Lemon Butter Chicken is a great way to prepare chicken breasts when you want something a little bit special. And, this is a great weeknight dinner idea because you only need 8 basic ingredients and 30 minutes prep time!
Note: this post was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021 with new photos and improved instructions.
This Lemon Butter Chicken recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket when you need a fast and easy main course. You only need 8 ingredients, and a lot of them you probably already have in your pantry!
And even though this one pan lemon butter chicken recipe is easy and ready in 30 minutes, it's so beautiful and full of bright flavor! The lemon butter sauce is just the right thickness to coat the chicken breast. And there is enough to not only cover the chicken, but also drizzle over some veggies on the side. You can also customize the sauce to be as tart or mild as you like.
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- Butter: I used unsalted, but if all you have is salted that will work just fine. Just be a little more sparing when salting the chicken, and make sure to taste your sauce before adding any additional salt at the end. (That's true for using unsalted or salted really!)
- Thin-cut chicken breasts: these are way faster to cook than full-size chicken breasts. Anything from about ⅓ to ½ inch thick is perfect. You can buy them in the store this way, or cut a regular-sized chicken breast into thinner slices horizontally. If you want more instructions on how to butterfly chicken breasts, I discuss it in this post for Chicken Caprese Sandwich!
- Chicken broth: you can also use beef or vegetable broth, whatever you have on hand. If you use beef broth though, just be aware the color of your sauce will come out darker.
- Heavy cream: just a couple tablespoons right at the end. This step is optional; the sauce tastes amazing without it, but the cream does provide an extra bit of richness if that's something you're into!
Step by step photos
1. Sauté the chicken breasts in 2 tablespoons of the butter (saving the last tablespoon for the end!).
2. Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them to a plate and tent loosely with foil. Then, add the chopped onions into the pan.
There will be lots of little brown bits in the pan from the chicken, so make sure to scrape them up with your tongs or spatula (there is a ton of flavor there!). Cook the onions until they begin to soften.
3. Then, sprinkle the tablespoon of flour overtop the onions. Mix the flour in until there are no white bits remaining, as you can see from this before and after:
4. Next, pour in the chicken broth. Mix it in with the onions, again scraping up any bits stuck to the pan. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes until it thickens.
5. Now turn off the stove, and drop little chunks of the remaining tablespoon of butter into the sauce, mixing them in gradually.
6. Once the butter has been combined with the sauce, sprinkle in the lemon zest and half of the lemon juice. Stir the sauce and give it a taste, adding more lemon juice if you want the sauce more tart.
7. If you're using it, now is the time to drizzle in the heavy cream. Stir it in, and give the sauce one final taste; add in more salt and pepper if you like.
8. Finally, add the cooked chicken breasts, along with any juice that accumulated on the plate, back into the sauce. Turn the chicken pieces so both sides are coated in the sauce. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs and lemon wedges if you like!
Tips and tricks
- When you are sautéing the chicken in butter, the butter should start to pick up some nice, deep brown color. However, if it's getting a bit too dark, don't be afraid to turn the heat down!
- I provided approximate cooking times for the chicken, but usually some pieces of chicken will be a little thicker than other pieces. Adjust your cook times accordingly, and if a smaller piece is done early, remove that piece while the others are finishing cooking. This will prevent the smaller piece from drying out.
- There are some opportunities to work ahead to save time. While the chicken breasts are sautéing, you can chop the onion. And while the onion is cooking, you can zest your lemon and cut it in half. This Microplane (affiliate link) is my absolute favorite thing to zest with!
Yes, you can make this dish ahead of time and store it covered in the fridge. It will keep well for 3 - 4 days. To reheat it, just gently warm it in a pan set over low heat. Be careful not to overheat the sauce so it doesn't split!
You could freeze the chicken but the texture of the sauce would not hold up well due to the cream. If you want to freeze this recipe, I would leave the cream out. Then, you could gently re-heat the chicken as described above, adding the cream at the end.
This lemon butter chicken goes well with so many things! Try a simple green salad and crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce. Or, serve over rice and with a side of roasted veggies on the side.
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a star rating and/or review in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And sign up for my weekly newsletter to get recipes delivered straight to you!Print
Lemon Butter Chicken
An easy one pan dinner recipe that combines thin-cut chicken breasts sautéed in butter with a quick lemon butter pan sauce. Creamy and tart, and just divine for a weeknight dinner!
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: main course, entree
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 4 pieces thin-cut chicken breasts, about ½ inch thick (1 ¼ - 1 ⅓ pound total) (see notes)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided (see notes)
- one small onion, or ½ large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- Garnish: thinly-sliced lemon and fresh herbs (optional)
1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium high heat, reserving the remaining 1 tablespoon butter for later.
2. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. When the butter is foaming, add the chicken breasts and cook about 3 - 4 minutes on each side, or, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. If necessary, turn down the heat if the butter is browning too quickly. When the chicken is cooked, remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
3. Add the chopped onion to the hot pan and sauté for around 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onion begins to soften. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan while the onion cooks.
4. Sprinkle the flour over top of the onion. Stir the onions and flour for about 30 seconds, or until the flour has combined with the butter and onions and there are no visible white bits of flour remaining.
5. Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for about three minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce should thicken in this time; if it has not, cook for an additional minute or until the sauce is thickened.
6. Turn off the heat. Cut or break the remaining 1 tablespoon butter into small chunks and stir into the sauce gradually. Stir in the lemon zest and half the lemon juice. Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice if desired.
7. If using, stir in the 2 tablespoons heavy cream.
8. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed.
9. Add the chicken breasts and any juice that accumulated back into the pan. Rotate the chicken breasts into the sauce to coat. Garnish with thinly-sliced lemon and fresh herbs (optional). Serve immediately.
You can purchase chicken breasts at the grocery store that are already thin-cut, or, cut 2 regular chicken breasts in half horizontally to create 4 thin-cut chicken breasts.
You can use either salted or unsalted butter for this recipe. If using salted butter, be a little more sparing with the salt when seasoning the chicken breasts.
Keywords: lemon butter chicken, one pan lemon butter chicken, lemon butter sauce