This Spicy BBQ Chicken Pasta is easy to make, great for feeding a crowd or a hungry family, and incredibly delicious and comforting! BBQ chicken, veggies, and pasta get tossed in a luscious, spicy, and vibrant sauce! It’s then topped with plenty of cheese, baked until nice and bubbly, and garnished with chopped coriander and spring onion!
3/4 cup BBQ Sauce (homemade or store bought) – I used McCormick Grill Mates Chilli and Pepper BBQ Sauce)
1 TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
½ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1.5 TSP Smoked Paprika (Hot)
1.5 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
1.5 TBLS Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil you like)
For the Spicy BBQ Chicken Pasta:
2 TBLS Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil you prefer)
8 ounces uncooked pasta (I used penne, but any short-cut pasta or noodle type pasta will work fine.)
1 cup Sweet Corn Kernels
1 medium head Broccoli – cut into florets, rinsed thoroughly and dried
½ Red Onion – finely minced
6 Garlic cloves – finely minced
2–6 Red Chilies (optional), to taste – chopped
1 (400 grams / 14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (I used chopped Italian tomatoes with olive oil & garlic. But you can use any type of chopped or crushed canned tomatoes, or passata. Alternatively, you can use chopped fresh tomatoes if you have them on hand – you’ll need about two medium tomatoes.)
1.5 cups Whole Milk (Use low-fat milk to make it lighter, or heavy cream or half and half for part or all of the milk amount to make the sauce creamier and richer.)
1 TSP Kosher Salt
1.5 TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
1 TSP Smoked Paprika (I use La Chinata Smoked Paprika (Hot) because it’s incredibly robust, flavorful, and deliciously spicy! But you can use a sweet smoked paprika if you prefer.)
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium high-heat. Once hot, add the chicken breasts, followed by the BBQ sauce, smoked paprika, and ground cayenne to taste. Then flip the chicken breasts and stir the sauce to mix up all the spices and seasonings.
Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes (about 2 to 3 whistles), then switch off the heat. Allow the pressure to release naturally (this will take around 8-10 minutes), then remove the lid of the pressure cooker.
Use tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, then cut into bite-sized cubes (or shred with two forks if you prefer).
Return the diced chicken back to the sauce in the pressure cooker and stir to combine.
Set aside, or transfer to an airtight container if making ahead.
Note: Alternatively, you can use leftover baked or pan-seared diced chicken, or even rotisserie chicken. Just mix it into the sauce with the spices and seasonings. You’ll need about 2 to 2.5 cups of cooked chicken.
See Notes section below for Instant Pot cooking instructions.
For the Spicy BBQ Chicken Pasta:
Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F.
Bring a large pot (or use the same large deep sauté pan you’ll use for the sauce) of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and corn and cook until al-dente according to package instructions. Drain into a colander and set aside. (Optional: During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli florets if you prefer them to be slightly tender. I prefer my broccoli with a bit of crunch so add them directly to the sauce to cook. But it’s a matter of preference so feel free to add them to cook a little here now.)
Heat olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant – about 2 minutes. Then add the red chilies and continue sautéing for another minute.
Pour in the canned chopped tomatoes and use the back of your spatula or wooden spoon to press down on the chunks to flatten them and release their juices (or you can use canned crushed tomatoes or passata instead). Stir to combine, then lower the heat to medium-low and gradually pour in the milk. Add the kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, smoked paprika, ground cayenne, and crushed red pepper chili flakes to taste. Stir for a minute to combine.
Add the broccoli florets and Spicy BBQ Chicken, stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the pasta and corn and toss for 4-5 minutes until the pasta has heated through and everything is fully coated in the sauce.
Switch of the heat and transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top evenly with the freshly grated sharp cheddar and Italian Blend (or mozzarella) cheese. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Remove the dish from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
To Serve: Garnish with chopped coriander and spring onion and serve!
Making ahead: The spicy BBQ chicken can be made 1-3 days in advance. Store in an airtight sealed container in the refrigerator if making ahead. For the pasta and sauce, you can make it a day in advance. Make the dish all the way through and sprinkle on the cheese. Then cool quickly, cover the dish with foil, and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake and garnish it the next day. Just be sure to take out the dish from the fridge 40-60 minutes before you bake it so that it’s not too cold when it hits the oven. Then bake (with the foil on) for 20-25 minutes, removing the foil during the last 10 minutes, until hot throughout and the cheese has melted. Garnish and serve as indicated in step 7. I have not tried freezing this dish before baking, and prefer to make and eat it fresh. But if you do try freezing it, please report back and let us know how it turned out in the comments!
Spicy BBQ Chicken Instant Pot Cooking Instructions: Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Select the ‘Sauté’ function on the instant pot. Once the pot displays ‘Hot’, add olive oil in the inner pot and heat for a minute. Place the chicken breasts in the pot, then add the BBQ sauce, ground cayenne, and crushed red chili pepper flakes. Then flip the chicken breasts and stir the sauce to mix up all the spices and seasonings. Select the ‘Cancel’ function and close the lid. Make sure that the vent is in the ‘Sealing’ position. Select ‘Manual’ and adjust the +/- buttons to set the cook time to 10 minutes. Once cooking has completed, allow the pressure to release naturally. Remove the lid. Use tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken back to the sauce in the instant pot and stir to combine. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside.
To make it vegetarian: Swap the chicken for veggie meat such as Quorn, Beyond Beef® or Omnipork. Or use another plant-based or soy-based meat product instead of the chicken. You can also just use more veggies in the pasta dish and add the BBQ sauce and spices and seasonings for the chicken when you add the milk.
To make it vegan: Same as for making this vegetarian but swap the milk for a dairy-free milk such as coconut or almond milk. If you’d like a creamier texture for the sauce, you can use cashew cream instead.
For gluten-free:Use a gluten-free pasta, and double check to make sure that the BBQ sauce you are using is gluten-free. Many BBQ sauces have vinegar included in the ingredients, and vinegar comes from gluten grains. So if you are sensitive or allergic to gluten, be sure BBQ sauce you are using is GF certified.
Add bacon: Simply because bacon makes everything taste better in my book! 🥓❤️
What pasta type to use: You can use any type of pasta shape you have on hand even though I used penne. For short-cut pastas, rotini, farfalle, small shells, and fusilli will all work great! For noodle type pastas, I recommend spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine. But don’t feel limited to just these suggestions – any pasta that you have in your pantry will work fine.