If you have some leftover chicken and you are looking for a quick, easy and delicious recipe to use it in then give this a try. A creamy cheese sauce with chunks of leftover chicken, sweetcorn and spinach all stirred through pasta. This Leftover Chicken Pasta is ready in under 15 minutes.
This quick and easy meal is our favourite leftover chicken recipe. It's super comforting and adaptable too, so it's a great way to use up other leftovers as well. It only uses a small amount of chicken, so it's perfect for when you only have a little leftover. A budget friendly meal that the whole family will love.
- Pasta - Any pasta goes here. We prefer pasta shapes instead of spaghetti, as the chicken is quite chunky so chunky pasta goes better with it. But, the sauce will cling to anything.
- Chicken - We used leftover roast chicken. However, you could use leftovers from grilled chicken breast. If you don't have any leftovers, then you can still make this with freshly cooked chicken.
- Oil - A little bit of olive oil to reheat the chicken in.
- Cream cheese - This is where most of the sauce comes from You want to use the best quality cream cheese you can (we use Philadelphia) as you will be able to taste the difference. A better quality one will be creamier, but if you wanted to keep it less expensive, than a supermarket brand one will be fine. You can use full fat or reduced fat, but the full fat one will have more flavour. We used reduced fat to keep the calories lower.
- Milk - This helps to thin the sauce out a bit, as it is quite thick with just the cream cheese. You can use skimmed, semi skimmed or whole.
- Sweetcorn - This adds some colour and crunch to the leftover chicken pasta. You can either use canned corn, or add frozen sweetcorn to the pasta water.
- Spinach - An easy way to give a green veggie boost to this leftover chicken recipe.
- Parmesan - You can never have too much cheese, right? This makes it extra cheesy and it has such a strong flavour too, so a little goes a long way. You could use a mature cheddar instead if you prefer.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make leftover chicken pasta - Step by step
One: Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.
Two: Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the chicken. Cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Three: Add the cream cheese and milk. Cook until the cheese has melted, stirring regularly.
Four: Add the sweetcorn, spinach and Parmesan. Continue stirring until the spinach has wilted.
Five: Drain the pasta and reserve a little pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved water to the chicken mixture. Mix well so that all the pasta is coated. Season to taste.
Why should you try it?
- Less than 15 minutes - This leftover chicken pasta just takes as long as it takes for the pasta to cook. If you use quick cook pasta, then you can keep this meal under 10 minutes.
- 8 ingredients - Minimal ingredients, and most of them you probably already have in your kitchen. You could just keep it simple with the cream cheese, chicken and pasta, but the extra ingredients are really worth it in our opinion.
- Cheap - This is such a budget friendly meal. We always have pasta and cream cheese in, so that and the leftover chicken in this recipe make an easy and cheap meal.
- Adaptable - Use this is a base recipe and then adapt it to suit your own tastes and it's a great recipe to use up leftovers. We have given some ideas below of our favourite ways to adapt it.
There is no need to spend ages making a creamy pasta sauce, as you can make an incredible one with some cream cheese, Parmesan, milk and starchy pasta water. If you have ever just stirred cream cheese into cooked pasta before, you will know that it ends up really dry and not very enjoyable, but pasta water totally changes that.
Adding starchy pasta water (just 100ml is enough) to a fat like cream cheese will create an emulsion and this gives a really silky smooth sauce and helps it cling to the pasta. Make sure you scoop out the water just before draining, as this ensures that it is nice and starchy.
As for the cream cheese itself, we like to use full fat Philadelphia, as it has the best flavour and it isn't watery like some of the cheaper ones can be.
- Leftover chicken - This recipe is a great way to use up leftovers. We like adding shredded chicken leftover from our Whole Slow Cooker Chicken or our Easy Roast Chicken. You could use a rotisserie chicken and use that too.
- Ham, bacon or chorizo - If you want to add some extra meat to this leftover chicken recipe, then you can add chopped ham or cooked bacon or chorizo. If you like chorizo pasta, why not try our Chorizo Mac and Cheese recipe?
- Mushrooms - Before you add the chicken to the pan, add some thinly sliced mushrooms too. We love shiitake mushrooms.
- Cherry tomatoes - These not only add colour, but a little pop of flavour when you bite into them too.
- Spinach or rocket - We love finding ways to add more greens to our meals and wilting spinach into the sauce is an easy way to do that. You could also add rocket lettuce (arugula), which adds a nice peppery flavour.
- Peas - We have used sweetcorn, but you could use frozen peas instead or a mixture of the two. Add them to the pasta and cook at the same time.
- Asparagus - We finely chop some asparagus and cook it at the same time as the pasta and it adds a nice bit of crunch.
- Goats cheese - If you don't want to use Parmesan, then melting some goats cheese into the sauce works well and it makes it extra creamy.
- Gnocchi - If you fancy something a little different from pasta, but still keeping it ready in under 10 minutes, then use gnocchi instead
- Sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes or olives - Give this dish a Mediterranean vibe by stirring in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olive or artichokes in oil from a jar.
- Fresh herbs - You can lighten the whole dish up by sprinkling over some fresh basil before serving.
Pasta dishes can definitely be part of a healthy and balanced diet, but portion control is key.
Swap the white pasta for wholegrain spaghetti and add some leafy greens for a nutrient boost. You can also use reduced fat cream cheese, but it will give the sauce a different texture and it won't be as creamy.
What to serve with leftover chicken pasta
If you want to bulk this meal our a bit, then serve it with some garlic bread. Either buy some ready made, or make your own easy garlic bread by cutting up some French stick and spreading it with a mix of butter, crushed garlic and dried herbs. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Why not try our Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread?
You could also keep it simple with a big green salad. The key to an epic green salad is to use a variety of greens, like romaine, spinach, kale and rocket. You want leafy greens, but crunch too. Then you need the perfect dressing. Why not try our Lemon Vinaigrette, Honey and Mustard Dressing or Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. You could also try our Grilled Little Gem Salad, or Cucumber and Radish Salad.
Store: If you have leftovers then you can store it in an air tight container in the fridge until the next day.
Freeze: We wouldn't recommend freezing this because it has a strange texture once defrosted.
Reheat: You can reheat leftovers in a frying pan on a low heat. Add a splash of full fat milk to the pan to loosen it up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because it's an easy way to make the sauce really silky smooth, with no extra effort.
If you use your favourite gluten free pasta and make sure that there is no cross contamination, then this is a delicious gluten free meal.
You can easily double this recipe and it doesn't change the cooking time. Just make sure that you have a big enough frying pan to hold double the ingredients.
Yes, you can swap the cream cheese, milk and parmesan for a tomato based sauce. Why not try our Easy Pasta Sauce recipe?
• To make this even quicker, use some fresh tagliatelle which is ready in a few minutes.
• Don't forget to reserve some of the pasta water. You really don't want to skip this step, as it makes the sauce so silky.
• If you like your food spicy, then add a sprinkle of red chilli flakes on top before serving.
• Add a splash of olive oil to the pan before serving for an extra boost of flavour.
• Serve with extra Parmesan and cracked black pepper if you like.
More pasta recipes
Leftover Chicken Pasta
- 150 g pasta
- 180 g leftover cooked chicken - chopped
- 0.5 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 g light cream cheese
- 60 ml semi skimmed milk
- 100 g sweetcorn
- 45 g spinach
- 20 g Parmesan - grated
- Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.150 g pasta
- Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the chicken. Cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.0.5 tablespoon olive oil, 180 g leftover cooked chicken
- Add the cream cheese and milk. Cook until the cheese has melted, stirring regularly.100 g light cream cheese, 60 ml semi skimmed milk
- Add the sweetcorn, spinach and Parmesan. Continue stirring until the spinach has wilted.100 g sweetcorn, 45 g spinach, 20 g Parmesan
- Drain the pasta and reserve a little pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved water to the chicken mixture. Mix well so that all the pasta is coated. Season to taste.
- To make this even quicker, use some fresh tagliatelle which is ready in a few minutes.
- Don't forget to reserve some of the pasta water. You really don't want to skip this step, as it makes the sauce so silky.
- If you like your food spicy, then add a sprinkle of red chilli flakes on top before serving.
- Add a splash of olive oil to the pan before serving for an extra boost of flavour.
- Serve with extra Parmesan and cracked black pepper if you like.