From dull to dynamite – this Blackened Chicken recipe quickly turns a dinner-time staple into a de-lish de-light!
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Regardless of what that song says, I think most of us feel like time is not on our side.
Days are hurried, and getting a tasty, home-cooked meal on the table can feel like a real chore. I often like to (have to) use store-bought convenience items to make that chore a doable one, things like rotisserie chicken, bottled sauces and soups, and frozen veggies.
Sometimes, though, I find dishes that defy the odds – ones that use just a few pantry staples and can be made without a trip to the store.
This Blackened Chicken is one of my best simple-yet-really-delicious recipes. Honestly, it’s hard to believe anything so easy to make tastes this good!
Chef Paul Prudhomme, the guru for all things Cajun and Creole, created this unique cooking process and began serving the infamous blackened redfish at his restaurant K-Pauls in 1980.
It became such a popular dish Chef Paul had to limit the number of entrees each night, and the blackened fad swept restaurant kitchens across the country, even creating a shortage of redfish for a time.
The beauty of Chef Paul’s dish, though, is that it only requires a specific blend of spices and a little time in an iron skillet to produce something really extraordinary.
We’re going to use the same cooking technique on an unassuming chicken breast, instead of the more expensive and less available redfish, and create something that will disappear off your dining table as quickly as it did out of Chef Paul’s kitchen.
The combination of spices in Blackened Chicken seasoning exemplifies New Orleans cuisine and all the influences around the world that helped to build it. You know there’s some heat, and we’ll use three different types of pepper – white, black, and red, each with their own fragrance and “heated” quality.
White and black pepper, originally from India, both come from the same round, dried berries but are processed differently to change the heat profile a bit (and the color).
Red or cayenne pepper, originally from Guiana, comes from dried chili peppers with a more traditional chili shape and packs more of a punch for your taste buds. The three work together flawlessly in this dish to create a complex warmth that’s undeniably Cajun.
Paprika, a Mexican-born spice, adds another, milder heat with a subtle sweetness and, of course, a little color for our chicken.
Thyme, the only herb in this mixture, brings a touch of France to this dish.
Now that we have a Blackened Chicken rub, let’s talk about how to make Blackened Chicken.
The original method for blackening calls for coating the redfish with the spice mixture, then cook it quickly in a cast iron skillet that’s been coated in vegetable oil. The magic happens there, where the spices meet the skillet, so it’s hard to reproduce that blackened crust using other cooking methods.
There are grilled blackened chicken recipe options, where chicken is dipped in butter, seasoned, then thrown on a hot grill.
I love using the grill for lots of things, but this is too much of a fire hazard for me! Since we’re basically walking a thin line between blackened and burned here, I prefer the stovetop where I have more control over how hot the cooking surface is.
There is also blackened chicken oven baked options, but these typically are just roasted chicken recipes with a blackening-esque seasoning mix.
You’ll definitely taste many of the flavors you’re supposed to in this dish using this method, but baked chicken really isn’t getting blackened without some quality time in a hot pan.
As an aside, I am using boneless chicken breasts here, not making blackened chicken thighs. Boneless white meat tends to be lean and tender (which also yields the most healthy blackened chicken recipe), so a quick searing technique like we’re employing here works well.
I find dark meat, though fattier, tends to be a little tougher and works best with a longer cooking time.
Any lengthy cooking in this recipe and “blackening” will quickly become “burning.”
It’s that “burning” I’m also trying to avoid by using oil instead of butter.
Unless you have clarified butter, you’re dealing with a lower smoke point than vegetable oil which means it’ll be easier to ruin dinner. Oil gives us a little safety net to help all the seasonings mingle with the chicken and caramelize without going past the point of no return.
Even though we’re not planning on any actual burning happening, I still suggest using an exhaust fan – there will definitely be some smoke.
Chicken, spice blend, hot pan, and you have a delicious main course without even breaking a sweat!
I love to serve this with mashed potatoes or rice (with or without those Cajun red beans) since they’re the perfect starchy backdrop for the flavorful chicken. Another simple home-style vegetable like Southern Style Green Beans or some cooling coleslaw would be welcomed company on your dinner plate. I’m just pretty sure you won’t believe how simply such a satisfying meal came together either!
Thinner’s better – Remember how this all began with redfish?
Well, redfish filets are pretty thin, so you’ll need thin chicken too to make this recipe work. The standard chicken breast is so thick that by the time you get it cooked, the blackening spices will burn and that’s a whole different kinda blackening no one will enjoy!
Either pound your chicken breasts thin, butterfly them or purchase thin-sliced ones. I like to place them between two pieces of plastic wrap and go at them with a rolling pin until they’re about ½” thick.
Spicy – If you don’t like things too spicy you can alter the heat by reducing the cayenne (or even add more if you like feeling the burn).
Blackened Chicken is a perfect base to serve with our delicious Creole Sauce too, which has some bite as well.
If you try them together, you might need to adjust your spice accordingly or at least serve a big pitcher of ice water on the table!
Leftovers – If you have leftovers or just want to slice the chicken up to make it go a little further, you can use these slices to make a blackened chicken Alfredo or other blackened chicken pasta, to fill tacos, or to make a blackened chicken salad.
The flavors are strong, but not overpowering, and are pretty neutral, making it a good substitute in just about any dish that uses sliced or shredded chicken.
Blackened Chicken Recipe
- 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
- 2 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- In a large bowl combine all the spice mix ingredients.
- Dry the chicken breasts with paper towels. Toss the chicken breasts in spice mixture and coat evenly.
- Heat 2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Cook chicken until brown for about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over, and brown on the second side, lowering heat if needed so spice mixture doesn't burn, and continue cooking about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to platter and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve.
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