I absolutely love zesty pasta with lemon, so I’m excited to share this simple pasta dinner idea with you: lemon chicken pasta with kale!
It’s so easy to throw together, has a bright flavor, and is packed with veggies. Shredded rotisserie chicken adds protein without any extra work – but you can leave it out if preferred.
This pasta recipe is so versatile and perfect for busy weeknights.
Lemon & Kale Pasta with Shredded Chicken
During the week, I’m all about simple yet healthy recipes that don’t take a lot of time to make, but also don’t skimp on the flavor. This lemon kale pasta with shredded chicken is exactly what I’m talking about!
You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make it, and you can easily use whatever you have on hand. If you’re vegetarian or don’t have any chicken, just leave it out or replace it with another protein source like chickpeas.
Don’t have kale? Use spinach, swiss chard, cooked broccoli, or any other green or cruciferous veggie.
The sauce is made up of simple yet delicious ingredients, too: just garlic, lemon zest/juice, grated parmesan cheese, and some reserved pasta water for the right consistency.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this lemon kale pasta:
- shredded chicken (I like using a rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken here to save time, but you can definitely roast or pan-fry the chicken while you boil the pasta if you want! Feel free to leave this out if you want to keep this recipe vegetarian.)
- pasta (I love whole wheat penne here, but any kind of pasta should work! You can easily make this recipe gluten free by using chickpea or quinoa pasta or another type of gluten free pasta.)
- lemons (You’ll need lemon zest and fresh lemon juice here – both are a must as they add a ton of flavor.)
- kale (Or spinach, swiss chard, etc.)
- cherry tomatoes
- grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil
Looking for more tasty pasta recipes? Here are some of my favorite ways to create mix & match pasta meals!
How to Make Lemon Chicken Pasta
To make this pasta dish, start by cooking the chicken (if not using pre-cooked chicken). You can cook it any way you like, such as baking it, boiling it, or cooking it in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. (Here’s how to cook frozen chicken breasts in an Instant Pot). Let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Next, bring water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. (When draining the pasta, be sure to reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water for making the sauce later.)
Meanwhile, remove stems from kale and chop the leaves (only the leaves will go into the dish – the stems are too hard and bitter to eat). Shred the chicken with two forks.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.
Add two cloves of grated or minced garlic to the pan, plus the chopped kale and cherry tomatoes. Cook until the kale is wilted and tomatoes have softened.
Add the zest and juice of one lemon, two cups of shredded chicken, the cooked pasta, and about half a cup of the reserved pasta water.
Stir to combine, then let simmer until the sauce is your desired thickness.
Once ready, remove from heat and serve with grated parmesan cheese. If you want to add a little spice, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top!
To store this lemon pasta, place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave.
Here are some tips to make sure this recipe comes out perfectly:
- Avoid overcooking the pasta, especially if you plan to have leftovers. Nobody likes soggy pasta! Follow the instructions on the pasta package that say how to cook it ‘al dente’.
- If cooking the chicken yourself, avoid overcooking it (overcooked chicken gets really dry and not delicious). I highly recommend using a meat thermometer, no matter how you decide to cook it. Also, make sure to let it rest for 5-10 minutes once you remove it from the heat. If you shred/slice it too early, a lot of the juices will run out.
- Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water when draining the pasta. This helps make the sauce the right consistency; regular water will be too runny.
- Don’t skip the lemon! It adds essential flavor and really brightens the dish.
What to Serve With Lemon & Kale Pasta
This chicken pasta recipe is great on its own, or serve it with your favorite side dishes! Here are a few ideas:
- Vegan Kale Caesar Salad
- Oven Roasted Zucchini and Squash
- Baked Portobello Mushrooms with Feta
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Sauteed String Beans with Garlic & Lemon
This is definitely a favorite weeknight dish for us, and I hope it becomes a new favorite for you, too! You can easily switch it up with different veggies, types of pasta, or meat (like ground chicken or ground turkey). Enjoy! 🙂
More easy & delicious pasta recipes to try:
- Ground Turkey Pasta with Tomato Garlic Sauce
- Veggie Pesto Pasta with Broccoli
- Chicken Sausage Pasta with Sage Butter Sauce
- Healthy Pasta Dinner Ideas (Mix & Match)
- Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
And if you end up with extra chicken, check out this post with 11 ways to eat rotisserie chicken!
- 1 16-oz box whole wheat penne (or pasta of choice)
- 2 gloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch kale leaves, chopped (stems removed)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 lemon, zested & juiced
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (pre-cooked)
- grated parmesan cheese, to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water when draining.
- Heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic, chopped kale, and cherry tomatoes. Cook until the kale is wilted and tomatoes have softened.
- Add the lemon zest and juice, shredded chicken, cooked pasta, and 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Stir to combine and let simmer briefly to thicken the sauce if desired. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.
*Feel free to switch up the vegetables here. Spinach or swiss chard would work in place of kale. Or, use cooked broccoli or cauliflower instead.