Cajun Chicken

5 from 5 votes
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This easy Cajun chicken recipe is a quick and healthy 30-minute meal. Each piece is coated with spicy seasoning and cooked on the stovetop for tender, juicy results!

Spicy cajun chicken breasts cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Recipe Science

  • Dried herbs and spices are concentrated in flavor compounds, quickly adding savory seasoning to the meat without marinating.
  • When the poultry is cooked in hot oil, the fat-soluble flavors in the seasoning dissolve and intensify the taste and aroma.
  • Basting the chicken with melted butter adds richness and keeps the pieces juicy.

Why It Works

Chicken dinners don’t have to be boring! Kick things up with this delicious Cajun chicken recipe inspired by my trips to New Orleans. Enjoy vibrant, flavorful cuisine made at home. I use a bold spice mix that generously seasons the meat.

Similar to my Cajun shrimp, the prep time is quick! In just 30 minutes, you can have a healthy protein to add to your meal. Pan-searing the chicken creates a lightly blackened crust that delivers super juicy results. You can also cook the chicken in the oven or on the grill to switch things up.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this cajun chicken recipe.
  • Chicken: Select boneless skinless chicken breasts between 8 to 10 ounces.
  • Seasoning: I flavor the poultry with my Cajun seasoning recipe. It’s an intense combination of dried herbs and spices, such as smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper.
  • Oil: I like to sear the meat with fruity-tasting olive oil. It stands up well to the bold flavor of the seasoning mix.
  • Butter: To add richness to the meat, baste the chicken with some butter at the end of cooking.
  • Onions: Garnish the dish with sliced green onions. It adds a delicate allium flavor without it tasting raw and intense.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Chicken: If you prefer dark meat, use chicken thighs. No flattening is necessary, as the meat contains more meat, preventing it from drying out.
  • Cooking Oil: Instead of olive oil, use a high smoke point oil like avocado, safflower, or canola. Butter can be swapped for coconut oil or ghee.
  • Make it Spicier: Cayenne pepper is a traditional type of pepper used in Cajun and Creole cuisine. Increase the levels by ⅛ teaspoon at a time. Alternatively, add chili pepper powder, red chili flakes, or chipotle chili powder for a smoky taste.

How to Make Cajun Chicken

Meat tenderizer flattening a piece of chicken breast inside a resealable plastic bag.

Step 1: Flatten the Pieces

To ensure even cooking, flatten the chicken pieces to an even thickness. Place them in a large resealable plastic bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the thicker end to about 3/4-inch thick.

Alternatively, the market often sells thinly sliced pieces for convenience. Those can be used without pounding. If using two very large breasts, closer to 12 ounces in size, you can cut them in half lengthwise to yield four cutlets.

Several different seasonings in a white bowl that's ready to be mixed together.

Step 2: Make the Cajun Seasoning

The Cajun spice blend consists of dried spices and herbs. I use smoked paprika (or sweet), garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Pro Tip: Grocery stores also sell premade Cajun seasoning, which you can use conveniently. However, taste it first before adding it to the chicken and adjust the seasoning level.

Chicken breasts seasoned with cajun spices lined up on a sheet pan.

Step 3: Season the Surface

Coat the meat evenly with the seasoning mixture. When cooked in hot olive oil, it dissolves the fat-soluble compounds in the spices. This intensifies the taste and aroma when cooked.

Chicken breasts searing in a hot cast iron skillet.

Step 4: Pan-Sear the Chicken

Cook the seasoned pieces in hot olive oil until a deep golden browned crust forms.

Metal tongs lifting and flipping a darkened seared chicken breast.

Flip the pieces and sear the other sides.

Butter added to a skillet with cajun chicken breasts.

Add unsalted butter to the pan to enhance the flavor and let it melt.

Basting melted butter over the top of chicken breasts cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Finish cooking, tilt the pan, and baste the pieces with the melted butter.

Serving of sliced chicken breast covered in spicy blacked spices.

Step 5: Rest the Chicken

Before slicing and serving, let the meat rest for 5 minutes to redistribute the juices. I like to garnish with green onions to add a delicate allium flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Cajun chicken taste like?

The chicken pieces are seasoned with spicy, dried herbs. When they are mixed with olive oil, they make a concentrated paste that sticks to the meat for a bold flavor when cooked. The meat can be baked, cooked on the stovetop, grilled, or in an air fryer.

What is Cajun seasoning made of?

A blend of paprika, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and oregano. Variations can include white pepper, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin, or mustard powder.

How do I make the Cajun chicken spicier?

Cajun cuisine often utilizes dried cayenne peppers for spiciness and distinctive flavor. They have a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of around 40,000. The finely ground peppers coat the chicken and deliver an upfront kick of heat. Add red pepper flakes if you’re looking for long lingering spiciness. This includes larger pieces of seeds and flesh. Start with ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon, increasing to taste. Add hot sauce like Crystal or Tobasco if you like tangy heat.

What should I serve this with?

Pairing the chicken with creamy homemade mashed potatoes or low-carb cauliflower grits is a great option. My family always requests honey cornbread muffins.

More Cajun Favorites

If you tried this Cajun Chicken recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Cajun Chicken

Juicy chicken breasts seasoned to perfection with a blend of herbs and spices then pan-seared to perfection.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onions

Instructions 

  • Flatten the Pieces – Thoroughly dry each chicken breast with a paper towel. Place one piece between two plastic sheets or inside a large plastic bag and pound to an even thickness with a meat mallet, about ¾" thick. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
  • Making Cajun Seasoning – In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, oregano, thyme, and cayenne.
  • Season the Surface – Evenly sprinkle both sides with the cajun seasoning.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, and once hot and shimmering, add the chicken breasts presentation side down. Cook for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
    Flip the pieces and add the butter. Occasionally baste once melted. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC) on a meat thermometer, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Rest – Transfer to a clean plate or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with green onions.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Milder Flavor: Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  • Storing: Place inside an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Individually wrap the cooked and cooled chicken breasts. Store in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container for up to 4 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
  • Make it Dairy-Free: Use margarine instead of butter, or omit it.
  • Make it Paleo and Whole30: Omit the butter. For Whole30, use ghee or clarified butter.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 254kcal (13%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 24g (48%)Fat 17g (26%)Saturated Fat 3g (15%)Polyunsaturated Fat 2gMonounsaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0.01gCholesterol 72mg (24%)Sodium 1295mg (54%)Potassium 449mg (13%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 0.1gVitamin A 395IU (8%)Vitamin C 2mg (2%)Calcium 17mg (2%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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