This easy cajun chicken recipe is a quick and healthy 30-minute meal. Each piece is coated with spicey seasonings and then cooked on the stovetop for tender, juicy results!
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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! You can have a healthy protein to add to your meal in just 30 minutes.
Pan-searing the chicken creates a lightly blackened crust, that delivers super juicy results. You can also cook the chicken in the oven or grill to switch things up. Make the meal complete with mashed potatoes, steamed rice, cornbread, and your favorite vegetables.
Flatten the pieces
Select boneless skinless chicken breasts that are between 8 to 10 ounces. To ensure even cooking, flatten the pieces to an even thickness. Place them in a large resealable plastic bag, or in 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 4 cutlets. If you prefer dark meat, use chicken thighs.
Season with cajun spices
The cajun spice blend is a combination of dried spices and herbs. I use a mixture of smoked paprika(or sweet), garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Grocery stores also sell premade cajun seasoning, if you want to use that for convenience.
However, make sure to taste it first before adding it to the chicken and adjust the seasoning level. 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.
Pan-sear the chicken
Use a large 12-inch skillet like cast iron, stainless steel, or nonstick to cook the chicken on the stovetop. Cook the seasoned pieces in hot olive oil until a deep golden browned crust forms. This only takes about three minutes over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low to prevent the spices from charring.
The chicken is flipped and gently cooked until it reaches an internal temperature between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). After flipping I like to add butter for extra flavor and richness. Baste with the melted butter, this also keeps the pieces juicy. 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.
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Frequently asked questions
The pieces of chicken are seasoned with a blend of spicy, smokey, and earthy dried spices and herbs. It’s mixed with olive oil to 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 oven made in an air fryer.
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 to 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. If you’re looking for long lingering spiciness, add in red pepper flakes. This includes larger pieces of seeds and flesh. Start with ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon, increasing to taste. If you like tangy heat, add in hot sauce like Crystal or Tobasco.
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- 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
- Flatten the Pieces – Thoroughly dry each chicken breast with a paper towel. Place one breast between two plastic sheets or inside a large plastic bag and pound to an even thickness, 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 of the chicken breasts 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 chicken over and add the butter. Occasionally baste the meat with the butter. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Rest – Transfer chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with green onions.
- Milder Chicken: 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 or butter, or omit it.
- Make it Paleo and Whole30: Omit the butter. For Whole30, use ghee or clarified butter.
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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