3 Ways to Cook Chicken

These new recipes are easy to prepare and nutritious.

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on February 15, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

For fast, satisfying weeknight meals, chicken rules the roost. And for good reason: There are a thousand ways to prepare it, and it can be nutritious. Three ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast contain 31 grams of protein, a flock of heart-protective B vitamins, and about 4 grams of fat, says nutritionist Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. Zelman says chicken appears on her own table 3 nights a week.

Think beyond chicken breasts too, she says. She's also a fan of chicken thighs. "Because thighs have a bit more fat, they hold up better, especially on the grill," Zelman says. A 3-ounce portion of skinless chicken thighs contains about 8 grams of fat, and that little extra adds flavor and moisture. Zelman sometimes cooks chicken with the skin on to keep it juicy, but removes most of it before eating to trim fat and calories.

However you prepare your chicken, don't rinse it before cooking, says Jennifer Quinlan, PhD. She's an associate professor in the nutrition sciences department at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Raw chicken can contain salmonella or other bacteria, but "washing won't decrease them, and in fact mobilizes them," spraying the germs into your sink and onto counters and clothing, she says. When possible, move chicken straight from its original packaging to the pan or dish for cooking, which destroys those germs.

Southwestern Chicken Tacos With Mango and Avocado Crema

These flavorful tacos contain jicama, a fresh, crisp root veggie with apple-like texture, and are topped with avocado crema, a tasty, Mexican-inspired alternative to plain sour cream.

Makes 6 servings


2 tsp canola oil

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

dash of salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

1½ lbs boneless, skinless,

chicken thighs

1½ cups shredded broccoli slaw

1 cup peeled, julienne-cut jicama

2 tbsp finely chopped sweet onion

1 mango, peeled and sliced

¼ cup fresh cilantro

½ ripe peeled avocado

¼ cup low-fat sour cream

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp fat-free milk

12 6-inch white corn tortillas


1. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and sprinkle mixture on chicken pieces. Sauté chicken 3 minutes per side or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F. Cut cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces; cover and keep warm.


2. In a medium bowl, combine broccoli slaw, jicama, onion, and mango.

3. Make the crema: Place cilantro, avocado, sour cream, lime juice, and milk in a blender. Process until smooth.

4. Heat tortillas according to package directions.

5. Assemble tacos by evenly dividing chicken and mango salad among the tortillas. Top each taco with a drizzle of avocado crema and serve.

Per serving: 330 calories, 26 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 95 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 189 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Fiesta-Stuffed Chicken Breast

In this recipe, chicken breasts are packed with flavorful Mediterranean ingredients. Pounding the chicken breasts before stuffing helps them cook faster.

Makes 6 servings


½ cup crumbled feta cheese

⅓ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil

½ cup fresh baby spinach, chopped

3 green onions, minced

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp grated lemon zest

2 tbsp pine nuts


6 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

¼ tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a medium bowl, combine feta, tomatoes, spinach, green onions, garlic, lemon zest, and pine nuts, and set aside.

3. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. Pound to ¼-inch thickness.

4. Evenly divide stuffing and place a portion in the center of each chicken breast half. Fold sides over stuffing, and secure with wooden toothpicks.

5. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

6. Heat oil in large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 3 minutes on each side or until brown. Add stock to pan, cover, and place in oven 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F.

7. Transfer chicken breasts from the pan to a serving dish. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, and stir them into the remaining stock. Drizzle over chicken and serve.

Per serving: 273 calories, 36 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 92 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 392 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 40%.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

This spring salad delivers plenty of crunch and an impressive amount of protein to keep hungry eaters satisfied. Kids will love the tasty dressing.

Makes 6 servings



2 lbs boneless, skinless,

chicken tenders

1 small napa cabbage, chopped (about 6 cups)

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shelled, defrosted edamame


2 tbsp rice vinegar

½ cup light coconut milk

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

juice from one fresh lime

⅛ tsp ground red pepper

⅓ cup chopped peanuts

lime wedges (optional garnish)


1. Make the dressing first: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, coconut milk, soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic, lime juice, and red pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.

2. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Grill chicken 4 minutes on each side or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F.


3. Toss cabbage, cucumber, sprouts, carrots, and edamame in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad mixture.

4. Divide salad among 6 plates, and top each with grilled chicken. Garnish with peanuts and lime wedges.
Serve immediately.

Per serving: 320 calories, 42 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 87 mg -cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 250 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 31%.

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Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition, WebMD.

Jennifer Quinlan, PhD., associate professor, Department of Nutrition Sciences and Department of Biology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penn.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Chicken, broilers or fryers, thigh, meat only, cooked, roasted."

Purdue University: "Purdue Agriculture Food Animal Education Network: Poultry Facts."

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