Say it with me: stuffed meat is one of the greatest culinary ideas that humanity has come up with.
I mean, think about it: stuffed meatballs (gooey cheese oozing out of juicy meat? Yum), beef braciole (love me a stuffed Italian beef roll), chicken cordon bleu (ham and chicken? Yes, please), and Thanksgiving turkey (okay, technically not many people actually stuff the turkey anymore, but still).
And now, my new favorite: Caprese stuffed chicken. Why is this my new favorite? Glad you asked.
It marries a classic appetizer (the caprese salad) with a versatile poultry to deliver a well-rounded, mouth-watering dish. If you’re looking for a chicken recipe that is home kitchen-friendly but yields restaurant-grade results, you’re at the right place.
Oh, did I also mention this is a great stuffed chicken recipe if you need some gluten-free options?
With some easy-to-get Italian ingredients, chicken breasts, and basic seasoning, you’ll have caprese stuffed balsamic chicken ready to devour in less than an hour.
This is a great recipe because it uses common ingredients to deliver a beautiful dish. You’ll need:
- Chicken breasts – This recipe calls for four large eight-ounce chicken breasts, usually available in the pre-packaged meat section at the grocery store.
- Tomatoes – You’ll need fresh roma tomatoes and canned or bottled sun-dried tomatoes in oil. If you like making your own sun-dried tomatoes or buying them without oil, I recommend soaking them in olive oil for a couple of days before using it as you’ll want the tomato-infused oil.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese – A must-have for caprese! You’ll want a log that you can slice on your own or a pre-sliced pack, not shredded.
- Dried basil, fresh basil and dried oregano – Don’t skip the fresh basil leaves as it gives the chicken an earthy taste that dried basil doesn’t provide. The dried herbs are for seasoning the chicken.
- Garlic, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar – These three simple ingredients will make the sauce that really brings the whole dish together. You can get fresh or minced garlic.
- Salt and pepper – Just like in most of my recipes, the salt-pepper duo is a staple to enhance the flavors of the dish.
These instructions will walk you through stuffing the chicken (it’s easy, I promise), cooking it, and making the sauce.
Step One: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step Two: Partially butterfly chicken breasts. Cut about ¾ of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, but be careful not to cut all the way! You want to just cut a pocket for the filling.
- Pro Tip: Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the pockets in the chicken. Set the chicken on a cutting board. Start on the thickest side of the chicken and work your way in. The main thing is to be careful not to cut all the way through, or the cheese will melt through to the other side.
Step Three: Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs.
Step Four: Pour 1 teaspoon of sun-dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some seasoning inside the pockets.
Step Five: Fill each pocket with 2 slices of fresh tomato, sun-dried tomato strips, one slice of mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves.
Step Six: Secure the filling by inserting 4 toothpicks on the outer edge of the stuffed side diagonally. This keeps the filling inside while cooking and makes the chicken breasts as juicy as can be.
Step Seven: Once you have your stuffed chicken breasts, heat 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on either side for about 2 minutes until golden, then remove to a plate.
Step Eight: Now, you’ll want to make the sauce. While the chicken is cooking, mix together the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic in a small bowl.
Step Nine: Pour the mixture into the pan around the chicken, scraping any browned bits off the bottom. Bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally until the glaze has slightly thickened (this should take about 2-3 minutes).
Step Ten: Spoon the balsamic mixture over the chicken.
Step Eleven: Using an oven mitt, carefully transfer the hot pan with the balsamic-glazed chicken to the oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Note: if you don’t have an oven-safe pan, you can transfer the chicken to a lightly greased baking sheet before spooning the balsamic mixture over it.
Step Twelve: Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and drizzle with pan juices.
Step Thirteen: Finally, top with a pinch of chopped basil leaves. Serve warm. Bon appétit!
Tips & Variations
If this recipe has got you feeling nervous, I have two words for you: Don’t be!
I hear some friends tell me that they don’t like attempting stuffed meat because they’re afraid the filling might spill out. Or that they’re not a fan of oven-baking chicken breasts because they dry out easily.
Those are valid concerns, and if you’re in the same boat as them, I have some pro tips for you to make this feel a lot more accomplishable!
Maximize the potential of your sun-dried tomatoes.
I suggest cooking the chicken in sun-dried tomato oil reserved from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes (or the oil that you soaked your sun-dried tomatoes in if using self-dried tomatoes). You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but it adds lots of extra yummy flavor to the chicken.
Freeze the caprese stuffed chicken breasts before cooking.
10 minutes in the freezer can help firm up the stuffed chicken and help it hold its shape. You don’t want to leave it too long, though, since cheese and fresh tomatoes that are frozen and then thawed might taste different. This helps your stuffing stay in and keeps the chicken from drying out!
Another reason why I think caprese stuffed chicken is great is the fact that you can try different variations that I guarantee will yield delicious results. Here are some suggestions:
Pesto stuffed chicken (plus dairy-free option):
In addition to the caprese stuffing, try adding some pesto – store-bought or homemade – into the chicken pocket. You can swap the balsamic glaze for shredded parmesan cheese if you want the pesto to stand out more. If you need a dairy-free option, pesto is a great substitute for the cheese in this recipe.
Remember how I was raving about stuffed meat? Bacon-wrapped meat is probably the second-best thing. After browning the chicken, wrap the meat with strips of bacon before popping it into the oven. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the bacon after baking.
Caprese with a Greek twist: Looking to spice up the classic caprese? Try adding some chopped green olives, red onion, and feta cheese to the caprese base for a Greek salad-inspired stuffing!
This dish is best served fresh out of the oven. However, if you want to make it ahead, you can prepare your spice mixture, slice the chicken breasts and place them in the fridge.
You can also prepare your balsamic reduction, though you won’t have the flavor of the browned bits of chicken from the original recipe. Do the remainder of the cooking steps before serving.
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge without the basil leaf garnish. When you’re ready to eat, pop it in the oven and bake at 350°F in an oven-safe dish. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
Caprese Stuffed Chicken Recipe
- 4 (8 ounce) large chicken breasts
- ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 Roma tomatoes thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup sun dried tomato strips in oil divided
- 4 thick sliced pieces of mozzarella cheese
- 12 basil leaves chiffonade and divided
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- Topping: Additional chopped basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Partially butterfly chicken breasts. Cut about ¾ of the way through on the thickest side of each breast, being careful not to cut all the way! You want to just cut a pocket for the filling.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and dried herbs.
- Pour 1 teaspoon of sun-dried tomato oil over each breast, rubbing some of the seasoning inside the pockets.
- Fill each pocket with 2 slices fresh tomato, sun dried tomato strips, one slice mozzarella cheese and basil leaves.
- Secure filling by inserting 4 toothpicks on the outer edge of the stuffed side diagonally, to keep the filling inside while cooking.
Make The Balsamic Sauce:
- In a small bowl mix together the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and garlic. Set aside.
Bake The Chicken:
- Heat 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato oil in an oven-safe large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on either side for about 2 minutes until golden.
- Pour the balsamic sauce into the pan around the chicken scraping any browned bits off the bottom. Bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally, until the glaze has slightly thickened (about 2-3 minutes).
- Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Using an oven mitt, carefully transfer the hot pan to the oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and drizzle chicken with pan juices. And top with a pinch of chopped basil leaves. Serve warm.
- Bon appétit!