Blackened Chicken


This easy blackened chicken recipe boasts a robust charred Cajun spice blend that enveloped the tender, juicy chicken breast when cooked quickly over high heat. With just a few steps and tips, you can have restaurant quality chicken in less than 15 minutes.

Blackened chicken marries bold spice flavors with smoky, charred textures to create a simple chicken dinner that is delicious over a bed of Caesar salad or served along side cilantro lime rice.

Sliced blackened chicken breast over Caesar salad on a white platter with sliced lemon nearby.

What is blackened chicken?

“Blackening” usually involves coating a bold Cajun spice mix to a quick-cooking protein like chicken or fish. It’s then seared in a piping hot cast-iron or stainless steel skillet until the blend of fat and spices begin to smoke and char without completely burning.

This Cajun chicken recipe starts with a homemade spice blend of smoked paprika, salt, cumin, thyme, onion powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper for some kick. The smoked paprika is preferred over regular paprika as it adds to the smoky profile of the dish.

Butterflied chicken breasts are thoroughly coated in this rich spice mixture and then seared in a hot cast-iron skillet. The swift, high-heat searing gets that signature charred appearance on the chicken while preserving its juiciness and tenderness. After a quick sear, the chicken is transferred to a preheated oven, a crucial step that ensure it is cooked through without losing additional moisture. The result is a flavorful, smoky, and succulent blackened chicken dish in record time, without turning your kitchen into a smoky mess.

How to make blackened chicken

To make blackened chicken, start by making the Cajun spice blend and preparing the chicken so that it is the same thickened to allow for even cooking.

  1. Cajun spice mix – Combine smoked paprika, salt, ground cumin, dried thyme, onion powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
  2. Butterfly the chicken – Using a sharp knife, butterfly each chicken breast completely to get four thin slices of chicken. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Then spray with cooking oil to help the spices stick to the chicken.
  3. Heat the skillet – Use a cast iron skillet or stainless steel skillet to cook the chicken. Heat the pan on the stovetop over high heat until it’s very hot (takes about 5 minutes). DO NOT add oil or butter to the skillet or else they will burn, smoke and might cause a fire. Add the chicken to the hot skillet. Make sure the skillet is not overcrowded to prevent steaming, and sear the cajun chicken on each side for one minute or until the spices have charred and create a blackened crust.
  4. Finish in the oven – Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil (or keep in the castiron skillet) and bake in a preheated oven at 350 °F for 5-8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F.

Allow the chicken to rest before slicing into. This method gives a deliciously smoky, juicy blackened chicken breast.

Blackened Chicken Recipe Video

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Blackened Chicken Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Blackened Chicken Directions

  • Blackened Chicken
  • Blackened chicken with a juicy, charred outer layer in a grill pan.

    Spices for blackened chicken

    Blackened seasoning is also referred to as Cajun spice since these spices and similar method of blackening quick cooking proteins are used often in Cajun cooking.

    Typically blackened seasoning contains a mixture of paprika, cumin, thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Other seasonings like crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper can be added for heat. Other herbs can be used in addition or interchangeable like dried parsley, cilantro and basil. Smoked paprika can be used instead of regular paprika for an intense smoky flavor.

    To get the seasoning to stick to the chicken, cooking oil is lightly coated on the chicken. Some recipes will create a paste by adding avocado oil or canola oil to the seasoning mix then brushing this all over the chicken. Oils with a high smoke point should be used to keep the oil from oxidizing. Olive oil doesn’t have a high smoke point, so I don’t recommend it if blackening proteins like chicken, fish or pork.

    Is blackened chicken spicy?

    In this blackened seasoning recipe, cayenne pepper adds heat and can make this chicken spicy. To tame down the heat, omit the cayenne pepper or just add a pinch.

    How to butterfly chicken

    The purpose of butterflying chicken is to make the chicken an even thickness which will allow for it to cook evenly.

    1. To butterfly chicken, put your hand on the smooth side of the chicken breast to stabilize it as you cut. Make sure your palm is only touching the breast and your fingers are up and out of the way of the knife’s path.
    2. Using a sharp knife, start at the thick end of the breast, cut horizontally into the breast (parallel to the cutting boarding).
    3. Stop about 1/2 inch from the opposite side and not cut all the way through the chicken.

    When you open the breast, it looks like butterfly. In this recipe, we cut all the way through the chicken to yield two pieces of thin cut chicken from one large chicken breast.

    If you find that your chicken still doesn’t have a uniform thickness, place the chicken in an unsealed ziploc bag and pound it using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer mallet until it’s of even thickness.


    Sliced charred chicken breast over a bed of chopped romaine lettuce.

    What to serve with blackened chicken

    Cooking chicken in a hot skillet cooks it very quickly so dinner can be ready to eat in under 20 minutes. Look for side dishes that are easy to assemble to serve along side this easy blackened chicken.

    Think salads – like Caesar salad or slice up over a bed of lettuce, tomato and avocado or an avocado chicken salad. Toss blackened chicken with spring mix, cucumbers and your favorite ranch dressing.

    Fresh vegetables – Veggies like asparagus or brussels sprouts are easy to cook in the air fryer while your chicken is baking in the oven. Or whip up a batch of bacon and green beans for a side of comfort next to the oven baked chicken.

    Use leftovers sliced up in chicken tacos or tostadas. The Cajun seasoning pairs has similar flavors to those found in Mexican foods so cut up the chicken and throw in taco salads or make burritos with homemade tortillas.

    Storage information

    Blackened chicken is an ideal recipe to meal prep if wanting to stay on track with high protein meals. Not only is it easy, but you can make a bunch of it and store for later use throughout the week

    To store in the refrigerator

    Place cooked chicken in an air tight container or ziploc bag and store for up to 4-5 days in the refrigerator. 

    To store in the freezer

    Blacked chicken can be frozen for up to 1-3 months if properly sealed in a freezer safe container or freezer bag.

    Meal prep instructions

    Blackened chicken should be cooked completely before storing or used for meal prep. It’s not recommended to store the seasoned chicken uncooked in the refrigerator or freezer as moisture can accumulate on the outside of the chicken which will affect how well the seasoning adheres to the chicken breast. In addition, moisture prevents a blacken char crust from forming while searing. 

    Blackened Chicken: FAQS

    How do I know when the skillet is hot enough to add the chicken?

    The skillet should start to smoke when it is hot enough to add the chicken. Depending on the type of pan you use, this should take about 5 minutes for a cast-iron pan and probably 3-4 minutes for a stainless steel pan?

    If I don't have a cast-iron skillet, can I use a regular non-stick pan?

    No, a regular non-stick pan will not work well for making blackened chicken as they can't hand the high heat. Non-stick skillet won't put the charred blackened crust on the chicken as well as a cast iron pan or stainless steel skillet will.

    Can I use chicken thighs instead of chicken breast?

    Yes, you can use chicken thighs instead of breasts. It's important to make sure the chicken is of even thickness to allow it to cook evenly. This may require pounding the chicken with a rolling pin or meat hammer. Chicken tenderloins can be used as well to make blackened chicken tenders.

    Is blackened chicken burnt?

    No, blackened chicken is not burnt chicken. It gets that charred color from the spices when heated to a high heat. It doesn't mean the spices have burnt either. The spices are heated to a high heat to allow maximum smoky flavor.

    Nutritional information & Macros

    Nutrition Information

    Blackened Chicken

    Servings: 4

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 270
    Fat 12.3g
    Protein 36.4g
    Total Carbs 2.1g
    Net Carbs 1.1g

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