Broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken breast made all in one pan! Each piece of protein is filled with tender florets and melty sharp cheddar cheese for a delicious meal.
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Making the typical chicken dinner more exciting while getting your greens in for the day can be a challenge. Stuffing chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, or broccoli is the answer! Simply cut a pocket into the meat, add the vegetable cheddar filling, and cook. It’s an easy recipe that you can even prepare in advance for those busy weekdays.
Broccoli is a hard and fibrous cruciferous vegetable. Cutting the head into small florets tenderizes quicker when added to the filling. The meat sears on the stove top to develop a golden crust and then finishes cooking inside the oven. This method delivers flavor from the surface to the hot and bubbly center.
Grab a large head or pre-cut package of broccoli florets to make the filling. Fresh broccoli is very fibrous and needs to be broken down into smaller pieces, about 1-inch or smaller. This size will make it easier to tenderize when cooked inside the meat. You can add the stalk, but simply peel the outer fibrous layer, then chop.
I use two types of cheese for stuffing the chicken breast. Cream cheese adds a rich, tangy flavor and helps bind the florets into the mixture, making it easier to fill. I use shredded sharp cheddar cheese for its aged taste and melt-ability. Mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella are suitable substitutes for a milder flavor with the same gooeyness when cooked.
Make the filling
Use softened cream cheese to make it easier to mix the filling ingredients thoroughly. Combine it with the broccoli pieces, shredded cheddar, minced garlic, green onions, salt, and pepper. I like to add garlic powder and onion powder for a full-bodied, roasted allium taste.
You can make the filling three days before. Just stuff it in the chicken when you’re ready to cook.
Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for the recipe—select between 8 to 12 ounces in weight. The larger size works best for adding the filling, giving an excellent meat-to-filling ratio. Adjust the final bake time, as it will take longer for more significant pieces to cook. The moderate heat in the oven will prevent the chicken from drying out.
Cutting the pocket
Place the chicken down on the cutting board. Use a sharp utility knife or paring knife to create the pocket, making about a 5-inch slice down the thickest side of the meat. Make the pocket about 2 to 3 inches deep, depending on the width.
Just make sure to keep the other side intact, not cutting through. I like to keep the seasoning on the surface simple with salt and pepper.
Stuff the chicken
The broccoli cheddar mixture makes about 1 ½ cup of filling. Use about ⅓ cup, depending on the size of the pocket. If you have toothpicks, you can use a few to seal the edges closed. This technique reduces the amount of filling that may seep out as the cheese melts and becomes fluid.
The proteins in the chicken will contract as it cooks, causing the pieces to shrink. If you don’t secure the side, that’s okay, although you may see some filling ooze out. I just scoop it up with the chicken. I don’t like to let any of that delicious stuffing go to waste!
How to cook stuffed chicken breast
Use a 12-inch oven-proof skillet, like a cast iron pan or wide dutch oven. That way, you can sear and cook all in one place for less clean up. For a golden brown crust, sear the breast in hot olive oil, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Flip to sear the other side for about 3 minutes.
When it goes into the oven, both sides have had a chance to kick start the cooking process and develop more flavor on the surface. To gently finish cooking, transfer to the oven and bake at 375ºF (191ºC) for about 10 to 15 minutes. This temperature prevents the chicken from drying out for succulent, juicy pieces.
Checking for doneness
The broccoli should be tender, with a hot, melted cheese filling. Check the thickest parts of the chicken, at the top and bottom. The meat should be opaque, with light pink or clear juices. When using an instant-read thermometer, place it parallel into the thickest areas. The chicken is done when it reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC).
Rest the meat for 5 minutes before serving. This period allows the juices to redistribute in the flesh and not all over the plate. If some of the cheese oozes out into the pan, mix it with the juices from the meat and drizzle it on top as a sauce.
Serve this with
- Roasted red potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Cauliflower rice
- Steamed white or brown rice
- Garden salad with balsamic dressing
After cutting the pocket in the chicken and adding the stuffing, use toothpicks to close the cut side. Pinch the top and bottom edges together, then secure it with a few toothpicks to ensure it doesn’t open while the chicken cooks. Don’t over stuff the meat unless you’re okay with some seeping out.
The cream cheese can be substituted with mascarpone, whole milk ricotta cheese, or spreadable cheese like boursin. Shredded gruyere, gouda, Monetary jack, or mozzarella are tasty swaps for cheddar.
Yes, but the surface will not be as golden brown. Place the chicken on a greased foil-lined rimmed baking sheet—Bake at 425ºF (218ºC) for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Substituting frozen broccoli
Frozen chopped broccoli pieces are convenient and affordable substitutes for fresh when making stuffed chicken breast. It’s already been washed and cut to reduce prep time. Make sure to defrost thoroughly and drain well. Cut them down into smaller, ½-inch pieces if needed. The vegetable has already been blanched before freezing, meaning it’s partially cooked so that it will be softer in texture than fresh broccoli.
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Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast
- 2 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1" pieces
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onion
- 2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds total
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat Oven – Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 375ºF (218ºC).
- Prepare the Broccoli – Wash and thoroughly dry. Trim off long stem pieces and cut them into no bigger than 1-inch pieces.
- Make the Filling – In a large bowl, combine broccoli, softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, green onions, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate if not stuffing the chicken right away.
- Prepare the Chicken – On the thickest side of the chicken breast, cut about a 4 to 5-inch long slit. Continue to cut a 2 to 3-inch deep pocket, leaving about a ½-inch uncut area to keep the other sides connected. Make sure not to cut through the bottom. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Season the Meat – In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Evenly season each side of the chicken with the mixture.
- Stuff the Chicken – Evenly add the filling into the pocket of each chicken breast, about 5 to 6 tablespoons, do not overfill. If available, close the opening with toothpicks to secure the filling inside.
- Sear the Chicken – Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, presentation-side down, and lightly press to make contact with the pan. Cook until golden-brown on the surface, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for 3 minutes. If using smaller chicken breasts, check for doneness as baking may not be necessary.
- Transfer to the Oven – Place the pan in the oven. Bake until the meat is no longer pink and the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
- To Serve – Transfer to a serving dish and rest for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and serve while still hot.
- Filling: Makes about 1 ½ cups
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and reheat in the microwave on high heat in 30-second increments until hot.
- Using Frozen Broccoli: Defrost and drain the florets. Cut larger florets into ½-inch pieces. You will need 2 cups.
- Make Ahead: The filling can be made separately, 3 days in advance. The chicken can be stuffed, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before cooking.
- Baking-Only Directions: Place stuffed chicken on a greased foil-lined sheet pan. Bake at 425ºF (218ºC) for about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness.
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