I used to think chicken breasts needed a lot of help (read: brining or marinating) to make them juicy and flavorful. But a tip provided by several Kitchn readers gave me a surprisingly simple answer to my dinnertime dilemma. A swipe of hummus and a sprinkling of smoky seasoning gives ho-hum chicken breasts a tender, golden-brown crust and a moist interior. This recipe is so simple that it left me wondering why I didn't think of it sooner.
A simple, flavorful chicken dinner
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are notoriously fickle to prepare. Because they're lean and have little flavor of their own, they often require extra attention when it comes to seasoning and cooking. But this recipe requires nothing of the sort. In fact, you'll be sending them to the oven in just five minutes.
You'll start by sprinkling salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken breasts, then spreading on the hummus -- you'll want to cover the top and sides of the chicken in a thin layer to seal in the juices. Sprinkle on the smoked paprika, pop them in the oven to bake, then finish under the broiler to brown and crisp the crust.
The hummus protects the lean chicken breasts from the oven's intense heat, resulting in baked chicken that's incredibly juicy beneath a tender crust.
Choose course hummus
Silky-smooth hummus is preferred for dipping, but when it comes to crusting chicken, you actually want to choose a hummus with a bit of texture. Although you can use whatever brand you have stashed in the fridge, if you're shopping for this recipe specifically, I've found that the Ithaca brand and private-label store brands have a coarser texture.
Super-smooth hummus is made by pureeing chickpeas for an extended amount of time, and often has a larger proportion of oil, tahini, or other liquid. The moisture from these ingredients prevents the hummus from drying into a crust. The bits of chickpeas in coarser hummus toast in the oven, adding texture to the chicken's coating. If you make hummus from scratch, don't pulse the chickpeas quite as finely, and hold back on the olive oil.
You can adjust the flavor of this chicken dinner by simply changing the flavor of hummus you use. Make it spicy with a hot pepper variety or keep it cool and fresh with a lemon and dill-flavored hummus.
- Cooking spray
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup hummus
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Dry the chicken on all sides with paper towels, then season with the salt and pepper.
3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the hummus over each chicken breast (about 1 tablespoon over each), spreading it into a thin layer until each breast is evenly and completely coated. Sprinkle the paprika over the hummus.
4. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, completely opaque, and registers 165 F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes.
5. Turn the oven to broil and broil the chicken until the hummus is dry to the touch and browned, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe notes: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to four days.
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