This stuffed chicken parmesan delivers the crispy golden brown texture you crave but with an oozy mozzarella cheese center. This is an easy one-pan meal you’re family is going to love!
Table of Contents
For this recipe, I’ve taken my classic chicken parmesan and added a twist. I cut a pocket into the meat and stuff it with mozzarella. It only takes a few extra minutes, but the texture contrast is worth it! This version has a moment of anticipation when cutting a slice and seeing the melty cheese ooze out.
Once the cheese is stuffed inside the chicken then it’s time to fry. I use the standard breading procedure to create a crisp parmesan crust on the outside of the meat. Pan-frying in hot oil, then baking the pieces ensures juicy bites. The chicken cooks in a rich marinara sauce which you can pair with your favorite pasta. My family never leaves a crumb on the plate when I make this meal.
Use boneless skinless chicken breast, between 8 to 12 ounces in weight. This size makes a hearty portion easy to fill with the proper ratio of meat to cheese. Avoid the mega-sized pieces, over 12 ounces, as they take too long to cook through and get dried out easily.
Cutting the pocket
To stuff the chicken breast make a slit on the thickest side of the meat to add the filling. Place the chicken down on the cutting board. Use a sharp knife, like a utility or paring knife, to create a pocket, making about a 5-inch slice down the side.
Cut a deep enough area for adding the cheese, but make sure to keep the other side intact. I season the chicken with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, so it’s flavorful throughout.
I use two types of cheese for the topping and filling for this stuffed chicken parmesan; mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. The mozzarella is aged for less time, giving a more stretchy melt as it’s heated. I use whole milk low moisture mozzarella. You can slice it up or shred it.
The parmesan has been aged for at least ten months, giving a more aged, nutty taste. It’s a drier cheese, making it great for sprinkling and adding a salty taste.
Stuff the chicken
I like adding mozzarella and parmesan cheese to the filling for a savory taste that melts well. If you’d like to add some herbs to the stuffing, try freshly chopped basil, parsley, oregano, or dried Italian seasoning. To ensure the cheese stays inside and make it easier to bread, secure the edges with a few toothpicks to close it up.
Otherwise, just carefully maneuver the pieces when coating and cooking. The chicken’s protein contracts and shrinks when it cooks, so you may notice some cheese seeping out. There are usually no complaints from my eaters.
Breading the chicken
What makes chicken parmesan a popular dish is the contrast of tender chicken covered in a crispy breadcrumb crust. I use the standard breading procedure to coat the pieces. Use shallow bowls for each ingredient in the station. Start with flour to dry the surface. It’s like the primer. Then dip in a mixture of egg and olive oil for a tacky layer.
The last coat is in a crunchy panko, parmesan, and Italian seasoning mixture. I like to use coarse and porous panko bread crumbs for a super crispy texture. I find that homemade breadcrumbs give a similar taste. You can use traditional breadcrumbs, but they have a finer crumb and tend to be less crunchy.
Pan-fry the chicken
The stuffed chicken breast is pan-fried to turn the coating into a golden brown and crispy exterior. To make this a one-pan recipe, I use a 12-inch cast iron skillet or shallow dutch oven, like a braiser. Use a refined olive oil or light variety with a milder taste and higher smoke point than extra-virgin olive oil. Other neutral-tasting oils like vegetable, peanut, or avocado oil can also be used.
The pieces cook in a shallow amount of oil with moderate heat to ensure a crunchy crust. This process cooks the chicken primarily through but it will finish in the oven. The process takes about 4 to 5 minutes per side. If you don’t have a heatproof skillet, fry it in a nonstick pan, then transfer it to a baking dish with the marinara sauce to bake.
Add marinara sauce
Before finishing the chicken in the oven, add a flavorful tomato sauce to the pan. I like to use my homemade marinara sauce, or jarred store-bought products work well if you’re short on time. You’ll need about 2 cups for the recipe. It’s not as thick in texture compared to other pasta sauces, which is what you want because it will concentrate down as some moisture evaporates.
Bake the chicken
Bake the chicken skillet at 425ºF (191ºC) to finish cooking. This temperature helps the surface stay crisp with the added sauce. Right before I pop it into the oven, I add a little bit of the marinara sauce on top of the chicken, not coating the surface completely. Plus, some mozzarella, because who doesn’t love some extra gooey cheese.
It takes about 15 minutes to finish cooking the dish. If you don’t want to bake the chicken in the sauce, leave it in the oven-proof skillet, add the toppings, and bake. Alternatively, transfer to a foil-lined sheet pan.
Checking for doneness
Use an instant-read thermometer to check the thickest parts of the chicken. Make sure to test the top and bottom since there is filling in the center. It’s ready when it reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Garnish with fresh basil and parsley, then serve with your favorite side dish. We love a big plate of cooked pasta like spaghetti or cavatappi spiral tubes.
Serve this with
- Minestrone soup
- Caesar salad
- Rosemary Focaccia bread
- Roasted red potatoes
- Zucchini noodles for a low-carb option
Yes! Parmesan cheese is the American style, a hard grating cheese aged at least 10 months. Parmigiano Reggiano is slightly more expensive because it’s a regulated cheese from specific regions in Italy, made with cow’s milk in a particular way, and aged for at least 12 months. It will have a more robust flavor than parmesan.
When melted, the hot mozzarella cheese will turn from solid to a molten-like texture. To reduce the amount that comes out of the stuffed chicken, use a few toothpicks to secure the edges.
When pan-frying the chicken, its essential to use oil that is hot enough to create a dried, crisp crust with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. The temperature should be between 325 to 375°F (163 to 191°C). Above 400°F (205°C), the breading can brown too quickly. The oil will be shimmering when it’s ready to add the meat. You can test with the bottom of a wooden spoon. If bubbles form and float around it in the oil, it’s ready.
Baking instead of pan-frying the chicken
If you’d rather skip the pan-frying, you can bake the chicken instead. The key is using a high temperature of 425ºF (218ºC) to get it browned and crisp. Place it on a foil-lined baking sheet with a wire rack set on top, allowing the hot air to circulate in the oven without having to flip. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to cook through. Once the chicken reaches about 160ºF (71ºC), add it to a baking dish with the marinara sauce, add toppings, and bake for about 5 minutes until the cheese melts.
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Stuffed Chicken Parmesan
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds total
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, or regular
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- ¼ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Preheat Oven – Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat to 425ºF (191ºC).
- Prepare the Chicken – Thoroughly dry the chicken breasts with a paper towel. On the thickest side of the breast, cut 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 side connected. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Season the Meat – In a small bowl, combine salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Evenly season each side of the chicken with the mixture.
- Stuff the Chicken – Add 3 tablespoons mozzarella and 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese into each pocket. If available, close the opening with toothpicks to secure the filling inside.
- Set up Breading Station – In one shallow bowl, add the flour. In a second shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and olive oil. In a third shallow bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs and ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
- Bread the Chicken – Dip the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess coating. Next, dip in egg wash, coat completely, and drain any excess. Lastly, dip in the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat evenly. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces.
- Pan-fry the Chicken – Heat a 12-inch oven-proof cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Heat the vegetable oil. Once shimmering, carefully add the chicken pieces, presentation-side down, to the pan. Fry until golden brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Add the Sauce & Cheese – Add 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce to the top of each chicken breast. Carefully spoon the rest of the sauce into the empty spaces of the pan. Add the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken.
- Finish in the Oven – Bake until the cheese is melted, lightly browned, and the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
- Plate & Serve – If the marinara sauce is too thick, stir in some water until the desired consistency is reached. Right before serving, garnish with sliced basil and chopped parsley.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Reheat individual pieces in the microwave on high power in 30-second intervals until warm. Alternatively, place on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees until lightly crispy and warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Breadcrumbs: Traditional fine Italian breadcrumbs can be used but won’t be as crunchy.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs.
- Baking Directions: Place stuffed chicken on a wire rack set on top of a foil-lined sheet pan. Bake at 425ºF (218ºC) for about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness.
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