Cornflakes and a special mix of spices give these tender slices of chicken breast a super crunchy crust. A great (and healthier) substitute for fried chicken!
I hope you had a fun three day weekend! It was supposed to rain all weekend here in Kansas City, so I envisioned lots of baking with the kids + movies + indoor fun. We had one night of rain so intense that we made a 9:59pm sprint to the hardware store for sandbags to keep water out of the door to our basement. But apart from that downpour, it ended up being sunny and beautiful for most of the weekend. We were able to grill burgers for my dad’s birthday, did some work in the yard, and got in some bike riding. We also started packing for a trip the beach next week. Despite my best efforts, we always end up packing so. much. stuff when we take the kids to the beach.
In anticipation of the busy days leading up to vacation, I’ve been working on lots of weeknight meals that take just a few ingredients. (I like my fridge to be empty when we leave town.) This crispy baked cornflake chicken is a new favorite. I’ve experimented with other versions, but this one has the best mix of spices. The spices are what make it great! I’ve also provided lots of tips, photos, and clear instructions so that the crust comes out super crunchy. Read on to see how!
Ingredients for Cornflake Chicken
- Chicken breasts – The buttermilk marinade insures that boneless, skinless chicken breasts come out super juicy in this recipe. If you prefer, chicken thighs or thinly-sliced pork chops would also be great (though they may take a bit longer to cook).
- Buttermilk – What makes really good fried chicken tender and juicy? A good marinade! And buttermilk is classic. Buttermilk is slightly acidic so it tenderizes the chicken. If you don’t have buttermilk, check the recipe below for easy substitutes.
- Cornflakes – Just the regular, old breakfast cereal variety.
- Spices – A combination of salt, dried thyme, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper.
- Oil – Any standard cooking oil will work – I use avocado or grapeseed. Vegetable or canola also work.
How to make Cornflake Chicken
- Slice and pound chicken – Slice the chicken breasts in half (to thin them). If the chicken breasts are large, you can also cut them into smaller pieces before pounding them out. Place the chicken in a zip-top bag and seal the bag. Spread the bag with the chicken out on a counter. Use a meat tenderizer to gently pound the chicken until all of the slices are an even thickness of about 1/2″ thick. (No need to be super precise about the thickness, but you want the pieces to be about the same thickness so that they finish baking at the same time.)
- Marinate chicken – Add buttermilk and lemon zest to chicken. Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to a day.
- Make crust – Combine cornflakes, salt, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper in a second zip-top bag. Pound with a rolling pin until the largest cornflake pieces are about the size of a pea. (You don’t want to create a powder. Those larger pieces will give the chicken its crunch.
- Prepare sheet pan – The best way to bake this is on a cooling rack over a sheet pan. (Make sure the cooling rack is approved for use in the oven.) This allows air to circulate under the chicken as it bakes and will keep the bottom of the chicken crisp. You can also just bake the chicken directly on a sheet pan that has been sprayed with some nonstick cooking spray.
- Bread chicken with cornflakes – Work with one piece of chicken at a time. Shake excess buttermilk off the chicken and coat it in the cornflake mixture. Firmly press the chicken in the cornflakes to pick up as much as possible. Set chickening a single layer on sheet pan.
- Add spices / crumbs – This is the most important step! After the chicken has been coated in cornflakes, there will still be crumbs and spices in the bottom of the bag. Use your hands to scoop out all of that flavorful mix and sprinkle it over the top of the chicken pieces.
- Drizzle with oil – Lightly drizzle the tops of the chicken with oil. This will help the crust to get golden brown.
- Bake immediately – Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake at 400 degrees. (It’s important to bake the chicken right away because the cornflakes will soften as they sit out.) The chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees in the middle, 13 to 17 minutes. A good (and truly “instant”) meat thermometer makes it so easy to tell when this is done. (I love my Javelin Pro.)
Ways to Serve Baked Chicken
Crispy baked cornflake chicken can be served so many ways! Here are a few ideas:
- Over Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes with Steamed Green Beans – This is a classic, and probably our favorite which is why we photographed it this way.
- With Pasta Salad – Great for summer. This is a favorite pasta salad around our house.
- Over Kale Salad – If we have any leftover cornflake chicken, it’s often sliced and added on top of a salad like this one.
- In Tacos – Slice the baked chicken and serve it in these tacos (instead of sweet potatoes) – seasoned chicken plus avocado cream = flavor explosion!
Favorite Tools for Crispy Baked Cornflake Chicken
- Meat Tenderizer – For a long time I just used a rolling pin to pound out chicken and other meat, but I’m glad I finally bought this inexpensive kitchen tool. It’s easy to hold and makes it really easy to get an even thickness on pieces of meat.
- Half Sheet Pan – Gotta have one (or two) of these for baking.
- Oven-safe cooling rack – Optional, but placing this over the sheet pan (with the chicken on top) helps the chicken to get crispy on the top and bottom.
- Instant Read Meat Thermometer – For checking to see if the chicken is cooked through.
Crispy Baked Cornflake Chicken
- 1 1/2 lb Chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, sliced and pounded to 1/2" thickness
- 2 cups Buttermilk
- Zest from one Lemon (optional)
- 3 cups Cornflakes
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp Black pepper
- 3 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I like avocado or grapeseed oil; vegetable or canola oil would also work)
- Marinate chicken: At least 1 hour ahead of time, marinate chicken. Slice chicken breasts in half (to thin out). You can also cut the chicken into smaller pieces if the chicken breast halves are large. Place the chicken in a single layer in a zip-top bag and pound with a tenderizer so that all of the pieces are about 1/2" thick. Add buttermilk and lemon zest to chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour minutes and up to a day.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place an oven-safe cooling rack on top of a sheet pan. (You can also bake these directly on the sheet pan, but the cooling rack will allow some air to circulate underneath and give it maxim crispiness on both sides.)
- In a sturdy plastic bag, combine cornflakes, salt, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper. Seal the bag and use a rolling pin or other flat-bottomed tool to crush the cornflakes until the largest pieces are about the size of a pea. (You don't want to create a powder, so make sure that some small pieces remain.
- Remove chicken from buttermilk, shake off the excess liquid, and transfer chicken to the bag with the cornflake mixture. (I like to do this over the sink since it can get messy.)
- Working with one piece of chicken at a time, firmly press it into the cornflake mixture. Try to pick up as much of the cornflake mixture as possible.
- Set the chicken on top of the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all remaining chicken.
- Finally (don't skip this step), use your hands to scoop any remaining cornflake mixture out of the bag and sprinkle it over top of the chicken peices. (This will insure that you get all of the spice mixture and any remaining small bits of cornflakes onto the chicken.)
- Drizzle the tops of the chicken with cooking oil (this will help it to brown / crisp in the oven).
- Immediately transfer the chicken to the oven.
- Bake until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165 degrees in the middle, 13 to 17 minutes.
Molly and Clara have been taking swimming lessons, but the weather has been so cool that they needed a grocery store hot chocolate to warm up last week! They washed out those Starbucks cups and played “coffee shop” with them all weekend.
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