Chicken Fajita Pasta in Instant Pot

April 3, 2020 By Aneesha |

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This Chicken Fajita Pasta is a satisfying and colorful dish of bell peppers, onions, penne, chicken, salsa, homemade taco seasoning and a blend of Mexican cheeses! It’s an easy, Mexican spiced pasta recipe ready in under 30 minutes in one-pot – the Instant Pot, of course!

chicken fajita pasta in black bowl

One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta Recipe

I make Chicken fajitas once a week, it’s a family favorite! We add them to tacos, lettuce cups, wraps, burritos and Tex-Mex bowls. What I love about chicken fajitas is the bold and satisfying flavors, given the ease of making them.

It takes me under 10 minutes to slice the peppers, onions and chicken, toss them with seasoning and oil, spread them out on a baking sheet or air fryer basket, and set it to cook.

Just when we thought we had exhausted all the possible ways we could enjoy them, my daughter suggested to combine our favorite Mexican and Italian flavors and turn it into Chicken Fajita Pasta recipe!

So here it is! This chicken fajita pasta is made in under 30 minutes in one-pot! The real trick is allowing the pasta to cook in its own salsa-flavored cooking liquid. This is what creates that creamy, dreamy consistency.

And when I say one-pot – I mean the Instant Pot, of course! 😉

Creamy Chicken Fajita Pasta Sauce

This easy weeknight dinner is packed with colorful bell peppers, onions, chicken thighs, classic Mexican spices, cheese and fresh cilantro. (I love meals that hit all the food groups in one pot!)

But what makes this dish so special is cooking the pasta directly in the liquid to create a creamy chicken fajita pasta sauce. Here’s how it happens:

  1. The starch from the pasta releases into the cooking liquid, which helps thicken the sauce. In turn, the pasta absorbs more flavor from the salsa.
  2. Then, when the blend of Mexican cheeses is stirred in at the very end, the sauce naturally emulsifies.
  3. This creates a creamy, luxurious consistency – no added milk or cream required!
creamy chicken pasta with fajita vegetables in black bowl

Ingredients

This easy chicken pasta recipe is made with olive oil, red and orange bell peppers, onions, water, penne pasta, chicken thighs (or chicken breasts), our homemade version of taco seasoning, a blend of Mexican cheeses and fresh cilantro!

Ingredient Customizations & Substitutions

  • Peppers: I used red and orange bell peppers since they looked the best at the market that day, but any color will work! Try yellow, green or even poblanos for a spicy kick!
  • Water: I like to use water as the liquid base since the flavor of the salsa is more pronounced, but you can also use low-sodium chicken stock or broth for more of that savory, chicken flavor.
  • Pasta: Penne works the best here since it cooks in the same amount of time it takes the chicken to cook through. However, if you don’t have penne on hand, use any shaped, short-grain pasta with the same cooking time (rigatoni, twisted fusilli) for best results (see Notes below for pasta cooking times).
  • Chicken: I like the extra flavor from dark meat chicken thighs, but if you are a white meat lover, use an equal amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead.
  • Taco Seasoning: Homemade fajita seasoning (which we’ll discuss more below) is quick and easy as long as you have all the ingredients on hand. But if you’re short on time, use 2 1/2 Tablespoons of your favorite store-bought taco seasoning blend and store the remainder in your spice cabinet for up to 3 months.
  • Cheese: My favorite is the blend of pre-shredded Mexican cheeses you can find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but use your cheese of choice! Cheddar, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack all work wonders!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

I make a homemade taco seasoning blend for this Mexican-inspired pasta dish. The flavor and aroma always beat any store-bought brand.

For the spices, you will need Mexican chili powder, salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne and garlic (either powdered or freshly minced).

Tip: To save yourself a step the next time you make this recipe, feel free to double or triple the spices recipe and use garlic powder rather than fresh garlic. Store in a small mason jar in your spice cabinet for up to 3 months. Scoop out 2 1/2 Tablespoons of the fajita seasoning mix every time you make this recipe!

How To Make Instant Pot Chicken Pasta

It’s super simple to make this Instant Pot chicken pasta recipe. Here are the step by step instructions and pictures:

peppers and onions in instant pot, small bowl of spices, pouring pasta in instant pot, adding chicken and salsa, instant pot lid
  • Preheat the Instant Pot by selecting Saute. Wait 30 seconds and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil, sliced peppers and onions. Saute 2-3 minutes, until they soften. Cancel Saute. Remove onions and peppers and keep aside for later (Pic 1).
  • Add water, 1 teaspoon olive oil and all the spices to the pot. Give it a stir. Add pasta and push it down under the liquid (Pics 2 & 3).
  • Spread the chicken pieces all over the pasta. Spread the salsa over all over the chicken. Don’t stir and close the lid (Pics 4-6).
  • Pressure cook at HIGH pressure for 4 minutes, followed by a quick pressure release as per your cooker instructions. (see Notes for pasta cooking and pressure releasing instructions).
peppers, onions, penne in instant pot, adding cheese to instant pot, cilantro garnish over pasta, creamy pasta in spoon
  • Open the lid after the pin drops. Add the sautéed peppers and onions to the pot and give it a stir (Pic 7).
  • Stir in the cheese. Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy (Pics 8-10)!

How to Make Chicken Fajita Pasta On The Stove

Although it will no longer be a set-it-and-forget-it meal, you can certainly make this chicken pasta recipe on the stovetop. Simply:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers and onions for 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep aside for maintaining their shape and crunch.
  2. Add water, remaining olive oil, spices and stir. Bring it to a simmer, add the pasta and push down under the liquid. Note: You may need an additional 1/2-3/4 cup liquid for the stovetop version in order for the pasta to be fully submerged.
  3. Spread the chicken over the pasta, then pour the salsa over the chicken. Don’t stir.
  4. Cover with a tight lid and cook for 10-12 minutes (or as pasta package instructions), stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add the sautéed peppers and onions, stir in the cheese, garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

How to Make it Vegetarian

Simply skip the chicken to make this delicious dish vegetarian. You can also add a can of rinsed and drained black beans to the pot along with the pasta.

A Prep-Ahead MexItalian Meal

The vegetables, chicken and homemade taco seasoning for this Instant Pot meal can be prepped one day in advance. Simply store the chopped vegetables and chicken in airtight containers (the chicken in its own separate container, of course) in the fridge.

When ready to cook, follow the directions in the recipe card to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes!

creamy chicken pasta with fajita vegetables in black bowl

Serving Suggestions – Topping Ideas

I stir in cilantro at the very end as the garnish, but you can take some inspiration from those restaurant-style chicken fajitas when it comes to toppings! You can try:

  • Diced avocado
  • Green onions
  • Sliced jalapenos – for a spicy kick!
  • Tortilla strips – a great way to add some crunch!
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Sliced black olives

What To Do With Leftovers – Storing & ReHeating Instructions

This chicken pasta recipe can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

To Reheat:

  • Place in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle some water on top so the pasta doesn’t dry out (this is the key to reviving pasta)!
  • Microwave on HIGH for 2-3 minutes, stirring every one minute, until warmed through.

How To Freeze Chicken Fajita Pasta

This chicken fajita pasta will freeze well once cooled completely.

Transfer to a large airtight container (with a bit of room at the top due to expansion), label, date and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and follow the reheating instructions above.

easy chicken pasta recipe in black bowl

Recipe Tips:

  • Saute the peppers and onions first, remove from the Instant Pot and then add back in at the end. I don’t recommend pressure cooking the peppers and onions with the pasta and chicken as they tend to get mushy. Adding the vegetables in at the end keeps their texture and integrity.
  • Make sure to keep the chicken pieces similar in size, roughly 1-inch pieces. When the chicken pieces are all the same size, they fully cook at the same time.
  • Store-bought Taco seasoning is a good substitute for those days when you’re short on time. Out of the many brands on supermarket shelves, I really enjoy Trader Joe’s brand.
  • Follow the Rule of Thumb for cooking pasta in the Instant Pot (see Notes in the recipe card below). I delve deep into the subject in my Basil Pesto pasta. But for a quick lesson, take the lowest cooking time of 10 minutes (penne has a cook time of 10-13 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes. This will produce a penne that is al dente. For more tender pasta, simply divide the lowest time in half.
  • Make sure to perform an Intermittent Pressure Release (see Notes in the recipe card below). To do so, simply release the pressure in bursts. Press down (Ultra) or rotate the pressure knob (Duo) gently to release pressure 1-2 seconds at a time, then stop. Repeat this until most of the pressure has released and its intensity has gone down. Then do a full release of pressure. At this point, nothing should squirt out of the knob.
  • Wash the lid and clean the pressure valve of the Instant Pot after cooking the pasta. Since the pasta starch and scum may have caused a blockage in the Instant Pot, this could affect the next cooking cycle. Make sure to wash it out with warm, soapy water.

More Instant Pot Pasta Recipes From My Kitchen

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chicken fajita pasta in black bowl

Chicken Fajita Pasta in Instant Pot

This Chicken Fajita Pasta is an easy, Mexican spiced chicken pasta recipe ready in under 30 minutes in one-pot – the Instant Pot, of course!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 622kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp
  • ½ red bell pepper sliced (½ cup)
  • ½ green bell pepper sliced (½ cup)
  • 1 medium onion sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oz Penne Pasta
  • 1 lb. chicken thighs or breast, fat trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup salsa

Spices (or use 2 1/2 tbsp Taco seasoning)

For Finishing

  • 1 cup shredded cheese Mexican blend
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Preheat the cooker by selecting Saute. Wait 30 seconds and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, sliced peppers and onions. Saute 2-3 minutes, until they soften. Cancel Saute. Remove onions and peppers and keep aside for later.
  • Add water, 1 teaspoon olive oil and all the spices to the pot. Give it a stir. Add pasta and push it down under the liquid.
  • Spread the chicken pieces all over the pasta. Spread the salsa over all over the chicken. Don't stir and close the lid.
  • Pressure cook at high pressure for 4 minutes, followed by a quick pressure release as per your cooker instructions (see notes for pasta cooking and pressure releasing instructions).
  • Open the lid after the pin drops. Add the sautéed peppers and onions to the pot and give it a stir.
  • Stir in the cheese. Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

Video

Notes & Recipe Tips

How To Cook Pasta In Instant Pot/Pasta Cooking Times:

Since different pasta shapes require different cook times, here is what works for me:
half the lower number in the suggested cook time on the box, and subtract 1 minute from that. So, if a box suggests the cooking time as 10-11 minutes, I cook it for 4 minutes in the Instant Pot (10/2=5; 5-1=4).
This produces pasta that is al dente, or firm to the tooth. For a softer and more tender pasta, simply divide the lower number in half.
By following the above rule of thumb, here a few shaped, short-grain pastas and their respective cooking times in the Instant Pot:
  • Penne: Penne pasta has a cook time of 10-13 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Rigatoni: Rigatoni pasta has a cook time of 10-15 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes
  • Fusilli: Fusilli pasta has a cook time of 10-13 minutes. Take the lowest time (10 minutes), divide in half (4 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes

How To Release Pressure When Cooking Pasta – Intermittent Quick Release:

Because of the starchy cooking water in pasta, it creates a big mess after a quick release when it sprays out of the pressure knob.
To avoid this, I release the pressure in bursts. Which means, I press down (Ultra) or rotate (Duo) the pressure knob gently to release pressure 1-2 seconds at a time, then stop. I repeat this until most of the pressure has released and its intensity has gone down.
After that, when I do a full release of pressure, nothing squirts out of the knob.

Chicken Fajita Pasta on the Stovetop:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers and onions for 2-3 minutes. Remove and keep aside for maintaining their shape and crunch.
  2. Add water, remaining olive oil, spices and stir. Bring it to a simmer, add the pasta and push down under the liquid. Note: You may need an additional 1/2-3/4 cup liquid for the stovetop version in order for the pasta to be fully submerged.
  3. Spread the chicken over the pasta, then pour the salsa over the chicken. Don’t stir.
  4. Cover with a tight lid and cook for 10-12 minutes (or as pasta package instructions), stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add the sautéed peppers and onions, stir in the cheese, garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

Recipe Tips:

  • Saute the peppers and onions first, remove from the Instant Pot and then add back in at the end. I don’t recommend pressure cooking the peppers and onions with the pasta and chicken as they tend to get mushy. Adding the vegetables in at the end keeps their texture and integrity.
  • Make sure to keep the chicken pieces similar in size, roughly 1-inch pieces. When the chicken pieces are all the same size, they fully cook at the same time.
  • Store-bought Taco seasoning is a good substitute for those days when you’re short on time. Out of the many brands on supermarket shelves, I really enjoy…
  • Follow the Rule of Thumb for cooking pasta in the Instant Pot (see Notes above). I delve deep into the subject in my Basil Pesto pasta. But for a quick lesson, take the lowest cooking time of 10 minutes (penne has a cook time of 10-13 minutes), divide in half (5 minutes) and subtract 1 minute = 4 minutes. This will produce a penne that is al dente. For more tender pasta, simply divide the lowest time in half.
  • Make sure to perform an Intermittent Pressure Release (see Notes above). To do so, simply release the pressure in bursts. Press down (Ultra) or rotate the pressure knob (Duo) gently to release pressure 1-2 seconds at a time, then stop. Repeat this until most of the pressure has released and its intensity has gone down. Then do a full release of pressure. At this point, nothing should squirt out of the knob.
  • Wash the lid and clean the pressure valve of the Instant Pot after cooking the pasta. Since the pasta starch and scum may have caused a blockage in the Instant Pot, this could affect the next cooking cycle. Make sure to wash it out with warm, soapy water.
 
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 622kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 133mg | Sodium: 1349mg | Potassium: 724mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2059IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 203mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mexican
Keyword: chicken fajita pasta, chicken fajita pasta recipe, instant pot chicken fajita pasta
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HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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