This Crack Chicken Penne is super creamy, cheesy, loaded with bacon and all done in one pot! We’re talking chicken, pasta, cheese and bacon, you can’t go wrong!
The Best Crack Chicken Penne Recipe
What the heck is crack chicken anyways? Well apparently anything with ranch, bacon and cheese is deemed as crack. But there’s a reason it’s called crack and that is because the combo of these 3 ingredients really is addicting.
While these ingredients along with chicken make for a great dip, I thought I’d turn it into a one pot pasta recipe. Super easy to make and so delicious. Trust me, everyone will love this combo.
This is one of those recipes that is perfect for a busy weeknight. You could even fry the bacon over the weekend and keep it in the fridge. Don’t throw that bacon fat away, place it in a little airtight container and use it when you want to cook the chicken, because cooking your chicken in bacon fat will make it super flavorful.
Why You’ll Love This Crack Chicken Penne
- Super Easy! This simple recipe only requires 8 easy to find ingredients that all cook together to make this amazing one-pot pasta dish. This means very little cleanup making it a quick and easy meal.
- Tasty Crack Chicken! When combined, perfectly cooked chicken, crispy bacon, creamy cheese, and ranch seasoning create an unbelievably good pasta sauce that you won’t be able to stop eating.
- Family Favorite! Everyone loves cheesy chicken with bacon and pasta! Kids too! This recipe is sure to become one of your family’s most requested weeknight meals.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Bacon – Thick-cut bacon works best for this dish, but any kind of bacon will do.
- Chicken – I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. Boneless skinless chicken thighs are another option if you prefer.
- Ranch Seasoning Mix – A secret ingredient that makes this crack chicken penne! You can find packets of ranch seasoning mix in the salad dressing aisle or make your own homemade ranch dressing mix.
- Pasta – I like to use penne, but any type of bite-size pasta will work.
- Chicken Broth – I prefer to use a low sodium or a no sodium variety to control the level of added salt. You can also use vegetable broth to cook the noodles.
- Cream Cheese – Gives the pasta its creaminess and blends wonderfully with the ranch seasoning. My favorite brand is Philadelphia cream cheese, but any brand will work.
- Cheddar Cheese – For an even more creamy cheesy pasta in combination with the cream cheese, cheddar does the trick.
- Parsley – Used as a garnish and to add another layer of herby flavor.
How To Make Crack Chicken Penne
This one-pot crack chicken penne recipe is amazing! The noodles cook in the sauce with the meat making it super tasty with barely any cleanup or effort. Just follow these easy steps and you’ll have dinner on the table in no time!
Cook The Bacon
To get the dish started, cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven or pot making sure to get it nice and crispy. Then remove it from the pot and drain most of the bacon fat, but still leave about 1 tablespoon in the pot. This is important as it’s used to both flavor and cook the chicken in the next step.
Sear The Chicken And Add The Ranch
In the same pot with the reserved bacon fat, add the cut-up chicken pieces and cook them for about 3 minutes over medium-high heat or until they just start to brown. Then add the ranch seasoning to the pot and stir it together with the chicken making sure to coat each piece with the seasonings mix. At this point, the chicken will still be uncooked and pink inside, but this is okay because it will finish cooking with the other ingredients.
Add The Pasta And Cook
To cook the penne, just add it along with the chicken broth to the pot and stir. Next, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the penne for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to al dente. Yet, as the pasta cooks, you need to stir it occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is done there should still be about 3 and a half cups of liquid in the pot. If there isn’t, you’ll need to add more broth.
Make The Sauce
Now let’s get the crack chicken sauce going! Stir the cream cheese into the cooked pasta until most of it has melted. Next, toss the chopped bacon bits back into the pot and add about one and a half cups of the shredded cheddar cheese. Then stir the mixture again until it’s well combined and the cheese is nicely melted.
Finish The Dish
Once the creamy sauce is made, sprinkle the rest of the cheddar cheese over the pasta. Then cover the pot with a lid and cook the dish for about 30 seconds more before turning off the heat and removing the lid. The cheese should be completely melted by now. Another way to do this is to place the Dutch oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.
Garnish And Serve
- Just brown the chicken. Only sear the chicken in the bacon fat. Do not cook it all the way through. It will finish cooking with the pasta. If you fully cook it in the beginning it will be dry and overcooked.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Set a timer once the penne has been added to make sure that you don’t overcook it. Ideally, you should check the pasta about 1 to 2 minutes before it should be done.
- Make it spicy. You can easily make spicy crack chicken penne by adding red chili flakes or cayenne pepper in with the ranch seasoning mix.
What Types Of Pasta Can I Use?
I use penne pasta for this recipe. But you can use any type of pasta you like such as rotini, rigatoni, or farfalle. Even long noodles like spaghetti or linguine can work, but just know that they can clump together more easily when cooking. Gluten-free varieties are also another option too. However, do keep in mind that gluten-free pasta can have a different cooking time and result in a different texture than regular pasta.
Can You Freeze Crack Chicken Penne?
Absolutely and it will last up to 2 months in the freezer. To freeze it, simply transfer it to a buttered 9×13 inch baking dish. Wrap it tightly with aluminum foil then plastic wrap. I like to make sure that it won’t get freezer burn, so if you have a large heavy duty freezer bag use that instead.
To reheat, place the baking dish with the aluminum foil in the a preheat oven at 350°F, for about an hour.
More One Pot Chicken Recipes To Try:
- One Pot Chicken Mushroom Tetrazzini
- Chicken Rice Pilaf
- Chicken and Sausage Penne Jambalaya
- Lemon Chicken Rice Bake
- Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Gnocchi
- Skillet Chicken Satay
Looking for more recipes? Follow on…
Crack Chicken Penne
- 4 slices bacon thick cut
- 1 pound chicken breast boneless and skinless, cut into small bite size pieces
- 1 ounce ranch seasoning (1 packet or 2 tbsp)
- 8 ounces penne uncooked, or pasta of your choice
- 3½ cups chicken broth low sodium or no salt added
- 4 ounces cream cheese I used Philadelphia
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
- Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain some of the bacon fat, leaving about 1 tbsp of fat. Chop the bacon into bits.
- In the same pot add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes over medium-high heat, until it starts to brown. It will still be pink inside and uncooked. Add the ranch seasoning mix to the chicken and stir, making sure each chicken pieces is coated in the seasoning mix.
- Add the penne, chicken broth and stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover and cook for abut 15 to 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al dente or to your preference. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. There should still be some liquid in the pot when the pasta is done cooking. Add more broth if needed, though I found that 3 1/2 cups was perfect.
- Add the cream cheese to the pot and stir it in, until the sauce is creamy and most of the cream cheese has melted. Add the bacon back to the pot then add about 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese. Stir everything until well combined. The cheese should melt nicely.
- Sprinkle the remaining half cup of cheddar cheese over the top and cover the pot with the lid. Cook for about 30 seconds then turn off the heat and remove the lid. The cheese should have melted. Alternatively you can place the Dutch oven in the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown on top.
- Garnish with parsley and serve.
Instant Pot Crack Chicken Penne Instructions.
- Chop the bacon first into small pieces then set your Instant Pot to the sauté mode. It will default to 30 minutes. Add the bacon and fry until it starts to brown. Transfer the bacon to a plate and drain some of the fat if necessary. Add the chicken and sauté for 3 minutes until the chicken starts to brown. Add the ranch seasoning and stir to make sure the chicken is covered in the seasoning mix.
- Add the penne, chicken broth and stir.Please note you will only need about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of broth. Close the lid (follow the manufacturer’s guide for instructions on how to close the instant pot lid). Set the Instant Pot to the Poultry setting and set the timer to 5 minutes.
- Once the Instant Pot cycle is complete, wait until the natural release cycle is complete, should take about 10 minutes. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release, if in a rush. Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the instant pot.
- Stir in the cream cheese until it melts. Add the bacon and all of the cheese to the IP and stir everything together. Serve.
Slow Cooker Crack Chicken Penne Instructions
- Fry the bacon as instructed in step 1 above. Add the chicken, ranch seasoning mix, cream cheese and chicken broth to your slow cooker. Please note you will only need about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of broth.
- Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. Stir in the bacon and cheese and serve. Add the penne 30 minutes before the time is up.