Healthier Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne

Have you ever heard of ‘Crack Chicken’? It is a very popular recipe these days that some would say is very addictive – hence the name ‘Crack Chicken’. My Healthier Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne is essentially the same only I use a few more veggies and a leaner back bacon to make it just a little bit healthier. Then mix in the pasta and you have a wonderfully delicious meal.

I made this version in the Instant Pot because I was wanting to make a one pot meal. I didn’t want to have all the dishes and needed a quick meal. The Instant Pot is my go to when I want quick meals with little clean up.

What makes this Recipe Healthier

When I was reading other recipes how to make ‘Crack Chicken’ I found them interesting however they seemed full of fat, had no vegetables at all and seemed very heavy. So my recipe I have added a few fresh veggies – Sweet peppers, mushrooms and onions. Just to give it that freshness of the veggies. I have even added steamed Broccoli in one time right at the end before serving and it was delicious as well.

Most recipes that I read used regular side bacon as their bacon of choice, but I did come across one that had used back bacon and as a proud Canadian that felt very fitting to use the leaner Canadian Back bacon, so I made that swap as well.

One more distinct change I made from the popular recipe is that I decided to ditch the cheddar cheese and use just cream cheese. This is something that you can choose to add if you wish, but I will tell you – from a cheese lover – don’t worry you wont miss it.

I like to use this Ranch Dressing mix from Tasty Kitchen Creations as it has lower sodium content and no additives or fillers.

Can You make Healthier Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne on Stovetop?

Yes absolutely you can Make the Healthier Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne on the Stovetop. Sauté the Chicken with the onions then add the peppers and mushrooms to sauté with them. Add the Ranch mix once the chicken is cooked through. Cook Pasta separately until al-dante (make sure it is still al-dante as it will still soak up some moisture from the sauce and become over cooked otherwise). Add the Cream cheese and 1 cup of water with bouillon mixed in with it. Melt the cheese. Once saucy add the pasta and cooked bacon and heat through.

Family Friendly meal

I have young kids and am always looking for recipes that are going to satisfy at least most of my family in one meal. Because lets be real its very rare you are going to satisfy all people at all meals. At least in my house anyway. But this meal happens to be one that satisfies most (one kid picks out the mushrooms and peppers) but otherwise everyone really enjoys this meal and that makes it a perfect meal for my home. I hope you find the same for your family.

Other Family Favorite Recipes:

Healthier Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne – Instant Pot version

Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne is amazing and delicious family friendly meal. Often known as Crack Chicken. By adding more veggies and using back bacon makes this one healthier than most. Using the Instant Pot means that this whole meal can be made in one pot, and that makes it easy to cook and to clean up!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Resting Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 476 kcal


  • Instant Pot


  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast bite size pieces
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Tbsp Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 8 slices back bacon bite size pieces
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • 1 small sweet peppers diced
  • 1 – 8oz pkg cream cheese softened
  • 1 lb. uncooked penne noodles or pasta of choice
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp Chicken Bouillon
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Pre heat the Instant Pot on sauté function. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sauté the mushrooms, peppers and back bacon. Once done remove from pot and set aside for later.
  • While still on sauté mode add the other Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions, chicken pieces and Ranch dressing mix. Stir together and cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.
  • Add the uncooked penne pasta to the pot. Stir Chicken bouillon into the water then add to the pot. Do not stir.
  • Put on the lid and place the release valve in the locked position. Set your pressure cooker to 4 minutes manual pressure. Once cooked use Quick release then open lid.
  • It will look soupy. Don't worry you didn't do anything wrong!!
  • Add the cream cheese to the pot and mix well – if the cream cheese isn't softened this can take some time or you can put the pot back onto sauté so it will melt the cream cheese faster (just remember to turn it back off once melted). Then add the cooked bacon, mushroom & pepper mixture back into the pot.
  • Let the dish rest in the pot for 10 min it will continue to thicken during this time and be ready to serve.
Keyword Cheesy Chicken Pasta, Cheesy Ranch Chicken Penne, Healthier Crack Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken Penne, One Pot Meal

I hope you enjoy this healthier version as much as me and my family do.


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