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This Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta is, well, addictive! Pasta and chicken breasts are cooked in a cheesy ranch-seasoned sauce, then finished with crispy bacon—and it all comes together in under an hour!
When a recipe has the word “crack” in the name, you pretty much know it’s going to be good, right? And you wouldn’t be wrong when it comes to this Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta! It’s my current favorite Instant Pot dish (right up there with my Instant Pot General Tso’s Chicken and Instant Pot Jalapeño Lime Chicken Soup), and it’s the perfect dinner for those cold winter evenings when you just want to eat something super filling, then curl up on the couch with your fuzziest blanket and catch up on your Netflix queue.
So what makes this crack chicken pasta worthy of its moniker? Well, you’ve got your carb fix thanks to the pasta, a heavy dose of garlic, and ranch seasoning, which has a way of making everything delicious. There are three cheeses in this recipe—cream cheese, cheddar, and Colby jack—which gives this pasta a rich, creamy sauce that’s like an amped up version of mac-and-cheese. The finishing touch is crumbled bacon, because of course we need crispy, salty, smoky bacon in crack chicken pasta.
Trust me when I say, you’re going to make this recipe again and again.
What You’ll Need
The ingredients here are simple, but there are some things you’ll want to take note of!
- Ground black pepper
- Paprika – You can use regular or smoked.
- Chicken breasts
- Olive oil
- White onion – A yellow onion will work, too.
- Ranch seasoning mix
- Reduced-sodium chicken broth
- Rotini or penne pasta
- Cream cheese
- Cheddar cheese – From the block, not a bag.
- Colby jack cheese – Also from the block.
- Cooked bacon – Or substitute bacon bits.
Why not use pre-shredded cheese?
There’s a time and a place for pre-shredded cheese, but when it comes to making creamy sauces, it’s best to buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. Bagged shredded cheese is tossed in an anti-caking agent to keep it from sticking together (that’s why it sometimes feels a little powdery). When you’re using this cheese to make a sauce, it won’t melt as smoothly; instead, your sauce will have a grainy or gritty texture.
How to Make Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta
This recipes takes less than an hour from start to finish, so it’s perfect for a weeknight! Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Season the chicken. Combine the pepper, salt, and paprika in a small bowl. Sprinkle this seasoning onto both sides of the chicken breasts.
Sauté the chicken. Set your Instant Pot to sauté mode on medium heat. Add two tablespoons of oil, then cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side, or until it’s cooked through. Remove the chicken and place it on a plate; once it’s cool, shred it with a fork.
Cook the onion and garlic. Warm the rest of the olive oil in the pot, then cook the onion for about 3 minutes, or until it’s softened and translucent. Turn off the Instant Pot, then add the garlic and ranch seasoning.
Cook the pasta. Once the garlic is fragrant, pour in the broth. Add the chicken in an even layer, followed by the pasta. Seal the pot and pressure valve, then set it to manual for 4 minutes. Carefully release the pressure valve on top to release the steam, then remove the lid from the pot and stir the pasta.
Add the cheeses. Add the cream cheese, cheddar, and Colby Jack cheese to the pot and stir until they’re melted and the sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Stir in the bacon, then serve.
Tips for Success
Here are some hints and tips for making crack chicken pasta in an Instant Pot!
- Stick with rotini or penne. Different pasta shapes have different cooking times; if you were to swap the rotini for spaghetti, you’d end up with mushy, overcooked pasta!
- Use wheat pasta. Gluten-free and bean flour pastas are fabulous, but they’re unpredictable in an Instant Pot.
- Make it your own. Up the veggie factor by adding frozen peas or broccoli, stir in extra bacon, or pair this with my Garlic Roasted Green Beans for an easy side.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Crack chicken pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it in the microwave or put it in a saucepan with a splash of milk or cream and reheat on medium-low until warmed through.
Can This Be Frozen?
You can freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop according to the directions above.
Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon paprika powder
- 1 pound (454 g) thin sliced chicken breasts, about 4 pieces
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ large white onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 ounce (28 g) packet of ranch seasoning mix
- 5 cups (1183 ml) reduced sodium chicken broth divided
- 16 ounces (454 g) rotini or penne pasta
- 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, cut into pieces
- 2 ounces (57 g) cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- 2 ounces (57 g) Colby Jack cheese, freshly shredded
- 6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- Mix the pepper, salt and paprika together in a small bowl then sprinkle it onto the chicken breasts evenly on both sides.
- Set the instant pot to sauté mode on medium then add two of the tablespoons of oil and cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side or until completely cooked through.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and cook the onion until it becomes translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the Instant Pot off then stir in the garlic and ranch seasoning and let the residual heat from the Instant Pot cook the garlic then pour in the chicken broth.
- Shred the chicken then add it to the instant pot and spread it out evenly.
- Add the pasta on top and gently push it down so that all of it is submerged in broth but do not stir it into the chicken.
- Seal the Instant Pot and pressure valve then set it to manual for 4 minutes (it will take about 10 minutes to heat up before the timer starts).
- Carefully release the pressure valve on top to let the steam escape before removing the lid from the pot and stirring the pasta.
- Add the cream cheese, cheddar and Colby Jack cheese and stir until completely melted, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the bacon then serve with freshly chopped chives for garnish if desired.
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