Gather round the chuck wagon, it’s time for hearty, healthy Cowboy Chicken!
I think I’ve always wanted to use the word “chuck wagon” in a post.
I can’t imagine a better recipe!
Cowboy chicken is seasoned, seared chicken breasts smothered in a tasty mixture of black beans, Mexican-style corn, diced tomatoes, and cheese, all baked together until the cheese is melty, the chicken is juicy, and your kitchen smells amazing.
- Serve cowboy chicken with Instant Pot Brown Rice (or cauliflower rice) for an all-in-one healthy alternative meal.
- Dice it up for chicken tacos.
- Or take inspiration from Taco Salad and mix it with greens for lunch.
Sometimes called Santa Fe chicken (perhaps to differentiate it from the Cowboy Chicken restaurant chain), this Tex-Mex recipe is the kind of simple, family-friendly meal I loved as a kid.
We grew up eating a lot of Tex-Mex.
It was budget-friendly and a cuisine on which everyone in our family could agree (and still does).
Those casual childhood meals influenced many of our go-to recipes like Mexican Chicken and Rice, Fiesta Chicken, Crockpot Mexican Casserole, Crockpot Mexican Chicken…I could go on and on (as this list of Mexican-inspired recipes demonstrates).
When it comes to ultimate easy (in preparation and on the wallet) and crowd-pleasing, this from-scratch cowboy chicken breast recipe is hard to beat!
How to Make Cowboy Chicken
Baked Cowboy chicken is the kind of hearty, crowd-pleasing meal that you can turn to when you need a no-brainer, wholesome dinner.
- It uses mostly canned ingredients, keeping it quick and convenient.
- Browning the seasoned chicken on the stovetop gives it a more elevated flavor.
- Everything cooks in the same pan, making for easy cleanup.
- Did I mention cheese?!
- Chicken. Chicken breasts are a go-to, no-complaints protein. After being coated in the spices and cooked in the Tex-Mex sauce, the white meat chicken is flavorful and juicy.
- Spices. Cowboy chicken recipe seasoning is smoky and warm. I used a combination of smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder (no need for chopped onions!), dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes. These canned tomatoes are an easy way to elevate this dish.
- Black Beans. Black beans add a pleasing, creamy texture to the dish and help make it more filling. Black beans are rich in fiber and potassium.
- Mexican Style Corn. A delightful, sweet blend of corn and bell peppers. Plus, all these fresh ingredients together act like a salsa.
- Green Chiles. These little guys pack a flavor punch! They do have a slight kick, but the dish isn’t overly spicy.
- Pepper Jack Cheese. For the melty, gooey, cheesy top that pulls everything together. (I prefer the kick of pepper jack over cheddar cheese.)
- Cilantro + Lime. My favorite finishing touches! The combo adds brightness and freshness.
- Pound and dry the natural chicken.
- Rub half of the spice mixture onto the chicken.
- Brown the chicken, then remove it to a plate.
- Add the tomatoes to the large skillet and simmer. Stir in the beans, corn, green chiles, and remaining spice mixture.
- Return the chicken to the pan, covering it in the pan sauce. Bake cowboy chicken breast at 375 degrees F for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top and broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Finish the dish with lime juice and cilantro. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm chicken in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave. I like to dice it first to help it warm more evenly.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, pound the chicken and stir the spice mixture together. Refrigerate the chicken until you’re ready to finish the recipe. Cover and store the spice mixture at room temperature.
Turn leftovers into a cowboy chicken dip by serving them with tortilla chips. Leftovers would also be tasty served over tortilla chips with additional cheese for a spin on cowboy chicken nachos.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cast Iron Skillet. Ideal for making cowboy chicken.
- Citrus Juicer. Easily juice lemons and limes with this handy tool.
- Cheese Grater. Grating your own cheese is well worth the extra time. It melts better than the pre-shredded kind.
Make cowboy chicken for your next family meal.
You’ll have that dinner bell ringing before you know it!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’d like to boost the chicken’s flavor even more, you can certainly use a cowboy chicken marinade. Marinate the chicken in your favorite Tex-Mex marinade before starting the recipe. Or, try my all-purpose Chicken Marinade.
Yes! If you’d like to pile your cowboy chicken into a tortilla and serve it as a quesadilla or burrito, you can certainly do so. This is another great way to use leftovers too. You also can use it for quesadillas.
- 3 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 (15-ounce) can reduced sodium black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 (11-ounce) can Mexican style corn such as Fiesta Corn or Mexicorn, drained
- 1 (4-ounce) can green chiles drained
- 4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese about 4 ounces; use Monterey Jack for a milder dish
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 medium lime
- Place racks in the center and upper third of your oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken on a cutting board. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap to keep things tidy. Lightly pound into an even thickness (this will help ensure it cooks evenly without the edges drying out). Pat very dry.
- In a small bowl, stir together the smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture all over the chicken, rubbing to coat.
- In a cast iron skillet or similar thick, sturdy oven-safe skillet, heat the oil over medium high. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken smooth-side down, lowering it into the pan away from you to protect yourself from splatters. Don’t crowd the chicken (the breasts should not overlap—cook in batches if needed). Let cook, undisturbed for 3 minutes, until the chicken looks nice and brown underneath and releases easily from the pan. Flip and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Remove to a plate.
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet. Stir, scraping along the bottom of the pan to loosen stuck-on bits. Let simmer 1 minute, scraping periodically. Add the black beans, Mexican-style corn, green chiles, and remaining half of the spice mixture.
- Stir to combine, then nestle the chicken into the pan browned-side up and pour any juices that have collected in the pan over the top. Spoon some of the sauce over the top of the chicken so it is covered.
- Transfer the skillet to the center oven rack and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until the chicken registers 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part. If some pieces finish sooner than others, transfer them to a plate and cover to keep warm while the others finish cooking.
- Return any chicken that finished early to the pan and sprinkle the cheese all over the top. Broil on the upper rack until the cheese is melted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Squeeze the lime over the top and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot, with lots of yummy corn black bean sauce served alongside.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm chicken in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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