Give your chicken repertoire a refresh with these Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts! Filled with a cheesy creamed spinach and bacon stuffing, this flavorful recipe makes for an easy and comforting dinner.
There’s something so versatile about a stuffed chicken breast. It can be easy and casual for a weeknight dinner or fancy enough to use for an entertaining menu.
(You might remember the dinner party fiasco I had with stuffed chicken way back in college. I shared the story over on my recipe for Mushroom and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Live, learn, and be grateful for guests who bring a Coconut Cake!)
After making a particularly large batch of my steakhouse-style Creamed Spinach for a gathering the night before, I found myself in the unusual position of having leftovers. We were “steak’d” out at that point, and figured we’d just have a scoop of spinach alongside chicken breasts for dinner.
One thing led to another, and I decided to use the creamed spinach to stuff the chicken. It’s since become one of our favorite stuffed chicken recipes.
These Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts fit the bill for convenience, presentation, and flavor. Pan-roasted on the stove, they both cook quickly and look lovely plated. With their savory layers of flavor and a hint of smokiness, no one will believe these little chicken parcels were so easy to make.
Making the Spinach Filling
This dish uses a cup of my Creamed Spinach recipe (about a quarter of the recipe). You can either use leftovers, like I usually do, or scale the recipe and make the spinach (up to a few days in advance) specifically for this chicken.
When making the creamed spinach, you can either choose to chop the spinach or, if you’ve used baby spinach, leave the leaves intact. Both will make an excellent filling, with the chopped spinach more uniformly-textured.
To the creamed spinach mixture, I add shredded Swiss cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano. Emmental (Emmentaler) Swiss is my favorite to use in this recipe. It’s nutty and buttery in flavor without being too pungent, and it melts beautifully.
A little crumbled bacon rounds out the filling with a hint of smoky flavor that complements the spinach and cheeses well. I like to use thick-cut hickory or applewood-smoked bacon that I’ve baked in the oven, on a rack for guaranteed crispiness.
As an alternative, if you’ve made my Spinach Artichoke Dip and have leftovers, it makes a great stuffing for this chicken as well. No need to add any additional cheese with that recipe–just stuff and go!
Stuffing and Pan-Roasting the Chicken Breasts
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a cinch to stuff. Use a sharp knife to make a slit in the middle of the side of the breast, starting about a half an inch from the end of the thickest side of the breast. You’ll want to slice about 3/4 of the way into the breast to create a pocket, and lengthwise, stop about an inch before the breast’s tapered end.
For a 6-ounce breast, you’ll be able to fit about 1/3 cup of stuffing into each pocket. I’ve shown the stuffing at the edges of the pockets in the photos for demonstration (so you can see the texture of the cheesy creamed spinach) but at home, it’s best for it to be completely enveloped in the chicken so it doesn’t run out when you cook them.
After filling, use skewers to ensure that the stuffed chicken breasts stay closed in the pan. A little bit of filling escaping is normal, but you don’t want to lose a ton of it–it’s too delicious!
The spinach mixture is well-flavored, but I like to season the chicken breasts themselves with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. The paprika plays well with the bacon’s smoky notes, and I also find that it helps them to develop an especially rich color.
Pan-roasting these spinach-stuffed chicken breasts is the easiest, quickest method to achieve both exterior browning and interior juiciness. Just cook them in a hot skillet with olive oil for about 6 minutes per side, covering the pan for a few minutes after searing the first side and flipping. The chicken needs to cook through to 165 degrees F in the center.
Like all meats, the chicken breasts should rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
Serving Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts
We usually pair this dish with a buttery chardonnay or crisp beer (especially when the weather is warmer).
Since the filling is rich, I like to serve Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with a salad, dressed-lightly with a bright and fresh dressing, such as a simple lemon vinaigrette. They’re also delicious with roasted potato wedges, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, or honestly, just on their own for a quick dinner. So satisfying!
Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- 1 cup creamed spinach (1/4 of a recipe, linked), cooled to room temperature
- 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese , such as Emmental
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 slices thick cut, hickory-smoked bacon , cooked crisp and crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)
- ground paprika
- garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- In a bowl, mix together creamed spinach, Swiss cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, and bacon. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little bit of half and half to thin. It should be creamy but hearty in texture so that it doesn't run out of the chicken breasts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Use a sharp knife to make pockets in each chicken breast. Insert the tip of the knife into the thickest part of the side of the breast, about 1/2-inch from the end. Cut about 3/4 of the way into the breast, extending the slit about 1/2- to 1-inch from the tapered end of the breast.
- Fill each pocket with a quarter of the filling (about 1/3 cup). Close the breasts and secure with a skewer so they don't open during cooking.
- Season the stuffed chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and a pinch each of paprika and garlic powder.
- Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. (I use cast iron.) Add the chicken breasts, top side down, and sear for 5-7 minutes. Flip the breasts, cover the pan, and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes more until the centers and the thickest part of the breast read 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. (Cooking time depends on the thickness of the breasts.)
- Remove from the pan, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.