I’ve seen so many versions of this dish, but Jessica’s picture (and possibly the fact that I was starving) finally nudged me into sticking it to the menu the following week. We used to have some form of stuffed chicken every week and for whatever reason we haven’t had it much lately. It was time.
Now, I adore jalapeño poppers. And by “adore” what I really mean is “could eat them by the truckload.” They have pretty much everything going for them, including a little spice, some crunch, and creamy cheese. Plus, they’re fried, which automatically makes them good.
This chicken combines the great things about poppers and puts them into a much lighter and less guilty chicken dish. Chicken breasts are stuffed with a cheesy jalapeño mixture and then rolled in crispy panko and baked. I used a method America’s Test Kitchen uses for panko breading, which is to toast it in a pan with a little bit of oil before breading. This ensures it stays nice and crisp, and I find it’s a better way to get the chicken to brown up nicely, vs. just using cooking spray.
The jalapeño I used was a bit of a dud, so I wish I would have used a second one (or at least a better one) so, don’t be like me and make sure you try your jalapeño first, to figure out how much you want to add.
Jalapeño Popper Chicken
1/2 cup panko
2 tsp. canola oil
1.5 – 2 tsp. taco seasoning or mixture in notes*
2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we used 2%)
1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 chicken breasts
Preheat the oven to 375 and place an ovenproof rack onto a rimmed baking dish. Spray with cooking oil.
In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the panko with the canola oil. Cook, stirring often, until the panko is golden and crispy. Place in a shallow bowl or dish. To the panko, add the taco seasoning* and stir to combine.
In another shallow bowl or dish, lightly beat an egg. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and jalapeños.
Using a small utility knife, cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast, or horizontally slice the chicken through the center, until it is almost butterflied. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between each chicken breast’s pocket. Use toothpicks to secure, if necessary.
Dip the chicken pieces one at a time first into the egg, and then into the panko mixture, making sure to coat the chicken completely. Place the chicken on the prepared baking rack and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
*Note: To make your own taco seasoning mixture, combine 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp. oregano, 1/8 tsp. paprika, and salt and black pepper to taste.