Chicken Carbonara

How to make pasta carbonara even better? Add chicken! It’s still easy and delicious, but even more hearty and satisfying!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—carbonara is one of my all-time favorite pastas. Why? Because it’s so easy, so yummy, and it’s just kind of magic how a few simple ingredients make such a delicious dish just by stirring them all together. (Here’s my recipe for basic Easy Spaghetti Carbonara.)

But sometimes I want something that’s a little less full-on pasta, you know? Something a little more meaty.

That’s when I turn to Chicken Carbonara. It’s everything I love about carbonara—but with meaty strips of chicken.

How to Make Carbonara

Pasta carbonara is hot, just-cooked pasta tossed with eggs, cheese, and crisped pancetta. The heat of the pasta cooks the eggs and melts the cheese, while the agitation of tossing turns them into a silky, creamy, pancetta-studded sauce.

So all you really have to do to make carbonara is a) crisp pancetta, b) boil pasta, and c) stir. It’s almost hard to believe, but it really is that simple.

How to Add the Chicken

While simplicity of is one of carbonara’s charms, it’s also a great foundation to build on. And since chicken is one of my favorite things, it’s one of my go-to building blocks.

(If you’re also a chicken fan, you might like my Lemon Chicken, my Chicken Paprikash, or best of all, my All New Chicken Cookbook.)

For chicken carbonara, I simply add sliced chicken to the skillet as I’m crisping my pancetta. So the chicken doesn’t just get cooked—it gets cooked in pancetta drippings. Even better!

You’ll notice, though, that I don’t add my pasta, eggs, and cheese and toss it all together in the skillet like some recipes do. It’s simply because if the skillet is too hot, it could curdle the eggs, scrambling them slightly and making a grainy sauce versus a smooth one. Instead, just like my basic carbonara, I scrape the skillet’s contents—drippings and all—into a bowl and set the bowl near my stovetop to keep it warm. A little before the pasta is done, I add the eggs and cheese. Then I add the drained pasta and it all gets tossed in that warm—but not hot—bowl.

Other Additions to Try

Have some shrimp on hand? Add it to the skillet with the pancetta instead of chicken (but maybe a couple of minutes later since it’ll cook quicker). Similarly, you could add other sliced meats, like beef or pork. Or even shredded, already-cooked meats (right at the end with the garlic, just to warm them up).

You can also add a generous handful of peas, which are relatively traditional in carbonara—just toss them into the pasta cooking water during the last couple of minutes and drain them with the pasta. And although it’s not traditional, you could even add other vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower.

Let me know how you like my Chicken Carbonara, and other additions you’ve tried.





Chicken Carbonara

  • Author: Jill Hough
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


How to make pasta carbonara even better? Add chicken! It’s still easy and delicious, but even more hearty and satisfying!


  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced (see note)
  • 12 oz. boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1/2-inch strips (cut longer strips in half)
  • 12 oz. spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 oz. finely shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 oz. finely shredded Pecorino cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crisped, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
  3. Scrape the pancetta mixture, including any fat that accumulated in the pan, into a large metal mixing bowl. Set the bowl near the stovetop to keep it warm.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheeses, and pepper. Add the mixture to the bowl with the pancetta.
  6. Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then immediately add the drained hot pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture.
  7. Add 1/3 cup of the pasta water and toss vigorously until the cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms, adding more water as desired. Add salt and more pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with additional cheese on the side.


Note: Pancetta is an Italian style of bacon available at the deli counter at most major supermarkets. Ask for slices about 1/4-inch thick so it’s easy to turn into 1/4-inch dice. Sometimes you’ll see it already packaged as thin slices, which you can cut into pieces. And sometimes you’ll see it packaged already diced and ready for carbonara. If you can’t find it, substitute regular bacon.