Prior to the match the Dons had gone eight games without a win, picking up only three points from a possible 24 in the process.
The Dons enjoyed the best of the chances in the first half with Zander Diamond somehow heading wide from five yards out before Michael Paton fired when clean through on goal.
However Pawlett struck with a powerful left-footed finish after 75 minutes to give the Dons their first win since February.
Aberdeen made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with bottom side Hamilton with attacker Nick Blackman and defender Nikola Vujadinovic stepping in to replace injured duo Andrew Considine and Scott Vernon.
Skipper Richie Foran missed out through suspension for Caley, who went into the match on the back of a 3-0 win over St Johnstone, while defender Chris Innes dropped to the bench and Chris Hogg missed out.
However the Highlanders welcomed back Ross Tokely and former Don Stuart Duff from bans with on-loan striker Alex MacDonald given a start.
In the absence of Aberdeen skipper Paul Hartley, Derek Young was given the captain's armband despite being told earlier this week that he will not be offered a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the season.
The hosts made a decent start but Chris Maguire passed up an early chance to test Ryan Esson in the Caley goal when he smashed a free-kick from 25 yards out straight into the wall.
The Dons carved out another opportunity after 10 minutes when Sone Aluko exchanged passes with Maguire before evading Lee Cox's sliding tackle but former Aberdeen stopper Esson was equal to the Nigerian international's curling effort.
Diamond should have broken the deadlock when he rose unmarked to meet a Maguire corner but the Dons defender somehow headed wide from five yards out.
The Dons spurned another fantastic chance after 28 minutes following a quick counter-attack from an Inverness corner which saw Maguire release Paton but the midfielder hurried his effort and shot harmlessly wide of the target.
And the Dons went even closer 10 minutes before the break when Maguire outmuscled Grant Munro and crashed a powerful volley from an acute angle off the post.
Inverness nearly made the perfect start to the second period when Diamond got caught under Kenny Gillet's searching pass but Adam Rooney's effort whistled past the post.
Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield comfortably gathered Munro's downward header as the visitors continued to search for the breakthrough.
The Dons stopper, who has been offered a new contract by manager Brown, then showed terrific agility to tip Shane Sutherland's powerful strike over the bar.
Aberdeen introduced Josh Magennis and Pawlett at the expense of the ineffective Blackman and Paton in a bid to stem the Caley pressure.
Caley's French full-back Gillet almost caught Langfield out with an ambitious strike from 40 yards which flew inches over the bar.
However it was the Dons who finally broke the deadlock after 75 minutes when Aluko threaded the ball through to Pawlett whose left-foot strike was too powerful for Esson.
The hosts almost scored a second in the closing stages following a surging run from Aluko but Magennis was unable to turn home the winger's cut-back.