nice and juicy.
  • Chill the broccoli.   Don’t skip running cold water over the cooked broccoli until it cools to room temperature or place in an ice bath.  This will prevent the broccoli from overcooking and becoming soggy.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente. You want the penne to retain some bite. If you cook it until fully soft, it will become mushy in the Alfredo sauce.
  • Don’t use low-fat milk. The higher the fat content, the smoother your cheese will melt/incorporate. Use half and half or a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream for the best results. 
  • Shred the cheese yourself. Nothing will ruin your homemade Alfredo sauce faster than using powdered Parmesan from the green shaker or any pre-shredded Parmesan. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting completely, leaving your sauce grainy no matter how long you cook it. Plus, these cheeses don’t taste nearly as good!
  • Use very soft cream cheese. Soften your cream cheese to the point of almost melting, about 20 seconds in the microwave. This will ensure it melts quickly and easily.
  • Don’t simmer the sauce too soon. If you simmer the cream/cream cheese mixture before adding the stabilizing Parmesan, it can break. You also don’t want the sauce too hot when you add the Parmesan or the emulsifiers and coagulants will break down and the proteins in the cheeses will clump resulting in grainy sauce. 
  • Add the cheese slowly. Add your Parmesan in multiple batches – a handful at a time so it has time to start to melt and not clump. 
  • Cook the sauce until completely smooth. If you’ve followed the above tips and your sauce appears grainy, you see specks of texture after a couple minutes, it’s likely just the garlic, the Parmesan should all be silky smooth by this point, if not, cook on.  Continue to cook until completely melted.
  • Thin sauce if needed. The Alfredo sauce may seem a little thin after simmering, but will thicken quickly once incorporating the starchy pasta. If at any point it becomes too thick, loosen it with a couple tablespoons of reserved pasta water.
  • Wait to add the pasta until ready to serve. Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo is best served right away because it continues to thicken and becomes less creamy as it comes to room temperature. If you’re not ready to serve the pasta immediately, wait to add the pasta, then reheat and thin the sauce as needed before adding the penne.  
up close of serving chicken broccoli Alfredo recipe showing how creamy it is
  • Use a different pasta: Swap in any pasta, either long fettuccine, medium-short sturdy pastas such as fusilli, rotini etc. or ravioli or tortellini. You can use classic pasta, whole-wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta. 
  • Use fresh pasta: If you really want an elevated dish, splurge on fresh penne or another fresh pasta! Some grocery stores carry fresh pasta, but many do not. Whole Foods often has fresh pasta in the prepared foods section where you’ll see all the fresh pasta options available that day.
  • Use different chicken: You can use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken or your favorite chicken recipe like blackened chicken, Italian chicken, lemon basil chicken, lemon pepper chicken, etc.
  • Use lighter Alfredo: Use this lighter Alfredo sauce recipe that uses a roux instead of heavy cream.  
  • Add bacon: Cook the bacon, remove with a slotted spoon and use some of the bacon grease instead of oil to cook the chicken in. Add the cooked and crumbled bacon at the end of cooking.
  • Add seafood: Swap all or some of the chicken for sautéed shrimp, blackened shrimp, buttery salmon, or crab.
  • Add sausage: Swap the chicken for ground Italian sausage or andouille sausage.
  • Use other cheeses: Mix up the flavor profile by using half Parmesan and half Pecorino Romano (like at Olive Garden), then add mozzarella, Gruyere, Gouda, or Asiago.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes: Purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water, located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store. Rinse about ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, pat dry, chop and sauté with the garlic. 
  • Add fresh or fire roasted diced tomatoes:  Sauté halved cherry tomatoes or chopped fresh Roma tomatoes with the garlic.
  • Use other veggies: Add any chopped vegetables such as bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, green beans, cherry tomatoes, peas etc. and sauté them with the garlic. If adding spinach, add to the sauce at the end of cooking; allow to wilt 1-2 minutes. Adding volume in vegetables means you need to decrease the chicken.  
  • Add mushrooms: Pan fry sliced baby Bella mushrooms, remove from the skillet then add back to the sauce at the end of cooking. Check out my mushroom chicken recipe to see exactly how I cook perfectly caramelized mushrooms.
  • Spice it up: Add additional red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste. 

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo FAQS

This Broccoli Chicken Alfredo is pretty straightforward, but below you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions to satisfy your curiosity and guarantee success:

Can I use chicken thighs? 

Yes!  You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs and treat them just like you would the breasts

Can I substitute the heavy cream? 

If you’re trying to save some calories, you can substitute the heavy cream with 2 cups evaporated milk or half and half whisked with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

Can I freeze this Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe?  

No, this recipe does not freeze well because the creamy sauce can break and become a funny texture.  If you want to try freezing, use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream and omit the Parmesan.

How to make Alfredo Sauce with milk instead of cream? 

Heavy cream is a quintessential ingredient to the best homemade Alfredo sauce.  But if you would like to cut some calories so you can enjoy Alfredo more often, I get it!  To use all milk instead of part heavy cream, make a roux by cooking 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in some butter for 2 minutes before whisking in 2 cups milk and the rest of the ingredients. Keep in mind, that fat = flavor, so all milk won’t create quite as a flavorful, decadent, or creamy, melt in your mouth consistency.

How to make Alfredo Sauce with half and half instead of heavy cream?

Swap the 2 cups heavy cream with 2 cups half and half whisked with 1 tablespoon cornstarch into the half and half before adding to the saucepan.

How to make Alfredo sauce without cream cheese?  

You can absolutely make this recipe without cream cheese; you’ll just want to simmer the sauce a little longer to thicken it up more.  

How to thicken Alfredo sauce? 

You can control the thickness of your Alfredo sauce by how long you simmer the sauce.  The less time you simmer the sauce, the thinner it will be.   The longer you simmer the sauce, the thicker it will be.  If you would still like it thicker after simmering, then make a slurry by whisking 2 tablespoon milk with ½ tablespoon cornstarch, then slowly whisking the slurry into the sauce then simmering until thickened to your desired consistency.  If your sauce still isn’t as thick as you’d like, then repeat the slurry.

How do I thin Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo? 

If at any time the Alfredo sauce gets too thick, just add a little splash of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up.

Can I add fresh herbs? 

Yes!  If you would like to use fresh instead of dried herbs, use three times the amount and toss them in at the very end so they don’t lose potency.

How Do I Prevent Alfredo sauce from breaking? 

A common problem with Alfredo Sauce is it separating, but it is easy to fix! Here’s how:
 
Whisk, don’t stir. Instead of stirring the sauce with a spoon/spatula, whisk it together.  Whisking helps emulsify the butter and cream.   

Don’t overheat the sauce. A gentle simmer over medium-low or low is just fine, but you don’t want to bring the sauce to a boil or the high heat can break the emulsion and the sauce will separate and/or become grainy.

chicken and broccoli Alfredo with penne in a bowl garnished by Parmesan
chicken and broccoli Alfredo with penne in a bowl garnished by Parmesan

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serving broccoli chicken alfredo in a bowl showing how creamy it is

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

This Chicken Broccoli Alfredo recipe is a quick and easy cozy dinner homerun on your table in 30 minutes!  It combines juicy bites of chicken, tender broccoli and al dente penne with the dreamiest, creamiest homemade Parmesan garlic Alfredo sauce. This recipe can be made indulgent with heavy cream, half and half or save calories with evaporated milk! Serve this cozy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo with Caesar salad or roasted Parmesan broccoli along with some Parmesan breadsticks for a dizzyingly delicious weeknight meal.
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 35 mins
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

CHICKEN

  • 1 pound chicken breasts, chopped into large bite size pieces
  • 1/2 tsp EACH paprika, salt, pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

PASTA

  • 1 pound penne
  • 5 cups broccoli florets (uncooked)

Alfredo Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (1 ½ TBS) (may sub 1 tsp ground)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half and half or evaporated milk + 1 TBS cornstarch)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, very soft
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon or better than bouillon
  • 1 tsp EACH dried basil, dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp EACH onion powder, dried oregano, salt, pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups FRESHLY grated Parmesan cheese (like powder)

Instructions

Pasta and Broccoli

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the broccoli florets. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a sieve/slotted spoon and place in an ice bath or run cold water overtop until it's cooled.
  • Bring the same pot of water back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain. Toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil if not adding to the Alfredo sauce immediately.

Chicken

  • While the cubed chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and season with ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper; toss to coat.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan or braiser (this is the exact one I use) over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden and just cooked through. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Alfredo Sauce

  • Whisk the chicken broth with the cornstarch in a liquid measuring cup (or bowl) until completely smooth; set aside. If using half and half or evaporated milk, whisk in the 1 extra TBS cornstarch.
  • Melt the butter in the chicken drippings over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth/cornstarch, heavy cream, cream cheese and all seasonings. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the cream cheese is melted and smooth, whisking often.
  • Add the grated Parmesan cheese a handful at time in batches, whisking until smooth in between each addition. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes or until it starts to thicken and the Parmesan is completely melted. Keep in mind the sauce will continue to thicken once you add the starchy pasta and it's removed from heat.

Combine

  • Stir in the chicken and broccoli, followed by the pasta (if you're not serving immediately, wait to add the pasta). If at any time the Alfredo sauce gets too thick, just add a little splash of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. Taste and season with additional freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste (we like both).

Video

Notes

  • Parmesan: Use real Parmigiano-Reggiano right off of the block and not any powdered or pre-shredded cheeses.  Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting completely, leaving your sauce grainy no matter how long you cook it. 
  • Chicken bouillon: Use granulated chicken bouillon, bouillon cubes, or better than bouillon. Add the bouillon to the sauce dry, do not dissolve it into water first. If using a cube, crush before adding to the sauce.
  • Alfredo lumps:  If you think your Alfredo has lumps but it’s been simmering for 5 minutes, it’s probably just the fresh garlic! 
  • Recipe variations: See post for all sorts of ideas to mix up this recipe.

To Store and Make Ahead

  • Storage: Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 4-5 five days.
  • To reheat the pasta: Reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or over medium-low heat on the stove, stirring frequently. You may want to add a splash of milk if the pasta seems dry.
  • Make ahead: You can make all of the elements ahead of time and refrigerate separately, or combine the Alfredo sauce, chicken and broccoli (not the pasta) and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready, gently rewarm in a skillet, stir in the penne, then a splash of milk if needed to thin.

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