Jerk Chicken Pasta exploding with bold, juicy, Caribbean style blackened chicken with sweet bell peppers in a creamy, cheesy sauce in just over 40 minutes!
Jerk Chicken Pasta will spice up your weeknight dinner routine with its creamy, cheesy, spicy, full throttle blend of flavor! To make this chicken pasta recipe, chicken fillets are pounded thin so they’re incredibly tender, coated in aromatic, earthy, spicy, smoky, jerk seasoning then pan seared to create melt-in-your-mouth Caribbean-style crusted chicken. The luxurious pasta sauce is infused with jerk seasoning, fresh garlic, red onions, bell peppers, cheddar and Parmesan, all brightened with a kiss of lime. Toss everything together and serve it alongside apple salad and sweet cornbread for a new favorite dizzyingly delicious dinner!
Chicken Pasta recipes are always a dinner win! Along with this Jerk Chicken Pasta, you’ll love Blackened Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, Cajun Chicken Pasta, Parmesan Chicken Pasta, and Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta.
HOW TO MAKE Jerk Chicken Pasta VIDEo
Why you’ll love this Chicken Pasta Recipe
Finger-licking flavorful. The jerk seasoning envelops the chicken to create an aromatic, earthy, sweet, smoky, spicy blackened crust. It’s also added to the creamy sauce for double the flavor.
Quick, uber juicy chicken. Pounding the chicken fillets to a uniform thickness makes them uber tender without the need for a marinade!
A lighter yet luxurious sauce. The sauce is made with a roux (flour cooked in some butter) which allows us to use both chicken broth and half and half instead of all heavy cream. If you want to go even lighter, you can swap the half and half for evaporated milk.
Customizable heat. Enjoy the Caribbean heat or adjust the amount of jerk seasoning and omit the cayenne pepper to keep it 100% kid friendly.
About Jerk Chicken Pasta
Jerk Chicken Pasta, also known as Rasta Pasta, is a Jamaican inspired pasta dish made with blackened jerk chicken and bell peppers in a creamy, cheesy sauce.
The famous chicken originated in Jamaica but is also common in the Cayman Islands and throughout the Caribbean. Traditional Jerk Chicken is either marinated in jerk sauce or spice rubbed with jerk seasoning then cooked over the aromatic wood of the pimenta dioica, Jamaica’s allspice tree native to the Caribbean, imbuing it with smoky undertones and enhancing the heat.
Jerk Seasoning is a dry spice blend from Jamaican, but also popular in the Cayman Islands and throughout the Caribbean. Jerk seasoning is unapologetically bold, packed with aromatic onion and garlic powder, laced with smoky-sweetness from the smoked paprika, herbaceous earthiness from the parsley and thyme, spicy pungency from the ginger, warm, nutty, notes from the allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, a kiss of sweetness from the brown sugar all punctuated by fiery heat from the cayenne pepper (or ground habanero pepper if you live for heat). The combination of seasonings may seem odd, but expertly walks the tightrope of heat, dimension, and complexity.
The amount of each ingredient and addition of other spices depends on each cook and household, that’s why I love making my own.
The Jerk Chicken Pasta is meant to be spicy, but it doesn’t have to be. The jerk seasoning is the source of the heat, so you can either use less if using store-bought, or, if using homemade, add less cayenne pepper to start.
Jerk Pasta, also known as Rasta Pasta, was created in 1985 in Negril, Jamaica by Chef Lorraine Washington in her Paradise Yard Restaurant. Chef Lorraine recalls making fettuccine in the kitchen and topping it with red sauce followed by a bit of ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit. The red, green, and yellow colors prompted one of recipient carpenters to call it a “Rasta pasta!”
In the US, red, yellow and green bell peppers (or parsley) along with blackened jerk chicken are meant to reflect the colors of the Jamaican flag.
Jerk Chicken Pasta Ingredients
In this chicken pasta recipe, juicy chicken cutlets are boldly seasoned with jerk seasoning and mixed into creamy, cheesy pasta. This decadent dinner made easy is a winner every time! To make the Jerk Chicken Pasta, you will need the following (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):
- Chicken breasts: You can make your own chicken cutlets or purchase packaged pre-sliced cutlets. You may also use 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Jerk seasoning: I prefer using a homemade spice blend to ensure there’s no MSG or anti-caking agents in my jerk seasoning. However, you may use your favorite store-bought blend if desired.
- Flour: I used all-purpose flour, but a gluten-free 1:1 substitute will work or 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed into the broth before adding it to the pan.
- Pasta: I love cavatappi, but any short pasta shape is fine. Sub gluten-free pasta, if needed.
- Half and half: This can be replaced with 1 cup milk whisked with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch OR 1 cup evaporated milk mixed with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
How to Make Jerk Chicken Pasta
Jerk Chicken Pasta is beautifully straightforward to make, and the jerk seasoning infuses the dish with unapologetically bold, nuanced flavor. I’ve gone into detail in the recipe card below on how to make this easy pasta recipe, but I’ll quickly review the process:
Step 1: Cook the Pasta
- Cook the pasta in heavily salted water just until al dente.
- Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining. This will help thin out the creamy sauce while making it silky smooth!
- Drain, rinse and toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil; set aside.
Step 2: Prep the Chicken Cutlets
- Slice the chicken breasts through the equator to create 4 filets.
- Cover the filets with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness.
- Lightly rub the chicken cutlets with olive oil and then season all sides with jerk seasoning.
Step 3: Cook the Chicken
- Melt butter in a little oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat (I use my braiser for everything!).
- Once hot, add chicken and cook until golden and cooked through.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Step 4: Sauté the Onions and Peppers
- To the drippings left in the skillet, add the onion, bell peppers, additional jerk seasoning and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Make the Sauce
- Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook for 1 additional minute.
- Reduce heat to low, then slowly whisk in the chicken broth and half and half.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring constantly, until thickened.
Step 6: Finish and Serve!
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheese until melted.
- Stir in the lime juice, pasta and chicken – dig in!
what to serve with Jerk Chicken Pasta
Keep things simple by serving this spicy Jerk Chicken Pasta with a green side salad or steamed veggies, or, serve it with one or more of the following sides:
You can prep portions of this Jerk Chicken Pasta recipe in advance so the final dish comes together quickly or make it entirely and simply reheat:
Prep jerk seasoning: Mix the seasonings together and store in an airtight container/plastic bag at room temperature for up to 6 months.
Prep chicken: Create chicken cutlets by slicing chicken breasts in half and pounding to an even thickness. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Season chicken: Go one step further and dredge the chicken in the jerk seasoning. Transfer the chicken to a parchment lined plate in a single layer and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Vegetables: Slice the bell peppers and onions and store in the refrigerator.
Grate cheese: Prep and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
Jerk Chicken Pasta should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
I do not recommend freezing this chicken pasta because the creamy sauce can break and become a funny texture. The bell peppers will also become mushy when frozen.
HOW TO REHEAT
Microwave: transfer small portions to a microwave-safe dish, microwave for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals.
Stove: transfer to a skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring often. You may want to add a splash of milk if the pasta seems dry.
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- 2 medium chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning <<click for recipe or use store-bought
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1 pound cavatappi or penne
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced, then halved
- 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (preferably red, yellow, orange)
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon jerk seasoning <<click for recipe or use store-bought
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups half and half (or milk whisked with 1 TBS cornstarch, or evaporated milk mixed with 2 tsps. cornstarch)
- 1 ½ teaspoons chicken bouillon (granulated, crushed cubes or Better Than Bouillon)
- salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
- 1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley
- lime juice
- Make cutlets: Slice the chicken through the equator to create 4 fillets. Cover the fillets with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness using a meat mallet or the side of a can. Dab the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Season chicken: Lightly rub the chicken with a drizzle of olive oil then season all sides with 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning. Let the chicken rest while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Cook pasta: Cook pasta in heavily salted water just until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining. Drain, rinse and toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil; set aside.
- Cook chicken: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy bottom saucepan (I love my pictured braiser) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until golden and cooked to 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and loosely tent with foil; don’t wipe out the skillet. Wait at least 5 minutes before slicing or chopping the chicken.
- Sauté onions and peppers: Add onion, bell peppers and 1 teaspoon jerk seasoning to the chicken drippings and cook for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Make sauce: Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 additional minute. Reduce heat to low, then slowly whisk in chicken broth, followed by the half and half (or milk/cornstarch). Stir in the chicken bouillon. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer until thickened, stirring often.
- Add cheeses: Reduce heat to low. Working in batches, stir in the cheddar until melted, followed by Parmesan cheese until melted. You may need to cook for 1-2 minutes on low for the cheeses to completely melt. Stir in the lime juice.
- Combine and season: Chop or slice the chicken and stir it into the sauce followed by the pasta. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste – this will make the pasta come alive! The amount will vary depending on the brand of jerk seasoning used and personal preference. I add ½ teaspoon pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon cayenne. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, fresh parsley and lime juice (optional).
- Spice level: I left wiggle room in this recipe so you can season to taste. As written, without adding additional pepper or cayenne, it should be medium (but can vary depending on brand of jerk seasoning). To make it milder, reduce the jerk seasoning on the chicken. To make it spicier, crank up the cayenne pepper.
- Chicken bouillon: You may use granulated chicken bouillon, crushed bouillon cubes, or better than bouillon. Add the bouillon to the sauce dry, do not dissolve it into water first. If using cubes, crush before adding to the sauce.
- Half and half: This is half milk and half heavy cream, so feel free to make your own! See substitutions below.
- Make it dairy free: Use regular coconut milk (not light) in place of the half and half or swap in cashew or oat milk whisked with 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
- Make it gluten free: Swap the flour for your favorite gluten free flour and use your favorite gluten free pasta.
- Make it lighter: Use olive oil in place of the butter and 1 cup milk whisked with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch OR 1 cup evaporated milk mixed with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in place of the half and half.
- Meal Prep: The jerk seasoning can be mixed together and stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months. The chicken can be sliced and seasoned, then stored in the refrigerator for up to one day. The vegetables and cheeses can also be prepared and refrigerated ahead of time.
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