This one-pot creamy lemon chicken pasta is so easy making it perfect for quick weeknights or lazy weekend dinners. Golden seared chicken, a silky bright and fresh lemon cream sauce, and chewy pasta noodles.
You should also try this 30-minute tomato chicken pasta or this Cajun chicken pasta and this creamy rose pasta. If you need lots more inspiration then you can check out this collection of 30 chicken pasta recipes.
Cream sauces get labeled as unhealthy because of the high-fat content in the cream. But, it is possible to make a lighter cream sauce, like this one. Instead, this creamy lemon sauce uses single cream (a fat percentage of 18%) while most other creamy sauces use heavy cream (fat content of 36%). Using a lower fat cream helps to keep this one pot lemon pasta light but still silky and creamy. I promise you won't notice a difference.
We sear the chicken thighs in the same pan that the sauce is made in. Because searing the chicken leaves a fond we're scraping all those golden brown bits of chicken into the sauce adding so much flavour.
And the lemon cream sauce is packed with basil, parsley, chili flakes, and, cheesy parmesan.
- dried pasta- I've opted to use tagliatelle- a long noodle. But you can use a short tube like penne if you prefer. Be sure that the short pasta has ridges that the sauce can cling to.
- chicken thighs- boneless skinless chicken thighs are the best choice here because they cook quickly and have so much flavour.
- single cream
- fresh lemons
- cracked black pepper
- parmesan cheese
- olive oil
- chilli flakes (red pepper flakes)- optional
- chicken stock (chicken broth) or water
Optional healthy add-ins
See the recipe card for quantities.
Step By Step Instructions
1 & 2
- Season the chicken thighs with sea salt and heat the olive oil in a nonstick or cast iron pan. Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer). Add the seasoned chicken thighs to the pan and sear for about 6 minutes on each side until the chicken is cooked through. Place the cooked chicken on a plate and set aside.
- To make the charred lemon slices add them to the pan now and let them cook for about 1 minute per side. Remove them to the plate with the chicken until ready to serve.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and drain most of the fat from the pan leaving about a teaspoon. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt. Add the minced garlic and let gently saute in the butter for about 4 minutes until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
3 & 4
- Once the garlic has softened add in the lemon juice and zest. Bring to a simmer and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up all the browned bit of chicken from the bottom of the pan.
- Slowly pour the cream into the pan whisking well to incorporate the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning and add in the chopped parlsey, basil and some cracked black pepper. Stir in the parmesan and whisk to melt the cheese. Toss with the cooked pasta and slice the chicken thighs and place on top with the lemon slices and some extra parsley and basil.
I've used thighs in this creamy lemon pasta because they have more flavour. They are also cheaper and cook faster than chicken breast. Be sure to dry them off with a paper towel before searing to make sure they turn golden and get crispy.
Light cream is also known as single cream or table cream is my choice. The fat content is high enough that it won't split when it's added to a hot pan, but not so thick that it creates a sauce that is too heavy. As noted above-
single cream- 18% fat content
whipping cream- 36% fat content
double cream- 48% fat content
Each element really does have a job to do. Butter and oil add richness. Cream and cheese add creaminess. They also add different flavour elements that bring the whole dish together.
You can. But you'll need to adapt the recipe slightly. There are two ways you can do it.
Method 1. Mix 170ml (⅔ cup) of whole milk with 78ml (⅓ cup) melted butter. Whisk together vigorously until you have about 250ml (1 cup) of cream.
Method 2. Add a tablespoon of flour to the butter in the pan and mix until a smooth paste forms. Slowly pour in about 300ml whole milk whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer until the sauce has thickened. About 5 minutes.
Substitutions & Variations
- white wine - to really make this dish luxurious try adding in a splash of white wine when you add in the lemon juice.
- roast chicken - you can use leftover roast chicken or use a rotisserie chicken in place of chicken thighs.
- spicy - Add in a teaspoon of chilli flakes when you pour in the cream. This will really turn up the heat.
The beauty of this creamy chicken pasta recipe is that you only need a few basic pieces of kitchen equipment. I'm sharing the exact pieces I've used so you can get the exact same results.
Fridge- yes. 3 days- This creamy lemon chicken pasta stores well in the freezer for up to 3 days. But like with all creamy pasta recipes the sauce really starts to thicken up as it cools. When reheating, add a splash of water to help loosen the sauce to the desired consistency.
Freezing- No. This recipe is not recommended for freezing as the cream goes grainy and tends to split when being reheated. And the pasta gets mushy.
- If the chicken thighs are very thick they take longer to cook. In order to speed up the cooking process place the thighs in a kitchen bag and use a rolling pin to pound them out thinner.
- Use medium heat to sear the chicken so that it has a chance to cook all the way through without burning.
- When draining the cooked pasta, save a cup full of the pasta water to add to the sauce if required.
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Creamy Lemon Chicken pasta
For searing the chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 500 g chicken thighs, boneless skinless
For making the creamy lemon sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 50 ml chicken stock made with a chicken stock cube or use water
- 400 ml single cream
- 25 g grated parmesan
- ¼ teaspoon crushed chilli flakes, optional
- 500 g dried pasta, cooked according to package directions
- ½ bunch parsley , chopped
- ½ bunch basil, chopped
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta being sure to reserve about 250ml (1 cup) of the pasta water. Set aside.
- Heat a cast iron or non stick frying pan over medium hight heat and add the tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken well with sea salt. Once the pan and oil are hot (the oil will shimmer) place the chicken thighs in the pan and sear for about 6 minutes on each side until the chicken is cooked through. Use a thermometer to make sure the chicken temperature is at least 75c or 165f.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- To make the sauce, add the 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pan that you seared the chicken in. Do this over medium heat. *see notes. Melt the butter in the pan. Once the butter is melted, add in the minced garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the garlic is softened and fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock or water and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Stir in the lemon juice and zest. In a slow steady stream pour in the single cream. Add in the grated parmesan and simmer gently for about 5 minutes whisking continuously. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the chopped parsley and basil and add in the crushed chilli flakes if using. Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce and pour in any pasta water to get the desired consistency.
- Slice the chicken thighs and place on top of the pasta to serve. Add the chicken juices back to the pan.