A meal that’s quick enough for a weeknight but also special enough for entertaining – that’s this Creamy Peppercorn Chicken which has fast become a favourite in our household.
There is so much to love about this recipe.
- Succulent chicken breast
- Rich, creamy sauce
- Flavour from both whole and cracked peppercorns
- Golden sauteed mushrooms
- And did I mention all made in one pan?
Ingredients you’ll need
See the full recipe with all ingredients and quantities at the bottom of the page.
- Cream and chicken stock (broth): are the base of the creamy sauce
- Chicken breasts: I use large chicken breasts butterflied to give two smaller ones. See more about that below
- Mushrooms: They work perfectly with chicken, creamy sauces and pepper so they’re a no brainer here but if you don’t like mushrooms, just leave them out.
- Onion & garlic: Add flavour to the sauce.
- Pepper: I use a combination of whole peppercorns and cracked. Since this is cooked quickly, the whole peppercorns impart flavour without a lot of heat. You can choose to eat them whole or push them aside, if there are too many. The cracked pepper adds most of the heat to this sauce. I find ½ teaspoon adds the right combination of subtle heat and flavour but add more or less to your taste.
How to make it step by step
This recipe is all cooked in one pan, but some components are cooked separately in order to get the right flavour.
- You’ll start by butterflying the chicken breast. This method makes all the chicken breasts the same thickness and helps them to cook quicker.
- You can be butterflying the chicken while the mushrooms are being sauteed. Cooking them on their own first allows any excess liquid to evaporate disappears and get them golden and flavourful.
- Now season the chicken with salt and cook that for 3-4 minutes on each side until it’s starting to get golden.
- Now it’s time to make the creamy peppercorn sauce. Sautee onions and garlic, then add the pepper and deglaze with stock getting all the good bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add cream and bring it to a simmer, followed shortly after by the mushrooms and chicken and any juices they’ve released – that’s all good flavour.
- Bring it back to a simmer, then serve it up.
The versatile creamy peppercorn sauce
I want to bathe just about everything I eat in this peppercorn sauce right now. Because of the minimal ingredients, it works on everything from prawns to fish to steaks.
For fish and prawns you can either leave the chicken stock in or swap it for vegetable stock. To douse steaks, use beef stock in the sauce.
Important Tips and Tricks
- Butterfly the chicken: This is a good way to get evenly sized chicken breasts that will cook quickly. If you use small chicken breasts, use 4 and make sure to use a meat tenderiser to bash them out to a thinner, even thickness.
- Cooking the chicken: If you have a non-stick pan, you’ll only need a little oil. Cook it over medium-high heat until it gets golden – that golden colour doesn’t just look pretty, it adds flavour.
- Mushrooms: Cook them separately (or leave them out if you don’t like them). Cooking them separately allows the moisture they release to evaporate and intensify the flavour. Just like the chicken, let them get golden on the edges – it adds flavour.
- Pepper: It’s called peppercorn chicken, so don’t be shy. Even if you don’t love eating whole peppercorns, don’t skip them – they help the pepper flavour permeate throughout the sauce without adding extra heat. You can push them aside on your plate if you don’t want to eat them. Most of the pepper heat will come from the cracked pepper you add – so add it to taste.
- Time saving: You can save time by cooking the mushrooms while you prepare the chicken. Then while the chicken cooks, prepare your other ingredients.
- Make ahead: You can cook this ahead of time so makes a good meal prep dish. Reheating is best done in a pan (as the microwave could dry out the chicken too quickly) and after it sits a day or two the pepper flavour intensifies.
How to know cook perfect chicken breast
Chicken breast has a bad reputation for being dry but this is most often because it’s overcooked and that is often due to people being concerned about serving uncooked chicken. It’s flavourful when done right and is a lighter option than thighs so use these tips to get it perfect.
- Even thickness: This is something I use every time I cook chicken breast. Where the chicken breast is really thick, give it gentle bash with a meat tenderiser, under a sheet of plastic wrap until the thickness is pretty even all the way across – generally to about 1cm is perfect.
- Timing is dependent on how thick the chicken breasts are and your stove top but for a piece of chicken about 1cm thick, 3-4 minutes on each side should be sufficient.
- Temperature-wise, you want to get the thickest part to 75C / 165F and a meat thermometer comes in really handy.
- Colour: If you are doing it by eye, test the thickest piece but just cutting it open (serve that one to yourself) and it should have clear juices (not pink) and you should be able to see the fibres of the meat that you can’t see when it’s raw.
If you stick to these rules, you’ll have juicy chicken breast every single time.
How to serve it
For a light weeknight dinner, peppercorn chicken is great served with simple steamed veggies. When the weekend hits, all bets are off and we add a good starchy side like mashed potato or one of these
- Easy Cheesy Potato Bake
- Warm Potato Asparagus Salad
- Buttery Garlic Potatoes with Crispy Prosciutto
- Perfect Roast Potatoes
- Sizzler Cheese Toast (so great for soaking up the sauce – yum!)
More quick or creamy chicken recipes
- Creamy Lemon Thyme Chicken
- Lime Chili Coconut Chicken
- Sticky Harissa Chicken
- Chicken Basil Pesto Pasta
- Chicken Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms
Creamy Peppercorn Chicken
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (notes)
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper (notes)
- 3-4 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups sliced button mushrooms (about 150g / 5.3oz)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed (or very finely chopped)
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- ¾ cup cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt, extra
- Large non-stick pan
- Slice the chicken through it's thickness so that it turns into 2 thinner breast pieces. Season both sides with salt.
- In a large frying pan or skillet over medium high heat, drizzle one teaspoon of the oil.
- Add the mushrooms and cook stirring regularly until moisture has evaporated and they're starting to turn golden. Set aside.
- Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, then cook the chicken 4-5 minutes each side until golden and the inside is cooked (notes). Set the chicken aside with the mushrooms.
- Turn the heat down to low-medium and remove the pan from the heat to let it cool for a minute. Back on the heat, add the remaining oil and butter and let the butter melt.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook stirring until the onion has softened.
- Add the chicken stock, peppercorns and half the cracked pepper and let it come to a simmer. Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for 2 minutes until it reduces slightly.
- Stir in the cream and bring it all back to a simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken and mushrooms, including any juices they've released, back to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes until fully heated through and the sauce has thickened a little.
- Taste the sauce and add the extra 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining cracked pepper to taste.
- Serve with mash or pasta and steamed veggies
- The amount of pepper in this recipe does give this sauce a good pepper kick. If you don't like it too spicy, only add half of the cracked pepper.The whole ones can stay in as they will continue to flavour the sauce and can be pushed aside if you don't want to eat them.
- Chicken cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breast and your stovetop. When cooked it should read 75C / 165F on a meat thermometer or cut one open in the thickest part and the juices should be clear and you should be able to see the meat fibres all the way through.
- This sauce works on everything from prawns to fish to steaks
- If you don't like mushrooms, leave them out with no other changes to the recipe.
- This recipe can be made 2-3 days ahead. Reheat over medium heat in a pan, not in the microwave.
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