Cajun Chicken

Cajun Chicken served plain or swaddled in a creamy Cajun sauce on your table in just over 30 minutes!

This Cajun chicken recipe is bursting with flavor, mega comforting, intoxicatingly creamy and will have everyone licking their plates! You can make the quick and easy one pot wonder complete with Parmesan bell pepper cream sauce OR you can make just the chicken!  This Cajun chicken is made with chicken cutlets dredged in Cajun seasoning, cooked until golden, bathed in a luscious cream sauce spiked with zesty Cajun spices, bell peppers, red onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes.  Serve this Cajun chicken over mashed potatoes (highly recommend!), pasta or rice along with a strawberry salad and garlic bread and you have a gourmet restaurant worthy dinner with minimal effort! 

Cajun recipes are always a favorite at our house, exploding with flavor in every bite! Don’t miss these other Cajun winners: Cajun Chicken and Black Bean Bowls, Cajun Salmon with Mango Salsa, Cajun Chicken Alfredo Bake, Cajun Chicken Pasta in Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce, Cajun Steak with Apricot Glaze, Cajun Pork with Pineapple Glaze and Cajun Shrimp Pasta.

How to Make Cajun Chicken Video

top view of Cajun chicken in a stainless steel skillet

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Cajun chicken recipe

Your whole family is going to go crazy over this Cajun chicken recipe! It’s adapted from reader’s favorite Blackened Salmon in Creamy Cajun Sauce but now in everyday chicken form!  The Cajun chicken is stand alone superb spice rubbed in homemade Cajun seasoning to form a spicy, smoky, flavorful crust that makes everything better!

This versatile Cajun chicken can be served plain over fettuccine Alfredo, mac and cheese, risotto, red beans and rice, or polenta with a side of veggies or serve it up in salads, bowls, wraps or tacos OR go for gold and nestle the chicken in the creamy bell pepper sauce served over buttery mashed potatoes – AMAZING!

If you choose the saucy version, you will love that it tastes straight out of a fancy restaurant, but is SO easy!  In just over 30 minutes, you’ll be sinking your teeth into tender, juicy chicken made with a handful of pantry friendly ingredients.

To make this Cajun chicken recipe, it’s as easy as dredging the chicken in a Cajun spice rub and searing until golden in a skillet. Next, you’ll remove the chicken and sauté onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and garlic in the same pan.  Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream and simmer a couple minutes then stir in Parmesan and lime juice then nestle the chicken back in the sauce.  That’s it!  Ridiculously delicious Cajun chicken made in one skillet!

And one skillet means only one pan to clean, making this recipe perfect for weeknight dinners, or anytime you don’t feel like doing dishes!  And bonus, this Cajun chicken recipe is incredibly flexible so add/swap in whatever veggie you have on hand from zucchini, mushrooms or spinach and watch your family lick their plates!

WHAT is cajun chicken?

Cajun seasoning is one of my go-to favorite spices for jazzing up everything from chicken to seafood, steak, pork, veggies, deviled eggs, soups and dips.  It’s one of those spices that adds a blast of zesty, spicy, savory flavors and that instant “YUM” factor.

So, what is this magical Cajun seasoning? Cajun seasoning is a robust blend of herbs and spices that originated from Louisiana, the home of delicious Cajun cuisine.  There are many variations of Cajun seasoning but in general, it’s a smoky, spicy, earthy, spicy blend comprised of smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and oregano.  I’ve also included salt and thyme in my blend, so it seasons the chicken independently and perfectly. 

Cajun chicken is chicken coated in Cajun seasoning then seared on the stove or grill. The seasonings char, deepening in flavor and mingling with the butter to create an irresistible dark crust that is smoky, spicy and irresistible giving way to juicy, tender chicken.

TO MAKE DIY CAJUN SEASONINGS, WHISK TOGETHER:

  • smoked paprika
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • pepper
  • dried oregano
  • cayenne
  • dried thyme
  • salt

The red appearance on Cajun chicken is from the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.  Please do NOT substitute smoked paprika with regular paprika – the smokiness is everything. 

You can find smoked paprika with the rest of the spices at your grocery store.  I use it in ALL my Mexican recipes, so I promise your purchase will not go to waste. The rest of the Cajun seasoning is a mix of common pantry seasonings you probably have on hand already.  You can also customize the heat by using more or less cayenne pepper.

Cajun chicken with a gold serving spoon

INGREDIENTS FOR cajun chicken recipe

This Cajun chicken recipe is made with easy to find ingredients.  All of the seasonings are pantry friendly (or should become part of your pantry), just pick up some fresh veggies and you’re all set!  Here’s what you’ll need for this easy chicken dinner: 

  • Chicken breasts: Use two large boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half to create four cutlets. The thin cutlets cook more evenly, are more tender and soak up more flavor than whole chicken breasts. You can make your own chicken cutlets or you can purchase packaged pre-sliced cutlets. You may also use 4 small chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness or boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • Spices: The chicken and sauce are seasoned with homemade Cajun seasoning which is whisked together and is used to season both the chicken and the sauce.
  • Flour: Is used in the spice rub to create a flavor crust. I used all-purpose flour, but I’m sure a gluten-free substitution would work.
  • Butter: Use unsalted butter so we can control the salt.
  • Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. 
  • Cherry Tomatoes:  You will love their sweet pops of flavor in contrast with the spicy sauce. Please use the ripest between cherry and grape tomatoes.
  • Bell peppers:  You can use any color combination you like, but I like yellow and orange.  
  • Red onions: Cook up sweeter than other onions to complement the spicy chicken and sauce. If you only have yellow onions or shallots on hand, these are fine to use.
  • Garlic: I use 4 to 6 cloves garlic and it is divine but feel free to use less if you prefer. You may also use 1 teaspoon garlic powder – but the real stuff is so much better.
  • Chicken broth: Is more flavorful than just milk or cream and has less calories. I always use reduced sodium chicken broth so I can control the salt in the dish. 
  • Cornstarch: Helps thicken the sauce so its lusciously creamy instead of watery. It allows you to use chicken broth instead of all heavy cream.
  • Heavy cream: Makes for an ultra-rich, creamy bell pepper sauce. If you’d prefer a lighter option, use evaporated milk mixed with 1 teaspoon cornstarch. 
  • Parmesan cheese:  Infuses the sauce with its fantastic salty, nuttiness. For best results, use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
  • Lime juice:  Awakens and brightens all of the flavors.  Fresh or bottled is fine.

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN CUTLETS

This Cajun chicken recipe begins with chicken cutlets.  Here is how to make your own from two large chicken breasts:

  1. Time permitting, freeze your chicken breasts for 15 minutes before slicing.  This isn’t essential, but it definitely helps create clean cuts because the chicken doesn’t wiggle with every movement of your knife.
  2. Next, lay the chicken flat on a cutting board and hold it in place with the palm of your hand.  
  3. Now get out your sharpest knife or sharpen your knife. A sharp knife helps cleanly cut the chicken instead of tearing/shredding the chicken. Carefully slice through the center horizontally (parallel to the cutting board) to create two cutlets.
  4. Once you have cutlets, pound them to an even thickens. This quick step:  1) tenderizes the chicken as it breaks up the tissues and 2) the uniform thickness allows the chicken to cook evenly all over – without the thinner bottom becoming overcooked while we wait for the thicker top to cook through. 
  5. To pound the chicken to an even thickness, place the cutlets next to each other and top with plastic wrap or I like to place my chicken in a large freezer bags because it seals in all the mess/germs – but you can use whatever you have on hand. 
  6. Gently pound the chicken to an even thickness using the smooth side of a mallet, rolling pin, or side of a can. Take care not to over-pound, we are pounding to make the chicken even, not super thin like in Chicken Parm. You don’t need to be too aggressive.
up close of Cajun chicken recipe in a skillet showing how juicy it is

WHAT PAN SHOULD I USE to cook cajun chicken?

Cajun chicken is enveloped in a crust of seasonings that should be cooked in a heavy bottom pan such as a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet to develop the deep crust.  No matter what pan you use, you will want a take care your pan is large enough to accommodate the chicken and the sauce

HOW TO make cajun chicken

Step 1: Season the chicken. Mix together all of the Cajun seasonings in a shallow dish then remove 1 tablespoon seasonings to used later in the sauce.  Whisk 2 tablespoons flour into the remaining seasonings in the dish. The flour helps create a crust of flavor while insulating the chicken. Dredge each breast in the mixture, shake off any excess, then transfer to a dry surface.

 a collage showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by whisking Cajun seasonings together in a bowl and then dredging the chicken in the seasonings

Step 2: Cook the chicken.  Cook the chicken in a large skillet in a mixture of melted butter and oil for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Once cooked, you can enjoy the chicken with a side of rice and veggies or over pasta or you can proceed with the recipe to make the sauce.

a collage showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by pan frying in a skillet until golden

Step 3:  Sauté vegetables.  Sauté onions for a few minutes to give them a head start cooking then add tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and reserved spice mix and cook for a couple of minutes.

a collage showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by sautéing bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes in a stainless steel skillet

Step 4:  Make Sauce.  Add some of the chicken broth, whisk the remaining broth with the cornstarch – or you can whisk it all with cornstarch in a liquid measuring cup.  Add the mixture to the skillet along with heavy cream, then simmer until thickened. To finish, stir in Parmesan followed by lime juice.

 a collage showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by simmering sauce until thickened and then adding Parmesan

Step 5:  Combine.  Add the chicken back to the skillet and cook a minute or so to heat through. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly parsley and lime juice if desired.

showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by adding chicken to  skillet with sauce

cooking TIPS FOR making cajun chicken

This Cajun chicken recipe is pretty straightforward but here are some tips and tricks for a sizzling success:

  • Remove chicken from the fridge before cooking.  Never cook chicken or any protein cold straight from the refrigerator otherwise it will cook unevenly. Instead, remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.
  • Do NOT rinse the chicken. You should NOT rinse your chicken before cooking! The USDA cautions: “do not rinse raw fish, seafood, meat, and poultry. Bacteria in these raw juices can splash and spread to other foods and surfaces. Cooking foods thoroughly will kill harmful bacteria.”
  • Dry chicken. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels before seasoning to help the flour and seasonings stick – and since we are not rinsing the chicken, we are just drying any moisture from the packaging.
  • Don’t cook tomatoes in aluminum or cast iron.  These metals can chemically react with the tomatoes and make them taste bitter and metallic.  Stainless steel is ideal (much stronger metal than aluminum), as it never reacts with food I love this stainless-steel pan. 
  • Use butter and olive oil. I almost always use a combination of butter and oil whether it’s for making a roux or for pan frying chicken.  The butter adds the undeniably scrumptious buttery flavor and the oil prevents the butter from burning.   You may use all oil but you cannot use all butter or the butter will burn.  I recommend using both for best results. 
  • Scrape up golden bits.  After you cook the chicken there will be golden bits on the bottom of the pan – these are flavor gold!  Make sure to scrape up the bits while you sauté the red onions.
  • Use a hot pan.  Add your chicken only once the pan is hot – you should hear the chicken sizzle the second it touches the pan. If you add chicken to a lukewarm pan, it will not sear, and as we all know from Gordon Ramsey, color = flavor.  Searing the chicken results in the Maillard reaction, also known as the flavor reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning and complex flavor. Note, that hot doesn’t mean high heat, but it means it’s reached full temperature (medium-high in this case). 
  • Only flip chicken once. Adding the chicken to a hot skillet heated to medium high heat is only half the battle. Resist the urge to move the chicken as it cooks or to flip it more than once. The chicken needs to stay in the same place for a continuous amount of time to brown. When the chicken is browned, it will naturally release from the pan.
  • Don’t overcook chicken. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, are juiciest when not overcooked. The best and most efficient way to check for doneness is to insert a meat thermometer into the chicken; chicken breasts are done when they register 165 degrees F. 
  • Thin sauce, if needed. If the sauce becomes thicker than you like, then stir in additional chicken broth a little at a time. 
  • Adjust to taste. Make this Cajun chicken recipe your own! Add additional cayenne pepper for spicier, lime juice for tangier and above all, make sure too season with salt and pepper to taste. I find the finished dish needs additional salt.

RECIPE VARIATIONS 

  • Spice it up: As written with ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, the recipe is medium spicy and should be family friendly.  To really amp up the spice level, increase the cayenne pepper to 1 teaspoon. You can also sprinkle individual servings with cayenne pepper so everyone can customize the kick.   
  • Use a heavy cream substitute. You can swap the heavy cream for evaporated milk mixed with 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Just remember that fat equals flavor so the cream sauce won’t taste quite as decadent.
  • Add veggies: Add any chopped vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, etc. and sauté them with the bell peppers or instead of the bell peppers.  If using frozen peas, thaw and stir in with the Parmesan to warm through.
  • Spinach: Use 2 cups baby spinach and add it to the sauce at the end of cooking; allow to wilt 1-2 minutes.
  • Add mushrooms:  If you’re a mushroom lover, consider pan frying sliced baby bella mushrooms, removing from the skillet then adding back to the sauce at the end of cooking. Check out my mushroom chicken recipe to see exactly how I cook perfect mushrooms.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes: Purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water. They are usually located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store.  Use the oil in the jar instead of the olive oil. Rinse about ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, pat dry, chop and sauté with the red onions.  You can use them in addition to the cherry tomatoes already in the recipe.
  • Add cheese: Layer the chicken with sliced Gouda, cover and turn the skillet to low until the cheese melts.
  • Amp up the lime: You can add more lime juice to the sauce to really make it pop.  
  • Alternate protein: The creamy sauce is so scrumptious you’re going to want to use it with everything! You can sub the Cajun chicken for boneless skinless chicken thighs, salmon fillets, or pork chops (recommend brining first). You can even use ground Italian sausage or cooked chicken sausage.  Note that different proteins (even chicken thighs) will vary in cooking time, so use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.    
showing how to make Cajun chicken by garnishing with parsley

CAN I PREP CAJUN CHICKEN recipe IN ADVANCE? 

Yes! You can prep portions of this Cajun chicken recipe in advance so the final dish comes together quickly:

  • Prep chicken: Create chicken cutlets by slicing chicken breasts in half and pounding to an even thickness. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Dredge chicken: Go one step further and dredge the chicken in flour and Cajun seasoning. Transfer the chicken to a parchment lined plate in a single layer and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator.
  • Chop aromatics: Chop the red onions and mince the garlic and store in separate plastic bags in the refrigerator.
  • Chop veggies: Chop the tomatoes and bell peppers and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Grate Parmesan: Grate and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.   

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT cajun chicken

  • Storage: Cajun chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days. 
  • Microwave: Thinly slice or chop up chicken so it reheats more evenly, then transfer a small portion to a microwave-safe dish. Heat for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals. 
  • Stove: Thinly slice or chop up chicken, then transfer to a skillet. Heat over medium heat, stirring often.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH cajun chicken

This Cajun chicken is fabulous thinly sliced over a bed of mashed potatoes, (my favorite for this recipe), thinly sliced over pasta or chopped and served over rice or Louisiana dirty rice. If you’re going low carb, consider cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.

Now that the Cajun chicken is squared away, let’s talk sides.  We love serving Cajun chicken alongside cornbread and salad such as strawberry salad, or spinach berry salad in the spring/summer and apple salad,  Fall salad or beet salad in the Winter.  Some of our favorite fruit salads include perfect fruit salad and pina colada fruit salad.

If you’re serving the chicken without the sauce, then it’s tasty paired with sautéed or roasted vegetables such as roasted root vegetables, glazed carrots, roasted Brussels sproutsbroccoli, asparagus, or crockpot creamed corn.

For fruit, go as simple as melon or grapes or as flirty as Fruit Salad with Honey Lime VinaigretteWinter Fruit Salad and Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

This Cajun chicken recipe is pretty straightforward, but below you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions to satisfy your curiosity and guarantee success:

  • Can I use chicken thighs? Yes!  You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs and treat them just like you would the cutlets.
  • Do I have to use chicken fillets?  Unless your chicken breasts are very small, you will want to use chicken fillets.  Traditional chicken breasts take much longer to cook so the crust will burn before the inside of the chicken is cooked.  Also, you don’t get the same tasty crust to chicken ratio with thick chicken breasts.
  • Do I have to pound my chicken to equal thickness?  For the juiciest chicken, it should be pounded to an even thickness. Pounding the chicken ensures the chicken cooks evenly otherwise you’ll be waiting for the thick part of the chicken to cook at the peril of the thin part.  
  • Do I have to dredge the chicken in flour?  Dredging the chicken creates a golden crust that insulates the temperamental chicken breast and keeps it juicy and tender, it also seasons the chicken and best of all absorbs butter from cooking – YUM! Dredging the chicken in flour is highly recommended but not a must. If you skip the flour, still coat the chicken in the same seasonings.
  • Can I substitute the heavy cream?  If you’re trying to save some calories, you can substitute the heavy cream with 1 cup milk whisked with 2 teaspoons cornstarch, just take care not to let the sauce boil, just gently simmer.  You may also substitute evaporated milk whisked with 1 teaspoon cornstarch.
  • Can I make Cajun chicken gluten free?  Yes!  Simply swap the flour for gluten free flour and you’re all set.
  • Can I freeze this Cajun chicken recipe?  You can freeze just the cooked Cajun chicken but I do not recommend freezing the chicken with the sauce because the creamy sauce can break and become a funny texture.  If you want to try freezing, use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream and omit the Parmesan.
up close of a piece of Cajun chicken on a plate with mashed potatoes and asparagus
showing how to make Cajun chicken recipe by adding chicken to skillet with sauce

Cajun Chicken in Creamy Sauce

This Cajun chicken recipe is bursting with flavor, mega comforting, intoxicatingly creamy and will have everyone licking their plates! You can make the quick and easy one pot wonder complete with Parmesan bell pepper cream sauce OR you can make just the chicken!  This Cajun chicken is made with chicken cutlets dredged in Cajun seasoning, cooked until golden, bathed in a luscious cream sauce spiked with zesty Cajun spices, bell peppers, red onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes.  Serve this Cajun chicken over mashed potatoes (highly recommend!), pasta or rice along with a strawberry salad and garlic bread and you have a gourmet restaurant worthy dinner with minimal effort! 
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN

  • 2 large chicken breasts, about 24 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

CAJUN SEASONINGS

  • 2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

CREAM SAUCE

  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 bell peppers (any color combo), chopped into 1” pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or evaporated milk + 1 tsp cornstarch)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Mix together all of the Cajun seasonings in a shallow dish large enough to dredge the chicken. Remove 1 tablespoon seasonings to be used later in the sauce. Whisk 2 tablespoons flour into the seasonings in the dish.
  • Slice the chicken breasts in the half through the equator to create 4 fillets. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness. Pat dry.
  • Dredge each breast in the Cajun flour mixture, shake off any excess, then transfer to a dry surface.
  • Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) until golden and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate, don’t wipe out skillet.
  • To the oil left in the skillet (don’t wipe out), add enough oil to equal 1 tablespoon if needed. Heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions, and cook 3 minutes; then add tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and reserved spice mix and cook 2 minutes.
  • Add half of the chicken broth to the pan (eyeball it) and whisk the remaining chicken broth with cornstarch until smooth. Add to pan along with heavy cream. Bring the sauce to a simmer and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted followed by lime juice. Add chicken back to the skillet and cook a minute or so to heat through. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste (I like more salt). Garnish with freshly parsley and lime juice if desired.

Video

Notes

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT cajun chicken

  • Storage: Cajun chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days. 
  • Microwave: Thinly slice or chop up chicken so it reheats more evenly, then transfer a small portion to a microwave-safe dish. Heat for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals. 
  • Stove: Thinly slice or chop up chicken, then transfer to a skillet. Heat over medium heat, stirring often.

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4 Comments

  1. Janet Bradley says

    I don’t eat tomatoes, can I leave them out without losing any of the flavors of the recipe? I love everything else about this recipe.

    Thanks, Janet

    • Jen says

      Yes! It will still be tasty without them, enjoy!

  2. Ramya says

    will be making this soon can i use mushrooms and vegan butter as am a vegan perfect for my office meals i took a break from commenting on your recipes as busy with work am back commenting on your recipes will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

    • Jen says

      This sauce will be delicious with mushrooms – yum!