This chicken fajita pasta bake brings sautéed peppers and onions, chicken breast, chickpea pasta, and a simple cheese sauce together to create a super creamy pasta with unbelievable nutrition facts. Pasta this cheesy shouldn’t have just 260 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 6 WW SmartPoints per serving!
How to Make This Chicken Fajita Pasta Bake
This recipe is a simple one! I’ve broken it down to four parts that we’ll quickly run through below. I’ll go into a bit more detail in this section and then you can print the recipe card at the bottom of this post for everything in one place!
Don’t let the detail intimidate you. This one is hard to mess up. For real!
Part Zero: Mise en Place
That’s a fancy way of saying prepare all your ingredients before starting. Once the veggies and chicken are cooking, you won’t want to be running around preparing other things.
Here’s the shortlist of things to prep:
- boil salted water for cooking the pasta
- cut the chicken and add salt/pepper
- dice the onions/peppers and mince the garlic
- mix the hot sauce and chicken stock
Part One: Make the Fajita Veggies
If you want to use pre-diced veggies, I won’t judge! You’ll see I used a 12″ cast iron skillet and keep everything in the skillet to bake. You can transfer everything to a baking dish after cooking if you lack an oven safe skillet (or a smaller skillet).
As far as the execution for this part goes, there’s nothing really special about it. I recommend leaving the veggies alone as opposed to constantly stirring so they can develop a slight char while softening.
Save the garlic for the last 30-60 seconds of cooking so you don’t burn it. Add it to the skillet, stir, and transfer all the veggies out of the skillet once you smell the garlic.
Part Two: Cook the Fajita Chicken for Max Flavor
One easy way to ensure you get crisp fajita chicken is to start with dry chicken. A paper towel works just fine. Pat the chicken dry before and after cutting into pieces.
Aside from drying the chicken, adding salt and pepper at the beginning of your prep will help give the chicken time to absorb some of that flavor.
Since the chicken is in small pieces, it will cook quickly. If you add to the pan and stir constantly, it will cook evenly but you’ll miss out on any kind of charring or crispy exterior.
Leave the chicken alone for a few minutes then flip or stir to finish cooking.
Then as soon as the chicken is cooked through, get it off the heat and set aside to let it rest.
Part Three: Deglaze the Skillet and Make the Cheese Sauce
Deglazing = adding liquid (cold or room temp) to remove the crispy bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. See this sizzle in the second image below. These crispy bits have tons of flavor and you definitely want to incorporate those into the finished product!
If you’re using a nonstick skillet, you probably won’t need to do much deglazing. That’s fine, just add the hot sauce mixture and briefly reduce (thicken) before adding the queso.
This may sound complicated but don’t sweat it, I’m just over explaining everything for best results. Remember, it’s hard to mess this chicken fajita pasta up!
Part Four: Add the Pasta, Top with Cheese, and Bake
Hopefully you’ve added the pasta to the boiling water at some point. If not, keep the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is finished.
Side note: A big tip I gave in my hatch chile pumpkin pasta casserole for working with chickpea pasta was to avoid letting the pasta sit at room temp after draining. It tends to stick together on its own. If you start the water at the beginning of prep, the timing should be just right.
Add the fajita chicken and veggies to the sauce, followed by the pasta. Gently stir. If you’re using chickpea pasta like the recipe calls for, it can be delicate.
Top with cheese and bake. That’s it, you’re done!
Modifying Your Chicken Fajita Pasta Bake
We’ll go in reverse order.
Cheese and Queso
You can use any cheese you’d like on top of your pasta bake. Though I’d stick to softer melting cheeses if possible.
The Trader Joe’s queso is a magical ingredient that has 165 calories in the entire 12-ounce jar. I searched for alternatives when developing my spicy ground beef queso mac and cheese and found one from Dessert Pepper Trading Company that’s pretty close in terms of nutrition facts. Any queso will work, just be aware of the nutrition facts differences.
You could also use a mixture of cheddar powder like in my buffalo chicken mac and cheese. You could also make a cheese sauce like in my bacon gouda breakfast enchiladas or cajun mac and cheese recipes. Just swap the type of cheese to fit your taste.
Hot Sauce and Chicken Stock
You can use just about anything here. My first version of this chicken fajita pasta used pickled jalapeño juice to deglaze the skillet. Vinegar, wine, and even water will all work great.
I will add that the hot sauce adds a bit of flavor in this case.
I love using chickpea pasta in my pasta bakes. You can use other chickpea pastas or even regular pasta, though. To speed things up, you could even use something like Barilla Ready Pasta like I used in my garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken recipe.
Fajita Chicken and Veggies
There aren’t many notes here. I’ll say the recipe isn’t very spicy as-is, and I left the seeds in the jalapeño. So if you’re a fan of spice, you might want to add another jalapeño or two.
Okay, that should be more than enough info!
If you have any questions about this chicken fajita pasta bake or any modifications, drop a comment at the bottom of this post or join my Facebook group with 10,000 other healthy home cooks. We’ll definitely help you out to the best of our abilities!
For the Fajita Chicken
- 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
- 2 Bell Peppers, diced
- 1 Jalapeño Pepper, diced
- 1 White Onion, diced
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
For the Pasta Bake
- 8 oz Banza Chickpea Pasta
- 1/2 C (120g) Chicken Stock
- 1/4 C (60g) Hot Sauce, I used Cholula
- 12 oz jar Queso Dip, I used Trader Joe's
- 4 oz Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese, or your choice of cheese
- Preheat oven to 400F and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (for cooking the pasta). Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than directed on its packaging.
- Prepare the diced veggies and cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Pat the chicken dry and generously season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat 1/2 the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions and peppers for 4-6 minutes until tender before adding the garlic. Cook for another 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Transfer the cooked veggies to a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet and add the chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping and cooking another 1-2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (165F internal temp in thickest pieces). Transfer the cooked chicken to the bowl or plate with the veggies.
- Reduce the heat to low.
- Mix the hot sauce and chicken stock together and add to the skillet. Use your spatula to scrape any crispy bits off the bottom and cook the stock down for 30-60 seconds before adding the queso. Stir well.
- Add the chicken and veggies back to the skillet and toss in the sauce. Add the cooked and drained pasta and gently fold everything together.
- Top with shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted. Serve with chopped cilantro, crushed chipotle flakes, and fat free Greek yogurt or sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!
- Each serving has 6 Smart Points.
- Total nutrition facts in case you want to divide into different serving sizes: 2,054 calories, 173g protein, 191g carbs, 77g fat.
- You can transfer everything to a baking dish if you don't have an oven safe skillet or a smaller skillet. I have the 12" cast iron skillet I use on my Amazon list along with all the other kitchen equipment I use on a regular basis.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Servings Serving Size: 1 C (215g)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260Total Fat: 10gCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 22g