Chicken Chesapeake is the perfect dish for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversary dinners. Seared chicken topped with fresh crab and shredded cheddar cheese is baked in the oven until wonderfully bubbly and delicious.

What is Chicken Chesapeake?

Chesapeake chicken is a popular dish in Maryland and all over the east coast where fresh crab is available everywhere. It pairs great with Old Bay fries.

There are different variations of this dish but usually, it consists of a chicken cutlet topped with a creamy, crab imperial and an Old Bay cream sauce. It’s served with a side of steamed or oven roasted broccoli or over rice such as jalapeno rice. If you like something more comforting try serving it over our easy garlic mashed potatoes or scalloped cheesy potatoes.

You can’t go wrong with a dish like this, especially for a special occasion.

chicken chesapeake recipe

How to Pick the Best Crab Meat

Fresh crab is known for its sweet, succulent taste and should always be fresh rather than canned or frozen. Do not use imitation crab for this recipe.

Look for fresh crabmeat at a fish market or a higher-end grocery store. Make sure it was caught within the last 24 hours for the best results. You can ask the person at the counter when and where it was caught for more information.

If you want to save a couple of bucks, look for backfin meat. It’s finer textured than lump crab meat, but its flavor is similar to lump crab meat.

ingredients for chicken chesapeake

Ingredients

These simple ingredients can be found at your local grocery store for the most part. You may need to look for fresh crab at a specialty store.

  • Egg – An egg is used for the crab mixture.
  • Mayonnaise – Use good quality mayo.
  • Dijon mustard – A little dijon mustard adds a nice flavor contrast.
  • Worcestershire sauce – This classic seasoning adds depth of flavor.
  • Old Bay seasoning – This blend of spices is very unique to this recipe.
  • SaltKosher salt is best for cooking and baking.
  • Fresh parsley – Chopped parsley gives this dish a fresh pop of color and flavor.
  • Lemon juice – A squeeze of tart lemon juice balances the richer flavors of this dish.
  • Lump crab meat – Fresh crab meat is a delicacy and is delicious in this recipe.
  • Chicken breasts – Slice the chicken in half if they are especially large.
  • Olive oil – You can use olive oil or avocado oil to saute the chicken.
  • Cheddar cheese – Buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself. It will melt and taste better than bagged cheese.
  • Unsalted butter – Be sure to use unsalted butter for the sauce.
  • All-purpose flour – This is used to thicken the sauce.
  • Milk – A splash of milk is what turns it into a sauce.

How to Make Chicken Chesapeake

The steps to make this dish are easy. For the full description, see the recipe card below.

  • Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, salt, parsley, and lemon juice.
crab sauce in a bowl
  • Gently fold in the crab meat.
crab mixture in a bowl
  • Pound each cutlet then season with Old Bay seasoning. Cook the chicken cutlets in a single layer in a hot skillet.
chicken cutlet in skillet
  • Transfer the cutlets onto a baking sheet and top with the crab meat mixture. Bake until almost cooked through. Add shredded cheese in the last 5 minutes of baking.
chicken topped with crab meat
  • Make the cream sauce by melting the butter and then whisking in flour, milk, Old Bay, and parsley.
old bay cream sauce in saucepan
  • Spoon the sauce over the baked chicken and serve immediately.

Expert Tips

These tips and tricks will help you make the best chicken Chesapeake recipe.

  • Old Bay seasoning. Do not substitute Old Bay with anything else. It’s very unique tasting to this dish. You can find it at most supermarkets or Amazon.
  • Chicken. Make sure to pound the chicken to an even thickness to ensure it cooks evenly all around. Cook the chicken in the skillet until it’s golden brown on both sides but not cooked all the way through. Do not cook it beyond that or it will overcook in the oven. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the chicken for doneness when it’s in the oven. It should register at 165F.
  • Crab meat. Only use the best stuff. No imitation or canned.
  • Serve with lemon. This dish is very rich in flavor and is best served with lemon wedges to squeeze over the crab and chicken.

Variations

This chicken and crab recipe has slight variations depending on where you order it or who makes it. The good thing is that you can make changes based on your personal tastes. Here are some options to get you started.

  • Add bacon. Wrap the chicken with bacon before sauteeing to add extra flavor to the dish.
  • Stuff the chicken. Stuff the chicken with the crab meat rather than laying it on top.
  • Add crackers. Combine Ritz or saltine crackers with the crab mixture to give it texture.
  • Make it spicy. Add cayenne pepper to the sauce if you want to kick up the spice a little bit. 
  • Make a sandwich. Serve the chicken with crab inside a bun with lettuce, tomato, and Old Bay mayo.
chesapeake chicken

How to Serve 

Serve this chicken breast with crab stuffing with kale Caesar salad or a side of roasted garlic green beans.

You can also pair it with a side dish like Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, or Roasted Asparagus.

Storing Tips 

Although this dish is best served fresh, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

It’s easy to make ahead of time by cooking the chicken and storing it in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, place it on a baking sheet with the crab meat and cheese on top and bake until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.

FAQs

What kind of cheese is best for chicken Chesapeake?

We like to use cheddar cheese, either mild or sharp is fine. Be sure to shred it so it melts nicely on top of the crab and chicken in the oven.

Can I use canned crab with Chesapeake chicken?

It’s best to use fresh crab meat in this recipe since it’s the star of the recipe.

Why is my chicken Chesapeake dry?

If the chicken is too dry, it’s most likely because it’s been overcooked. Only allow it to cook in the pan for 1-2 minutes on each side before putting it in the oven.

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chesapeake chicken

Chicken Chesapeake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Chicken Chesapeake is the perfect dish for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversary dinners. Seared chicken topped with fresh crab and shredded cheddar cheese is baked in the oven until wonderfully bubbly and delicious.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Crab

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 8 oz. lump crab meat, drained well

Chicken

  • 1.52 lbs. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, 2 large or 4 smaller breasts
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • Olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 cup freshly shredded cheddar cheese

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/23/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, salt, parsley, and lemon juice and mix well. Gently fold in the crab meat with a rubber spatula. Be careful not to shred the crab meat and check for any hard and sharp cartilages. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the chicken.
  2. If using two larger chicken breasts, cut each breast in half lengthwise to create four cutlets. Pound each cutlet between plastic wrap until no more than 1/4-inch thick. Season each cutlet all over with Old Bay, rubbing in the seasoning with your fingertips.
  3. Heat a large heavy-duty saute pan over medium-high heat, preferably cast-iron or a stainless steel pan. Add enough oil to lightly cover the entire surface of the pan. When oil is hot and shimmering, add chicken cutlets in a single layer. Make sure not to overcrowd. Cook in batches if needed.
  4. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side or just until lightly golden on the outside. Transfer the cutlets onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking dish lightly coated with nonstick spray.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Take the crab mixture out of the refrigerator and gently mix in any accumulated moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Spoon the crab mixture evenly over each chicken cutlet.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until chicken internal temperature registers at 165F. Use an instant-read meat thermometer for accuracy. In the last 5 minutes, add shredded cheese. While the chicken is baking, prepare the sauce.
  8. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, just until all of the flour is absorbed. Whisk in 1/2 cup milk and Old Bay, and cook until the mixture has thickened, about 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk until desired consistency. Stir in parsley.
  9. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes, then spoon sauce over the chicken and serve with lemon wedges. 

Notes

  • Old Bay: Old Bay tastes similar to cajun seasoning and is very salty. I recommend tasting the cream sauce at the end and if needed, adding just a smidgen of salt. Make sure not to overseason or the entire dish will be too salty.
  • Parsley: I recommend using fresh parsley and not dried. This dish is very rich and you want the clean and earthy flavor of fresh parsley.
  • Crab meat: Make sure to use fresh lump crab meat and not canned. If it was previously frozen, thaw and drain well over a few sheets of paper towels. You don’t want any excess moisture.
  • Milk: You can make the sauce with half and half but it will be thicker. You’ll need to thin it out either with more half-and-half or milk.
  • Serving: Don’t forget to cut up fresh lemon wedges to serve alongside the chicken. Lemon will cut through the richness and saltiness of the dish.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 chicken cutlet topped with crab and sauce
  • Calories: 535
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 722.1 mg
  • Fat: 30.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.5 g
  • Protein: 58.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 248.5 mg