Who doesn't have chicken breasts in the fridge or freezer? And while there are literally hundreds of different ways to use them in thousands of different recipes, sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
The nice thing about this approach is you can add variety to your table in a way that is familiar to your family. If you've got picky eaters in the house, serve the sauces and toppings on the side. Let them choose whether or not to use them.
Even better: You can prepare most of these sauces and toppings in advance, and just pull them out when you need them. Most will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Some freeze well, too.
Basic Sauteed Chicken Breast Recipe
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pound the chicken breasts with a rolling pin, meat mallet or the back of a frying pan until they are an even thickness, about 1/4 inch. Important: Don't skip this step. It is the key to making sure the chicken breasts are moist. If they aren't an even thickness, the edges will cook faster than the center, and you will have to overcook the chicken to make sure it's done.
Want an easier way to accomplish the same thing? Buy chicken scallopine. It is already pounded thin.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Do not use a non-stick skillet. A stainless or cast iron skillet works well. Let the oil get nice and hot. Place the chicken in the skillet and let it brown for a few minutes. How long will it take? It depends on how thick the breasts are. Turn, and let the chicken brown on the other side. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, as measured with an instant-read thermometer (compare prices).
Serve the chicken breasts topped with one of the sauces or toppings below.
Chicken Breast Sauces and Toppings
- Peach Chicken Breasts: Prepare the chicken breasts exactly as directed above. Serve hot, topped with peach salsa.
- Asian Peanut Chicken Breasts: Pour 1/2 cup of your favorite Asian peanut sauce over the chicken breasts after you flip them over. Reduce the heat to medium, and let the chicken simmer in the sauce until cooked through.
- Chicken Breasts with Flavored Butter: Prepare the chicken breasts according to the master recipe above. Just before serving, top each with 1-2 teaspoons of homemade herb butter, garlic butter or one of my other simple flavored butter recipes.
- Barbecue Chicken Breasts: Pour 3/4 cup of your favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce over the chicken breasts after you brown them on the first side. Let them simmer in the sauce as they cook through on the second side. Don't forget to check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
- Pesto Chicken Breasts: Prepare the chicken breasts according to the master recipe. Spoon store-bought or homemade pesto over top just before serving. For a thinner, more sauce-like consistency, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the pesto. This makes it easier to drizzle over the chicken. Top with grated parmesan cheese. For a change of pace, try this same recipe with kale pesto.
- Honey Mustard Chicken Breasts: Before cooking the chicken breasts, make the honey mustard sauce by whisking together 1 cup chicken broth, 2 tsp. cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. honey, 2-1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard and salt and pepper, to taste. Brown the chicken on one side according to the master recipe. Flip the chicken breasts over, and add the sauce to the skillet. Let the chicken braise in the sauce as it finishes cooking through.
- Teriyaki Chicken Breasts: Cook the chicken as directed in the master recipe. Warm store-bought or homemade teriyaki sauce in a microwave-safe container. Pour over the chicken just before serving. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions.
- Mushroom Chicken Breasts: Prepare the chicken as directed in the master recipe. Remove to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in the same skillet you used to cook the chicken. Add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms in an even layer. Let them brown - don't stir them a lot or they won't brown. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the mushrooms. Bring to a gentle boil. Let the sauce cook until thickened. Pour over the chicken breasts.