Stuffed chicken breast takes dinnertime to the next level. Each serving contains a flavorful mixture of spinach, herbs, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. The chicken first sears until golden brown, then finishes baking in the oven to ensure juicy pieces.
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It’s convenient to grab a pack of chicken breasts from the market, but the big question is how to turn it into something special. To spice things, try stuffing them with a savory vegetable and cheese mixture. As the protein cooks, the filling gets hot and bubbly, infusing the aromatic garlic and herb flavors into each piece.
The chicken cooks in one skillet to make preparation effortless. Once stuffed, the meat sears until golden on each side, then finishes in the oven for gentle cooking. A delicious low carb and keto-friendly entree to feed a family or reheat for meal prep. Pair with your favorite side dishes like crispy green beans or tender broccoli for a complete meal.
Making the filling
The stuffing is easy to prepare. Just chop and mix! Softened cream cheese is the base, binding the ingredients together and providing a creamy, tangy taste. For a Tuscan-inspired flavor, I looked to fresh greens, herbs, and sundried tomatoes. Fresh spinach, basil, parsley, chives, and garlic provide herbaceous and earthy notes.
The tomatoes concentrate their sweetness during baking and prevent the filling from getting watery as it cooks. Parmesan cheese adds a nutty taste, and gooey melt when sliced. For a quick pantry swap, 1 tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning can be substituted for the herbs.
I recommend using chicken breasts that are about 10 to 12 ounces. This size provides a thick enough piece to slice and fill. The smaller size will cook quicker, so you may need to reduce the time in the oven slightly.
Cutting the pocket
A pocket to hold the filling needs to be cut into the thickest side of the meat. Start by placing the breast on a cutting board and grabbing a sharp utility or paring knife. Hold the knife parallel to the board and cut a slit through the chicken’s side down the middle, about 5 inches.
Be sure not to cut all the way through. You want to make sure there are no holes in the pocket. Otherwise, the stuffing will ooze out. I find it easiest to season the surface with salt and pepper before adding the filling.
Stuffing the chicken
The cheese mixture makes about 1 cup of filling. Depending on how deep the pocket is, I use about 2 to 4 tablespoons of filling. Don’t overfill. You can save leftovers to use for later. As the meat proteins cook and contract, the chicken will shrink, pushing the filling to the edge of the opening.
A little bit of filling lost is okay, but you don’t want to lose too much. You can also secure the pocket opening with toothpicks to reduce the amount that might seep out during cooking.
Two cooking methods
I use a large oven-proof skillet to make this chicken dinner in one pan. A cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven works well and provides two advantages; less clean-up and the ability to add better flavor and texture. The chicken first sears on both sides in hot olive oil until golden brown. The browning creates an attractive, flavorful crust on the surface.
Transfer the pan to a 375-degree oven for additional even and gentle cooking in an enclosed space. This temperature also promotes continued browning and flavor development. Because the filling is cooler than the meat, it takes a little more time to cook through into the center completely. Alternatively, you can transfer the chicken to a lightly greased baking dish if your pan is not oven safe.
Checking for doneness
It’s essential to check for doneness since the meat is coming into contact with the filling. Visually, the chicken should no longer be pink or raw. The flesh will be opaque, with some light pink to clear juices. When using an instant-read thermometer, place the probe parallel into the meat’s thickest part and check both the top and bottom areas.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, so the juices redistribute before serving. This process keeps the meat juicy.
Looking to add a sauce?
If you’d like a sauce to serve with this meal, you have a few options. You can make a gravy using the pan drippings. Otherwise, to complement the Italian flavors in the stuffing, try my tangy marinara sauce or creamy alfredo sauce.
What to serve this with
Use two dry-heat methods for juicy chicken
Cooking the meat in hot fat is going to create a flavorful golden crust with a beautiful texture. Although, prolonged cooking on the stovetop with direct heat can dry out the lean protein. The cooler stuffing requires more time to cook through to the middle. Placing the pan in the oven will surround it with dry heat and complete the cooking more gently by conduction.
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Stuffed Chicken Breast with Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 60 to 65ºF (15 to 18ºC)
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed, finely chopped
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon sliced chives, or green onions
- 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
- Prepare the ingredients and set the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat to 375ºF (191ºC).
- In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, parmesan cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomato, basil, parsley, chives, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate if not stuffing 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 side 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 cheese mixture into the pocket of each chicken breast, about 2 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 needed.
- 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 of the meat. Rest the chicken for 5 minutes, then serve hot.
- Herb substitution: Use 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning for fresh basil, parsley, and chives.
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