What’s for Dinner: Picante Chicken

I’m always looking for an easy recipe that is decently healthy and of course, tastes great. Usually when I look for recipes, I want 10 ingredients or less and few steps. It is even better when the steps are easy enough for younger cooks to master.  One such recipe that matches this criteria is similar to Dari’s Picante Chicken located in a Biggest Loser cookbook (approximately 200 calories per breast/serving). Dari’s recipe uses shredded cheese over the top of the dish as a finish; but frankly it is not needed.

Go Your Own Way

One thing to know about me is that I use recipes as guidelines and often make substitutions. This recipe is really great for allowing substitutions. Instead of using store bought salsa you can cut up your own vegetables or use different flavors/brands on salsa (or chutney). Make it as spicy hot as you want; the cream cheese tempers some of the spiciness. If you have time, make your own salsa to stay away from all that extra sodium. Below are my substitutions for the recipe.

Picante Chicken

  • 2 cups salsa (not picante)
  • chicken breasts (boneless preferred)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of whipped cream cheese per breast
  • 0.5-1 inch sliced tomatoes, 3-4 slices per breast (optional)

Chunky Salsa

You might be asking why the dish is named Picante Chicken and my substitution is to suggest salsa instead. Good question. Salsa and picante are basically made of the same ingredients while salsa is more chunky and picante is blended more smoothly. The picante ends up being soupy in this recipe and while that can help with cooking up a moist chicken, I think salsa provides a better finished product.  You might notice that this dish isn’t much to look at, so one of my substitutions is to add sliced tomatoes. This provides some structure so the salsa on top of the dish doesn’t sliding off during cooking. In addition or instead of sliced tomatoes, you can also use slices of bell peppers.

If you aren’t using a good no-stick baking pan/sheet, cover the dish with aluminum foil for easier clean up. The name of this recipe game is EASY.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour about 3/4 of cup of salsa on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Lay the chicken breast atop the salsa. It is best if you use filets of boneless chicken breasts so it cooks evenly without drying out- or just pound out your frustrations on the chicken until it is an uniform height.
  4. Spread 1.5 tablespoons of whipped cream cheese on top of each breast. Whipped cream cheese is easier to spread over the chicken then regular cream cheese.
  5. Pour the remaining salsa over the chicken breasts, so whatever baking sheet or pan you use needs to be able to hold the whole two cups of salsa plus the chicken.
  6. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes (or until the center of chicken is no longer pink).

One of the most amazing things about this dish is that it is delicious. Picante Chicken freezes and reheats well. If you want to extend this dish, pair with your favorite rice side. Actually, it took me longer to write this blog than make this dish! Prepare it tonight for a quick, easy dinner that is gut busting good… every single time it graces your plate and fills your tummy.  Enjoy!


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