30 minute lemon brown sugar chicken

Lately, I’ve been really into caramelizing meats. Brown sugar and I are tight like that.

Seriously though…I think baking so many cupcakes has forever affected my taste buds, making it pretty much impossible for me cook anything without sugar…and I’m fine with that.

My teeth have sealants, anyway.

I actually think chicken is pretty boring.

I don’t cook a lot of it and rarely ever order it out at a restaurant. I like exciting things on my dinner plate….pasta with tomato cream sauce! beef with apricot and olives! channa masala!

If I do make chicken, it’s usually involves extremely plump buttery biscuits, gravy and canola oil. It’s just who I am.

However, this chicken is different!

This chicken has a sweet citrus glaze that’s spiked with a little paprika and lemon zest. I remember requesting that my mom make this chicken for my eighteenth birthday party. Well, that and red velvet cake. It’s always been a winner.

So, the first thing you’re going to want to do here is wash your birdie. Don’t skip this step or you’ll be sorry.

Then (this is the fun part), cover those breasts with wax paper and whack the heck out of them with a meat mallet or….ice cream scoop. See? I told you I have a problem.

This not only tenderizes the meat, it also reduces the cooking time! Plus, it’s a great stress reliever. Who doesn’t love to come home from work and let out all their aggression on a chicken breast?

The final product should look something like this:

Next, mix together flour, paprika and sea salt in a cake pan and dip chicken breasts in, one by one.

Drop zee chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet with some canola oil and brown on both sides. This should only take about four minutes…you’re not trying to cook the breasts, just brown ’em!

Remove chicken breasts from the pan and place on a plate.

Then pour in the juice of two lemons to de-glaze the pan. You’ll also need a tablespoon of zest, so do that before you juice or else you’ll have a mess!

Place the chicken breasts in a casserole dish, pour the hot lemon juice (+ pan drippings) over, and sprinkle on the zest and secret ingredient:

awwwwwww yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh

Bake at 350 for half an hour! Then, stuff your face. Try it with these beans!

30 Minute Lemon Brown Sugar Chicken

serves 4

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

juice of two large lemons

1 T lemon zest

1 cup flour

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp sea salt

1.5 T canola oil

2 T brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a meat mallet (or ice cream scoop), pound the chicken breasts thin. Set aside.

Combine the flour, paprika and sea salt in a cake or pie pan. Drop each chicken breast in the mixture and toss to coat completely.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Drop each chicken breast in the oil and brown on both sides (should take only about four minutes). Remove chicken breasts and keep warm on a plate.

Pour the lemon juice in the pan and stir to deglaze. Put chicken breasts in a casserole dish and pour juice on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and lemon zest.

Bake for thirty minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165.

This ain’t no boring chicken breast. If I were you, I’d have a brownie for dessert.

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  • Jenna
    December 16, 2010 at 8:13 am

    my family loves chicken! I’m always searching for new ways to fix it other than grilled. this looks delicious!!! 🙂

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is
    December 16, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I love caramelized meats too – they taste so much better. This is sure to be a winner in our house. Meat for my husband and sugar for me? Can’t go wrong!

  • Jil @ Big City, Lil Kitchen
    December 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    wow – this looks seriously good. i agree with you…i rarely ever order chicken out…unless it has somethin crazy added to it!

  • Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes
    December 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    my stomach just growled. I could really really eat this for lunch!
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin
    December 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I love this recipe. I bet it would work well with tofu or fish too!

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    December 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I’m pulling some chicken out of the freezer right now so I can make this tonight. I love lemon on my chicken.

  • A Teenage Gourmet (Sami)
    December 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

    This looks fantastically easy! I have chicken that needs cooking. 🙂

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    December 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

    i’m officially making this for date night this weekend…WITH the beans!

    • jenna
      December 16, 2010 at 8:44 am


  • rebecca lustig
    December 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

    i like that you used an ice cream scooper. that made it for me!

  • megan @ whatmegansmaking
    December 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

    sounds delicious! I have a lemon chicken recipe from a friend that’s similar to this. You’re making me want to go dust it off and make it again 🙂

  • Alicia H.
    December 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

    This looks amazing! I usually go with a can to whack my chicken and then I have a bunch of dented cans. Oops!

    Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  • BLog is the New Black
    December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

    This looks amazing! Love the combo of flavors… saving this one! 🙂

  • grocery goddess jen
    December 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

    I don’t even eat chicken and that looks oddly appealing…I’ll have to try it on tofu or seitan, lol.

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
    December 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Poultry with anything sweet is SO good. I just recently noticed on the side of the TJ’s pumpkin butter jar it suggests using it as a poultry glaze. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m certain it would be wonderful.

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    December 16, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I was sold with the word “caramelizing”…. there’s no turning back after that sweet word 🙂

  • Steph@stephsbitebybite
    December 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

    This sounds delicious! Anything to kick up the plain ole bird 🙂

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga)
    December 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

    When I was a kid, the only way my parents could entice me to eat chicken was by slathering it in brown sugar and soy sauce. I loved the sauce like that sooo much!

    This recipe reminds me of how my mom and grandma liked to cook chicken…brown sugar, flour, and always paprika!

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    December 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Love this recipe! I have chicken defrosting that’s waiting to be made into this 🙂

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    December 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Sounds great! Caramelizing chicken is a variation I’ve never tied before. Thanks for the recipe Jenna!

  • JessicaEn
    December 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

    My Husband would LOVE this! Much yummier than Shake n Bake 😉

  • Kristen @ That Hoosier Girl
    December 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

    This recipe came at the PERFECT time! I have a huge bag of frozen chicken that I’m trying to use up in the next few days. There’s always brown sugar on hand in this girl’s house so this recipe is definitely on the menu tonight 🙂 Thanks!

  • Shayla
    December 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Yum! I’m so making this for the hubby – he’d love it! 🙂

    Would using thinly sliced chicken breasts work too?

    • jenna
      December 16, 2010 at 10:34 am


  • sippitysup
    December 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Caramelized is a world wide favorite flavor. It’s true.It’s in our DNA. I read that somewhere. GREG

  • Angharad
    December 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Adore! I love lemon-scented/glazed/attacked anything. So good. I made this lemon chicken pasta extravaganza in the summer and it won at life. I think you’d like it too.

  • Emily @ For Sweets Sake
    December 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    The chicken looks amazing! and really simple! I like simple…and ice cream scoops, preferrably with ice cream in them, but to tenderize chicken works too 😉

  • Courtney
    December 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Jenna –

    Every time I put anything acidic in my cast-iron pan (tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar) it takes the seal off of the pan (I sealed it myself). Do you have that problem? Did your pan come pre-sealed? Maybe thats the trick.

  • Annie-Rose
    December 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    This is great! Always looking for something new to spice up boring chicken.

    So, I’m just curious – what happens if you don’t wash the chicken breasts? Other than just remembering the gross slime coating they had… 🙂

  • Kristen
    December 17, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I made this for dinner last night and it was amazingggg.

  • Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun!)
    December 17, 2010 at 8:04 am

    You realize you just made raw chicken look appetizing. I’m pretty sure that belongs in the Guinness book as an official “First.”

  • Debi
    December 17, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Just made this chicken (and THE beans!) last night. Husband LOVED it. 5-year old ate the chicken but did not like the beans. I loved both. Good stuff! The only thing I did differently was add a little brown sugar to the bean mix before baking. And I only had red wine vinegar. So that’s two things. 🙂

  • Lacey @ Lake Life
    December 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I agree with you…chicken = boring in my book. Or it also could be because my mom always over-cooked it while I was growing up because when my brother was 4 he got salmonella from his turtle 🙁


  • Ingrid
    December 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    totally making this for dinner this week, sounds DELISH!

  • Charles Matulac
    December 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Made this tonight with some plain rice and broccoli. Not bad! Next time, we want to kick it up with a little cayenne and maybe a dash of salt before dredging the birdie.

  • Lola
    December 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    I pretty much never comment on blogs (although I do read your religiously!), but I had to write and let you know that I made this chicken along with your beans + kale recipe for a low-key dinner party the other night. I was a little nervous making these items because I usually like to make things at least once before I serve them to others at a party…but you just made it all look so good and sound so easy I just went for it. I am so glad I did; both the chicken and the beans were absolutely delicious, and there was not a leftover in sight. Both of these items will be added to my regular repertoire of recipes…thank you!!!!

    • jenna
      December 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm

      awesome!! I’m so glad.

  • Kayla
    January 20, 2011 at 4:33 am

    Hi Jenna!
    I chanced upon your blog and am delighted to find this recipe. It looks awesome. I often bake chicken with honey and lemon, but have never thought of using brown sugar and paprika ! This is a great idea. I’d certainly try this recipe of yours the next time i feel like having chicken for dinner. Sounds like a good topping for salads too! I’ll let you know the outcome when I make it:) thanks for sharing!

  • laura
    January 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Made this for dinner last night and it was delicious!! Husbands friend said he never had such good chicken. We also loved the parmesan chicken recipe and look forward to trying more!

  • Michelle
    January 26, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Tried it. Loved it. Blogged about it! Thanks for the great recipe!


  • Kristin
    January 27, 2011 at 8:18 am

    I made this last night and it was a huge hit! Thanks!

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    I just made this a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think I have ever seen my dad get so enthusiastic about chicken! It is definitely my new favorite way to make chicken.

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  • Kaci
    December 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I made this tonight with THOSE beans. Oh my gosh! SO good!

  • Steph
    January 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Yum! Guess what we’re having for dinner!!

  • Kathy
    January 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    OMGoodness this looks delicious! I will be making this, this week. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • Staci
    February 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I made this tonight and added some sliced onions to the dish before cooking it the 30 minutes. I also added just a bit more lemon juice than suggested so the onions could stew with the dripping. I served it over brown rice with a side salad. It was so tasty and the onions were so yummy on the rice with the chicken – mmmmmmm. I will def make this one again!

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  • Clearly Composed
    February 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    No. words.
    Well, maybe two…insanely tasty. 🙂

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    Made this last night for the family. It was a success. They ate every drop. Please send more chicken recipes!!!

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    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! I added a little splash of white wine with the lemon juice but the combination of the lemon zest and brown sugar on top was fantastic! Plus, it really was so simple to throw together. Full of flavor but low key is a perfect combination!

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    Gotta pin this one to try, thanks!

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  • Anaïs
    September 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    First off, congratulations on your new book!

    Not sure if you’ll see this comment since it is such an old post but I just felt I should really take the time to thank you for all your recipes! You don’t know how many compliments I get when I make your dishes. People actually harass me to make them some lazy girl blondies! I’m about to make this dish tonight with some coleslaw and fresh corn, and I know it will be amazing (I was blow away last time I made it – and I don’t even like chicken!).

    So good luck with the book tour and again, thank you 🙂

    • jenna
      September 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

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    September 23, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Just found this recipe and made it last night. It was delicious. Thank you for the recipe! Very simple as well; a big plus!

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