The French term cordon bleu translates to “blue ribbon” in English. According to lore, members of the highest order of knighthood wore blue ribbons — and in that vein, the term cordon bleu became associated with the highest quality foods prepared by the most skilled chefs.
Nowadays, chicken cordon bleu typically refers to chicken wrapped around ham and cheese. The chicken has a crispy breadcrumb coating and is served hot, when the cheese is warm and gooey inside. It looks and tastes impressive, but you don’t have to be master chef to make it.
Chicken cordon bleu had intimidated me for the longest time, and I’d be lying if I pretended it didn’t have anything to do with its fancy name! Well, I’m glad I finally gave it a try. This simplified version is easy to make, and proves that it’s possible to make a healthier version of a classically rich recipe without compromising on taste. That’s right, you can feel good about digging into this breaded, stuffed chicken!
Unlike traditional chicken cordon bleu recipes, this one doesn’t rely on excessive amounts of oil and the hassle of deep-frying to give the breading a satisfying crunch. Instead, this healthier chicken cordon bleu is coated in whole-grain panko breadcrumbs and baked until crispy.
This recipe’s method for assembling the chicken breast is pretty straightforward, even for a newbie like I was. You’ll start by rolling up the cheese inside slices of ham. Keeping these rolls in the freezer helps them keep their shape while you prepare the chicken. Some recipes call for pounding out the chicken into a flattened shape, but this version goes the easier route. Instead, you’ll simply slice the breast so that it opens like a book. Then, put one ham and cheese roll into each breast and secure with toothpicks. An egg wash prepares the chicken for the crunchy panko coating. And ta-da, just like that, you’re done! The chicken will emerge from the oven golden brown, and when you slice into it, you’ll see a beautiful ring of ham and melted cheese. This is one stunning dish that makes an impressive at-home meal!
Healthier Chicken Cordon Bleu
This simplified version of chicken cordon bleu is easy to make is a healthier version of the classically rich recipe that doesn't compromising on taste.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- ½ cup Neufchatel cheese
- 1¼ tsp garlic powder divided use
- 4 thin slices low-sodium extra lean ham (nitrite free, about 2 oz.)
- 4 thin slices Swiss cheese (about 2 oz.)
- 1 cup whole-grain Panko bread crumbs
- ¼ tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- 4 (4-oz.) raw chicken breasts boneless, skinless
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Lightly coat 9 x 9-inch baking pan (or casserole dish) with spray. Set aside.
Combine Neufchatel cheese and 1 tsp. garlic powder in a small bowl; mix well.
Place slices of ham individually on your work surface. Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese. Spread Neufchatel cheese mixture evenly on each slice of Swiss cheese. Roll lengthwise. Place in freezer until ready to use.
Combine bread crumbs, salt, remaining ¼ tsp. garlic powder, pepper, and onion powder in a small bowl; mix well. Transfer to a plate. Set aside.
To stuff chicken, slice chicken breasts along the long side, about ¾ way through; do not cut all the way through. Chicken will open like a book. Place one ham roll inside each chicken breast. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Set aside.
Place eggs in a shallow dish. Dip each chicken breast in eggs, completely coating, then bread crumbs; coating each evenly on all sides. Place chicken in prepared pan. Remove toothpicks.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear.
The Nutrition Facts box below provides estimated nutritional information for this recipe.
Photographs by Anguel Dimov