These simple, crispy chicken fillets are the Paleo answer to making healthy, delicious meal prep day success!
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The race to the finish line!
We are a week back into school since Spring Break, Easter has come and gone, and I really feel like we are starting to see that finish line to the school year in the distance! Those of you that have been around these parts long know that I just love our summers at the beach, and while we are definitely routine keepers around here, taking a couple months off in the summer is balm to our souls. One thing I have learned in the years since I have had kids in school is that May is….crazy! I don’t think there is one day that doesn’t have *something* on the calendar for me every May, and that means I’ve got to have a plan to keep us fed without compromising, and also without being in the kitchen all day.
Back to the basics
Something that helps me keep whole foods on the table during busy seasons, is having the protein figured out and prepped ahead of time. It can make all the difference in the world in faster, easier meals. For instance, getting a dozen hard boiled eggs made quickly every Sunday, makes school morning breakfast additions so fast so that I don’t have to rely on convenience breakfast staples like boxed cereals that don’t have the nutrition, and won’t keep my kids sustained all morning. Likewise, I have found if I have a protein like chicken or beef made up ahead of time, I eat lunches better while the girls are in school. Let’s face it – it is so easy to skip it or just grab quick little things when busy during the day when the kids aren’t there to force the stop for lunch….*Guilty as charged!* So if I get some chicken prepped ahead of time, I’ll add it to a salad for lunch, or as a side to veggie soup, and I’m way better at getting lunch in.
Not just for lunch meal prep!
But wait! Having a simple protein prepped or even just this method in your back pocket for a busy weeknight can make dinnertime such a breeze. Add this simple crispy chicken to a skillet filled with a veggie stir fry, or a pot of pasta and cream sauce, and dinner is so satisfying without having been in the kitchen all day!
Key players and keeping it simple
I don’t think there is anyone that would turn down a piece of crispy chicken…super flavorful outside, juicy inside – what’s not to love?! But the dredging, and the egging, and the flouring…most of us don’t have time for that other than special occasions. This lightly breaded chicken gets crispy without the fuss, and with just a couple of ingredients. Salt and pepper whisked with a simple sprinkle of cassava flour is as easy as it gets! I love cassava flour for a few different reasons. Even if you are not paleo, or need to avoid gluten, cassava flour is a great pantry addition that will help you keep your ingredients on rotation, so your family is getting variety. The cassava plant is a root vegetable, and the flour is quite literally just the plant, dried out and ground into flour. It is very absorbent, which makes for a nice crispy outside, and the health benefits from the natural pre-biotic fibers are so good for the gut too!
The Method :: Prepping The Chicken
I did photograph this entire crispy chicken method, but let’s not complicate this. Prep the chicken into the sized pieces that you prefer. I’ll show you what I typically do here, but you can make the pieces bigger or smaller, depending on what you are using the chicken for. I like to rinse, and then pat dry the chicken with a paper towel. I don’t even use an extra plate (less dishes, less kitchen time, amiright?!) – just rinse, pat dry, and place on your cutting board. I like to fillet the chicken thin, so I typically cut the thicker top half off to fillet, and leave the smaller bottom half as is. Sometimes I’ll fillet the bottom half as well.
The Method :: The flour coating
This cassava flour breading is as basic as it gets, though so flavorful. If you plan to use your chicken for a stir fry, you could add some ginger. Or if you are using it for a pasta meal, add some Italian seasoning! Just whisk the flour with the seasonings in a small dish, and then coat the chicken. I don’t even use a different plate or bowl – just toss it all right on the cutting board.
The Cooking Oil…
Before we move onto actually cooking the chicken, let’s talk about what to cook it in! I prefer a super hot, cast iron skillet with coconut oil. You’ll want to pick a very high heat stable cooking fat, that is also healthy and not filled with inflammatory fat that will cause free radicals in your body. Oils like canola or peanut oil do very well with high heat, BUT they are so inflammatory, and they will inflame the body when eaten on the regular. Healthier fats like coconut oil, ghee, or avocado oil also tolerate the high heat well, but are so incredible for your health. The feed your brain, your hormones, and actually work to keep inflammation down. I use a nice big chunk of the coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet, and get a really nice, crispy crust on the chicken!
The Method :: Cooking the Chicken
Once your coconut oil is heated, pull the chicken pieces right from the cutting board into the oil. You’ll want to keep some space around the chicken, so you may need to work in batches if your skillet will not hold them all, or if you are making a larger quantity of chicken. Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for a good 3-4 minutes so that the golden, crispy outside can develop. If you start moving your chicken and it is sticking, you probably have not let it cook long enough to develop the crust. Flip the chicken, and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the chicken is golden and crispy on the other side and cooked through. I like to transfer the cooked chicken to a wire rack so it stays crispy.
The possibilities are endless!
Here are some ways that I like to use my crispy chicken, both for lunches or dinner!
- Salad topper
- Stir fry
- Pasta dishes
- Sandwiches or lettuce wraps
- Sliced as guacamole dippers – my kids love this in their lunches
- Or just eaten plain with sides!
Can I use chicken thighs?
110% yes! (Can you tell I’m a thigh girl?!) The method is the same, though you won’t need to use as much cooking oil since chicken thighs lend some fat as they cook very easily. If you prefer thigh meat, definitely use that! It is so good crispy and then used in all of the applications above for meal suggestions.
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets
- 3 large chicken breasts
- ¼ cup cassava flour
- Heaping teaspoon sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- Rinse the chicken breasts in cold water, and pat any excess water off using a paper towel. Place the chicken breasts on your cutting board as you go.
- Fillet your chicken breasts so they are thinner, and spread them out on the cutting board. I like to cut the breast in half horizontally first so the smaller end is one fillet, and the top half gets filleted into 2.
- In a small dish, whisk the cassava flour, sea salt, and pepper and then sprinkle half of the mixture over the chicken breasts. Rub the flour around the tops of the chicken, and then flip them over. Sprinkle the other half of the seasoned flour on the chicken, and then toss the chicken on the cutting board to coat evenly.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Bring the temperature to medium-high heat, and add the coated chicken to the hot oil, making sure to leave some space around each fillet. You may have to work in batches. With my 12 inch cast iron I can do this in 2 batches.
- Once the bottom of the fillet is golden brown (this takes 3-4 minutes), you can flip the chicken to cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Properly cooked chicken should have internal temp of 165 degrees. I don't test this, but you can.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, place them on a plate or drying rack to rest a few minutes before cutting. If you are storing your chicken for meals for the week, you can let it cool, and store in an air tight container. If you are adding your chicken to a dish or skillet meal, you can add it right in, or slice and add it it!
- Avocado oil would be a good neutral oil to cook in as well. Olive oil and butter will tend to smoke/burn at the higher heat so I prefer the coconut oil. You can use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the taste of coconut oil. I love the mild sweetness it brings to the chicken.
- Season the flour however you wish! I like to add smoked paprika sometimes, or ginger depending on what I am using the chicken for.