BBQ Chicken Pasta

My husband has a deep and abiding love for barbecue sauce. His favorite pizza? Barbecue chicken. His favorite salad? Barbecue chicken with romaine, black beans and corn. His favorite burger? Barbecue ranch with bacon. His favorite sandwich? Barbecue beef. His favorite ice cream? Barbecue tracks. Ok, just kidding on that one. Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

After the success of the homemade barbecue sauce and knowing the above details, I thought to myself, why not make all his dreams come true and transfer the barbecue passion to pasta. Behold, the almighty Barbecue Chicken Pasta invention.

A one skillet meal (have I mentioned I love skillet meals??), this dish was a huge success with my little family. Simple, quick and packed with delicious smoky barbecue flavors, tender pasta and creamy, melted cheese, I’m hoping that if you ask my husband what his favorite pasta is…he’ll stay with the barbecue theme and give you this meal for an answer.

What To ServeDivine breadsticks or Cheesy Garlic Bread
Killer green salad (throw together your own or use a variation on this Gourmet Green Salad)
Fresh, seasonal fruit

One Year Ago: Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Pasta, and Parmesan
Two Years Ago: Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

BBQ Chicken Pasta

BBQ Chicken Pasta

Note: I’ve updated the recipe (on 7/2012) to reflect changes I’ve made over the years, namely to reduce the amount of liquid while cooking the pasta. If you have made this in the past and loved it as is, the original ratio was 5 1/2 cups liquid (3 cups water, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth) to 12 ounces pasta.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2/3 cup barbecue sauce (here is my favorite homemade version)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat (you could also use a large pot if you don’t have a skillet this big). When hot, add the chicken and onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken and onions to a plate and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add the water, chicken broth, penne and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the pasta is tender. Stir in the barbecue sauce and sour cream. Once mixed, add in the reserved chicken, onions and shredded cheese. Stir to combine and cook until everything is heated through.
  3. Serve immediately and garnish with additional red or green onions and shredded cheese.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Original

74 Responses to BBQ Chicken Pasta

  1. Amy says:

    I am going to make this one of these days. I like to prep a few meals on Monday during my child’s naptime to have for the week. How would this do being cooked one day and then re-heated the next–has anyone tried that? Or, after it all cooks, do you think it could be frozen and then heated when ready to eat? Any tips on doing either of these would be great. Thanks.

  2. Ellen Keough says:

    My 4 kids and I loved this dish. My big eating teenagers gobbled up this meal. The funny thing was that my husband didn’t like it at all … for him, pasta and bbq sauce should not go together. So, I will serve it for lunch when he’s not home. I did not prepare it as a one skillet meal, but I used the ingredient combination. I like to cook a chicken in my crock pot once a week. It was easy to combine all the ingredients in the pasta pot with the cooked and drained pasta. I made your bbq sauce too, very good!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Made this for the first time last night after a friend shared it with me. YUM! The whole family loved it. It’s in the regular rotation now. 🙂

  4. Sarah says:

    Just made this tonight. My husband doesn’t like BBQ Suace, so I don’t know how he’ll take it (but he works nights, so he doesn’t get a vote), but the kids ate it without the usual threats–even my 2 yo who thinks if it’s not graham crackers, it’s not worth it. So thanks! But, how did you make yours so pretty? Mine looked kind of cat-barfy orange. Still tasted good, though.

    • Mel says:

      Sarah – Not really sure what I did differently – the picture may make it look less orange, I guess, but otherwise, I’m really not sure! I am glad you liked it though.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I thought this seemed a bit strange for pasta but I love bbq chicken pizza and had everything on hand so I tried it and Im SO glad I did! Delish! My whole family loved it. I have recently become obsessed with you (Ha! I sound like a stalker) and have made several of your recipes over the last few weeks and my entire family has loved every single one! Thanks for making me feel good about myself by cooking great food and thanks for making homemade and from scratch easy, fun and do-able!

  6. Brianna says:

    Amanda, this is months after your post, but I make this all the time, and I had issues with cooking my pasta in the same pot too. So, now I cook pasta separately, and make the sauce in a separate pot with about 1/2 c chicken broth. I add more at the end if i feel like it needs it. I cook noodles until done, drain, and dump them in the sauce. Perfect! Hope it works for you!

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  8. Amanda Z says:

    Has anyone else made this with gluten free pasta? When you cook pasta the water gets very milky as the pasta cooks. I made this tonight and using the cloudy/starchy water that the gluten free pasta produced as a sauce base was not good, it made the sauce really thick. I could tell this would have had a really great flavor if not for that. I am thinking of cooking the pasta in a separate pot and then putting it in with a mixture of chicken broth, bbq sauce sour cream, and some water. Anyone have any suggestions? This might take a little trial and error…. like everything else I’ve tried to cook since celiac! 🙂

  9. Mel says:

    Steph – please see my FAQ page regarding nutrition info.

  10. Steph says:

    Do you have nutrition info?

  11. Angie says:

    Just thought I would say that I made this with ground beef (what I had on hand) and let the browned beef boil with the noodles and all water, no chicken broth, and it turned out great. My husband called it BBQ cheeseburger pasta. Love your recipes!

  12. Mel says:

    Lauren – probably right around 6.

  13. Lauren says:

    How many servings does this yield?

  14. Adam B says:

    I saw that you updated the recipe to only have 4 1/2 C. of liquid. That’s actually what we’ve been doing. The 5 1/2 C. was always a little too much. 🙂

  15. […] a good barbecue recipe? Tulsa plumbers put a twist on traditional barbecue chicken with this tasty Barbecue Chicken Pasta skillet meal. Our favorite version of this fantastic recipe can be found at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe blog. The […]

  16. Mel says:

    Hi Stacie – it’s been a long time since I’ve made this but if you are having trouble with the liquid, I’d cut the water down to 2 cups and see how that works out for you. I’ve been meaning to add this to our menu plan so I can update the picture – when I do, I’ll be sure to take note of the liquid ratio and see if I have the same issues.

  17. Stacie says:

    I have made this quite a few times, using canned and regular chicken different times. I thought maybe the first few times using canned chicken was the problem, but it’s not. I used real chicken this time and it didn’t make a difference during cooking. The problem is that my liquid never gets absorbed and it never gets “thick and syrupy.” It’s always just full of water and chicken broth. What am I doing wrong? We love this meal but we always have to drain it. The recipe says nothing about draining, so what do I do? Help me! (It’s still delicious btw!)

  18. theresa says:

    That was a fail. Only one of my family members liked it. Its a great concept. We all love chicken, bbq sauce and cheese. I dont know why they didnt like it. I ended up having to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches..

  19. Kerri says:

    I was so happy to find this recipe yesterday while trying to decide what to make for dinner. It was so easy to make and so delicious! I even got my two year old to eat a few bites – score one for mom! My husband was a little skeptical as he associates BBQ chicken with a grill, but he ate two full servings of this. Thanks Mel!!

  20. Deb says:

    I had leftover bbq chicken from my favorite slow cooker recipe and used it in this. Loved the addition of the sour cream to the sauce. Super easy and delicious!

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  24. Terri says:

    I make a similar dish, but I add a can of rinsed black beans. So yummy!!!

  25. Aaron says:

    I also had to substitute elbow macaroni, and mine seems to be turning really mushy in just a few minutes of boiling! I’m going to have to throw it away and go to the store and get some other pasta. Kind of embarrassing (I’m not the greatest cook…) but it looks like I just cooked a solid gooey mass of pasta!

  26. […] use and I wanted some sort of past dish (yes, another one).  I googled Barbecue chicken pasta and this recipe came up.  I’ll let you know how it is!   Leave a Comment LikeBe the first to […]

  27. […] from: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe LikeBe the first to like this […]

  28. Anissa says:

    I was in a major bind to come up with a dinner tonight and remembered this yummy recipe from months past. I had some Costco Jack Daniels Shredded BBQ Chicken in my fridge and decided to make this recipe even easier by subbing the pre-done BBQ chicken and adapting the recipe to make it work. It turned out just as good! So if you are really in a hurry to make dinner one night, try using this already shredded chicken and it’s a snap!

  29. Elizabeth B says:

    Mmm!! This was great. I did a little ranch and a little sour cream. I think next time I’ll add more chicken.

  30. Rachel says:

    I made this tonight and LOVED it! Used the ranch suggestion because I didnt have any sour cream and it turned out great. Thanks!

  31. LINDSAY says:

    how do you cook the noodles that long without them getting soggy? mine were practially mush.

  32. queenann says:

    I made this tonight. I liked it. I didn’t have penne on hand, so I used the elbow macaroni I had. It was fine, but I want to try it with penne next time for sure. My sons ate it, which is really saying something.

    What I love about it is that it’s very easy to make. It comes together very quickly. I steamed some broccoli and mixed it in with the pasta on my plate because I just like to walk on the wild side every once in a while.

    Thanks for another quick weeknight meal.

    • Mel says:

      queenann – your wild side comment made me laugh. Thanks. Glad you liked this one. I’ll have to get wild and crazy and throw some steamed broccoli in next time I make it. I bet it adds a great freshness.

  33. Karen says:

    Made this again tonight. The kids LOVE it. Even my picky one… LOL I used up he last of the BBQ sauce, though, so I’ll need to make another batch. You are my go-to site for dinner inspiration! Thanks for keeping the goodness coming!

    Your Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls are on the agenda for the weekend… 🙂

  34. Bladen says:

    I stumbled across this recipe hunting for something to make with what little I had on hand. I LOVE California Pizza Kitchen Barbeque Chicken Pizza, but my partner is restricted to a gluten-free diet, so I thought this would make an awesome alternative. I used a gluten-free penne and grilled the chicken and the red onion and it was SO DELICIOUS! Thanks for this great idea!

    • Mel says:

      Bladen – thank you so much for your comment! I think the idea of grilling the chicken is brilliant and I’m glad you were able to adapt this for your partner’s gluten-free diet!

  35. […] Quesadillas (carried over) Tuesday:  Sweet & Sour Meatballs, brown rice, veggies Wednesday:  BBQ Chicken pasta Thursday:  Perogies and Sausage, tossed salad Friday:  Out to […]

  36. Kina says:

    Made this for dinner last night and it turned out good. I didn’t know what to serve with it so we had a salad. LOL – Tonight I’m trying your taco recipe. Wish me luck!!!

  37. Gia says:

    Another home run! This is fantastic. I didn’t have any sour cream on hand ( I don’t know how that happened!) so I substituted ranch dressing. It worked perfectly. The hubby & the kids loved it! Thanks so much for another keeper!

  38. Jocelyn says:

    Mel, this will be about 7th recipe that I am trying from your blog. I am looking forward to making this tonight! It looks great!

  39. Colleen says:

    This looks SO good! I can’t wait to make it soon!

  40. Mel says:

    Thanks, Sharon….glad this is a keeper!

  41. Sharon says:

    Great dish!! We also love BBQ sauce in our house, so this is a keeper for us!!!

  42. Mel says:

    Steph – glad you liked this! And I agree that you can’t go wrong with a great sharp cheddar cheese.

  43. Mel says:

    Steph – thanks for letting me know that you liked this dish. I agree, can’t go wrong with some good cheese!

  44. Judimae says:

    What a great idea for a pasta dish! I just discovered your blog, and I am a fan already. I will be back as time permits to check out what’s cooking here. Thanks for sharing all these fantastic recipes with all of us.

  45. Steph says:

    I made this last night for dinner – it was different but very yummy. Plus, I shredded up some Hoffman’s sharp cheddar – can’t go wrong with that stuff. Thanks for the great recipe 🙂

  46. leslie says: had me going with the ice cream flavor!!! lol

  47. Melanie says:

    Tracey – great suggestion! I'm glad you liked this meal…thanks for letting me know!

  48. Melanie says:

    Hey Mel – I'm glad you cook for your own pleasure – then you don't have anyone else to be disappointed if it doesn't work out. Glad you liked this one!

  49. melanee says:

    YUM this was good! Such a fun variation from a typical pasta dish. I liked it alot! (Notice how everyone cooks to feed their families, I just try all your recipes for my own pleasure haha 🙂

  50. Tracey says:

    Just made this for dinner ~ with a few twists (I used leftover turkey breast, instead of chicken). It was pretty good, I would definitely make it again. However, I just thought I would suggest adding some diced/chopped green peppers, at the same time you cook the chicken and onion. It would add another veggie, as well as adding some color to the dish:) Thanks again for the great recipes!

  51. We will have to try this! Thanks!

  52. Katy ~ says:

    A clever and delicious twist for pasta! Ooooh, just imagining the big flavor in this! Thank you for sharing!

  53. Corners of My Life says:

    This looks amazingly good. Can't wait to try it.Mary

  54. Evelyn says:

    Earlier today, as I was dipping my childrens leftover chicken nuggets in BBQ sauce, I was thinking I needed to make something BBQ-y for dinner! How did you know? Can't wait to try this one!!

  55. Erin S says:

    Yummy! My kids will eat anything with BBQ sauce, I'll have to try this. I always like to sprinkle a little bit of smoked Gouda on my BBQ chicken pizza, I wonder if it would be good in the pasta as well?

  56. grace says:

    like your hubby, i'm guilty of slathering barbecue sauce on pretty much everything. one thing i haven't tried? pasta. right on! 🙂

  57. Rhandi says:

    What a fun creation- sounds awesome. We are a household of BBQ lovers. I love making homemade BBQ sauce and I am very picky about store bought but if you are in a pinch, I think that Sweet Baby Rays is fantastic!

  58. Cammee says:

    In my opinion, store bought BBQ sauce ranks right there with store bought ranch dressing–bleeeck!!I can't wait to try yours. I have a feeling my hubby will love this pasta as well.Your pictures are fantastic!

  59. Sook says:

    Oh that sounds so good! I love bbq chicken pizza so why not bbq chicken pasta! That is brilliant! 🙂

  60. Lisa says:

    I make a barbecue pasta dish with ground beef that is my husband's absolute favorite. I think he would enjoy this dish as well, sounds delicious.

  61. Sara says:

    Your husband and I would be great friends! I love BBQ sauce. This pasta is such a great idea. I get sick of always having to have a marinara sauce with pasta. Looking forward to making this.

  62. Annie Jones says:

    How funny. Last night I made BBQ Chicken Linguine based on a recipe in a book. It was quite similar to your recipe. I could take it or leave it, but my husband enjoyed it and my 6yo couldn't get enough of it!

  63. Barbara says:

    Funny post! That guy sure likes his BBQ!And this must have made him a happy man!Your photos are making me drool. It's too close to lunch!

  64. Melissa G says:

    Yay – another skillet recipe! Thank you! I'm not such a BBQ fan, but hubby and kids love it, so I'm going to give it a whirl.You have such good/inspiring recipes and ideas. Thank you for making them "real". [Using normal ingredients and having your family eat them]. I appreciate it!

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