Spinach stuffed chicken breast is a flavorful one-pan meal that’s easy to prepare. Each serving contains a seasoned and seared protein filled with leafy green vegetables and cheese. Your weekly chicken dinner just got more exciting!
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The next time you find yourself pondering what to do with that multi-pack of chicken breasts, I’ve got just the recipe. My Tuscan stuffed chicken was such a hit with the family that I tweaked the ingredients and created another stunning dish loaded with flavor. The preparation is easy, mix, stuff, sear, and bake.
I use three types of cheese to bind the spinach filling while delivering extra savory bites. The stuffed chicken pieces sear in a hot skillet first to add surface flavors, then finish cooking in the oven to prevent them from drying out. It’s an excellent meal for those looking for low-carb and keto meals. Plus, it reheats well for meal prep!
I use fresh spinach as the base of the filling. Select the baby variety for a very tender and mild flavor. I find that you don’t have to precook the leaves if you cut them down into tiny pieces. This technique makes it easy to combine with the cheese mixture and doesn’t dilute the taste as the leaves expel moisture. The process enhances the filling flavors and turns it a vibrant great. Roughly 4 cups of spinach reduce down to about 1 cup chopped.
Substituting frozen spinach
Alternatively, you can use frozen chopped spinach but make sure to squeeze out as much water as possible. Use about 5 ounces or ½ cup packed as the leaves are already wilted and compressed tightly together. Chop it down into more refined pieces to stir into the filling.
Use three types of cheese; cream cheese, shredded low-moisture mozzarella, and grated parmesan. When combined, the sticky cream cheese helps bind all of the ingredients together to create a thick paste-like texture. When the mozzarella melts, it adds a nice gooey consistency. The parmesan cheese is aged, so it adds a pleasant salty kick and nutty taste.
To make the filling
I recommend using softened cream cheese as it’s easier to mix and spread with the other ingredients. Combine the cheeses, chopped spinach leaves, minced garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. As the filling warms in the hot pan, it gets hot and bubbly. The herbs and garlic add lovely savory and fresh aromatics while the chicken bakes. You can make the filling up to 3 days in advance for faster preparation.
Look for boneless skinless chicken breasts that are at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces. This size is large enough for stuffing. Because we finish the cooking process in the oven to reduce the risk of drying out the pieces, adjust the time based on size.
Cutting the pocket
Locate the thickest side of the meat, and cut a pocket to add the filling. Use a small sharp utility or paring knife for more effortless movement without making too deep a cut. Hold the knife perpendicular to the work surface, and cut about a 5-inch slit down the side.
Cut into the chicken only about 2 to 3 inches deep. Make sure not to puncture through or slice down all the way down the side. Otherwise, the filling will ooze out. Season the meat with salt and pepper before filling it as it’s easier to flip over.
Stuff the chicken
The spinach mixture makes about 1 ¼ cup of filling. Depending on the size of the breast and pocket, I use about 3 to 4 tablespoons. I find it helpful to close the open edge with toothpicks. This technique reduces the amount of flavorful filling that bubbles out.
As the proteins cook and contract, the pieces will ultimately shrink and push out the filling through any openings. I don’t mind. It still tastes good when sizzling in the pan and will still serve those drippings alongside the meat.
Sear for better taste
An oven-safe 12-inch skillet comes in handy for a one-pan meal which leaves less to clean up. I use a cast iron skillet or wide dutch oven. The heat retention in these pans is excellent, and they’re both capable of creating a golden-brown crust when the breasts sear in the hot olive oil. More color translates into more flavor and texture contrast.
Bake to finish cooking
To finish cooking, transfer the pan to a 375ºF (191ºC) oven. The enclosed space more evenly circulates the air around the meat, and the residual heat from the pan continues to cook the bottom by conduction through direct contact. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, transfer the chicken to a foil-lined sheet pan.
Checking for doneness
This process can be done two ways, visually or with an instant-read thermometer. Look for the proteins to go from raw and pink to opaque and ivory. The juices should be light pink to clear when poking the meat.
If using a thermometer, place the probe parallel through the thickest part. Check both the top and bottom since the breasts are cut into two. Resting for a few minutes before serving helps to redistribute the juices throughout the pieces.
This stuffed chicken breast recipe has tons of flavor. However, if you want to dip the pieces in a sauce, try these options. Homemade gravy adds a comforting pairing, while hot marinara or creamy alfredo sauce plays up the Italian flavors in the filling.
Serve this with
Two cooking methods are better than one
When the chicken comes into direct contact with the fat in the hot pan, the proteins start to cook and form a golden crust due to the Maillard reaction. Hundreds of new flavors form on the surface once it hits 300°F (149°C). The heat transfer happens much quicker on the stovetop than in the oven alone. However, too much time under intense direct heat risks drying out the meat. Transfering the pan into an enclosed space cooks using convection to surround and finish the pieces gradually.
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Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 60 to 65ºF (15 to 18ºC)
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 4 cups baby spinach, loosely packed, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds total
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat to 375ºF (191ºC).
- In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, spinach, basil, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate if not stuffing the chicken right away.
- 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 1-inch uncut area to keep the other sides connected. Make sure not to cut through the bottom. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Evenly season each side of the chicken with the mixture.
- Evenly spread the filling into the pocket of each chicken breast, about 3 to 4 tablespoons, do not overfill. If available, close the opening with toothpicks to secure the filling inside.
- Heat a large oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Add the chicken, presentation-side down, lightly press the meat to make contact with the pan. Cook until golden-brown on the surface, about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip over and cook for 5 minutes. If using smaller chicken breasts, check for doneness as baking may not be necessary.
- Transfer the pan to 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. Rest for 5 minutes, remove the toothpicks, and serve hot.
- Making the filling in advance: Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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