When your go-to chicken dinner just isn’t cutting it anymore, and you need a dinnertime upgrade, just remember these three words — bacon, BBQ sauce, and cheese. This trifecta is always a win. It only makes sense that Monterey Chicken would be too.
This restaurant classic was made famous by Chili’s, but now, you can easily make it at home! It features juicy chicken breasts pan-seared to lock in moisture, topped off with BBQ sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, and hearty crumbles of crispy bacon. It’s baked to bubbly, melty perfection, and when it comes out of the oven, you’re guaranteed a weeknight dinner the entire family can get on board with!
WHAT IS MONTEREY CHICKEN?
Monterey Chicken is a smothered chicken dish in which pan-seared chicken breasts come fully loaded with BBQ sauce, melty Monterey Jack cheese, and bacon. This dish was made famous by Chili’s, and if you’re going for a restaurant copycat rendition, don’t forget that fresh garnish of chopped tomatoes and green onions!
HOW TO MAKE MONTEREY CHICKEN
- Pound It Out
- Cook Some Bacon
- Sear the Chicken
- Top It Off
In order to get those toppings to stay put, pounding out the chicken is key. This creates a flat surface for the cheese to melt. To pound out the chicken, grab yourself a gallon-sized ziptop bag and place the chicken inside of it. Be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing! You could also use two sheets of wax paper. Pound out the chicken, starting at the thick end, and keep at it until the chicken is of even thickness.
Next, it’s time to add some flavor! You’ll start by patting it dry with a paper towel. Then, drizzle it with oil and season liberally. Rub everything in, all over, to make sure it adheres to the breasts.
Is it even Monterey Chicken without the bacon? That’s a hard no. Cook the bacon over medium-high heat and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Now, it’s time to build even more flavor! Add the chicken to the bacon grease and pan sear it for about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip it, and sear it for 2 minutes more. This step doesn’t cook the chicken fully; it’s just meant to help keep the chicken juicy by locking in moisture, give it a little extra color, and, of course, flavor!
Time to put the Monterey in Monterey Chicken. The chicken goes into a casserole dish and gets topped off with BBQ sauce, Monterey Jack cheese (or your favorite cheesy combo), and crumbled bacon.
Bake the chicken for about 15 minutes in a 350°F oven. Then, allow it to cool for about 10 minutes, top it off with tomatoes and green onions (if desired), serve, and enjoy!
INGREDIENTS | TIPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Chicken Breasts | Monterey Chicken is made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. To help those toppings stay put (and to accelerate the cooking process) the breasts get pounded out before cooking. If you want to skip that step, buy chicken cutlets instead.
- Bacon | You can use any bacon you like, but for an extra hearty bite, thick-cut bacon always gets our vote.
- BBQ Sauce | This is not the time for thin, watery BBQ sauce. Oh, no. The thicker the sauce, the better for topping off this chicken. Sweeter BBQ sauce will typically be thicker, when you’re on the hunt for the perfect sauce, look for words like “sticky and sweet.” This way, your BBQ sauce will actually stay put while the chicken is baking!
- Cheese | Monterey Jack cheese is pretty much an essential (hence the name — Monterey Chicken). It is especially melty, creamy, and delicious if you grate it yourself! I like to mix in a little Cheddar with the Monterey Jack for an extra bit of flavor. You could also use Colby Jack cheese if you’d like. Whatever cheese or cheese-blend you land on, you will need a total of 1 cup.
- Seasoning | This chicken recipe gets a big boost in flavor thanks to this simple spice blend. Kosher salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder are a killer combo. If you don’t have smoked paprika, feel free to sub in regular paprika.
- Extras | If you want to serve this restaurant-throwback dinner just like Chili’s did, you’ll need to have some chopped tomatoes and green onions on stand by. These ingredients are completely optional, but add a nice, fresh quality to an overall savory dish!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH MONTEREY CHICKEN
Monterey Chicken goes well with so many delicious side dishes, it might be hard to choose one! Below are a few of our favorite carby and green options for pairing with this chicken!
MAKE IT INTO A MONTEREY CHICKEN SANDWICH!
What do you call Monterey Chicken in sandwich form? Why, a fully-loaded BBQ Chicken Sandwich, of course! Sound delicious? Check out our favorite rendition made with sliced chicken, BBQ sauce, melty cheese, and bacon!
You’ll also love our Chicken Smothered with Onions and Colby Jack Cheese!
5 MORE CHICKEN DINNERS YOU’LL LOVE
- Cowboy Tostadas
- Baked BBQ Chicken
- Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- Bacon Ranch Chicken Casserole
- Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts
Monterey Chicken is officially better at home! This Chili's copycat recipe features juicy chicken topped with BBQ sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, and bacon.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon canola or avocado oil
- 1 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1/3 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese (or a Monterey Jack/Cheddar blend)
- 1 tomato, seeded and chopped (optional)
- 2 green onion, chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and have ready a 9x13" baking dish.
Place the chicken breasts in a ziptop bag (or sandwich in between two sheets of wax paper) and pound them out one at a time using a rolling pin or mallet. Begin at the thick end, and continue until the chicken is of even thickness, about a 1/2" thick.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and transfer a work surface. Drizzle the chicken with the oil and season evenly with the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. Rub all over to adhere. Set aside.
Place a skillet over medium-high heat and bring to temperature. Add the bacon and cook for about 6-8 minutes, turning it halfway through. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the chicken to the skillet (taking care not to overcrowd the pan and cooking in batches as needed) and sear for 3 minutes on one, then flip, and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to the casserole dish.
Spoon the BBQ sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with cheese, and crumble the bacon across the top. Bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with tomatoes and green onion, if desired, serve, and enjoy!