60+ Healthy Chicken Breast Recipes
Healthy Chicken Breast Recipes
Boneless chicken breasts continue to balloon in size, from what was a standard 5 to 6 ounces each to nearly 8 ounces. While the meat is lean, that extra weight adds up: A 6-ounce breast has 182 calories and 4 grams of fat; an 8-ounce breast has 243 calories and 5 grams of fat. Trim off extra meat in ½-inch-thick strips, leaving the breast slightly bigger than your palm. Use trimmings in stir-fries, or bake into crispy breaded tenders. Individually portioned breasts tend to be smaller—Perdue Perfect Portions breasts weigh in at about 5 ounces each. Here, find 50 ways to take chicken breasts to the next level.
Pan-Frying: Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter-Garlic Tomato Sauce
Browned butter is the quick cook’s best-kept secret: Less than two minutes in the pan caramelizes the milk solids in butter for a fragrant, nutty note in any dish. Try not to chop the tomatoes too finely; you want them somewhat chunky so they’ll break down in the sauce faster, but you also want them to retain some shape. If your chicken breasts are larger than 6 ounces (some can be as big as 12 ounces), halve the two breasts horizontally instead of pounding them thin. Serve over a bed of whole-wheat couscous, whole-grain polenta, or brown rice.
Comfort Food: Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner
It doesn't get much easier, or more satisfying: a complete chicken dinner in one pan in half an hour. Lemon brightens this cozy winter meal, but the classic flavors are sure to elicit cries for a second helping any time of the year. This one-pan chicken dish is a whole meal in one skillet, but serve with a simple side salad to sneak in another serving of veggies. We call for tender haricots verts because they're quick cooking; traditional green beans likely won't be tender enough after the brief cooking time at the end. If that's all you have on hand, steam them first, and then add them to the pan for the final step.
Let us take meal planning off your plate. Get this recipe and thousands more with the Cooking Light Diet.
Pan-Frying: Perfect Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts
This is the perfect way to cook chicken breasts. If you crave juicy, flavorful chicken breasts, then follow this simple recipe. You'll end up with a golden brown platter of delicious chicken ready for the tasting. Use this recipe to shred over baked potatoes, make chicken salad, slice over fresh greens, or enjoy with classic sides such as haricot verts and roasted potatoes.
Grinding: Chicken Meatball and Vegetable Soup
Here’s a fun and comforting take on chicken soup. We use ground chicken and turn it into super-savory, Parmesan-flavored meatballs. Loads of sliced carrots dot the soup (somehow, most other chicken soups don’t have enough carrots), and big handfuls of baby spinach gently wilt into the broth. A finishing flourish of grated Parmesan cheese enriches every satisfying bowl.
Roasting: Maple-Mustard Roasted Chicken with Squash and Brussels Sprouts
We give the large bone-in breasts a head start in the oven so they will be perfectly cooked by the time the vegetables are done. This cut is also rather juicy; you’ll want to drain off the liquid from the pan before adding the vegetables so they can caramelize evenly. Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and acorn squash are at their absolute best when roasted. The trick is to cut them into even pieces with a maximum surface area (halves or cubes) so they can benefit from all the direct heat. A sprinkle of hazelnuts is a fine finishing touch, but you can skip it if you like.
Air-Frying: Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken
Much healthier, but with that irresistible “fried” taste and texture, this air fryer popcorn chicken was described by recipe testers as “super addicting!” Dredging the chicken bits in finely-crushed cornflakes add a nice crunch, plus they brown better in the air fryer than if you were to use flour. Don’t skip the powdered sugar, as it also helps brown the popcorn chicken pieces (and also balance the dried spices).
Roasting: Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken
The tangy marinade adds tenderness and flavor to everyday plain chicken breasts. These days, most chicken breasts are huge, so finding a 4- to 5-ounce breast is almost impossible. If you can find a 9- to 10-ounce breast, cut it in half lengthwise to get the right size—butchers in some markets can help with this. Make it with Skillet Green Beans with Blistered Corn and Tomatoes, pictured.
Instant Pot: Instant Pot Chicken Tacos
The meat in these Instant Pot chicken tacos is tender, juicy, and flavorful. We keep it on the bones while it cooks to help infuse more flavor into the lean chicken breast meat. The toppings add fresh brightness and make the tacos sing, so pile them on and feel free to add any other toppers you love. If you have any leftover chicken, add it to nachos, taco salad, or soups.
Roasting: Turmeric-Roasted Chicken with Farro
Turmeric abounds with natural medicinal properties. Curcumin, the bright yellow polyphenol compound found in the spice, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that promote weight loss, lower risk of heart disease, and improve blood sugar control. Here, we use turmeric to add warm, earthy notes to roasted chicken. The Greek yogurt acts as a barrier to lock in moisture while the chicken bakes. Roast the chicken and Brussels sprouts on the same pan for ease and convenience.
Marinating: Tandoori-Spiced Chicken
You shouldn't let chicken breasts marinate for hours. Chicken breasts are naturally tender, so marinating simply adds flavor. You don't need the brine of marinade to break down the protein. It's best to choose bold ingredients and avoid soaking the delicate meat in acidic liquids for too long—it may become stringy and tough.
Variations: If you like chile paste, try Thai Coconut Chicken. If you like hot sauce, try Buffalo Chicken. Instead of a salt-laden store-bought buffalo sauce, we make our own. It's just as flavorful but much better for your nutritional bottom line. If you like herbs, try Herbed Chicken. This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover herbs you have, too.
Comfort Food: Buffalo Chicken Panini
Spice up sandwich night with this recipe for a hearty and healthy chicken-filled panini. If you're a fan of spicy chicken wings, you're in luck. We make a homemade "wing sauce" with hot sauce, butter, and vinegar. After the chicken breast halves are cooked, they get tossed in the sauce for ultimate flavor impact. We didn't skip the all-important dipping sauce either. Cool down from the kick of the wing sauce with a sour cream-blue cheese spread on the sandwich. When all the pieces are complete, construct the sandwich, and then put it right back on the grill pan to make a simple panini. Cold bread just won't do.
Marinating: Chicken Fajitas
A marinade of dark Mexican beer (like Negra Modelo), soy sauce, and fresh lime juice gives these Chicken Fajitas a fresh kick of flavor. Dark Mexican beer is especially great in this marinade because it turns sweet and molasses-y when cooked. Chicken doesn't need a long marinade to soak up the flavors, so let the strips of chicken sit for an hour while you prepare the rest of your meal.
These healthy chicken fajitas can be prepared on the stovetop with a grill pan as directed, or outside over a charcoal or gas grill. If you've got the grill going, throw on some vegetables and a few ears of corn to complete your meal. Serve with flour tortillas, sautéed peppers and onions, and sliced jalapeño peppers.
Marinating: Hawaiian Chicken
Store-bought marinades are certainly convenient, but they're often loaded with sodium. Some have more than 900 milligrams of sodium in just two tablespoons. Smart cooks know that homemade marinades are the way to go. They're easy to whisk up and often require ingredients you already have on hand.
The pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, and ginger mixture for these marinated chicken breasts acts double duty as both a marinade and baste for the chicken. If you want extra flavor, don't toss the marinade once you're ready to cook the chicken. Instead, use it as a basting liquid as the chicken cooks. Any bacteria from the chicken in the marinade will be destroyed over the heat.
Pounding: Sautéed Chicken with Sage Browned Butter
For the time-crunched cook, pounding or slicing thick chicken breasts into thin cutlets is a smart way to reduce portion sizes and speed up cook time. Chicken cutlets cook in a flash and remain supremely tender and juicy. After cooking the chicken, use the tasty browned bits left behind in the pan as the base for a speedy sauce. For this recipe, butter, sage, shallots, and thyme make a luxurious pan sauce in under 5 minutes.
Variations: Switch up the pan sauce with Dijon mustard in these Chicken Cutlets with Creamy Dijon Sauce. Whipping cream blunts the bite of the tangy Dijon, but you'll still get plenty of kick. Soy sauce is a classic pantry staple, so if you have it on hand, try our Sweet and Sour Chicken instead. Use the heat of the pan to simmer petite cherry tomatoes and garlic for a fast and easy "hack" for fresh tomato sauce in this Chicken and Cherry Tomato Sauce.
Pounding: Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Once chicken breasts are finished cooking, don't wash the pan. The browned bits on the bottom of your skillet are flavor gold. For this dish, a simple pan sauce of pre-sliced mushrooms, dry white wine, shallots, and fresh thyme enlivens basic sautéed chicken breasts. This is comfort food eating at its richest. Mushrooms act like a sponge and soak up all the delicious flavors. Fresh thyme adds woodsy notes to the sauce. Rosemary or oregano would be a good substitute if you have either of those on hand. Serve the chicken breasts atop mashed potatoes and spoon the pan sauce over the chicken and spuds to complete the meal.
Stuffing: Pimiento Cheese Chicken
Instead of putting tangy pimento cheese spread between two pieces of bread, mix things up and stuff chicken breasts with it. The impressive-looking results of stuffed chicken breasts belie the ease of preparation. You can stuff them up to a day ahead, keep refrigerated, and then simply cook and serve.
Variations: Blue cheese is a classic stuffed chicken breast choice. When it's warmed, blue cheese turns fudgy and rich. Try it in Spinach and Blue Cheese Chicken. Goat cheese is a milder alternative to the pungent blue. It's especially tasty in Bacon and Goat Cheese Chicken. If you like feta cheese, try Mediterranean Chicken. We've partnered this salty, crumbly cheese with briny olives, fresh tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Pan-Frying: Five-Spice Chicken Breasts with Sesame-Orange Beans
This simple pan-seared chicken dinner comes together in just 20 minutes. Five-spice powder packs some serious aromatic punch; it's all you need to season the chicken breasts here. You can sub broccoli florets or chopped kale for the green beans.
Stuffing: Couscous-Stuffed Chicken
When it's cooked, couscous is fluffy but still chewy and firm. It's great for a simple side, an easy salad, or even stuffed in vegetables. In this Mediterranean-inspired chicken dish, create a mixture of couscous, feta cheese, kalamata olives, fresh herbs, and minced garlic. This combination would be delicious on its own, but go one more step and stuff it into chicken breasts for an easy 45-minute entrée fit for a special occasion. If you have leftover quinoa, bulgur, or farro, you can use them instead of the couscous. As a bonus, they're whole grain where couscous isn't. Serve with fresh sautéed green beans, pan-roasted broccolini, or blanched asparagus spears.
Pan Frying: Coconut Chicken Fingers
Pan-frying is an easy way to get crispy crusts on chicken breasts and tenders without unhealthy frying. You can use almost any combination of ingredients for pan-fried chicken. Keep this simple strategy in mind: Dip chicken in buttermilk to add a tangy flavor, and coat it with flour and nuts or other tasty breading ingredients. Then pan-fry it in a sensible amount of heart-healthy oil to create a crisp exterior.
Kids love the sweetness that the coconut adds to the coating of these Coconut Chicken Fingers. And, if your kids are allergic to wheat flour, note that this recipe uses rice flour instead.
Variations: If you like the woodsy flavor of pecans, try breading chicken tenders in ground pecans for this Pecan Chicken. If you have a bit of extra oatmeal but not enough for a bowl at breakfast, grind the oats and use them for Oatmeal-Crusted Chicken.
Grilling: Grilled Chicken Breasts with Satay Sauce
Turn this traditional appetizer into a main course by grilling the chicken breasts whole instead of skewering and spooning the sauce right on top instead of dipping. If you don’t have a grill pan, sear the chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done. Sriracha is available in most supermarkets; it has a vinegary, garlicky kick with a heat that’s less pronounced than other fresh chile sauces. Combine with canola mayo for a burger spread, add to a Bloody Mary, or combine with canola oil and fresh lime juice for a fantastic shrimp marinade.
Grilling: Mojo Grilled Chicken Breasts
The red onions develop a nice char on the grill, but they finish cooking and develop a depth and sweetness once left to steam. Drizzle any juices from the onion mixture over the grilled chicken. Fresh cilantro and zesty lime add a refreshing brightness to this light summer meal, perfect for the whole family. For a sensitive palate, use less or omit red pepper flakes.
Pan Frying: Crispy Buttermilk Chicken
Marinating chicken breasts for four hours in a classic combination of buttermilk, egg, onion powder, and a hint of red pepper yields tender, flavorful results. Sauté the chicken just before baking to give it a perfectly crispy crust. This classic breaded chicken recipe creates a very versatile chicken dish. Feel free to eat straight from the pan—a simple dipping sauce is all you need—or use it as the base of something a bit more interesting, like our Chicken BLT Salad. Ground red pepper provides a hit of spice to the chicken, but if you want something a bit different, smoked paprika would be a good substitute. We really like ground chipotle peppers, too.
Grinding: Chicken Larb
Larb, the popular Thai salad of highly seasoned ground meat and herbs, offers cooks who like to go big a real opportunity to do so. In this great introductory recipe, combine skinless, boneless chicken breast halves in the food processor with pungent ingredients like garlic, spicy peppers, or curry paste. Purée them together so the flavor permeates the meat.
Variations: You can substitute ground chicken breast for ground beef in some of your favorites dishes, like these Chicken Tacos. This Chicken Meat Loaf is also a clever way to try ground chicken if you've never had it, but because chicken is so lean, you'll need to boost flavor with big flavor ingredients like yellow mustard and ketchup.
Grinding: Greek-Style Chicken
Ground chicken is a lighter, leaner alternative to ground beef. We especially like combining it with herbs and spices and forming patties as a quick healthier option if you're looking for a lighter hamburger-style meal. You can serve chicken patties in the place of a hamburger or chicken breast in classic sandwiches. Make smaller patties, and you can use them as sliders, which are perfect for little eaters. Or skip the bread entirely and pair these Greek chicken patties with a creamy Tzatziki-style sauce and serve with sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves, and sliced feta cheese for a quick weeknight-friendly meal.
Grinding: Chicken Burgers
Give beef a rest and try chicken for burgers instead. Simply combine chicken breasts, capers, shallots, salt, and pepper in a food processor, shape into patties, and cook in a grill pan. If you need to speed up your weeknight cooking, make these patties in advance. Line a cookie sheet with freezer paper, arrange uncooked patties in a single layer on the pan, and freeze until firm. Wrap each frozen burger in freezer paper or aluminum, and store until you need them. Like beef burgers, take out as many as you need, thaw in the fridge overnight or while you're at work, and you'll be able to have a simple sandwich in just minutes when you get home.
Pan-Frying: Smoky Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts
Crispy on the outside, tender-juicy on the inside, this 20-minute chicken is the ultimate weeknight dish. Pan searing is a wonderful technique that gives you the deliciously crisp crust with hardly any effort. Simply sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the chicken, add to oil-coated skillet over medium-high heat, and cook for just four minutes on each side. Pair with a simple side salad, or slaw, and drizzle with an herbaceous sauce to bring a flavorful meal to the table with ease. And, at just 216 calories per breast, this chicken dish is one healthy alternative you’ll turn back to time and again.
Comfort Food: Chicken Chili Mac and Cheese
Make a throwback favorite the whole family will love. This old-school mac-and-cheese recipe gets a fresh upgrade when made with delicious chicken-based chili. The kick of spice from chili powder, fire-roasted tomatoes, and diced green chiles will wake up and shake up your idea of classic macaroni and cheese. It's a welcomed change for healthy cooks looking for a bit of comfort food without blowing their calorie budget. Instead of piling on the cheese and melting it, we create a simple flour-milk-cheese mixture that is ultra creamy without being ultra heavy on the fat, sodium, and calories.
Comfort Food: Easy Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken and dumplings are notoriously time-consuming, but the end result is very much worth the effort. However, if you're a time-crunched cook who craves the comforting pleasures of this classic dish, this recipe is for you. In just under 45 minutes, you can turn the quintessential ingredients for chicken and dumplings—celery, carrots, onion, garlic, chicken, and herbs—into a weeknight dinner favorite. Pillowy dumplings flecked with fragrant fresh herbs cook drop-style in the stock mixture. This recipe is also a great way to use up leftover chicken or Thanksgiving turkey if you have it.
Comfort Food: Chicken Mushroom Potpie
This homey and healthy chicken potpie boasts a creamy, savory sauce you'll want to lick from the pan. It's a flavor experience that often relies on several hours of slow cooking, but we've sped it up with a few shortcuts that still deliver on flavor satisfaction. For example, refrigerated pie crust dough is used in place of homemade dough. Potpie is a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey, and that'll shave a few minutes off your cook time, too. Just skip step 2, add chicken to a warmed Dutch oven, and start the recipe at step 3. Thickening the sauce in the pan before the pie goes into the oven results in a luscious sauce that's begging for a swipe with crusty bread.
Asian: Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Chicken lettuce wraps are an adventurous way to introduce new flavors and cuisines to your table of eaters. They're a lot like tacos—handheld and highly customizable—and often very fast to prepare. For this Korean-inspired version, we let chicken marinate in big-flavor ingredients—gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Think of gochujang as Korean steak sauce, adding savory depth to the chicken. You can find it at many supermarkets, or substitute equal parts Sriracha and white/yellow miso (soybean paste). The marinated chicken only needs a quick sauté before you pair it with crunchy refreshing toppings like cucumber and green onions and a crisp Bibb lettuce leaf.
Asian: Almond Butter Chicken Satay
Restaurant chicken satay just can't compete with our lighter and more flavorful version. Light coconut milk, lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, fresh ginger, and curry powder combine for a potent and highly flavorful marinade for the chicken pieces. The real magic is with the almond butter dipping sauce though. It's luxuriously creamy with a kick of garlicky heat from the Sriracha. Munch on cucumber slices to cool of your palate between dips in the sauce. To speed up prep time, add the chicken to the marinade and make the dipping sauce before you leave for work in the morning. You'll only need to skewer the chicken and grill when you get home.
Asian: Grilled Chicken and Soba Noodles with Miso Vinaigrette
Miso is a thick, fermented soybean paste. It comes in several versions; the most common, shiro miso, is also the mildest and sweetest. You may see it called yellow or white miso at the supermarket. If you're feeling adventurous, opt for "red miso." It's the darkest miso and has a strong, smoky flavor. Small bits of Japanese miso add worlds of flavor to every type of dish, from soups to stir-fries. In this grilled chicken dish, the miso vinaigrette doubles as a sauce for the noodles and a glaze before the chicken hits the grill. The noodle mixture and the chicken can be made a couple of days ahead, and the cooked dish makes great leftovers.
Asian: Chicken and Rice Noodle Stir-Fry with Ginger and Basil
This superfast stir-fry is overflowing with traditional Asian spices and comes together in under 20 minutes. If you don't have or can't find oyster sauce, clam juice or fish sauce will work in its place. Rice noodles are more firm and don't turn mushy after being sautéed in the pan, but feel free to use fine udon noodles instead. Or spoon the chicken mixture over a bed of brown rice. That will be equally savory and likely save you one ingredient at the supermarket. If you like heat, top your stir-fry with a bit more sambal oelek, a hot sauce made with red chiles, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and sugar.
Asian: Lemon Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl
Craving a rice bowl from your favorite Chinese restaurant but can't spare the calories? This citrus-infused chicken teriyaki bowl tastes like takeout but comes in under 450 calories, and it's ready in less than an hour! You've got chicken, broccolini, and rice. It's a full meal in one bowl. What more could you ask for?! Green beans and asparagus are smart substitutes for the broccolini if you can't find it. Top with a little Sriracha or sambal oelek for a flavor-filled kick of heat. If you'll have leftovers, save the remaining soy sauce mixture and drizzle it on just before you eat the warmed dish.
Italian: Roasted Garlic Chicken Alfredo
Calling all garlic lovers! Classic chicken alfredo gets a tasty twist when mixed with homemade roasted garlic. Roasting a whole garlic head requires about an hour of your time, but the flavor results are significant. We've cut the cheese entirely because the roasted garlic creates a luscious sauce when combined with a quick butter-flour roux. This lighter alfredo recipe is certainly company worthy, but you can speed up the cook time for weeknights by roasting the garlic and squeezing the pulp from the head on the weekend. Serve with a simple side salad, or if the oven is still hot after you cooked the garlic, roast a few vegetables for an easy-as-could-be side.
Italian: Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce
Robust Italian flavors—piney rosemary, peppery pancetta, zingy lemon—make homey chicken breasts sing in this classic Italian chicken dish. If you want to save time at dinner, marinate the chicken breasts before you leave for work. Frozen artichoke hearts are much easier and more time friendly than breaking down whole artichokes, but if you have the fresh variety and want to use them in this dish, feel free. They'll be a bit more firm than the frozen artichokes. Serve these juicy chicken breasts with whole-wheat orzo or fettuccine to sop up the rich sauce.
Grilled Rosemary Chicken With Farro Risotto
Chicken and rice is a classic weeknight staple. Whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, and farro are healthier alternatives to regular white rice. In this dish, nutty farro retains a pleasant chewiness as it absorbs the flavorful stock. Porcini mushrooms and Parmesan cheese are two big sources of satisfying umami. If you have any leftover kale after you use it in this dish, make a simple kale salad side. Let it sit so the leaves soften while the chicken cooks. We like how the marinade really only needs 30 minutes to flavor the chicken, but if you want to speed up prep, you can marinate the chicken overnight in a zip-top plastic bag.