Chicken pasta is a delicious and comforting meal that is usually made with a creamy sauce. However, you can still make tasty chicken pasta dishes without using cream. Cream adds richness and body to pasta sauces but there are plenty of alternatives that can be used to make a sauce creamy and smooth without the dairy.
Making chicken pasta without cream is easy to do. You can use chicken broth or stock as the base and add different ingredients like milk, yogurt, pureed vegetables, or even mascarpone cheese to give your pasta sauce a creamy texture. With the right ingredients and techniques, you can make a luxurious, velvety pasta sauce without cream that is rich, flavourful and satisfying.
Here are some tips on how to make chicken pasta without cream so you can enjoy this meal while avoiding dairy:
Use Chicken Broth or Stock as The Base
The key to making a tasty cream-free pasta sauce is to start with a richly flavored chicken broth or stock. This provides a flavorful foundation and natural thickness to the sauce.
Make your own chicken stock by simmering a whole chicken carcass or parts like wings, legs and back in water with aromatic veggies like carrots, onions and celery. Cook for 1-2 hours then strain the broth. You can also use low sodium or homemade chicken broth.
The chicken broth provides a savory flavor and body that makes up for the lack of creaminess from dairy.
Add Milk or Non-Dairy Milk
For a creamier texture without using cream, add milk to the chicken broth base of your pasta sauce. Milk has natural thickness and fat that mimics the richness of heavy cream. Whole milk works best but you can use 2%, 1% or even non-dairy milks like soy, almond or oat milk.
Start by making a simple sauce with chicken broth, garlic, herbs and seasonings. Then stir in about 1 cup of milk per 1 cup of chicken broth and let it simmer until thickened. The milk gives the sauce a luxurious silkiness just like cream would.
Puree Cooked Vegetables
Pureeing cooked vegetables is an easy way to lend body and creaminess to pasta sauce without cream. Vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, carrots and spinach become smooth and creamy when pureed.
Cook vegetables until very soft then puree them in a blender with some of the chicken broth. Add the puree back to the pasta sauce pot along with any remaining solids. This gives a thick, velvety texture while adding nutrients.
Some good veggies to puree are:
- Spinach or kale
- Butternut squash
Use Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is naturally thick and tangy, making it an ideal dairy-free alternative to heavy cream in pasta sauce. The yogurt gives the sauce a rich, creamy consistency while adding protein.
Stir a few large spoonfuls of plain full fat Greek yogurt into the hot pasta sauce right at the end of cooking. You can also blend the yogurt first with seasonings like garlic and lemon for more flavor.
Let the sauce simmer briefly after adding yogurt so it can thicken, but don’t boil or it may curdle. Greek yogurtcombined with chicken broth gives pasta sauce an indulgent texture reminiscent of Alfredo.
Add Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that can be used to make pasta sauce creamy and lush. Unlike cream, mascarpone won’t curdle or separate when simmered.
Stir mascarpone into the hot pasta sauce at the end of cooking until smooth and well incorporated. Just a few tablespoons of mascarpone will make the sauce richer without overpowering the other flavors.
The cheese melts into the sauce while adding a subtle sweetness and tang. Mascarpone is the perfect way to mimic the velvety thickness of heavy cream without using actual cream.
Finish with Cream Cheese
Here’s a simple trick for giving pasta sauce an ultra creamy finish – stir in a spoonful or two of room temperature cream cheese right before tossing with the cooked pasta.
The cream cheese adds lush texture and body to the sauce, similar to how heavy cream would. Just a small amount is enough to make the sauce creamy and coat the noodles.
Make sure the cream cheese has softened to room temperature first so it melts smoothly into the hot pasta sauce without clumping. Philadelphia cream cheese works great for this purpose.
Use Cashew Cream
For a vegan and dairy-free pasta sauce, cashew cream is the perfect substitute for heavy cream. Cashews are blended with water to make a rich, velvety cream.
Simmer raw cashews in water then drain and transfer to a blender. Blend until completely smooth, adding more water until you have a thick cream. Stir the cashew cream into pasta sauces at the end of cooking for instant creaminess.
You can also add seasonings like garlic, lemon juice or herbs to the cashew cream for extra flavor. The natural richness of cashews gives the same luxurious texture and mouthfeel as dairy cream.
Include Creamy Cheeses
Some soft, creamy cheeses can be melted into pasta sauce for a silky texture without heavy cream. Try swiss, fontina, Havarti, fresh mozzarella or Brie.
Cube or shred the cheese and stir it into the hot pasta sauce at the end until melted and smooth. The cheese provides a creamy mouthfeel and richness to coat each piece of pasta.
For extra indulgence, make a quick cheese sauce with milk and shredded cheese. Melt the cheese into heated milk then add seasoning. This cheesy sauce can be mixed with the pasta and chicken to be ultra decadent.
Make a Roux
One way to add thickness and body to pasta sauce without cream is by making a simple roux. A roux is equal parts butter and flour cooked together.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in an equal amount of all-purpose flour and let cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. The roux will be a creamy paste that can thicken sauces beautifully.
Slowly whisk the hot pasta sauce into the roux. Let simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. The roux gives pasta sauce a silky texture reminiscent of cream-based sauces, without using any cream.
Add Nutritional Yeast
Surprisingly, nutritional yeast can make an ultra creamy pasta sauce without dairy or other substitutes. Nutritional yeast contains natural glutamates that enhance the other flavors.
Stir a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast into the finished pasta sauce and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. The sauce will develop a richer, creamier mouthfeel.
Nutritional yeast also adds a savory, cheesy flavor to pasta sauce. It gives a subtle creaminess while boosting the umami taste.
Use Coconut Milk
The richness of coconut milk is perfect for making creamy pasta sauce without dairy. The thick coconut milk has a similar velvety texture to heavy cream.
Substitute canned full-fat coconut milk for about half the amount of cream called for in pasta sauce recipes. You can also blend coconut milk with seasonings as the base for a sauce.
Simmer the coconut milk to allow it to thicken and reduce. The natural coconut flavor pairs deliciously with chicken. Just a small amount of coconut milk can make pasta sauce lusciously creamy.
Top with Dollops of Ricotta
Fresh ricotta cheese has a naturally creamy, thick texture that makes an excellent topping in place of cream sauce. Dollop spoonfuls of ricotta over hot pasta and chicken right before serving.
The heat wilts the ricotta into the other ingredients, coating them in creamy goodness. Choose fresh, full-fat ricotta for the best texture.
For extra flavor, mix herbs, lemon, garlic or other seasonings into the ricotta before dolloping onto the pasta. Topping chicken pasta with ricotta gives all the richness of an indulgent cream sauce.
|Chicken broth||1 cup per 1 cup cream|
|Milk||1 cup per 1 cup cream|
|Greek yogurt||1/4 to 1/2 cup per 1 cup cream|
|Pureed veggies||1/2 to 1 cup puree per 1 cup cream|
|Mascarpone||2 to 4 Tbsp per 1 cup cream|
|Cashew cream||1 cup cashew cream per 1 cup cream|
|Coconut milk||1/2 cup per 1 cup cream|
|Cream cheese||1 to 2 Tbsp per 1 cup cream|
|Ricotta cheese||Dollops as topping|
Here is a sample recipe for creamy chicken and spinach pasta made without heavy cream:
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 lb penne or other short pasta
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken pieces until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
- Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Return chicken to the skillet along with chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook penne pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Add spinach to the skillet and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in mascarpone and Parmesan.
- Add the drained pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water if needed to thin sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more Parmesan if desired.
This pasta dish uses a combination of techniques to achieve a silky, creamy sauce without heavy cream. The chicken broth provides savory flavor, the mascarpone adds richness, and the spinach gives body when wilted down. You can use any short pasta shape you prefer.
Tips for Making Creamy Chicken Pasta without Cream
– Use good quality, flavorful chicken broth as the base
– Puree softened veggies to add natural thickness
– Whisk a roux into the sauce for creamy texture
– Stir in Greek yogurt, milk or non-dairy milks at the end
– Add nutty, creamy cheeses like mascarpone or ricotta
– Finish with a swirl of room temperature cream cheese
– Simmer sauce briefly after adding cream cheese substitutes
– Cashew cream makes an indulgent vegan substitute for heavy cream
– Coconut milk adds subtle sweetness and richness
– Don’t boil sauce after adding dairy or non-dairy substitutes
– Thin sauce with starchy pasta water if needed for perfect consistency
What can be used instead of cream in Alfredo sauce?
Some good alternatives to use instead of heavy cream in Alfredo sauce include:
– Milk – Whole milk has a similar creamy texture to heavy cream. Use 1 cup milk per 1 cup cream.
– Greek Yogurt – Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup yogurt per cup of cream. Provides tangy flavor and thickness.
– Mascarpone or Ricotta Cheese – Adds creamy, cheesy richness when melted into sauce.
– Cashew Cream – Blend raw cashews with water for a dairy-free creaminess.
– Pureed Cauliflower or Potatoes – Puree cooked cauliflower or potatoes into the sauce for thickness.
Is cream necessary for pasta sauce?
No, cream is not essential for making tasty pasta sauce. There are many ways to make pasta sauce rich and creamy without using heavy cream, including:
– Using milk, non-dairy milks or broth for a flavorful base
– Pureeing vegetables like cauliflower or spinach
– Adding Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese for tang and richness
– Making a roux with butter and flour to thicken sauce
– Stirring in a small amount of cream cheese or mascarpone at the end
– Topping pasta with creamy soft cheeses like burrata or fresh mozzarella
With the right techniques and ingredients, it’s easy to make cream-free pasta just as luxurious and decadent as traditional cream sauces.
Can I use coconut milk instead of cream in pasta?
Yes, coconut milk can be an excellent substitute for heavy cream in pasta dishes. Full-fat canned coconut milk has a naturally creamy, velvety texture similar to heavy cream once heated.
Use about 1/2 cup coconut milk in place of 1 cup heavy cream in recipes. Simmer to allow the coconut milk to reduce and thicken. Add to pasta sauces at the end of cooking for rich creaminess and subtle coconut flavor.
Coconut milk thickens more than cream when heated. Thin with pasta cooking water or broth if needed for proper sauce consistency. Start with less coconut milk and adjust to taste.
Chicken pasta in creamy sauce is a classic, crave-worthy dinner. But you don’t need heavy cream to make a rich, decadent pasta dish. With chicken broth as the base and additions like milk, yogurt, pureed veggies, cream cheese or coconut milk, it’s easy to mimic the luxurious silky texture of heavy cream in pasta sauce.
Get creative with different dairy and non-dairy ingredients to make your creamless chicken pasta recipes unique. The possibilities are endless for turning out satisfying pasta in velvety, mouthwatering sauces without a drop of cream.