Time to get sassy, healthy Cajun Shrimp Pasta style! Whole wheat noodles, juicy shrimp, and veggies tossed in a lightly spicy, creamy sauce, this slimmed-down recipe is ready in 30 minutes and will have you dancing around your kitchen like you’re in downtown New Orleans.
This easy Cajun shrimp pasta recipe is inspired by a well-loved restaurant of my childhood, Chili’s.
Their Cajun shrimp pasta was always one of my go-to orders.
Spicy blackened shrimp cooked in a thick alfredo sauce, it was indulgent, heavy on the penne pasta, light on the veggies, and exactly that sort of thing that high school Erin craved.
Nowadays, I still love myself a rich, creamy plate of pasta now and then, but my expectations are higher.
- Typically, Cajun cream sauce is made of rich ingredients like butter and heavy cream.
- For this recipe, I opted to use nonfat milk, cornstarch, and light cream cheese to create a healthier but equally-delicious sauce.
With easy prep, crowd-pleasing flavor, and veggies in every bite, this version of Cajun shrimp pasta is one you can feel good about making on repeat.
5 Star Review
“This was absolutely delicious!!! I’ve never left a comment on a recipe before, but I just HAD to for this one.”— Joselyn —
How to Make Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta
My goal for this recipe was to make Cajun shrimp pasta tasty and better for you, without losing its indulgent appeal.
The luscious, creamy sauce adds decadence, and ingredients like whole wheat pasta, bell peppers, mushrooms, and shrimp bring a scrumptious, healthy balance.
- Shrimp. Quick-cooking, easy to eat, and tasty in a variety of dishes (everything from this pasta to spicy Bang Bang Shrimp to Healthy Shrimp Pad Thai), shrimp are also an excellent source of protein.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Trading out white pasta noodles for their whole-grain counterpart instantly boosts your intake of fiber, protein, and other nutrients.
- Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese. This is a creamy Cajun shrimp pasta no cream! Just four ounces of light cream cheese are all you need for a sauce that tastes thick and creamy like alfredo, for a fraction of the calories.
- Nonfat Milk. Making this a Cajun shrimp pasta with nonfat milk instead of a Cajun shrimp pasta with evaporated milk helps lighten things up.
- Bell Peppers. Crisp and colorful, bell peppers are a staple ingredient in Cajun cooking and make this pasta an all-in-one healthy dinner. This recipe leans more heavily on the veggies, so you’ll score bell peppers with every twirl of your fork.
- Mushrooms. OK FINE. You caught me. The original Chili’s version of this pasta does not contain mushrooms (and they are not traditional in the slightest) but they taste super delish in the Cajun shrimp pasta.
- Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes. A one-ingredient trick to make this Cajun shrimp pasta taste like Chili’s. I keep several of these cans in my pantry at all times to add instant flavor (and extra veggies!) to my meals.
- Cajun Seasoning. Cajun seasoning is a blend of flavorful Cajun spices and herbs such as smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, thyme, and oregano. It gives this pasta its signature flavor.
Note that Cajun seasoning contains salt, so depending upon how much you choose to add to this recipe (more seasoning = more spicy), you’ll want to adjust the amount of salt you add elsewhere accordingly. If you have concerns with sodium content, be sure to compare different Cajun seasoning brands.
- Cook the pasta.
- Toss the shrimp with Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Add the shrimp to a preheated large skillet with oil.
- Cook shrimp for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them to a plate.
- Saute the bell peppers with more Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add the tomatoes.
- Add part of the green onions. Remove the vegetables to the plate with the shrimp.
- Whisk the milk and cornstarch together.
- Pour the milk mixture into the skillet with butter, whisking until smooth. Add the cream cheese. Stir in the remaining Cajun seasoning.
- Return everything to the skillet.
- Toss to coat all the ingredients in the sauce. Top with green onions or chopped fresh parsley. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate pasta in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze pasta in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, cook the pasta and chop the vegetables. Store each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for making Cajun shrimp pasta.
- Whisk. This small whisk is easy to handle.
- Mixing Bowls. A set of mixing bowls is essential in every kitchen.
Frequently Asked Questions
As the recipe is written, this pasta has a kick but certainly won’t set off alarm bells if you are accustomed to spice. The creamy sauce helps to cool it down. You can also squeeze lemon juice over the top for some extra zip that balances the spice.
If you’d like the pasta hotter, feel free to add additional Cajun seasoning and/or cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes until it’s as spicy as you care to dare.
If you’re not into shrimp, you can replace the shrimp with sautéed bite-size pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. You can also omit the shrimp for a vegetarian version. Swap in extra mushrooms or peppers.
For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free noodles. I recommend rinsing them with water after they cook to keep them from becoming gummy.
Cajun Shrimp Pasta
- 8 ounces whole wheat linguine noodles or similar long noodles
- 1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined*
- 3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt divided, plus additional to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced and halved
- 1 medium orange or yellow bell pepper thinly sliced and halved
- 1 meduim green bell pepper thinly sliced and halved
- 8 ounces sliced baby bella (cremini) mushrooms sliced
- 1 small bunch green onions thinly sliced, divided
- 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes drained
- 1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 ounces light cream cheese softened to room temperature
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to the package instructions for al dente.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat.
- Once the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the shrimp.
- Cook just until they turn from gray to pink, are lightly firm, and fully cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook!) With a slotted spoon, immediately remove them to a large plate or large bowl. Reduce the skillet heat to medium.
- Heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the red, orange, and green bell peppers. Cook 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender and have given off their liquid, about 5 additional minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until most of their liquid has cooked off, about 3 minutes.
- Add two-thirds of the green onions. With a large spoon, scoop up the vegetables into the plate or bowl with the shrimp.
- In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until well combined.
- Grab a whisk and heat the final 1 tablespoon butter over medium. Pour in the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the cream cheese in small pieces. (I usually tear and drop it right in with my fingers.) Whisk constantly and bring the mixture to a steady (but not violent) simmer, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened, whisking all the while so that you have a smooth, creamy sauce. Stir in the final 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning.
- Return the vegetables and shrimp to the skillet. If there are a lot of juices that have collected in the bottom of the bowl, you can choose to add it if you want a thinner sauce or omit it if you prefer a thicker sauce. Drain the noodles and add them to the skillet.
- With a long pair of tongs, toss to fully combine and coat every bit with that yummy, creamy sauce. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with remaining green onions. Serve hot.
- *For the speediest possible prep, purchase peeled and deveined shrimp. (Easy-peel and deveined would also work.) I buy frozen and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Tails on or off is your preference.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze pasta in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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