This Old-Fashioned Chicken Dinner Is the Best Thing I’ve Made This Year (2024)

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Christine Gallary

Christine GallaryFood Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.


published Jan 19, 2024

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This Old-Fashioned Chicken Dinner Is the Best Thing I’ve Made This Year (1)

With crispy breaded chicken, salty ham, and melty cheese, this dish is perfectly retro.

Serves4Prep30 minutes to 40 minutesCook30 minutes to 40 minutes





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This Old-Fashioned Chicken Dinner Is the Best Thing I’ve Made This Year (2)

When I made chicken cordon bleu for dinner a few weeks ago, my in-laws chuckled. Chicken cordon bleu is essentially boneless, skinless chicken breast rolled up with ham and cheese, breaded, and fried until crispy on the outside. They said that it was the fancy dinner party entrée when they were younger, but they couldn’t remember the last time they had eaten it.

While the name is French (cordon bleu means “blue ribbon”), chicken cordon bleu is actually Swiss in origin, and the original version is made with veal. The first mention of it in chicken form was in The New York Times in the ‘60s, and that’s the more well-known version here in the United States today.

But it’s high time this retro dish made a comeback. There’s nothing quite like cutting through crispy breaded chicken to find a rosy slice of ham wrapped around a cheesy center. Of all the ways that you can cook chicken breast, this is definitely one of the most involved, but the bulk of the work lies in the prep, and the cooking is actually quite simple.

Key Ingredients in Chicken Cordon Bleu

There are three main ingredients in chicken cordon bleu. Here are some things to keep in mind for each.

  • Chicken breast: It’s important to pound the chicken to an even 1/4-inch thickness so that it cooks evenly and has a wider surface area for filling and rolling. Go for small chicken breasts, as larger ones are harder to pound, roll up, and cook evenly.
  • Ham: You can go with delicate salty prosciutto, a robust smoked ham, or even a sweet honey ham — use whatever you’ve got on hand. Just make sure it’s thin so that it’s easier to roll up.
  • Cheese: Slices of deli Swiss cheese add a nutty flavor and also melt nicely.

How to Make Chicken Cordon Bleu

  1. Pound and season the chicken. Pound the chicken breasts into very thin cutlets, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add mustard. Spread some Dijon mustard onto each cutlet.
  3. Layer on ham and cheese. Top with a thin slice of ham and some Swiss cheese that’s been stacked and cut into a long rectangle. This cheese ends up in the middle and melts into a beautiful pool.
  4. Roll it up and chill. To keep the chicken roll from falling apart during the dredging and cooking process, wrap each chicken roll up tightly in plastic wrap, then refrigerate to firm up.
  5. Dredge and fry. Dredge each chicken roll in a flour-egg paste, followed by panko breadcrumbs. Shallow fry in vegetable oil until the outside is golden-brown.
  6. Finish in the oven. Transfer chicken cordon bleu to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

If You’re Making Chicken Cordon Bleu, a Few Tips

  • Only use small chicken breasts. They can be a bit harder to find now, but use small chicken breasts that weigh 6 to 8 ounces each. If you can only find larger ones, I recommend only using 2 and butterflying each one into two pieces instead.
  • Skip the 3-part dredge. Use a 2-part dredge consisting of flour whisked with egg, and then panko breadcrumbs. The flour and egg mixture is essentially the glue that will help the breadcrumbs adhere, and mixing it together first results in less waste and fewer dishes than a traditional 3-part dredge.
  • Make the chicken roll ahead. Chilling firms up the chicken roll and makes it much easier to handle and cook. You can chill the chicken roll up to a day ahead, leaving you only with the dredging and cooking left to do.
  • Fry, then bake. Baking alone doesn’t yield a chicken cordon bleu that is evenly crispy on the outside. A quick pan-fry in a thin layer of oil first turns the breadcrumbs golden-brown and crispy. Four rolls in a frying pan may seem like a lot, but as long as they aren’t touching each other, they’ll fry up just fine. Finish cooking in the oven so that breadcrumbs don’t burn before the chicken is cooked through.
  • Don’t overcook. Chicken breast can go from juicy to dry quickly, so keep an eye on the internal temperature. When it hits 160ºF, stop baking and let the chicken cordon bleu rest for 5 minutes, where it will undergo carryover cooking and the temperature will go up to 165ºF.

What to Serve with Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken cordon bleu is sometimes served topped with a rich cream sauce, but honestly, there really isn’t a need for a sauce — it makes the breading soggy and masks all the flavors in each layer. If cooked properly so that the chicken breast is still very moist, all chicken cordon bleu needs is maybe a squeeze of lemon for a touch of freshness.

A glass of crisp white wine and a green salad tossed in a bright, lemony vinaigrette would also be the perfect accompaniments to round out a meal that’s retro, but never out of style.


Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe

With crispy breaded chicken, salty ham, and melty cheese, this dish is perfectly retro.

Prep time 30 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4 slices

    Swiss cheese (about 3 ounces total)

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce)

    small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 teaspoons

    Dijon mustard, divided

  • 4 thin slices

    deli ham or prosciutto

  • 1 1/4 cups

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


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  1. Stack 4 slices of Swiss cheese on top of each other. Make 3 cuts parallel to each other, spacing them evenly apart, so that you are left with 4 rectangular stacks.

  2. Pound 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts: Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, place inside a gallon zip-top bag and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Pound the breast and the tender if attached with a rolling pin, small skillet, or the flat side of a meat mallet to an even 1/4-inch thickness.

  3. Season the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Arrange smooth-side down with a shorter end closer to you (pick the wider one). If the tenders detached from the breasts during pounding, just nestle them right next to the pounded breast. Spread 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard on the top of each piece of chicken.

  4. Place 1 slice of ham or prosciutto on each piece of chicken, folding it as needed to leave a 1/2-inch border. Place 1 stack of Swiss cheese across the center of each piece of chicken. Starting at the bottom, roll each one tightly up.

  5. Wrap each one in an individual sheet of plastic wrap: Place the plastic wrap on a work surface with a longer side closer to you. Place a chicken bundle in the center at the bottom of the plastic wrap. Starting at the bottom, roll up toward the top and completely wrap up the chicken bundle. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap like a candy wrapper, then hold the twisted ends and roll it along the counter to create a tightly packed log.

  6. Place on a plate, tucking the excess plastic wrap under each log so it stays tightly wrapped. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight to firm up. Meanwhile, heat the oven and prepare the breading.

  7. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Fit a wire rack onto the baking sheet.

  8. Place 1 1/4 cups panko breadcrumbs and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a pie plate and stir to combine. Place 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a wide, shallow bowl and whisk until mostly smooth (some tiny lumps are OK).

  9. Unwrap the chicken logs. Working with one log roll at a time, dip in the egg mixture, turning as needed, until evenly coated. Let the excess egg mixture drip back into the bowl, then place the chicken log in the panko and turn until completely coated. Place on the wire rack.

  10. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large frying pan (at least 12 inches) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken cordon bleus in a single layer (they can be close together as long as they’re not touching). Fry, turning every 2 minutes or so and reducing the heat as needed, until golden-brown all over, 8 to 10 minutes total. Return to the wire rack (they will not be cooked through at this point).

  11. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and the thickest part of the chicken registers at least 160ºF on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 17 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chicken cordon bleus can be assembled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead before breading and cooking.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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