Healthy cooking

A lighter, foolproof take on barbecued chicken


Main dish

Easy Baked Barbecue Chicken Breasts

1/2 cup ketchup

1 to 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)

2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar, or to taste

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts without the tenderloin (2 to 3 breasts, each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine the ketchup, adobo sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Line a shallow baking dish with foil, leaving enough excess to generously overhang the sides. Spread half of the sauce on the foil in an area just the size of the chicken breasts. Arrange the breasts on top, and spoon the remaining sauce over them. Bring the edges of the foil up and over the chicken and fold it to enclose them. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the bread crumbs, thyme, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Sauté until light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

After the chicken has baked for 20 minutes, open up the foil and spoon any sauce that has fallen off back on top. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the chicken. Bake, uncovered, until the chicken is just cooked through, another 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving topped with any sauce and crumbs that have fallen off. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 240 calories, 45 calories from fat (19 percent of total), 5 g fat (1 g saturated, 0 trans fats), 65 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrate, 0 fiber, 9 g sugar, 28 g protein, 750 mg sodium.

Associated Press

Barbecue chicken is one of my favorite summertime dishes. I like every part of it – the sauce (the spicier the better), the crispy skin, even the bones.

It’s also relatively healthy, at least as compared to barbecue brethren such as ribs, brisket and pork. It’s chicken, after all, and it wears that lean-protein halo. Unfortunately, when prepared skin-on and slathered with a sugary sauce, barbecue chicken is very nearly as caloric.

So I set myself the task of coming up with a recipe for a leaner version of based on chicken breasts that still boasted a mouth-watering sauce and an element of crunch.

The breasts are covered for two-thirds of the cooking time, which helps keep them moist. Letting them rest for a few minutes after baking is another way to maximize the juiciness.

For the sauce, I started with the usual ketchup base, balanced off the sugar with acid and Dijon mustard, then spiked it with a secret weapon – adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo. (If you open a whole can of chiles to make this sauce, you can freeze each chile with a little sauce in the cube of an ice cube tray.)

Panko bread crumbs provided the crunch. I sautéed them in a little olive oil with some fresh thyme until they were nicely toasted, then topped the chicken with the crumbs for the last 10 minutes of baking, which guaranteed the crumbs would stick to the chicken, but not get soggy.

I was very pleased with the end result: a juicy, spicy, slightly crunchy, easy-to-make chicken barbecue that’s tasty hot, cold or at room temperature.

Sara Moulton hosts public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

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