This Blackened Chicken Mac and Cheese is an easy, 30-minute dinner! Tender noodles are tossed in a creamy homemade cheese sauce then topped with crispy bacon and perfectly charred, ultra flavorful chicken.
Full disclosure: this blackened chicken mac and cheese will probably be the reason you never want any other kind of mac and cheese again.
It’s deliciously cheesy, creamy, gooey, and just happens to have perfect blackened chicken to kick things up a notch. Oh, and also crispy pieces of bacon to top it off with a little extra texture and crunch.
Does mac and cheese get any better than that?
What is blackened chicken?
Blackened chicken is chicken that is covered in melted butter and a blend of Cajun seasonings, then seared in a hot skillet. The searing process allows the butter and spices to get charred without the actual chicken becoming burnt. The result is meat that is tender in the middle but that has a blackened crust on the outside.
What you need to make this recipe
- Bacon – cut into ¼-inch cubes and cooked until crispy.
- Butter – coats the outside of the chicken to help it cook and to help the seasonings stick.
- Blackening Seasoning – a blend of paprika, garlic, onion, and more to give the chicken so much sweet and spicy flavor.
- Chicken – you can use chicken breast or chicken thigh for this recipe.
- Pasta – you can use whatever pasta shape you like. I used rotini but you could also use penne, pasta shells, fusilli, etc. I recommend using a small pasta shape so it’s easy to mix.
- Butter, Flour, Heavy Cream, Milk, and Sharp Cheddar Cheese – makes up an ultra creamy, gooey cheese sauce.
- Frozen Peas – adds some color and a pop of texture.
- Scallions – for garnish, if desired.
How to make blackened chicken mac and cheese
Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy, then transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Heat the griddle or skillet over high heat until smoking. I recommend using a flat cast iron griddle and an outdoor grill.
Arrange melted butter in a bowl next to a dish with blackening spice. Coat the chicken in butter, then cover it in the spice.
When the griddle surface is smoking, turn on a fan for ventilation if you’re inside, then add the chicken. Cook for 5-7 minutes, turning as needed until all sides are blackened and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the griddle and cover while you prepare the mac and cheese.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the cream and milk. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
Toss the cheese sauce and the pasta together, then add the frozen peas and bacon. Serve topped with the blackened chicken and scallions.
What pasta to use
I used rotini but any smaller shape will work. I recommend using a smaller pasta shape like shells, penne, fusilli, etc. so that it’s easy to mix and incorporates well with the other ingredients.
What is the best cheese for mac and cheese?
Sharp cheddar is a classic and I love its flavor paired with the blackened chicken. However, you can really use any melty cheese your heart desires. Try it with gruyere, mozzarella, gouda, smoked gouda, Swiss, monterey jack, colby jack, you name it.
Does blackened chicken taste burnt?
Nope! Blackened chicken is the perfect balance between almost burnt and just really well done. Although it does appear burnt, the blackened crust is just the result of charred spices and cooked butter.
The char is only on the very surface of the chicken which creates a more intense flavor, but not a burnt one!
Tips, tricks, and notes for this recipe
- Slightly undercook the pasta. A pasta with a little bit of a bite stands up better next to the creamy sauce. I recommend cooking it al dente according to package directions.
- Shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheeses contain an anti-caking agent that can result in a slightly grainy texture when melted.
- Use low heat. You want to allow the cheese time to melt and incorporate with the milk and cream properly without burning.
- Cook outside. If you have the opportunity, this meal is best cooked outdoors or with your kitchen fan on. It gets a little bit smoky.
- If you want to add more veggies, this mac and cheese is delicious with sautéed onion, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.
How to store
The blackened chicken will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months. To reheat, microwave or warm on the stove until heated through.
The mac and cheese will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, microwave or warm on the stove with a splash of milk to thin, if necessary. I don’t recommend freezing it because the texture of the cheese sauce will be affected.
More mac and cheese recipes to try
- Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese
- Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese
- Spicy Sausage and Chipotle Mac and Cheese
If you’ve tried my Blackened Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe, or any other recipe on GirlCarnivore.com please don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know where you found it in the comments below. I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can also FOLLOW ME on Instagram @girlcarnivore as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
Blackened Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 10-12″ Cast Iron Skillet or other oven safe skillet
For the Crispy Bacon
- ¼ lbs bacon cut into ¼″ cubes
For the Chicken
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- ⅓ cup blackening seasoning
- 1 lbs chicken sliced thin and trimmed if needed
For the Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 lb pasta
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup frozen peas
- scallions sliced thin
Cook the Bacon
- Preheat a skilled over medium to medium-high heat.
- Cook bacon in skillet until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined place to drain.
Make the Blackened Chicken
- Heat griddle or skillet over high heat until smoking.
- Arrange melted butter in a bowl next to a dish with the blackening spice.
- Coat the chicken in butter, then cover in a liberal coating of the blackening spice.
- When the griddle surface is smoking, turn on a fan for ventilation and add the chicken. Reduce heat to medium-high if needed to prevent burning.
- Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning as needed until all sides are blackened and chicken is cooked through. Remove from griddle and cover while preparing the macaroni.
Boil the pasta
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to directions on box; Drain and set aside.
Make the Macaroni and cheese
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.
- Cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the cream and milk. Add the cheese and stir until melted through.
- Toss cheese sauce over pasta. Add the frozen peas and bacon.
Garnish and Serve
- Place heaping portions of macaroni and cheese on plate, top with chicken and garish with freshly sliced scallions.