Tuscan Chicken is an easy, one-pot, bright, fresh, healthy, flavorful chicken dinner made with juicy seared chicken breasts and fresh veggies.
This Tuscan Chicken recipe is summer in a skillet! It’s made with juicy, succulent Italian seasoned chicken, charred sweet corn, tender-crisp zucchini, bursting cherry tomatoes, and aromatic basil and garlic. The caramelized sweet corn with the fresh zucchini and juicy, sweet tomatoes is absolutely hypnotic. The whole skillet comes together in less than 40 minutes with only a 20-minute cook time. Keep this Tuscan Chicken naturally gluten free and low carb or serve it with brown rice, mashed potatoes and breadsticks.
TUSCAN CHICKEN RECIPE
I love summer with its abundance of fresh produce, specifically sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and zucchini. They also just happen to be a match made in heaven, especially when brightened by lemon juice, garlic and basil. To turn our favorite veggies into a complete meal, I added delectable Tuscan Chicken. Now we have a simple, mouthwatering one skillet dinner that hits all the right notes – bright, healthy, fresh, satisfying, flavorful, guilt-free and scrumptious.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS TUSCAN CHICKEN RECIPE:
- ONE PAN. You’ll love just having one pan to clean – that’s it! Cooking everything in one pan also builds incredible layers of complex flavor from the seared chicken to the charred corn to the bursting tomatoes.
- EASY. Anyone, even entry level cooks, can make this easy Tuscan Chicken recipe. Simply slather the chicken in a wet rub while you chop your veggies, sear the chicken, char the corn and sauté the zucchini and tomatoes – all in one skillet.
- JUICY CHICKEN. No bland or dry chicken here! You will be blown away at how the humble chicken breast can transform into something truly spectacular with just a simple wet rub of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and Italian seasonings. The seared Tuscan Chicken emerges tender, dripping with flavor and stand-alone delcious.
- FLAVORFUL VEGGIES. Charring the corn transforms them into caramelized, sweet, juicy kernels of intoxicating flavor and cooking the tomatoes until they almost burst transforms them into sweet, juicy pops you will look forward to in every bite. The veggies are also incredibly flavorful because part of the wet rub marinade is reserved and added to the veggies so they are instantly infused with sunny, tangy flavor to offset the fresh sweetness without double the work.
- HEALTHY. Fresh, seasonal vegetables and lean protein make this Tuscan Chicken the ultimate guilt-free dinner.
- VERSATILE. This Tuscan Chicken is incredibly flexible. While I LOVE the combination of corn, zucchini and tomatoes, you can swap them for your favorites or whatever you have on hand. You can serve the Tuscan Chicken recipe plain or with buttery noodles, mashed potatoes or rice or low carb cauliflower rice or zoodles.
Tuscan Chicken Recipe Ingredients
- Chicken: 4 chicken cutlets made from two chicken breasts or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Olive oil: use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Lemon juice: fresh is best but you may use bottled.
- Balsamic vinegar: use quality balsamic for the best flavor. You may also substitute with red wine vinegar.
- Seasonings: dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes round out the flavor profile. They are the seasonings typically found in Italian dressing.
- Corn: please use fresh sweet corn for the very best results – it is SO sweet and juicy. My second choice would be frozen sweet corn. No need to thaw, simply add to the hot skillet and allow a couple extra minutes to char.
- Zucchini and squash: I like the mixture of both zucchini and yellow summer squash, but you can use all of one or the other.
- Tomatoes: fresh cherry tomatoes please. They are inherently sweeter than grape tomatoes, but grape may be substituted in a bind.
- Basil: fresh basil is the finishing touch. If you can’t get your hand on fresh basil, then add 1 teaspoon to the veggies.
- Mozzarella: 8 oz. fresh mozzarella balls is optional but adds a decadent buttery thrill that’s sublime.
WHAT CHICKEN SHOULD I USE?
You can use boneless skinless breasts cut in half to create chicken cutlets or boneless skinless chicken thighs for this Tuscan Chicken recipe. The thin chicken cutlets soak up more flavor from the 15-30-minute wet rub and cook more quickly and evenly than whole chicken breasts. You can make your own chicken cutlets by slicing two chicken breasts through the equator or you can purchase packaged pre-sliced cutlets.
Once you have cutlets, pound them to an even thickens. This quick step: 1) tenderizes the chicken as it breaks up the tissues 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.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN CUTLETS
- 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.
- Next, place the chicken flat on a cutting board and hold it in place with the palm of your hand.
- Now get out your sharpest knife, this will help cleanly cut the chicken instead of tear/shred the chicken. Carefully slice through the center horizontally (parallel to the cutting board) to create two cutlets.
- Next, pound the chicken to an even thickness by placing the cutlets next to each other and topping with plastic wrap. You can also place them in a sealable plastic bag.
- Gently pound the chicken to an even thickens 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 and you probably only need to pound the thicker side of the chicken.
How to Make Tuscan Chicken
- Marinate chicken. Whisk together all of the Marinade Wet Rub ingredients in a medium bowl. Remove 3 tablespoons to use later. Add chicken to marinade and let marinate at room temperature while you prep the veggies, preferably 15-30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the chicken for up to two hours.
- Sear chicken. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat unto just smoking. Once very hot, add chicken and cook 3 minutes or until golden, flip, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness) or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer to plate and tent with foil.
- Char corn. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil to the now empty skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn starts to char, approximately 3 minutes.
- Cook veggies. Reduce heat to medium-high and add zucchini, tomatoes, reserved 3 tablespoons marinade and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes or until zucchini reach desired crisp-tenderness.
- Add basil. Remove from heat and stir in fresh basil and mozzarella.
- Season to taste. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper to taste and additional lemon juice if desired. Serve chicken with vegetables.
TIPS FOR SEARING CHICKEN
Searing chicken is on of the most common ways to cook chicken. It is a quick, easy, simple technique but there are a few tips and tricks for your chicken to emerge juicy and flavorful. Put these tips into practice with this easy Tuscan Chicken recipe and you’ll be cooking the best pan seared chicken of your life.
- What type of chicken to use? Use chicken cutlets which are thinly sliced skinless boneless chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness. They are more tender than whole chicken breasts and will cook evenly and quickly.
- How to season chicken? After you season the chicken with wet rub (or dry rub in other recipes), allow it to rest for 15-30 minutes to not only penetrate the chicken with flavor, but equally as important, make it juicier. The salt in the rub breaks down the muscle fibers so they shrink less and retain more juices as they cook.
- What pan to use? Use a large cast iron skillet. Cast iron conducts heat the very best so it sears proteins beautifully and cooks the most evenly. We also want to use cast iron to achieve the best char on our corn which is cooked at high heat
- What temperature? Heat the pan to medium-high heat along with oil until hot before adding the chicken. Note, that hot doesn’t mean high heat, but it means it’s reached full temperature (medium-high in this case). 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 luke-warm 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.
- How do I sear chicken? 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.
- How long to sear? Sear for 3-4 minutes on the first side over medium-high heat, then flip over, cover, and reduce heat to medium and continue to cook an additional 4-6 minutes. The second side will still sear due to all of the residual heat and covering the chicken helps it remain juicy.
TIPS FOR THE BEST TUSCAN CHICKEN RECIPE
- Use even chicken breasts. Pound the chicken halves to an even thickness so they cook evenly. This way you can remove them the second they’re done instead of waiting for the thicker side to cook at the peril of the thinner side.
- 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.
- Don’t over-marinate. The wet rub contains acid in the form of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar with little olive oil, so you don’t want to marinate the chicken for too long or the acid can break down the chicken and make it mushy. Marinate only for two hours at most.
- Use a cast-iron skillet. Use a large 12-inch cast iron skillet so you can brown the chicken and cook the vegetables in the same pan. The golden bits from browning the chicken infuse the skillet dinner with a depth of rich, complex flavor that cannot be achieved any other way.
- Microwave lemons. Ever since I learned this tip years ago, I use it all the time! Microwave your lemons for 15 seconds and be amazed at how much easier they are to juice (and how much more juice you get)!
- Bursting tomatoes. You can cook the skillet as long as you like. I cooked mine until the tomatoes were on the verge of bursting (with a few burst), but you can cook the skillet longer if you want more bursting tomatoes. The timing can vary depending on the size of your tomatoes. Just take care not to cook too long or your zucchini will suffer.
- Salt and pepper to taste. You will likely need to season the vegetables with additional salt and pepper to taste, so be prepared to amp up the flavor to your perfection.
Tuscan Chicken Recipe Variations
This Tuscan Chicken recipe can be made cheesy, spicy, with different veggies, etc. Here are a few ideas to mix it up:
- Add melted mozzarella. I’ve added mozzarella snacking balls at the end of cooking so they remain cheesy balls of YUM, but you can swap them for freshly grated mozzarella or sliced mozzarella that you add directly over the chicken or blanket the entire skillet and melt.
- Add Parmesan. Sprinkle the entire skillet with freshly grated Parmesan.
- Swap protein. You can use the same wet rub marinade on shrimp, pork or beef.
- Swap vegetables. I highly recommend keeping the sweet corn and tomatoes as they add the requite sweetness to complement the punchy lemon but you can swap the zucchini/squash for broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, cauliflower eggplant, Brussels sprouts etc. Just be aware of different vegetable cooking times.
- Add-ins. Add artichokes, olives, capers, roasted bell peppers, chickpeas etc.
- Add nuts. Pine nuts and sliced almonds are delish mixed right into the veggies
- Add rice. I love serving my Tuscan Chicken over brown rice or you can also mix some cooked rice directly into the skillet.
- Amp up the lemon. If you like more lemon flavor, add additional lemon juice.
- Add fresh herbs. Add additional fresh herbs to the veggies (make sure to taste first).
WHAT TO SERVE WITH TUSCAN CHICKEN?
This Tuscan Chicken can be served all on its own for a naturally low-carb, healthy dinner or it is also delicious with the following:
- GRAINS: My favorite side to serve with Tuscan Chicken is brown rice. Its robust texture pairs beautifully with the veggies and soaks up the juices. You can also serve with white rice, quinoa, lentils, etc.
- POTATOES: We also love Tuscan Chicken with a creamy side of Mashed Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, or Roasted Red Potatoes.
- PASTA: You can serve Tuscan chicken on a bed of buttered noodles with salt and pepper or alongside Cacio e Pepe – drool.
- LOW CARB: Go low carb and serve Tuscan Chicken with cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- SALAD: This Tuscan Chicken is bursting with veggies so it doesn’t really need a salad, but if you’re trying to make the dish stretch or you just want additional fresh crunch, it’s scrumptious with a big green salad, Caesar salad, Wedge Salad, Strawberry Salad or Spinach Berry Salad.
- FRUIT: Every entree is enhanced by mother nature’s candy. Go simple with a side of grapes, melon or apples or enjoy Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette, or Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone.
- BREAD: Of course, every Italian entrée (or arguably any entree) needs a side of bread. You can serve Tuscan Chicken with a side of crusty bread or we’re obsessed with my Garlic Bread recipe, Dinner Rolls, or Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks.
HOW TO MAKE AHEAD
This Tuscan Chicken is a very quick chicken dinner, but you can still save some time by prepping some of the elements ahead:
- Cut chicken: chicken can be sliced in half to create cutlets and the cutlets an be pounded to an even thickness. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- Marinate chicken: the chicken cutlets can be marinated in the refrigerator for up to two hours ahead of time. Bring to room temperature by setting on the counter for 20 minutes before cooking.
- Chop veggies: the corn can be cut off of the cobs and the zucchini and squash can be chopped and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Store corn separately from the zucchini/squash because it will cook first.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
When reheating Tuscan Chicken, I recommend thinly slicing the chicken first to it reheats evenly without overcooking and becoming dry or rubbery.
- Storage: Tuscan Chicken should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When stored properly, it is good for up to four days.
- Microwave: Transfer to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1 minute followed by 20 second intervals until heated through.
- Stove: Sizzle olive in a skillet and add Tuscan Chicken. Heat over medium low until warmed through.
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HELPFUL TOOSL TO MAKE TUSCAN CHICKEN
- Cast iron skillet: A quality cast iron skillet is a must in your cooking arsenal! It is perfect for searing and creating a deeply golden exterior on everything from chicken, to pork, to steak seamlessly transitions from the stove to the oven. I love my super high quality Staub and Le Creuset. You can also go with a more economical, trusty skillet like this one which also works very well.
- Garlic press: I use this every single day! It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze.
- Lemon and Lime Squeezer/Press: I use fresh lemon/lime juice all the time and this press makes prep so much easier! It’s is made with ultra-strong high quality 18/8 STAINLESS steel (not cheap aluminum) to last a lifetime without rusting or breaking. This more economical version also has great reviews (but isn’t made of stainless steel).
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far!Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthofbut there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.