Lemon Pepper Chicken – A one-pan chicken dish fried and baked to crispy golden perfection in a lip-smacking lemon garlic sauce sprinkled with pepper flakes for an extra kick. This easy lemon chicken is affordable, delicious, and works well for a weeknight meal or even a special occasion.
This recipe was kind of a happy accident. I was planning on making Yassa chicken, a garlicky, lemony chicken that you grill. 🤤 We are seriously spoiled here in Los Angeles. The gorgeous weather means you can pretty much grill out all year long, but a surprise thunderstorm ruined my plans. It was time to get creative, and the results were so amazing I had to share them.
This recipe for lemon chicken has both French and Senegalese influences, and boy, is it good. You sear the chicken to get a crisp exterior and then bake it over a bed of sauteed onions in a delightful lemon and mustard sauce. I was so impressed by how well this lemon chicken recipe turned out. For once in my life, I was glad it rained. 😆
What Makes the Best Chicken?
What Makes the Best Lemon Pepper Chicken
So many lemon pepper recipes involve rubbing the chicken with a store-bought lemon pepper seasoning and tossing it in the oven. It is fast, yes, but IMO the best lemon pepper chicken is all about fresh ingredients and the saucy sauteed onions.
Creole seasoning adds a little heat, and then freshly minced garlic, mustard, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a few other basic ingredients make this chicken absolutely delish. The extra 10 minutes or so it will take you to prepare this dish is completely worth it.
- Chicken thighs – I prefer this dark meat for its added flavor, and I use the skin-on variety, which adds some fatty drippings to my lemon mustard sauce, making it extra rich. That said, feel free to use chicken breast here if you prefer white meat.
- Onions – An essential ingredient in the lemony broth in this recipe, onions add real depth of flavor.
- Lemon Pepper Sauce – Creole seasoning, garlic, a bay leaf, chicken bouillon, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper flakes make a divine sauce you drizzle over the cooked chicken. 😋
How to Make Lemon Pepper Chicken
Sear the Chicken
- Prepare Chicken – Trim off any excess fat from your cuts of chicken and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin. (Photo 1)
- Season – Salt the chicken and generously rub both sides with Creole spices (salt-free) or your favorite spice mix. (Photo 2)
- Sear – Next, add about 1 tablespoon of oil to a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot/pan and bring to medium heat. Brown the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, being careful not to burn it. (Photos 3-4)
- Set Aside – Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
Make the Sauce and Bake
- Saute Seasonings – Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, chicken bouillon powder, mustard, and paprika to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes. (Photos 5-6)
- Add Liquid – Then, add about 2 cups of broth or water, along with the desired amount of lemon juice, and cook until the flavors come together, for about 3 minutes. (Photo 7)
- Taste Test – Give it a taste test and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and Creole seasoning as needed.
- Add Chicken – Add the chicken and its drippings back to the cast iron pan. Top with lemon slices if desired. (Photos 8-9)
- Bake at 400℉/205℃ for 18- 20 minutes until the chicken is done.
- Spice it Up – Add about 1 tablespoon of pepper flakes or more if you want to turn up the heat.
- Serve – Arrange the chicken on a plate and drizzle the sauce over it. Garnish with lemon slices and serve. (Photo 10)
- If you don’t want to turn on your oven for this recipe, then don’t! Baking makes the chicken extra juicy and flavorful, but it is still tasty done entirely on the stovetop. Simply continue cooking the chicken for about 20 minutes or until done once you return it to the pan on medium heat.
- If you prefer boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, try breading them before searing! It will add loads of flavor and texture to the meat. 👌
Tips and Tricks
- Be extra careful not to burn the chicken when searing it. The toasty bits on the bottom of the pan will add the amazing flavor we’re looking for to the lemon sauce, but if you’ve gone a little too far and there are burnt crisps after searing, clean the pan before sautéing the onions and making your sauce. Otherwise, the lemony broth will have a distinctive burnt taste that is no good.
- Check your chicken’s internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure it’s cooked but not overdone. For chicken thighs or breasts, you want to reach 165℉/75℃.
- For extra flavor, feel free to marinate the cuts of chicken rubbed in their seasonings and with a squeeze of lemon juice for an hour in the fridge before you sear them.
This is a super easy make-ahead meal. Simply follow the recipe instructions and then wait for the dish to cool completely. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days before reheating. You can reheat individual plates in the microwave or pour the meal back into your oven-safe pan and reheat in the oven at 350℉/177℃ for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
Serving and Storage Instructions
Serve lemon pepper chicken hot out of the oven over a bed of warm rice or pasta. Make sure you drizzle the chicken with lots of sauce and onions before serving, and garnish with lemon slices and fresh parsley if you desire.
Store leftover lemon chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days and reheat in the oven or microwave as noted above. You can also freeze this dish in an airtight container for three months. To serve after freezing, allow the container to defrost in the fridge the day before you plan to serve and then reheat just like you would regular leftovers. 🙌
It adds flavor and tenderizes the meat, but if you are marinating, don’t let the chicken soak in the lemon juice for more than an hour or so. Otherwise, the chicken could become tough, rubbery, or even mushy.
Um, yes! Definitely! Chicken wings would also be fantastic in this recipe, so feel free to try them out. Just adjust the cooking time for smaller cuts of chicken.
Most lemon pepper seasonings are made of dried lemon zest, pepper, and salt. In this recipe, however, we skip the store-bought stuff and opt for fresh ingredients to give our lemon pepper chicken its zingy flavor. 😋
What to Serve With Lemon Pepper Chicken
If you are using this recipe for date night, pair it with your favorite white wine. Or whip up some peach bellinis if you’re feeling a little extra. 🥂
More Fantastic Chicken Recipes to Try
- Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Moroccan Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
- Cajun Stuffed Chicken
- Chicken Tagine
- Instant Pot Chicken Curry
- Yassa Chicken
You don’t have to get stuck in a chicken rut with lemon pepper chicken. Have you tried this amazing recipe yet? Then leave a recipe review below to let me know if you loved this dish.
Watch How to Make It
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This blog post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
Lemon Pepper Chicken
- 3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) chicken thighs, skin on
- Salt to taste
- 1½-2 teaspoons (4-6g) Creole seasoning, adjust to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons (30-45ml) canola oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons (6g) chicken bouillon powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoons (30g) mustard
- 1-2 lemons, juiced
- 2 cups (473ml) chicken broth (or water)
- 1 tablespoon (9g) pepper flakes, or more to taste (optional)
- Trim chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin and salt.
- Preheat oven to 400℉/205℃.
- Generously rub both sides of the chicken thighs with Creole seasoning. (Or you can use your favorite spice mix.) Do this an hour before if you want to let it marinate.
- Add about a tablespoon oil to a Dutch oven or oven-safe pan, and heat on medium.
- Brown chicken about 3 minutes each side. Be very careful not to let the chicken burn. Remove from the pan and set aside. Clean pan if there are any burns.
- If not, add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, chicken bouillon powder, mustard, and paprika. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Then add about 2 cups of broth or water with the desired amount of lemon juice. Simmer until the flavors come together (about 3 minutes). Adjust seasonings, adding salt and Creole seasoning as needed.
- Place the chicken, together with chicken drippings back in the pan.
- Bake 400℉/205℃ for 18- 20 minutes, or until chicken is done. Add about a tablespoon of pepper flakes (or more to taste).
- Arrange the chicken on a plate, top with sauce, garnish with the remaining lemon half, and serve.
Tips & Notes:
- Be extra careful not to burn the chicken when searing it. The toasty bits on the bottom of the pan will add the amazing flavor we’re looking for to the lemon sauce, but if you’ve gone a little too far and there are burnt crisps on there after searing, clean the pan before sautéing the onions and making your sauce. Otherwise, the lemony broth will have a distinctive burnt taste that’s no good.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through but not overdone. For chicken thighs or breasts, you want to reach 165℉/75℃.
- For extra flavor, feel free to marinate the cuts of chicken rubbed in their seasonings and with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for an hour in the fridge before you sear them.
- Please remember that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.