Healthy Chicken Manicotti Recipe

It’s no secret that a warm cheesy plate of pasta practically beats all in terms of comfort meals. But what if you are on a diet? Can you still partake in dishes like chicken manicotti? Luckily, the answer is yes.

Luckily, this healthy chicken manicotti is both healthy and easy to make, with flavors that mimic your traditional plate of carb-filled pasta without the hit to your waistline.

With so many different cheeses, vegetables, herbs, spices, and proteins from which to choose, it’s ultimately up to you to decide which direction you take.

Taking convenience one step further, this healthy chicken manicotti recipe can be prepared on the stovetop, then assembled and cooked in the air fryer. In turn, it can be prepared ahead of time and heated up in the air fryer once you’re ready to eat. 

Using just a few simple ingredients, this recipe is also budget-friendly.

Here’s What You Need:

  • 8 Ounces of manicotti (approximately 12 shells), cooked and oiled
  • 1 Small red onion, chopped
  • 1 Cup fat-free ricotta cheese or cottage cheese for fewer calories
  • 1 Cup low-fat mozzarella
  • 8 Ounces chicken breast or 1 cup of frozen, chopped chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Large egg
  • 3 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Optional:

  • 1 C marinara or low-fat alfredo sauce for dipping
  • 2 Tbsp chives for topping
  • 1 C baked turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tsp black pepper

Here’s How To Make Healthy Air Fryer Manicotti

Step 1: Boil Your Manicotti

Fill a large pot with 8 cups of water, a dash of salt, and a tablespoon of oil. Bring to a boil. Put your manicotti in the boiling water and allow it to cook for 9-11 minutes or until it is al dente.

Once your noodles are cooked appropriately, empty your pot into a strainer and rinse your noodles with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Set aside for later.

Step 2: Prepare Your Chicken Breasts

Take 8 ounces of chicken and chop it into small, bite-sized cubes. Begin heating a skillet and add a tablespoon of oil. Once the pan is heated thoroughly, put the heat on medium and add your chopped onion and garlic.

Once your onion and garlic are translucent, add your chicken. Cook your chicken until golden brown, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Step 3: Create Your Filling

Grab a medium mixing bowl. Add your ricotta and half your mozzarella cheese (saving the other half for later), parsley, salt, Italian seasoning, cooled chicken, onion, garlic, large egg. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly blended.

Step 4: Fill Your Manicotti Shells

Once your manicotti shells and filling are cooled enough to handle, you can begin assembling your manicotti. Take a Ziploc bag and add in all of your fillings. Twist the end of the top of the bag as you would with an icing bag. Squeeze the contents into each shell.

Alternatively, a spoon can be used to fill your manicotti, although this method can be a bit on the messier side.

Step 5: Arrange Manicotti in Air Fryer Basket

Once you’ve got your manicotti filled, you can begin arranging it in your air fryer basket. Be sure to leave as much room between each shell as they will spread during cooking. 

Step 6: Cook Healthy Chicken Manicotti

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese evenly atop the pasta.

Place your air fryer basket in your air fryer and allow it to cook according to your air fryer model. On average, this means 10-15 minutes on 370 degrees.

Step 7: Serve Alone or with The Sauce of Your Choosing

Depending on dietary restrictions and preferences, this healthy chicken manicotti can be served alone or with the sauce of your choosing, from marinara to alfredo and everything in between.

Healthy Chicken Manicotti 

Optional: Top with chives, parmesan, or additional spices

Optional Modifications and Substitutions

With the base flavors provided by chicken, ricotta or cottage cheese, and manicotti pasta shells, it can be easy to modify and adapt this recipe to fit any number of dietary restrictions and guidelines. 

With so many different spice and herb varieties out there in addition to things like peppers, mushrooms, and more, this recipe can be used as a guide, adding in your own healthy flavors as you go. 

So, if the ingredients in this recipe aren’t what you’d prefer, try adding the following flavor helpers instead.

Herbs and Spices

  • Lemon pepper
  • Southwest seasoning
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Taco seasoning
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Dipping Sauces

  • Traditional marinara sauce
  • Fat-free alfredo sauce
  • Vodka sauce
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Butter and garlic

Alternative Recipe Ideas

Since you’ve gotten this far into the recipe, a healthy recipe is undoubtedly important to you. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten, or dairy-free, it is still possible to enjoy chicken manicotti without sacrificing the flavor.

Below, you will find a variety of alternative recipe ideas that will allow you to tweak the original recipe until it meets your dietary requirements.

Keto Chicken Manicotti

Are you on the keto diet? If so, you can still enjoy this recipe using thin slices of deli chicken or turkey, whole ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and cream cheese.

Using the same herbs and spices, freshly chopped spinach, and sugar-free marinara sauce, you get a hot, cheesy dish that tastes amazing and helps you remain in ketosis.

Cheeseless Manicotti

Also referred to as cannelloni, it is entirely possible to make a cheeseless manicotti that still boasts the creamy texture of traditional manicotti. All you need is some marinara sauce!

When preparing your filling, rather than depending on your ricotta to provide a creamy texture, marinara gets mixed with the filling instead, providing delicious traditional Italian flavors to those who’d rather leave out the cheese.

Vegan Manicotti

Similar to the previous option, you can also enjoy ‘chicken’ manicotti as a vegan with the right plant-based chicken options. 

First, you will begin with the same cheese substitutions from the cheese-free manicotti listed above. Second, you’ll replace the chicken breast with a meatless substitute. Finally, a vegan cheese topping is optional.

Spinach and Parmesan Manicotti

Because we’re keeping things on a healthy track, parmesan cheese is a great alternative to mozzarella. In fact, it is one of the healthier cheeses on the market. And it goes without saying that spinach is a super protein with an unbelievable array of nutrients.

Should you choose to go this route, you’ll want to let the spinach wilt at the tail end of cooking your chicken. Then add it into the filling with the rest of your ingredients. 

Add half a cup of parmesan to the filling as well, sprinkling the rest on top of the manicotti prior to cooking.

Taco Manicotti

Whether you believe it or not, traditional taco-related flavors can pair quite nicely with different kinds of pasta. From cumin and chili powder to store-bought taco seasoning packets and cilantro, a good blend can be mixed with your filling in place of the seasonings in this recipe for a unique take on manicotti.

If you wish to keep things healthy but would prefer a different protein, ground turkey works great with such flavors, recreating the feel of a traditional ground beef taco from childhood. 

Spicy Manicotti

Are you more prone to liking spicier flavors? If so, pasta is a great vehicle for enjoying those flavors, with the benefit of smooth, neutral ricotta that cools things down perfectly.

If you’d like to take things up a notch with your healthy chicken manicotti, try adding red pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili powder. Additionally, you could add cooked, chopped peppers for added texture.

Air Fryer Cooking Times

ModelCooking timeTemperature
Ninja Foodi12-14 Minutes370-Degrees
Philips Airfryer XXL (HD9630)10-15 Minutes350-Degrees
Nuwave Bravo XL Grill10 Minutes375-Degrees
Power XL 2&3 Qt Vortex10-12 Minutes400-Degrees
Cuisinart10-15 Minutes370-Degrees
Cosori8-10 Minutes400-Degrees
Breville Smart Oven15-17 Minutes350-Degrees

Can You Prepare This Recipe Ahead of Time?

This is a great recipe for preparing ahead of time. Whether you have a busy work schedule throughout the week or other responsibilities that prevent you from preparing a nutritious dinner each night, this recipe has you covered.

Simply prepare the manicotti according to your liking, place it in a shallow dish, and cover it with saran wrap or foil before placing it in the fridge. It can safely be stored for up to two days before cooking.

Can It Be Frozen and Stored For Future Use?

This recipe can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for up to three months. Just be sure to place it in an airtight, freezer-safe container to avoid freezer burn.

Other Tips and Tricks

Feel free to add in fresh herbs rather than using things like dried parsley for a fresher, more herbaceous final product.

When it comes time to make the filling, consider using an actual reusable pastry bag with tips. This way, you can fill your manicotti much easier with way less of a mess.

Healthy Chicken Manicotti 

Chicken Manicotti

Yield: 3
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Are you looking for a way to enjoy the traditional flavors of traditional chicken manicotti without the carbs and calories? Luckily, this healthy chicken manicotti recipe makes the most of traditional herbs and spices, manicotti and mozzarella cheese, and white meat chicken in one simple dish.

Using some of the healthier cheeses and no sauce, this chicken manicotti has big flavors but small amounts of carbs, calories, and fats.

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces of manicotti, cooked and oiled
  • 1 Small red onion, chopped
  • 1 Cup fat-free ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 1 Cup low-fat mozzarella
  • 8 Ounces or 1 cup white meat chicken
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Large egg
  • 3 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • Optional:
  • 1 C marinara or alfredo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chives for topping
  • 1 C baked turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with at least 8 cups of water and bring it to a boil with a dash of salt and a tbsp of oil. Strain your pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside
  2. Chop your chicken into bite-sized cubes. Heat a skillet with a tbsp of oil and add your onions and garlic, cooking until translucent. Add your chicken and cook on medium heat until browned
  3. Mix your ricotta or cottage cheese, half of the mozzarella, herbs, seasonings, chicken, and a large egg. Mix all the ingredients until they’re blended evenly
  4. Place your filling inside your Ziploc or pastry bag, squeezing gently to fill each manicotti shell
  5. Arrange manicotti in a single even layer inside your air fryer basket, leaving plenty of room in-between to allow for expansion
  6. Place your basket inside the air fryer and cook according to your air fryer model (an average of 15 minutes on 370 degrees)
  7. Serve manicotti alone or with a dipping sauce of your choosing

Notes

Are you cooking for a large family or group of health-conscious friends? This recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled without spending extra money.

Be sure not to overcook your manicotti as the noodles will become hard and quite unpleasant to chew.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 871Total Fat: 51gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 315mgSodium: 3953mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 72g
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