BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

$8.89 recipe / $2.22 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 14 votes
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I used to think chicken breasts were bland and boring, but then I changed how I approached them. Instead of seeing chicken breast as the main feature of a recipe, now I see them simply as the vehicle for the flavor in a recipe. In this BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken, the chicken breast is a filling base that carries the tangy BBQ sauce, creamy cheddar, zesty red onion, and fresh cilantro straight to your taste buds. When chicken breast is used like this, I’m ALL ABOUT IT.

Overhead view of BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken in a baking dish

Tips for Baking Chicken Breast

Successfully baking chicken breast can take a little know-how. If you want to avoid overcooked or dry chicken breast, here are a few tips:

  • Adjust baking time for the size of your chicken breast. Larger or thicker chicken breasts will take longer to cook (20-25 minutes), while thinner or smaller chicken breasts will take less time (15-18 minutes).
  • Use a mallet or rolling pin to gently pound the thick end of your chicken breasts to make the breast a more even thickness. This helps them cook quickly and evenly.
  • Use a meat thermometer for best results. Chicken breasts should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 165ºF. The more it cooks beyond that point the more it will begin to dry out and become tough.
  • Let the chicken breast rest after baking. Make sure to let the chicken breast sit for 5-10 minutes after baking to reduce the steam pressure within the meat. This helps the juices stay in the meat once it’s cut, rather than escaping and leaving behind dry, tough meat.

Can I Use Bone-In Chicken?

This recipe is best suited to boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Bone-in chicken takes much longer to cook through and you may find that the BBQ sauce begins to burn with those longer cook times.

What Kind of BBQ Sauce is Best?

For an inexpensive yet flavorful BBQ sauce, I usually go with Sweet Baby Ray’s, but I highly suggest using whatever brand BBQ sauce you like the best. And while just about any flavor BBQ sauce would work for this dish, I would lean toward something more on the savory or smoky side rather than a sweeter BBQ sauce.

What to Serve with BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

I served my BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken with some potato salad and a Three Bean Salad, but I think it would also go great with Cowboy Caviar, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Cornbread, Parmesan Roasted Potatoes, Summer Sweet Corn Salad, Spicy Sweet Potato Fries, or Green Chile Mac and Cheese.

BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken on a plate with potato salad and bean salad, a fork grabbing a slice of chicken
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BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken

5 from 14 votes
Forget boring or bland baked chicken breasts, this BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken is going to be the star of your dinner plate.
BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken on a plate with potato salad and bean salad, a fork grabbing a slice of chicken
Servings 4
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 23 minutes
Total 33 minutes


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  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. If your chicken breasts are very thick or uneven in thickness, use a mallet or rolling pin to first pound them out to a more even thickness. Slice the chicken breasts in half, so you have four pieces.
  • Combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then sprinkle the seasoning mix over both sides of each piece of chicken.
  • Place the seasoned chicken pieces in a baking dish, then spoon 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce over top of each piece, spreading it from edge to edge to cover the chicken.
  • Bake the chicken in the preheated 400ºF oven for about 18 minutes (less for smaller or thinner pieces).
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and top each piece with shredded cheddar. Return the chicken to the oven and continue baking for five minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • After baking the chicken, let the chicken rest for five minutes, then top with diced red onion and chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Serving: 1servingCalories: 320kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 39gFat: 13gSodium: 677mgFiber: 1g
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bbq cheddar baked chicken being lifted out of the baking dish, viewed from the side

How to Make BBQ Cheddar Baked Chicken – Step by Step Photos

Pounded Chicken Breast

You’ll need two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, about 1.3 lbs. total. If your chicken breasts are very thick or a very uneven thickness, use a mallet or rolling pin to gently pound them to a more even thickness. This helps them cook more quickly and evenly. (Covering them with plastic helps keep everything clean as you pound.

Seasoned chicken breast

Pat the chicken breast dry, then cut each one in half so that you have four pieces. Combine 1 tsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning over all sides of the chicken pieces.

BBQ sauce being spread over chicken in a baking dish

Place 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce over each piece of chicken and spread it to cover the surface. Transfer the chicken to the preheated 400ºF oven and bake for about 18 minutes (a few minutes less for smaller or thinner chicken pieces).

Prepared toppings: red onion, cilantro, and cheddar

While the chicken is baking, prepare the toppings. Shred about 1 cup cheddar cheese, finely dice about ¼ cup red onion, and roughly chop ¼ cup cilantro.

Shredded cheese being added to the baked chicken

After baking for about 18 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and top the chicken with about 1 cup shredded cheese (about ¼ cup per piece of chicken). Return the chicken to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF.

Baked bbq chicken topped with red onion and cilantro

After baking, let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then top with the diced red onion and chopped cilantro.

close up of a fork taking a piece of bbq cheddar baked chicken off a plate

Serve and enjoy!!

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  1. Forgot this suggestion:

    Next time I make it I am thinking of using some pepper jack cheese in place of some or all of the cheddar to make the chicken even more flavorful!

  2. Just made this tonight and it was excellent! Make sure you used smoked paprika as it gives the dish so much more flavor and I put on *lots* of cilantro, which definitely made the dish really good. I omitted the onions due to allergies. The bbq sauce keeps the chicken moist, which is good. Thanks for an easy, tasty recipe!

  3. I thought this sounded boring and simple but I needed a quick main dish to go with a home made soup. My shopper bought me the BIGGEST chicken breasts I’ve ever seen in my life. I swear it came from an ostrich. It was about 2-1/2 inches thick. I ended up pounding the heck out of one breast until it was about the thickness of a normal breast, which made it about the size of my small cutting board. I ended up cutting one breast into 4 full-size serving pieces.

    I followed the recipe exactly, other than adding a sprinkle of shredded Monterey Jack cheese in with the cheddar to use up some leftovers. Smoked paprika always has a slight ‘barnyard’ smell to me so it smelled strange while baking, but the end flavor was really good and received a lot of compliments from my spouse. It was perfectly cooked and juicy.

  4. Nothing makes me happier than cooking a meal both my kids gobble up! I left off the onions for them and they both asked for seconds!

  5. Made this as is, and really enjoyed it. I was afraid it would be the typical rubbery oven baked chicken breast and it wasn’t. Will definitely be making this again.
    Made this with an adapted version of the site’s potato wedges and was a delicious dinner!

  6. This is a weekly meal in our home. My husband loves it! I don’t make any modifications. 

  7. Omg this was so good. A repeat recipe for sure. I used stubb’s original bbq sauce to lower the calories a bit and some reduced fat shredded cheese, turned out perfect. Loved how juicy the chicken was. 

  8. Are you cutting a full chicken breast into 2 half breasts or are you cutting one breast into 2 pieces?

    1. Technically one breast is two lobes (left and right sides), but most people refer to each side as one breast. I cut two “lobes” of the chicken breast into two pieces each. If you scroll down to the step by step photos below the recipe you can see the pieces and how they are cut.

      1. I was really glad that you had the pictures because I was also confused by the directions for cutting. I’ve had several recipes that have you cut breasts in 2 ‘horizontally’ (like fileting them) and I thought that was what you meant at first but your photos clarified it really well.