Chicken cordon bleu is one of those meal-in-one dishes, which appeals to my family’s tastes in different ways.
It has the crispy exterior from the breadcrumb mixture that the kids enjoy. The salty prosciutto appeals to my husband’s love of all things pork, and the creamy Gruyere center is the highlight for me.
What Is Chicken Cordon Bleu?
My family and I stayed at a hotel near Rothwald, Switzerland, and the proprietor of the hotel told us a story about the beginnings of the dish we know as chicken cordon bleu.
Swiss in origin, chicken cordon bleu was created in a tizzy. According to legend, the cook of a small inn in the village of Brig, Switzerland was caught off guard by a last-minute dinner rush.
Having very little meat on hand with which to feed the unexpected crowd, she decided to pound pork out into a thin schnitzel, then stuff it with ham and cheese to bulk it up. Turns out, the dish was such a hit that the diners declared she was worthy of Le C ordon Bleu—The Blue Ribbon—the highest honor awarded to a French chef.
Over time, the recipe has evolved into a dish that’s made with chicken. The first known reference of Chicken Cordon Bleu was in the New York Times in 1967. Nevertheless, it’s still as impressive as it was on that frantic day in Brig.
How to Make Chicken Cordon Bleu
To cook chicken cordon bleu, a boneless, skinless chicken breast is gently flattened with a meat mallet to a 1/4-inch thickness, similar to a pork schnitzel. The meat is then wrapped around a simple stuffing of sliced ham and Swiss cheese. It is then breaded and pan-fried.
While the classic cooking method is pan-frying alone, this recipe finishes the dish in the oven. Pan-frying gives the chicken an über-crispy crust, while the final bake in the oven ensures the chicken is cooked through (and gives you a few minutes to prepare your side dishes).
Tips for Flattening Chicken Breasts
It’s important for the chicken breast to be thin enough to cook in the allotted time, without being so thin that it’s easily torn when stuffed or rolled.
I like to place a breast between two pieces of parchment paper and pound it out firmly, but not too aggressively, with a meat mallet. Taking your time prevents tearing the chicken breast.
When the breast reaches 1/4-inch thickness, remove the top piece of parchment and keep the thin chicken breast on the bottom piece of parchment. Stuff and roll the breast while on the parchment for easy clean up.
Gluten-Free Chicken Cordon Bleu
To make chicken cordon bleu gluten-free, go ahead and replace the all-purpose flour called for in this recipe with rice flour. Then replace the breadcrumbs with gluten-free panko or pork rind “breadcrumbs.”
What Is the Sauce for Chicken Cordon Bleu?
A wedge of lemon squeezed over your cordon bleu is about as saucy as it gets!
Remember, our girl in Brig was struggling to feed that crowd of people as it was. There was certainly no time for a sauce! Sauce-making would just make this slightly fussy recipe even fussier. The juicy chicken and gooey cheese filling is so good, you won’t even miss a sauce.
What to Serve With Chicken Cordon Bleu?
My family loves it when I serve mashed potatoes and a simple green salad alongside this chicken.
Save yourself a little time, and make these Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes. This Mixed Green Salad with Pecans and Goat Cheese is always a hit. Toast the pecans for the salad while you’re finishing the chicken.
Storing and Freezing Chicken Cordon Bleu
Cordon bleu is notoriously time-consuming—with the stuffing, and rolling, and breading, and such!
I don’t recommend cooking this dish ahead of time because part of the excitement of chicken cordon bleu is watching that molten cheese ooze out from its center. I tried it the day after I made it, and the dish, once reheated, was drier than the day I made it.
I am, however, a huge fan of prepping it in advance and freezing these for later. This is a great Sunday prep meal to have stockpiled in the freezer for surprise guests or busy weeknights when you need dinner on the fly.
- I get the chicken pounded, stuffed, and rolled when I have a little extra time.
- Then I wrap them individually in plastic wrap, store them in a container, and pop them in the freezer. They will keep for up to two months. (This is a great recipe to double!)
- The day before I want to make them, I take the amount I need out of the freezer and thaw the chicken overnight in the refrigerator.
- Then on the day I want to eat them, I just bread the prepared chicken and cook it. Anytime you can pull off something that looks and tastes gourmet on a weeknight without the stress of doing it start to finish is a win in my book.
Need More Great Chicken Recipes?
Chicken Cordon Bleu
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups panko or regular breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 8 slices (about 4 ounces) prosciutto or sliced ham
- 4 ounces Gruyere or Swiss cheese, cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks
- 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- To Serve:
- 1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Mix the spices:
In a small mixing bowl, combine the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. You will use this spice blend later to season the breadcrumbs, flour, and chicken.
Prepare the breading station and baking sheet:
Prepare your breading station by arranging three shallow dishes in the following order: flour, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs should be closest to your frying pan as that will be the final step in the process before frying. Add the chopped parsley to the dish with the breadcrumbs and stir to mix well.
Season both the flour with a 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Season the breadcrumbs with 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture and the chopped fresh parsley. Set these aside while you prepare the chicken breasts.
Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and set it aside. This will allow hot air to circulate under the chicken, letting it bake on all sides without the risk of getting soggy.
Pound the chicken breasts:
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of parchment paper and use a meat mallet to flatten them to a 1/4-inch thickness.
Season and fill the chicken:
Slather a teaspoon of mustard onto the flattened chicken breast, then season the meat with a pinch of the spice mixture. Slightly overlap two slices of the prosciutto in the center of the chicken. Place a baton (stick) of Gruyere on top of the prosciutto at one of the longer sides of the chicken.
Roll and secure the filling:
Starting with the cheese side, roll the chicken over the cheese until the meat and cheese are fully encased in the chicken. If you can, try to fold the chicken over the ends of the cheese to prevent the cheese from oozing out during cooking. Use one or two toothpicks to secure the chicken bundle.
Heat the frying oil and the oven:
In a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat, bring the oil to 350°F. Heat your oven to 350°F.
Bread the chicken:
Lightly dredge the chicken bundles in the flour. Pat off any excess flour, and coat the floured chicken in the egg, allowing excess egg to drip off, then press the chicken bundle into the breadcrumbs to coat it completely.
Fry the cordon bleu; then finish it in the oven:
Once your oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Fry the chicken for 5 minutes on each side. (You may have to do this in batches. Crowding the pan can reduce the oil’s temperature and leave you with a soggy crust.)
Once the chicken breasts have finished frying, drain them on paper towels before transferring them to the cooling rack topped baking sheet, and place them in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve and slice:
Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. The thrill of a chicken cordon bleu is cutting into the bundle, separating the pieces, and watching that glorious cheese ooze out.
Serve the cordon bleu while hot with lemon wedges, mashed potatoes, and a simple green salad.