This Coconut Lime Chicken & Pasta recipe is an easy way to add some variety to your weeknight meal rotation! If you’re tired of classic pasta sauces, this tangy coconut lime sauce will be a refreshing change of pace, and the whole meal comes together in about half an hour!
Want to try this dish with shrimp instead of chicken? Check out my Coconut Lime Shrimp & Pasta recipe!
Key Tips – Coconut Lime Chicken & Pasta
The cilantro is more than just a garnish.
- This dish is a combination of simple flavors, and the cilantro really adds a lot. It’s more than just a decorative garnish, so don’t skip it!
- For the cilantro-averse, consider subbing a similar herb like parley or Thai basil (I would choose Thai basil because I’m not a big fan of parsley myself). Another option is to bump up the flavor in the dish a bit by making it spicy, so the cilantro won’t be as missed (see note below).
Check out my guide on freezing fresh garlic to save some time in the kitchen.
- If you’re looking for the convenience of pre-minced garlic, but the flavor of fresh garlic, freezing your own minced garlic is a great option! You’ll be surprised to find that the flavor of frozen garlic is nearly as good as fresh, without the sticky prep and clean-up. Read more about it here: How to Freeze Garlic.
Add a little spice.
- I typically make this recipe as written, because I love the combination of simple flavors. But if you’re looking for a little kick, consider adding some diced jalapeño or serrano peppers. Add the diced peppers to the sauce as it simmers.
Tenderize your chicken with baking soda.
- This is a simple trick that will help you get delicious, tender chicken every time. In this recipe I find it especially useful because you don’t run the risk of overcooking your chicken during the simmering step.
- Instructions for tenderizing the chicken with baking soda are included directly in the recipe.
Use thin spaghetti, or similar.
- I’ve tested this recipe with a number of pastas, and thin spaghetti is my favorite. Some other good options are regular spaghetti, or capellini (angel hair). Thin spaghetti is basically halfway between the thickness of spaghetti and capellini.
- If you’re looking to make this recipe gluten-free, or just switch it up, you can also use thin rice noodles.
For extra lime flavor, add lime zest or serve with lime wedges on the side.
- I love to serve this recipe with extra lime wedges, so you can add some more tangy lime juice as you eat.
- If you want to boost the lime flavor, consider zesting your limes before juicing and including that in your sauce. Don’t over do it with the zest, this will also make the sauce more bitter.
Use coconut oil if you have it, but olive oil works great as well.
- If you already have coconut oil in your pantry, it’s fun to use that for the pan frying oil in this recipe. It’s not worth going out of your way for, so if you don’t have it on hand just use olive oil or veggie oil instead.
I don’t recommend substituting full fat coconut milk.
- I recommend using lite coconut milk (like this!) in this recipe. Full fat coconut milk has a different consistency, and this recipe isn’t optimized for it. If you do choose to use it, omit the cornstarch from the sauce.
Dietary Restrictions – Coconut Lime Chicken & Pasta
This dish is naturally Dairy-Free!
Make it Gluten-Free:
- Use gluten-free pasta. Chickpea pasta is my favorite GF variety! This dish also works well with thin rice noodles.
A Note On Serving Sizes
Serving sizes are a very personal thing, making it very difficult for me to select a serving size that suits everyone. While this is listed as 4 servings, some people would prefer to have more than one serving. I typically serve this dish as 2 large dinner portions. The pictures show one batch (four servings).
Coconut Lime Chicken & Pasta
- Fillet the chicken breast and pound the pieces to an even thickness. [Optionally, tenderize the chicken with baking soda. Dust the baking soda lightly over both sides of the fillets. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off all the baking soda and pat dry with paper towels.] Season the chicken all over with salt and black pepper.
- Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Begin boiling a large pot of salted water for the pasta as you prep other ingredients. Boil pasta per package instructions for al dente, then drain a set aside, keep covered. (I typically add the pasta to the water during step 5)
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken until each side has some browning and the chicken is cooked through or mostly cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a cutting board.
- Carefully wipe the skillet clean of excess oil, then add the coconut milk mixture. Once it’s boiling reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken back to the pan let simmer for ~5 minutes, occasionally spooning the sauce over the chicken. Remove the chicken back to the cutting board and ensure it’s cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest under foil, and continue to reduce the sauce until it’s thick enough that a spatula pushed through the sauce briefly leaves streaks in the pan, about 5 minutes. (Note, if you taste the sauce on its own, the lime flavor will be very strong, but this is mellowed when served with the pasta)
- Once the sauce is ready, remove from heat and reserve about 2 tbsp (for topping the chicken). Toss the pasta in the remainder of the sauce. Plate the pasta, and top with the chicken sliced into bite sized pieces. Top the chicken with the remaining sauce and garnish the whole dish with the cilantro.
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