Bruschetta Chicken is a simple and delicious way to make the most of chicken breast. In the short amount of time it takes to cook the chicken, you can throw together the bruschetta topping. Every mouthful will leave your taste buds tingling with the flavours of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. Not to mention perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breast. Yes, it can be done!
The secret? Marinade the chicken, pan roast it and use the freshest, ripest tomatoes you can find. Simple, right?
What is Bruschetta?
Bruschetta, from the word bruscare (meaning to char or toast), is a classic Italian antipasto (or appetizer) that consists of grilled, sliced bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt. Some variations include topping the grilled bread with cheese, grilled vegetables, cured meats or, my personal favourite, a salsa made from tomato, garlic, fresh herbs and olive oil (Bruschetta al Pomodoro).
In North America and Europe, Bruschetta al Pomodoro has become an extremely popular appetizer and has even taken on variations of its own. Sometimes shallots and feta cheese are added to the mix, other times the salsa is spiked with some balsamic vinegar.
I like to keep things extremely simple and only make it when I have fresh, in-season tomatoes, fresh basil from the garden and good quality olive oil. The flavours scream summertime and when paired with perfectly cooked chicken or fish, it’s the perfect meal to enjoy on a hot day.
A Note on Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is one of the most popular types of meat purchased in North America, let alone the world. But let’s face it, it’s extremely easy to mess up. Especially when using boneless and skinless meat. It lacks any real flavour, goes from raw to overcooked before you know it, and usually ends up being very dry no matter how good your intentions are. Not to mention the fact that it’s more expensive than dark meat, which is full of flavour, hard to mess up and extremely delicious!
Nevertheless, for whatever reason (probably my hubris and supersized ego), I’ve taken it upon myself to look for ways to make white meat not suck and this Bruschetta Chicken hits the mark. Though, as mentioned, you can substitute chicken thighs or drumsticks in this recipe. Or, you can use fish or shrimp.
In Marinade We Trust
To make the most out of your white meat, marinade it! The garlic, herbs and spices introduce a lot of flavour, and the acid in the lemon juice and olive oil will tenderize the meat.
For best results, let the chicken sit in the marinade for 1 to 6 hours. Less than one hour and the marinade won’t really have enough time to get the job done. Longer than 6 hours and the acid will start to “cook” the chicken, making it rubbery.
How to Pan-Roast Chicken Breast
Pan roasting typically involves searing a protein or vegetable in a pan over high heat and finishing it in the oven.
I’m a huge fan of pan roasting chicken breast. It’s super easy to do, let’s you develop a flavourful crust and colour on the chicken, and results in an evenly cooked finished product.
The other benefit of pan roasting is that it allows you to evenly cook large chicken breasts, so you don’t have to worry about pounding them thin with a mallet or slicing them in half so that they cook more evenly.
What Type of Pan Should You Use?
To pan roast the bruschetta chicken, you’ll need an oven-safe pan. One that can be used on the stove and then safely transferred to the oven to finish the cooking process.
However, you should AVOID any pan with a plastic handle since these are not oven safe.
You Can Grill The Chicken Too!
If you don’t want to heat up your oven, fire up the grill! To simulate the technique of pan-roasting on a conventional gas or charcoal grill, you will need to setup a two-zone grill with a hot side and a warm side. For gas or propane, do this by firing up one side of the grill burners and leaving the other side off. On a charcoal grill, simply place the coals to one side of the grill.
Start by cooking your chicken over direct heat and then moving it to indirect heat with the grill door closed to finish. If your chicken breasts are not too thick, you can get away with grilling them over medium-high direct heat from start to finish.
If cooking on a Traeger, like me, I recommend cooking the chicken along the outer edges of the grill where it gets hottest. For chicken breasts, I run my Traeger between 450F and 500F so that I can get some nice charring and grill marks.
Cook to Temperature
The most common mistake people make when cooking chicken breast is they slice into it to check if it’s done. DON’T DO THIS! With every slice you are releasing precious juiciness and exposing the inside of the breast to heat, which will end up drying it out.
Instead, invest in a digital meat thermometer and cook the bruschetta chicken to temperature. No slicing and drying out necessary! Ideally, you will want to cook chicken breast until its thickest part registers around 160F. You can then tent it with foil to keep it warm and let it rest so that the juices redistribute. As the chicken rests, residual heat will continue to cook it to the necessary 165F.
Dark meat chicken can be cooked to up to 180F and subsequently rested with little risk of it drying out because it has a higher fat content.
What You Need for Bruschetta Chicken
I’ve decided to use boneless, skinless chicken breast here (see below for why), but you can substitute chicken thighs or drumsticks if that’s what you prefer. You’re the boss, applesauce. Just keep in mind that the time it takes to cook depends on the cut of chicken, how thick it is and whether or not it is bone-in and skin-on. The timing listed in the recipe instructions is specifically for boneless, skinless chicken breasts that way around 4-ounces each.
If you don’t like chicken or don’t have any on hand, you can also try this recipe with pan-roasted or grilled fish, like salmon, or grilled shrimp. The marinade and bruschetta topping can stay the same.
This one is super simple and uses only a handful of ingredients, but it’s very tasty and pairs very well with the bruschetta topping. Some spices, fresh garlic, lemon juice and olive oil are enough to transform even the dullest of white meats.
Use the best tomatoes you can find. They’re the star of the show and will help to further elevate the flavour of the chicken. Vine-ripened and heirloom varieties are more flavourful, but Roma tomatoes have the benefit of not being filled with seeds.
Note that salt will draw out a great deal of water from the tomatoes, which are actually made up of 95% water. So, to prevent the bruschetta topping from being too watery and diluted, you can do one of two things:
You can deseed the tomatoes by removing their cores with a spoon. Or, chop the tomatoes whole and let them drain through a colander over a bowl. I do the latter and then drink the tomato water, which is delicious and nutritious.
There is no substitute for fresh basil here. Dried basil doesn’t even come close in flavour. Other herbs won’t cut it either. Fresh basil or bust, sorry.
If you know me, you know I love my gahhhlic. The beauty of this recipe is you get double the dose. Once in the marinade, which gets all sweet and caramelized as it cooks, and again in the bruschetta topping. Just remember, a little goes a long way. Unless you’re me, in which case more gahhhlic is always better.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Like the tomatoes, use some good extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) here. You know, that bottle that you got as a gift that’s sitting on your pantry shelf behind all those beans you hoarded at the beginning of quarantine.
Jokes aside, the type of olive oil you use will have a big impact on the taste of the finished product so use one that you know you like. I personally prefer mellow tasting EVOOs that aren’t too peppery in flavour, but that’s just me.
Bruschetta Chicken (Whole30, Paleo, Gluten-Free)
For the Chicken
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts substitute bone-in, skin-on (approximately 4 medium-sized breasts)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon extra for frying
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
For the Bruschetta Topping:
- 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes – diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves approximately ¼ cup loosely packed
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
For the Chicken:
- In a bowl, combine the chicken, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, paprika, oregano and black pepper and toss everything to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 6 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375F.
- Preheat an oven-safe pan over med-high heat for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully lay the chicken in the skillet and cook until a golden brown crust forms, around 6 min. Flip the chicken and immediately transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast the chicken for 12-15 min or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast reads 160F on a digital thermometer.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to a platter and spoon the bruschetta topping overtop.
For the Bruschetta Topping:
- In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and salt. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired. Let sit for 15 minutes, taste for seasoning again and adjust as desired. Serve with pan-roasted chicken. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Serve at room temperature.