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Crispy Cheddar & Jalapeño Coated Chicken Breasts

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Serves four.

The lively Mexican flavors in in this crispy coating make it a good match for a cold beer.

  • 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 7 oz. each), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Toasted Breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 lb. tortilla chips, crushed into coarse crumbs (about 1-1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 lb. sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 lightly packed cup)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced jarred jalapeños, chopped and patted dry
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat the oven to 450°F. Put a flat rack on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.

With a meat pounder or a heavy skillet, lightly pound the chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap to even out the thickness of the breasts.

Crispy Cheddar & Jalapeño Coated Chicken Breasts Recipe

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt with half of the thyme, the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. You can proceed directly to coating the chicken breasts with crumbs, or let them marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Put the breadcrumbs in a large shallow dish and toss with the tortilla chips, Cheddar, jalapeños, and the remaining thyme. Working with one piece at a time, transfer the chicken to the dish of crumbs, scoop some crumbs on top, and press well so the breadcrumbs adhere to both sides. Transfer to the rack on the baking sheet. 

These crumbs are coarser than your average breadcrumbs, so it takes a little extra force to get them to adhere. My method is to pat a healthy amount of breadcrumbs on top of the chicken and then use the heel of my hand and a firm rotating motion to press the crumbs onto the chicken. Don't shake off the excess when transferring the breasts to the baking sheet; you want to keep as many crumbs on the chicken as possible.

Bake the chicken until it’s firm to the touch and registers 165°F on an instantread thermometer, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with the lime wedges for squeezing over the chicken.

Make Ahead Tips

Make the crumbs ahead. They'll keep for up to three days in a container at room temperature. Or if you want to whip a few batches of crumbs, you can store them in a zip-top bag in your freezer for a couple of months.

Marinate ahead: You can pound the chicken and immerse it in a sticky flavor bath the day before you cook it. The results will be excellent because the flavors really sink into the meat.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on four servings; Calories (kcal): 300; Fat (g): fat g 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 100; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 4; Protein (g): protein g 38; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 10; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 320; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 105; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

We just loved this recipe. Makes bake chicken really special. Easy to make gluten free just use gluten free panko and corn tortillas. I marinaded for a couple of hours but would be nice to marinade it longer.

aka: Chicken Breast Nachos!

The most flavourful chicken I've had in a long time...boneless, skinless breasts are often so bland, but this breading was great. Next time I would like to leave it marinating for a long time. The only change I made was adding a bit of grated Romano to the cheddar. Loved the jalapenos in it.

I LOVE this recipe. It is simple, and so tasty. I usually make my own bread crumbs, but have substituted panko. I mince garlic and add to the yogurt marinade-otherwise follow the recipe. It always takes exactly 20 min to cook. I serve with mashed sweet potatoes with cream cheese and chipotle and balsamic chipolte dressed salad. YUM!!!

Very good. Chicken came out tender and tasty. I served it with guacamole and a lemon juice lettuce salad. Left-overs for lunch the next day were served with chips and salsa and black olives.

This was great! Lots of flavor and nice crunchy crust to the chicken without all the fat and calories that you get when frying. I made several substitutions to use what I had on hand - nonfat yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt and canned chopped mild chili peppers instead of the jalapenos. Both seemed to work out fine. Since we like our food somewhat spicy, I think next time I would use jarred jalapenos or maybe add in some minced fresh jalapeno pepper to the crust mixture.

This recipe is a real winner with my kids. It's easy to make, turns out crispy, and the chicken stays juicy and tender. If I were making it for myself, I'd probably drop the chili powder and brown sugar and add some chipotle chili paste (made by pureeing a can of chiopotle chilies in adobo sauce.) Panko makes a quick substitute for the homemade breadcrumbs.

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