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Gather round the chuck wagon, it’s time for hearty, healthy Cowboy Chicken!

A cast iron skillet with 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.
The best cowboy chicken recipe served on a plate

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!

Cowboy chicken in a skillet

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?!

The Ingredients

  • 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. For more Tex-Mex flavor, check out my King Ranch Chicken.
  • 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.)

Substitution Tip

For a more mild cheese, use Monterey Jack.

  • Cilantro + Lime. My favorite finishing touches! The combo adds brightness and freshness.

RECIPE NOTE

For next-level cowboy chicken, you could top the dish with crumbled cooked bacon. Oven Baked Bacon is my recommendation!

The Directions

Three raw chicken breasts under plastic wrap
  1. Pound and dry the natural chicken.
Three raw chicken breasts with seasonings
  1. Rub half of the spice mixture onto the chicken.
Chicken breasts in a skillet for cowboy chicken
  1. Brown the chicken, then remove it to a plate.
Corn, beans, tomatoes, and green chiles in a skillet
  1. Add the tomatoes to the large skillet and simmer. Stir in the beans, corn, green chiles, and remaining spice mixture.
A Mexican one-pan meal in a cast iron skillet
  1. 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.
Healthy cowboy chicken in a skillet
  1. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Finish the dish with lime juice and cilantro. DIG IN!

Storage Tips

  • 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.

A serving of cowboy chicken in a bowl

Leftover Ideas

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.

What to Serve with Cowboy Chicken

Cowboy chicken in a skillet
  • 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

Can I Marinate My Chicken First?

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.

Can I Serve Cowboy Chicken in a Tortilla?

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.

Cowboy Chicken

5 from 12 votes
Cowboy chicken is an easy family dinner. Juicy seasoned chicken breasts smothered in beans, cheese, corn, and diced tomatoes, then baked.

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 531kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 53gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.02gCholesterol: 134mgPotassium: 1222mgFiber: 11gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1361IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 322mgIron: 5mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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24 Comments

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  1. So far, so good. Trying it now. But 3 chicken breasts for 4 servings? Trying to figure out how to divide it up…

  2. Sooooo good! We didn’t have Mexican corn, so we used regular corn and added bell pepper. Also didn’t have smoked paprika, but used regular and added liquid smoke. Served with chicken chopped and over rice. Highly recommend this recipe!5 stars

  3. Was a really easy recipe and so good! Served over rice today but planning on over lettuce or possibly a baked potato with the leftovers. Only had shredded rotisserie chicken so I heated it up in the pan with some water to moisten it up and added the seasoning. Worked great!5 stars

    1. I’m truly sorry for any inconvenience the ads caused you, Turner! I will certainly keep paying close attention to the number of ads and how they load, as I never want them to hinder your ability to view the recipe or the blog post. I do truly appreciate your feedback and apologize again for the inconvenience! Also, there is a quick and convenient “jump to recipe” button that will help you get to the recipe faster and a print button to have the recipe quickly at your fingertips. Hope this helps!

    2. Howdy Turner: click on the ‘Print’ button in the top right corner of the Recipe section. You’ll be able to view an ad-free page. I do this when I am in cooking mode, and I just need to see the recipe and instructions.

      LOVED this recipe! Sooooo much flavor. I have a generous garden this time of the year so I roasted my own tomatoes in my Ninja Foodi, chopped up and sauteed green peppers, serrano peppers and green chili peppers also from my garden. Added some tomato juice to make up for the juices missing since I roasted my own tomatoes. FABULOUS flavor! Big fan of Smoked Paprika. Staple in my pantry. Keep ’em coming, Erin!5 stars

      1. Hi Molly! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review! And thank you for the feedback about the print button!

  4. This recipe is super delicious and easy to make!! The chicken was juicy and flavorful and the sauce was so yummy and spiced to perfection. I served it over rice and it was a meal I’m looking forward to having again! Highly recommend !5 stars

  5. Fantastic flavor! Family couldn’t say enough about it! I used skinless chicken thighs and legs, and cooked on top of stove, and it worked well.5 stars

  6. SO good and SO easy! I used chicken thighs because it was what I had on hand. My husband LOVES this recipe, he prefers it over rice but it is hearty enough to stand alone in my opinion. Shared it with my mom and she loves it, too! Thanks Erin!5 stars