Smothered Chicken – Carlsbad Cravings

Smothered Chicken – Carlsbad Cravings

This Smothered Chicken recipe is an easy, creamy, cheesy skillet dinner complete with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce on your table in less than 30 minutes!

This Smothered Chicken recipe is inspired by my ridiculously popular Smothered Chicken Burritos, but in easy, 30-minute, pantry friendly skillet form!  Lightly breaded chicken cutlets are seared until golden, juicy perfection then smothered in a green chili sour cream sauce spiked with cilantro and lime.  Pile the Smothered Chicken recipe with your favorite toppings such as tomatoes, avocados, salsa, tortilla chips, etc. and serve with a side of cilantro lime rice and Mexican salad to complete the feast.

One skillet chicken dinners are a weeknight lifesaver – you can never have enough!  Some of our back-pocket favorites include Creamy Tuscan Chicken, Creamy Mushroom Chicken, Creamy Cajun Chicken, Lemon Pepper Chicken and Asparagus, Chicken Piccata, Coconut Chicken and Italian Chicken and Orzo.

HOW TO MAKE Smothered Chicken Recipe VIDEo

top view of smothered chicken recipe garnished with tomatoes
serving smothered chicken breasts in a creamy sauce

SMothered Chicken Recipe Ingredients

This creamy Smothered Chicken is made with every day, pantry friendly ingredients that combine into flavor fireworks!  You will need:  

  • Butter: I use Danish Creamery Butter because it’s made with high quality cream from pasture-raised cows since 1895.  It’s wrapped in foil to preserve its flavor and aroma, – you can literally taste the velvety, rich difference!  It’s divine as it soaks into the golden seared chicken and as the buttery base of the creamy sauce as well as in sweet and savory sauces, baked goods or just on toast!
  • Chicken breasts:  Use two large chicken breasts to create four cutlets. The thin cutlets cook more evenly, are more tender and soak up more flavor than whole chicken breasts. You can make your own chicken cutlets by slicing 2 large chicken breasts through the equator or you can purchase packaged pre-sliced cutlets. You may also use 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • Chicken broth: Use reduced sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt in the dish.
  • Canned mild diced green chilies:  These add a bright, vibrant tanginess to cut through the creaminess.  Take care you use MILD chopped green chiles for flavor and not heat. 
  • Sour Cream:  This adds gorgeous silkiness and body to the sauce that can’t be beat.  You may also substitute with plain Greek yogurt.
  • Flour: This is used in the spice rub to create a flavor crust as well as in the roux to thicken the sauce. I used all-purpose flour, but I’m sure a gluten-free substitution would work.
  • Seasonings: The chicken and sauce are seasoned with chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
  • Cheese:  Sharp cheddar brings the flavor and doesn’t get lost.
up close of smothered chicken showing how creamy the sauce is


This Smothered Chicken recipe is easy to make by following a few simple steps.  The meal comes together so quickly that I recommend starting your sides (rice, toppings, etc.) first so they can be ready by the time your dish is complete.  Here is a more detailed look at how to make the recipe (full printable recipe with measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Season the chicken. The chicken is dredged in a flavorful mixture of chili powder, smoked paprika, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  The flour helps create a crust of flavor that soaks up the sauce while also insulating the chicken.
showing how to make smothered chicken by breading the chicken in flour and spices
  • Step 2: Cook the chicken.  Cook the chicken in a large skillet in a mixture of melted butter and oil for a few minutes per side, until golden and cooked through.  Browning the spice coated chicken blooms the spices and unlocks the flavor.  Transfer the chicken to a plate but don’t wipe out the skillet – those golden bits left behind are flavor gold!  
top view showing how to make smothered chicken recipe by searing the chicken in butter
  • Step 3:  Combine the sauce ingredients.  Melt some Danish Creamery Butter in the chicken drippings, then whisk in some flour and cook for about 2 minutes. This eliminates the raw flour taste and smell while creating a flavorful roux.  Next, gradually whisk in the chicken broth followed by the green chilies, jalapenos and all seasonings.
a collage showing how to make smothered chicken by  making a roux then adding chicken broth and spices
  • Step 4:  Simmer the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer until it thickens almost to your desired consistency.  You don’t want it too thick at this point because it will continue to thicken once you add the sour cream and cheeses.
  • Step 5:  Add cheese. Stir in cheese until melted, followed by the sour cream, cilantro and lime juice. 
a collage showing how to make smothered chicken recipe by stirring in cheese followed by sour cream
  • Step 6:  Add chicken. Add the chicken back to the pan and spoon some sauce over top.
  • Step 7:  Toppings! Serve with desired toppings such as tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, avocados, crushed tortilla chips etc.
smothered chicken in creamy sauce in a skillet with juicy chicken breasts


Topping your Smothered Chicken adds bright, fresh pops of flavor and texture.  You can create a toppings bar so everyone can customize their own servings.  Some of my favorites include avocados and pico de gallo.

  • Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips:  Use crushed chips or homemade crushed tortilla strips (like in my Chicken Tortilla Soup). If you know you’re going to be using chips, you may wish to reduce the salt in the sauce.
  • Chopped tomatoes: The easiest way to add pops of juicy freshness!
  • Guacamole: Use your favorite recipe or my homemade guacamole recipe (amazing!) or store bought. Alternatively, top with chopped or sliced avocados.
  • Pico de gallo: This is a fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness. You can use my homemade pico de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Cheese: Cotija or queso fresco. Cotija is found with the specialty cheeses and is delightfully salty. It is often called the “Mexican Parmesan.”
  • Lime: Use lime wedges to add freshly squeezed lime juice if additional tanginess is desired.
  • Cilantro: If you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead.
  • Jalapenos: Ramp up the heat with chopped or sliced jalapenos or hot sauce. 
  • Salsas: Add a symphony of flavor texture freshness with black bean corn salsa, avocado salsa, or charred corn salsa.
  • Use freshly grated cheese.  Only use freshly grated cheese because packaged cheeses contain chemicals which prevent it from easily melting.
  • Remove chicken from the fridge before cooking.  Never cook chicken or any protein cold straight from the refrigerator otherwise it will cook unevenly. Instead, remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.
  • Dry chicken before seasoning. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels before seasoning to help the flour and seasonings stick – and since we are not rinsing the chicken, we are just drying any moisture from the packaging.
  • Reduce heat if needed when cooking the chicken to prevent burnt drippings. The actual cooking temperature for your chicken will depend on your pan, stove and chicken breast thickness, so be prepared to be flexible and lower the heat as needed. We want deeply golden drippings left in the pan and not black remnants. If your drippings are burnt, your whole dish will taste burnt.
  • Scrape up golden bits while simmering the sauce.  After you cook the chicken there will be golden bits on the bottom of the pan – these are flavor gold!  Make sure to scrape up the bits to maximize the flavor of your sauce.
  • Only flip chicken once when it easily releases from the pan.  Resist the urge to move the chicken as it cooks or to flip it more than once. The chicken needs to stay in the same place for a continuous amount of time to brown. When the chicken is browned, it will naturally release from the pan. If it is sticking, then it’s not ready to be moved, so be patient and cook on to prevent tearing.
  • Don’t overcook the chicken. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, are juiciest when not overcooked. The best and most efficient way to check for doneness is to insert a meat thermometer into the chicken; chicken breasts are done when they register 165 degrees F. 
  • Season to taste.  At the end of cooking taste and additional salt if needed.  Lime juice, cayenne pepper or hot sauce also really awaken the flavors.
  • Don’t simmer the sauce until thickened. The sauce should be almost thickened to desired consistency because it will continue to thicken once you add the cheese and sour cream.
  • Thin sauce, if needed: If the sauce becomes thicker than you like, stir in additional chicken broth a little at a time. 
  • Reduce the salt: If you know you’re going to be topping your Smothered chicken with tortilla chips, you may wish to reduce the salt in the sauce.
top view of smothered chicken with creamy sauce
  • Make it gluten free.  Swap the flour for gluten free flour and you’re all set.
  • Add vegetables. Add any of your favorite veggies such as bell peppers, corn, zucchini, chayote, par-boiled sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc. and saute before adding the flour.
  • Add fire roasted tomatoes. They boast a wonderful smoky flavor and are sweeter with less acidity than regular diced tomatoes. 
  • Add beans.  Add black beans or pinto beans directly to the sauce before simmering.  
  • Add olives.  Add ½ cup sliced olives for a tart, umami bite.
  • Spice it up.  Add additional canned jalapenos, or spice it up with minced chipotle chili peppers, cayenne pepper or hot sauce.
up close of smothered chicken recipe showing how juicy the chicken is
showing how to serve smothered chicken by adding to a bowl of rice


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  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese

FOR SERVING (Pick your favs!)

  • cilantro lime rice
  • chopped tomatoes
  • chopped avocados
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • minced cilantro
  • Cotija
  • Slice the chicken breasts in the half through the equator to create 4 fillets. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness (use a meat mallet or side of a can). Pat dry.
  • Whisk 2 tablespoons flour and all of the chicken seasoning together in a shallow dish. Dredge each cutlet in the mixture, shake off any excess, then transfer to a dry surface.

  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan (I love my braiser) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and cook each side for 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness) until golden and cooked to 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer chicken to a plate, don’t wipe out the skillet.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the chicken drippings over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in the chicken broth followed by the green chilies, jalapenos and all seasonings.
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer while scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan; simmer until sauce thickens almost to desired consistency (it will continue to thicken once you add the sour cream and cheese), stirring often.

  • Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheddar cheese until melted, followed by the sour cream. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.
  • Add chicken back to the pan and spoon some sauce over top. Serve with desired toppings such as Cotija, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, avocados, crushed tortilla chips etc.

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