I'll be the first to admit that I've said some less-than-kind things about chicken breast in the past. I stand by a lot of them, too—chicken breast is often dry, bland, or just boring. But chicken breasts are also versatile, affordable, and incredibly popular, and when treated right they are far more delicious than I've sometimes given them credit for.
If you're skeptical, we've got 26 recipes to prove just how tasty chicken breast can be. Think pan-roasted chicken with a bourbon-mustard pan sauce, the ultimate chicken salad, and fried chicken cutlets perfect for your next weeknight dinner (check out this post for tips on how to turn breasts into cutlets).
Pan-roasted chicken breasts make for a weeknight dinner that's as elegant as it is easy. To cook the chicken all you have to do is sear the skin, flip the breasts over, and then finish in the oven until the meat hits 150°F. While the chicken rests you can make a pan sauce—here we use white wine and fines herbes.
This recipe uses the same technique for the chicken, but the sauce is flavored with bourbon, whole grain mustard, lemon juice, and parsley. The secret to getting a thick, glossy, restaurant-quality pan sauce at home is to fortify the chicken broth with powdered gelatin, which helps emulsify the butter and water.
At their worst, grilled chicken breasts have a consistency somewhere between cardboard and shoe leather. But grill them properly and it's a whole different story—these chicken breasts are juicy and flavorful. A big problem with grilling chicken breasts is their uneven size—pounding them to a uniform thickness makes them much easier to cook.
Chicken breasts have a lot of flavor if you grill them right, but that doesn't mean adding a little more is a bad idea. Here we enhance the chicken with a loose rosemary, garlic, and lemon vinaigrette that we use as both a marinade and a sauce. Grill the chicken as soon as you coat it with the marinade so that it doesn't break down and turn mushy.
Leftover grilled chicken doesn't exactly reheat well, so you need to get creative with it. Massaging it with olive oil and lemon juice and mixing it with tahini is a great way to make it taste like new. This salad needs freshness and crunch, so we also mix in cabbage, red onion, and a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs.
While you can cook tender chicken breast on the stove or grill, for the ultimate in juiciness you can't beat sous vide—the precise level of temperature control allows for textures impossible with conventional cooking methods. You can finish the sous vide breast by searing it on the stove, or you can use it in the recipe below (which is my favorite way to use sous vide chicken breast).
Cooked sous vide at 150°F, chicken breast takes on a juicy, slightly stringy texture perfect for chicken salad. Cooking sous vide also gives you the chance to add extra flavor—we like to throw lemon and tarragon into the cooking bag. As for the dressing, we stay classic with homemade mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and aromatics.
Here we use sous vide chicken breast to make a Japanese-inspired chicken salad dressed with miso paste, mirin, Japanese mustard, and shichimi togarashi. In addition to the dressing we mix in buttery avocado and nutty sautéed corn. Fun fact: you don't actually need a skillet to brown and sweeten corn—you can do it in the microwave!
Our version of "bang bang" chicken is decidedly less violent than the classic—thanks to the magic of sous vide the chicken is plenty of tender even without pounding it. We use the energy saved on the chicken to crush Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, sesame, and chili oil with a mortar and pestle to make the sauce.
If you don't have a sous vide circulator (or a beer cooler), poaching is your best bet for tender, gently-cooked chicken. While most poaching recipes have you start with simmering water, we prefer to start the meat in cold water and gradually bring it to temperature. Once poached, slice the breast and dress it with the watercress and miso vinaigrette.
Breaded fried chicken cutlets might sound like a project, but this recipe is plenty easy for a weeknight. Start with chicken breasts cut and pounded into thin cutlets, dredge them in flour, then dip them in beaten eggs and coat with a mixture of panko and Parmesan before frying. You can cook the cutlets in vegetable oil, but clarified butter gives them a wonderfully rich, nutty flavor.
If you're not going to fry your chicken cutlets in clarified butter, the next best thing is to serve them with a buttery sauce. The sauce for chicken piccata fits the bill perfectly—we make it with white wine, capers, and plenty of butter. Simmer the sauce down just enough and it will take on a wonderfully creamy consistency. It'll take some practice, but if it breaks you can always whisk in a splash of water to bring it back together.
Our version of chicken katsu isn't too different from our basic Western fried cutlets, but we salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours—so the cooked cutlets will retain more moisture—and we skip the Parmesan in the breading. Don't forget to serve the chicken with plenty of tonkatsu sauce.
Whenever I make katsu I'm sure to fry up a couple of extra cutlets so that I can make katsudon the next day. The dish is made by simmering katsu with eggs in a soy-dashi broth and serving it all over rice. Soggy fried food might sound unappealing, but the breading soaks up tons of flavor from the broth.
This Italian-American classic starts with chicken breasts dredged lightly in flour and browned in a pan, which are then served with a pan sauce made with Marsala wine, sautéed mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. As with our earlier pan sauces, this one gets its glaze-like consistency from chicken stock fortified with powdered gelatin.
One of the best ways to make chicken breasts more interesting is to butterfly them and wrap them around flavorful fillings. In this queso fundido–inspired recipe that means a mixture of chorizo, jalapeño, and onion (plus a rich cheese sauce on top). Want some more ideas? Check out our variations stuffed with andouille and rice, fig and manchego, and mushroom duxelles.
Chicken cordon bleu is a relic of another culinary era, but here we give it new life as a party-friendly appetizer. Like the classic, this dip is made with chicken, Swiss cheese, and ham—the less traditional addition of cream cheese makes it more, well, dippable. Don't be tempted to open the slow cooker early or else you risk drying out the chicken.
If you love Peruvian-style grilled chicken but all you've got is a package of chicken breasts, this is the sandwich for you. The breasts spend a little time in a flavorful marinade that includes a bunch of zippy garlic, earthy cumin, smoky paprika, and good grind of black pepper and then get thrown on the grill. When they're done, they get stuffed in a bun with crisp lettuce, creamy avocado, and a healthy smear of that green sauce that everyone loves so much.
While we'd normally use thigh meat for fried chicken, Chick-Fil-A makes their iconic sandwiches with breasts. The meat comes out of the fryer remarkably moist because it's brined for a full six hours, which makes it almost disconcertingly juicy. After the brine the chicken is ready to bread, fry, and serve on a buttered bun with pickle slices.
Chicken Parmesan is an Italian-American dish, but we give it a distinctly Southern touch by soaking the meat in a buttermilk brine. We coat the chicken in a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese before frying and finish with mozzarella, more Parm, and tomato sauce.
To make traditional chicken tinga you need to track down fresh Mexican chorizo, which isn't always easy to do in the US. This recipe gets around that by omitting the chorizo and flavoring the chicken with browned vegetables, aromatics, and smoky chipotle chilies. While we're bucking tradition, try adding a few teaspoons of fish sauce at the end to boost the savoriness.
"Fusion" is something of a dirty word in the culinary community, but this Indian-inspired burrito is delicious no matter what you call it. To make it, stuff a tortilla with chicken vindaloo, basmati rice, paneer, and fresh tomato and cilantro. Make a big batch—they freeze and reheat wonderfully.
Nanbansu is a sweet and sour Japanese sauce made with made with soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, and sugar. While it's often served alongside fried chicken, here it acts as an excellent marinade for yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).
To make this Sichuan kung pao chicken, we first marinate the chicken breast with salt, soy sauce, and cornstarch. The salt and soy sauce permeate the meat, and the cornstarch helps ensure it stays moist during cooking. Blooming chiles and Sichuan peppercorns in hot oil before adding the chicken gives the entire dish its signature ma-la (hot and numbing) effect.
Classic chicken saltimbocca is one of the great dishes, but you might not be quite as tempted to make it in the warmer months, when all you really want to do is barbecue and enjoy the weather. With that in mind, this recipe goes another direction. Cubes of chicken are marinated in a white wine mixture, then threaded onto skewers with peaches and prosciutto. The skewers are grilled until lightly charred and golden, then served with a dipping sauce made from the reduced marinade.
These grilled chicken skewers only call for a few ingredients, but they pack a powerfully flavorful punch. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, and tarragon. The honey chars and caramelizes on the grill, while the tarragon and lemon juice keep the chicken tasting fresh and bright.
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