Skinny Santa Fe BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta

Santa Fe BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta will have your family begging for thirds with its Mexican infused SKINNY creamy ranch cheese sauce and tender oven baked barbecue chicken.

Wood spoon scooping up BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta


Once upon a time, in February 2014, I started a blog called Carlsbad Cravings.  I didn’t think it would reach millions of people, so I didn’t think too hard about the name until I saw it referenced as “Carl’s Bad Cravings” on several sites.  I laughed and realized I should have thought harder about the name.  My photography was poor but my recipes were delicious.

Wood spoon scooping up BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta from a black pan.

Fast forward over a year later, and readers still tell my their favorite recipe of mine is my Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta that I posted my second week of blogging!  I am so glad my not nearly as quality photos hasn’t deterred all of you from the deliciousness.  (and if it has, I think its time you try it : ) )

So today’s Santa Fe BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta is an ode to that favorite cheesy pasta.  It’s inspired by the same ranch cheese sauce enlivened by cumin, smoked paprika, etc. all smothering corn, black beans, tomatoes and BBQ chicken.  Can we say flavor?  texture?  cheesy? creamy?  dreamy?!

Although this pasta seems like it has a lot of ingredients, most of them are cans you simply crack open or spices you pop the lid of – so please don’t be intimidated.  This fiestalicious pasta can all be on your table in 30 minutes because while you pop your chicken slathered in barbecue sauce in the oven and forget about it, you can prepare all the rest.

To start, saute your red onions, corn, black beans, red bell peppers and tomatoes for a couple minutes.  Once tender crisp, remove so you can use the same pan.

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta by mixing corn, beans, belle peppers, and onions in a pan.

Next, whisk your 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter together with your flour to create a roux.  That’s right, only 1 tablespoon of butter for ALL THIS pasta!  I think this pasta has been taking lessons from my Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo.  Take a bow Alfredo.

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta by making the cheese sauce in a black pan.

Add your mozzarella and cheddar cheeses along with your ranch seasoning cumin, smoked paprika, etc. and stir to this NO Cream, NO cream cheese, creamilicious heaven.

I could drink this stuff.  (And I definitely was licking my fingers.  Sorry if that’s gross. They were clean.)

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta by mixing the cheese sauce in a black pan.

Next, add back your oven baked barbecue chicken and corn, black, beans etc., some barbecue sauce and a little sour cream….

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta by making the cheese sauce in a black pan mixing in the chicken and vegetables. .

Followed by your pasta…

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta by making the cheese sauce in a black pan. mixing in the cooked pasta.

Garnish with bacon, cilantro and drizzle with ranch if you like…

Showing how to make BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta finished cooing the pasta black pan.

And be prepared for the “more” begging to commence.

Small red and white bowl of BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta with green parsley garnish.

Skinny 30 Minute Santa Fe BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta.  I’ll meet you in my dreams.

Santa Fe BBQ Ranch Chicken Pasta

Servings: 4 -6
Total Time: 35 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

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  • 12 oz. rigatoni pasta cooked al dente
  • 1 pound chicken breasts (2 chicken breasts)
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (eyeball it)
  • 1/2 15 oz. can sweet corn, , rinsed and drained (eyeball it)
  • 1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons diced green chilies from 4 oz. can
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced

Skinny Ranch Cheese Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing seasoning mix
  • 1 tsp EACH salt, ground mustard, chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper (optional for more heat)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (more or less to taste)
  • Hot sauce to taste

Toppings (optional)

  • Crumbled (turkey) bacon (we like a lot!)
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • drizzle of ranch dressing
  • crushed tortilla trips
  • sour cream


  • Line a small baking dish (8×8) with foil and lightly grease with nonstick cooking spray. Pound chicken to tenderize and add to prepared dish. Pour barbecue sauce over chicken. You can let marinate for up to 24 hours (optional), otherwise proceed directly to bake 375F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes then dice into bite size pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce. Set aside.
  • While chicken is baking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add red onion and saute 2 minutes then add red bell pepper, black beans, corn, tomatoes, green chilies, and garlic. Saute for 1- 2 minutes or just until bell peppers are crisp-tender. Remove to a plate.
  • To the same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon olive oil in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour. Cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes, then turn heat to low. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, then milk, stirring constantly until smooth (it will be thick). Turn heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add Cheese Sauce spices and simmer until thickened.
  • When sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in cheeses until smooth, followed by sour cream. Add more milk if needed to reach desired consistency.
  • Add chicken and bell pepper/black bean mixture and pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine. Add ¼ cup barbecue sauce (more or less to taste) and heat through. Taste and add salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste.
  • Top with bacon, cilantro and ranch dressing as desired.

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  1. Thao @ In Good Flavor says

    Skinny, 30 minutes, and full of flavor! This is such a wonderful pasta dish that I can use in my dinner rotation. Great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Thao! Its always great to find a dish to add to the dinner rotation! Hope your family loves it!

  2. Erin @ Miss Scrambled Egg says

    We love bbq chicken in my house especially in the form of calzones and pizzas. I’ve never made one with pasta though. It looks like this will have to be on my plate in the near future.

  3. Corie says

    I made this for my family and they all declared it was the best pasta they have ever had. I left out the tomatoes because they are picky about those, but I followed the recipe after that. This will definitely be a common dish in our home.

    • Jen says

      “the best pasta” – that is the ultimate compliment! I am so happy your whole family loved it that much! Thanks so much Corie!

  4. Tuba Nauman says

    Hey I recently tried your Santa Fe BBQ ranch chicken pasta recipe. Its Ramadan (Holy Month) in Pakistan . So it was a usual family gathering at my place , I cooked it for them. It is simply awesome and way too tasty . My entire family loved it and have sent regards for you. Keep up the good work. <3 :*

    • Jen says

      Hi Tuba, you are so wonderful to cook for your family! I am so happy to hear they all loved this pasta – yay! Thank you for the kind regards and thank you for taking the time to comment and make my day! All the best to you and your family!

  5. Katie says

    Anyone found a way to adapt this for a crock pot?

    • Jen says

      Hi Katie! You could add raw chicken, the corn, beans, green chilies to your crockpot but you would still need to make the sauce on the stove (I would have to experiment in order to make it a full slow cooker version). You would want to add your bell peppers the last 1-2 hours of cooking and stir your cheese in at the very end. Hope this helps!

  6. Rachel says

    We LOVE this recipe! (Seriously, my husband says it’s comparable to steak!) But I’ve always wondered…in step 3 it says, “To the same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon olive oil in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat” Is this is a typo? Or do you really need both the oil and the butter?

    Thanks so much for this family favorite dish!

    • Jen says

      I Rachel, I love hearing you love this recipe – especially because its one I don’t get a lot of feedback on 🙂 I like to use the combination of both oil and butter but you are welcome to use one or the other 🙂

  7. Raingelstarr says

    This is one of my favorite pasta dishes (in fact I’m eating a leftover bowl for lunch right now!) How is this “skinny” though? I can’t wrap my mind around it with all the carbs, butter, cheese, etc. It’s SO GOOD though! Do you have any nutritional info for this recipe?

    • Jen says

      haha – well, its skinnier because it only uses 1 tablespoon butter, no heavy cream, no cream cheese and only 1 cup cheese 🙂

  8. katie breen says

    Excellent recipe! It took longer than anticipated though, particularly waiting for the sauce to thicken and be ready. Lots of ingredients, but mostly what you’d have on-hand. This recipe makes a lot! Made it tonight with tacos. Very hearty and tasty! Recommend for a crowd. Thank you so much…

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Katie, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it!