With 10-15 minutes of prep, this baked salsa chicken has all the flavour without the hassle. Succulent chicken breast, bathed in salsa and topped with cheese – this easy chicken dinner promises to become a family favourite.
Why you’ll love it
There is just so much to love about this baked salsa chicken.
- Perfectly cooked, tender chicken breast
- Only 5 ingredients
- 10-15 minutes hands-on time
- One pan – so long as your frying pan or skillet is oven-proof
- So easy to make
- Loaded with flavour
- Technically gluten-free but check the packaging of your salsa and seasoning first.
With all that going for it, you need to add this to your dinner plan asap.
What is it? Chicken breasts, seasoned with taco seasoning, are seared in a pan. A bed of salsa is added and more salsa over the top, then it’s given a generous layer of cheese. It’s then baked to juicy perfection.
Serve this chicken salsa bake with your favourite sides (like plain rice, this Spanish red rice, corn on the cob, guacamole and roasted vegetables). Or you could chop it up and add it to nachos, burritos or tacos. The options are endless.
Baked salsa chicken ingredients
I’ve said it already but just 5 ingredients are all you need! And the oven will do most of the work for you.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. The size is not overly important. I suggest 4 small chicken breasts or 2 large (that you’ll slice into 2 each). Just keep in mind that larger pieces of chicken will require longer cooking time.
- Oil: A little vegetable oil or some extra virgin olive oil is perfect for searing the chicken.
- Taco seasoning: Feel free to use store-bought but it’s also so easy to make yourself. You can make a big batch of this taco seasoning so that it’s always ready to go in the pantry. Taco seasoning is a combination of spices like cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and dried oregano. You can also try my homemade fajita seasoning in place of the taco mix, it has a similar flavour profile but it’s bolder.
- Tomato salsa: Buy your favourite salsa from the store or make my homemade salsa, making sure to leave it a little chunky. Choose the spice intensity to suit your tastes, mild, medium or hot. Salsa is already full of so much flavour from tomato, onions, chilli and capsicum (bell pepper).
- Cheese: Use a good melting cheese. I like a good full fat cheddar cheese but you can use a Mexican blend or a milder creamy cheese, like gouda. These all melt lovely. You could also combine cheddar and mozzarella to get that winning combo of flavour and smooth, gooey melted cheese. Please DON’T use pre-shredded cheese. They are usually coated in additives to stop it sticking and doesn’t melt as smoothly. It’s always best to shred the cheese yourself.
I use chicken cutlets for this recipe (chicken breasts sliced into two pieces). If you want to know more check out my full guide to chicken cutlets.
If you want to increase the nutritional content without adding a bunch of side dishes, you can add a tin of black beans (drained and rinsed) along with the salsa.
Tools you’ll need
- Large frying pan or skillet – one that can go from stove top to oven will make clean up a breeze.
- If you don’t have an oven safe pan, you’ll need a large baking dish.
- Box grater – because it’s so important to grate your cheese from scratch (see ingredients notes).
- Meat tenderizer / meat mallet
How to make salsa chicken
Baked salsa chicken is basically a 2-step process. Season and sear the chicken, then add the toppings and bake. It’s that easy.
Detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
- Prep the chicken: If using large chicken breasts, slice them in half, through the thickness (photo 1) to create chicken cutlets (see below). Use a meat tenderiser to gently thin out the thicker parts (this will help them cook evenly). Now rub the seasoning all over (photo 2), leaving nothing behind.
- Sear the chicken: Sear the chicken in a hot skillet in a little oil, just until they start to brown. Repeat on the other side (photo 3). This step adds extra flavour by caramelising the outside of the chicken and toasting the spices all at once.
- Add toppings: Push the chicken aside (if using an oven-safe skillet) and pour in half a cup of salsa. Re-arrange the chicken nicely, then add the remaining salsa over the top. Top each chicken breast with a quarter of the cheese (photo 4). If your pan or skillet is not oven-safe, just layer it up the same way in a casserole dish.
- Bake: Bake for around 20-25 minutes – this baking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken breast and how far you’ve cooked them through on the stove.
All about chicken breast
What is chicken cutlet?
Chicken cutlets are chicken breasts that have been sliced in half, through the thickness, or horizontally to create two thinner pieces that are still shaped like a chicken breast.
Why would you make chicken cutlets? Firstly, it means you get more seasoned and seared outside ratio to juicy inside ratio. Secondly, it cooks much, much quicker.
How to cut chicken breasts into cutlets.
- Place the chicken breast flat on a chopping board.
- Place your hand on top of the chicken.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the chicken through it’s thickness, aka parallel to the chopping board.
If you use small chicken breasts, you won’t need to slice them into cutlets. They’re already small enough for one serve and to cook quickly.
Tenderizing chicken breast
I recommend laying a sheet of plastic wrap over the top first, to stop it spattering around your kitchen. Don’t be too heavy handed with bashing the chicken, you don’t want it thin, just even.
How long to bake chicken breast?
The time it takes for chicken breast to cook in the oven will depend on the size of the chicken and the temperature at which you bake it.
A raw chicken breast will take anywhere between 20-40 minutes or longer if you’re slow-baking (at a low temperature).
This baked salsa chicken is seared first, cutting down the baking time slightly, so these are baked at 200C / 400F for around 18-20 minutes.
The temperature of cooked chicken breast
The most accurate way to check if your chicken breast is cooked through is to use a digital meat thermometer. It should reach an internal temperature of 73.9C / 165F for perfectly cooked chicken.
What to serve with salsa chicken bake?
- Base / carbs: I serve this with rice most often – either plain steamed rice, this Spanish red rice or my butter rice (hopefully be adding that last one to the blog soon). Cooked pasta, like penne, also is simple and delicious.
- Toppings: I love this topped with chopped up avocado and coriander (cilantro). You can also top it with guacamole, sour cream or this avocado crema. I also love some sliced jalapenos for an extra hit of spice.
- Vegetables: This is great with some simple corn on the side or even some sauteed or roasted vegetable – like mushroom, zucchini and capsicum (bell pepper). A simple fresh salad is also lovely.
- Other serving styles: You can also slice up the finished chicken and serve it in tortillas, tacos or burrito style or even nacho style over crisp tortilla chips with guacamole and sour cream.
Yes, you can use chicken thighs and prep, sear and bake them the same way. They may take slightly less time to cook through, depending on their size, so check them at about 15 minutes.
Technically, you can use bone in chicken, however it will take longer to cook and you won’t get a crispy skin, if you leave that skin on.
If you want to save time or prep this recipe ahead, you can skip the searing process. While I love to sear them since it adds flavour and toasts the spices, it’s not necessary to still have a delicious dish. Just season chicken breasts in the spices and layer it up in a casserole dish the same way. They may take longer to cook – say 25 up to 30 minutes.
Want to save even more time during the week? Just prep the dish ahead (skipping the searing part) as noted above. When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes.
You can make this salsa chicken recipe in the slow cooker / crock pot too. You can sear it if you like in a pan first or skip that step. Layer it all up in the dish of your slow cooker per the normal layering, but leaving the cheese off. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours. Top with cheese and cook just until the cheese has melted, then serve.
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days. To reheat, just place in the oven at 200C / 400F for 10 minutes or in the microwave for around 2 ½ minutes on high. Microwaves do vary, so make sure the chicken is hot before eating.
If you try this baked salsa chicken recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you, and it helps other readers too!
More chicken dinners you’ll love
- Oven Baked Chicken Tacos
- Chicken and spinach pasta
- Greek Seasoned Chicken
- Chicken Fajita Nachos
- How to make chicken schnitzel
- Pistachio Chicken
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- 4 small chicken breasts (or 2 large) (about 500g / 1.1lb)
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (I use my version) (notes 1)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (notes 1)
- 1 ½ cups chunky tomato salsa (I used mine and leave some chunks) (375ml)
- 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar (150g / 5.3oz) (notes 2)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Large frying pan or skillet (oven safe if possible)
- Large baking dish (if skilet isn't oven safe)
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / 180C fan forced.
- Place the chicken on a chopping board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top. Use a meat mallet or heavy saucepan to gently bash out the thicker parts so each is a similar thickness all over.
- Sprinkle half the taco seasoning over 1 side of the chicken, flip and repeat, then rub in well all over.
- In a large, oven-safe frying pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned (don’t force them to release from the pan if they’re stuck. They will release when they are golden). Flip and repeat on the other side then remove from heat.
- Push the chicken to one side and add roughly half a cup of salsa across the base of the pan. Place the chicken back on top, then pour the remaining salsa evenly over the top. If your pan or skillet is not oven-safe, just layer it up the same way in a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken and place in the oven. Bake for around 18-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (about 74C /165F when sticking a meat thermometer into the thickest part).
- Please take a moment to rate this recipe. I really appreciate it and it helps me create more recipes.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons).
- DON’T use pre-shredded cheese. They are usually coated in additives to stop it sticking and doesn’t melt as smoothly.
- If you want to save time or prep this recipe ahead, you can skip the searing process. While I love to sear them since it adds flavour and toasts the spices, it’s not necessary to still have a delicious dish. Just season chicken breasts in the spices and layer it up in a casserole dish the same way. Place it in the preheated oven when you’re ready and they’ll take a little longer to cook – say 25 up to 30 minutes.
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