What is French onion chicken?
If you know what French onion soup tastes like, you're on the right path to know what French onion chicken is. This easy skillet dinner starts with juicy boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
The chicken, smothered in cheese, sits in a buttery bath of caramelized onions and rich gravy. This one-pan meal prep chicken is pure and simple comfort food that's still fairly healthy – BONUS!
How to make French onion chicken (step by step)
Skillet French onion chicken is incredibly quick to make, cooking up in just 30 minutes, making a family weeknight dinner that everyone loves!
Slice chicken in half lengthwise if you didn't buy cutlets, then season them with salt and pepper. Saute chicken in a large skillet for 4-5 minutes each side, then remove from heat. Cook the onions until browned in the same pan. If you're doing the broccoli, now is the time to make it while the onions are cooking! Roast a head with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper in the oven for 10 minutes. Once the onions are softened, mix in flour and add red wine and beef broth, mixing well to combine. Add the chicken back to the skillet and cover with onions, then top with cheese and put lid on top of skillet to melt the cheese.
Serve the chicken with broccoli or any other sides and enjoy!
Ingredients in French Onion Chicken
Besides the obvious onions, you will need the following to make the sauce for this dish:
Flour Red wine Beef broth Olive oil
The thick sauce is served over the chicken breasts and then cheese is added on top.
The French onion sauce tastes great with any type of protein. Try it on pork chops, steak or fish.
I use yellow onions to make this dish because it’s what is in most versions of French onion soup. Yellow onions are good for just about anything. The strong flavor and aroma are exactly what comes to mind when you think of onions.
This being said, if you want to alter the flavour a bit and get creative, you can use other types of onions.
Sweet onions such as Walla Walla and Vidalia are fantastic for caramelizing. The extra sugars in them will make them less bitter. If you want something a little milder, try a white onion. It will also be sweeter than the yellow onions. Red onions will give your dish a splash of bright color and a sweet mild flavor. While shallots are small, and they roast well because the layers are so thin. They have a garlicky taste. Leeks are great in sauces because their flavor mellows as they are cooked.
Skillet meals like this one are so easy to make, too. Other than slicing some onions, there's very little prep involved. Oh, speaking of onions…
Why do onions make you cry?
Do you know why onions make you cry? It's all very scientific and to be honest, sort of interesting (in a geeky way).
Apparently, onions have a built-in defense mechanism; their enzymes! Those sulfuric enzymes, coming from sulfur in the soil, produce an acid that breaks down quickly into two gasses: thiosulfonate and syn-propanethial-S-oxide. The first gas is responsible for that awful onion smell and the latter is a volatile gas that stimulates the glands above our eyelids to make reflex tears.
Do your eyes burn and water when you slice onions? Depending on how much sulfur is in the soil, some onion varieties will have a milder effect on our eyes than others.
Anyway, here are a couple of simple kitchen hacks to teach you how to cut onions without shedding tears.
To scatter the sulfur compounds, turn on a fan while cutting onions. Chill onions before chopping them. Just toss them in the fridge in the morning, peel and all. Use an onion chopping container.
Of course, you can always throw on a pair of swim goggles or sunglasses to keep those nasty enzymes away from your eyes, too.
How to caramelize onions
Yellow onions caramelize quickly and taste fantastic in this dish. However you can use other kinds of onions as well. Refer to the guide above to choose a variety.
When you make caramelized onions, you want to take your time. Keep in mind, you aren’t just browning them; you want the sugars in the onions to break down. The goal is for them to develop a perfectly deep, sweet flavor, not the taste of slightly burnt onions.
Here are a few tips for creating the perfect caramelized onions.
Cut the onions fairly thin, but not too thin. If they are too thin, the will get crispy instead of caramelizing. Fry the onions in oil, not butter. Butter will brown quickly and you’ll think the onions are done before they really are. Caramelize over low heat. Use salt on the onions to draw out the moisture Only stir once every five minutes If you start to get a burnt spot, add some water and scrape it up. But continue cooking at a lower temperature.
You can speed up the process, but you will be making fried onions, not caramelized onions.
What kind of chicken should I use?
The healthiest option for protein is chicken breast. It has slightly less cholesterol and much less saturated fat than chicken thighs and legs.
In a dish like this, boneless breast meat cooks more quickly because there is no bone in the meat. You can use chicken breast cutlets that are pre-cut for you at the store to make the recipe quicker, but you can always slice one chicken breast in half lengthwise to accomplish this.
By cutting the breast in half, your portions will cook quickly and completely. Chicken should cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Get a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through
Storing and reheating French onion chicken
You can store this meal in the refrigerator for up to five days. As a result, it is the perfect meal prep recipe! You can make the dish in advance for a weeknight dinner, or even make a large batch to divide into single serving sizes. Then you will have lunches for several days, ready to go.
Of course I prefer to store it in the fridge up to five days, as that's the easiest way to enjoy it as meal prep. Usually what I will do is make this French Onion Chicken for dinner one night and then eat the leftovers for lunch the next couple of days.
That's the best way to really enjoy your meal prep efforts without having to eat too much of the same dish during the week – eat your dinner leftovers as lunches!
To reheat, microwave the French onion chicken skillet dinner for a few minutes, or pop it in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes.
Freezing French onion chicken
Unlike French onion soup that loses its signature texture when frozen, this meal freezes beautifully. It can be frozen for up to three months. That is why it's so perfect for meal prep dinners; you just need some meal prep containers and you're good to go!
As another option, you can freeze just the caramelized onions. Since they take a while to make, you can cook up a larger batch and freeze. Caramelized onions last in the freezer for at least five months.
The amazing caramelized onions make a great topping for any type of meat, soup, burgers and more! You can freeze them in small portions in a muffin tray for individual servings to spice up another meal.
What to serve with French Onion Chicken
With a versatile chicken skillet dinner like this one, options for sides are pretty limitless.
Make a veggie that your family likes. Steamed broccoli, green beans, or carrots are great choices, as are starches like rice or potatoes.
Oh, and of course, a crusty loaf of French bread would be perfect with a comfort food meal like this French onion chicken, too.
Worst comes to worst, you can always do some frozen fries on the side, or some sweet potato tater tots as I like to do occasionally. A salad also pairs really nicely with this dish and keeps it low carb.
French Onion Soup Cheese
Now the cheese that is best served with French onion soup or French onion chicken is DEFINITELY a nice Swiss cheese. I usually use the Jarlsberg brand, and Emmental is another delicious, mild cheese that would pair nicely with this chicken dinner. You ideally want a cheese that melts nicely and is relatively mild to highlight the gravy and onions.
You could also use pizza mozzarella if you're in a pinch!
Meal prep tools Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on turning this French onion chicken skillet meal into your lunches for the week. I get all my free-range chicken from Butcher Box, conveniently delivered to me frozen. Get a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through Meal prep challenge
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French Onion Chicken Skillet
This French Onion Chicken Skillet is a delicious weeknight dinner that is a play on French onion soup – that's right, your favorite winter comfort food is now packed with protein, making it a full meal!
1 tbsp olive oil 2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise Salt & pepper to taste 1 tsp olive oil 4 yellow onions, sliced 2 tsp flour 2 tbsp red wine 1/2 cup beef broth 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, grated Oven-roasted broccoli 1 head broccoli, cut into florets 1 tsp olive oil 2 cloves garlic minced 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper Preheat oven to 425 F. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet over med-high heat. Meanwhile, slice chicken in half lengthwise then season with salt and pepper. Saute chicken for 4-5 minutes each side, then remove from heat and wipe pan clean with a paper towel. Add 1 tsp olive oil to skillet then add onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions brown. Meanwhile, toss broccoli with 1 tsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes until broccoli is tender. Once onions are softened and somewhat browned, mix in flour and then add red wine and beef broth, mixing well to combine. Add chicken back to skillet and cover with onion mixture, then top with cheese and put lid on top of skillet to let cheese melt, about 2 minutes. Serve chicken with broccoli and enjoy!
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