Enjoy robust flavors in this creamy southwest chicken recipe that's ready in just 30 minutes! It's simple to make, so saucy, and a great weeknight option.
You may also enjoy my Santa Fe Chicken Skillet or Creamy White Chicken Chili next.
Why you'll love it
This no-fuss southwest chicken has a creamy sauce bursting with a fabulous seasoning blend. I am such a fan of southwest, Tex-Mex, and Mexican-inspired food. If you know me at all, I adore the desert and all the flavors that come with it, so it was no-brainer to pair them with everyone's favorite protein!
You can't beat tender pan-fried chicken that's swimming in a comforting tangy cream cheese sauce with Rotel tomatoes. Add in a couple of pantry essentials, and you've got another creative yet quick and easy chicken dinner in your back pocket. Half an hour, and this creamy southwestern chicken is on the table. Picky eaters are sure to enjoy this one as well.
What you'll need
- Chicken - we use two chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise to make four cutlets
- Olive oil and butter - for sautéing
- Garlic - use even more than suggested if your heart desires. I mince the cloves with this garlic press since it means no sticky fingers or tedious chopping.
- Chicken broth - for the savory base of the sauce
- Rotel tomatoes - they're canned diced tomatoes with green chilies
- Seasoning - my tried and true homemade blend includes chili powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and ground cumin. Most varieties of chili powder are quite mild, but note that you can find spicy ones.
- Cream cheese - use a block of your go-to brand. I like Philadelphia.
- Cilantro - it's a signature way to add a pop of freshness in southwest recipes
Is this spicy?
- It does have a slight kick if you use Original Rotel. If you want the sauce to be more spicy, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or some chopped jalapeños. Conversely, use Mild Rotel if you're sensitive to spice.
How to make southwest chicken
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Slice the chicken lengthwise and season with salt & pepper on both sides. In a skillet, pan fry the chicken in the oil and butter. Transfer to a plate. Add the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the Rotel tomatoes, broth, and seasoning blend.
Add in the cream cheese, stirring until fully incorporated into the sauce. Return the chicken to the skillet, and heat through. If necessary, thin out the sauce with an extra splash of broth. Garnish with chopped cilantro, and add extra salt & pepper if needed.
- Take the cream cheese out of the fridge early (like an hour or more before starting the recipe), and/or microwave it for 30 seconds or so to soften it up. This helps the recipe go much smoother!
- Cutting the chicken breasts in half lengthwise ensures they cook through faster and more evenly.
- Chicken is fully cooked at 165F. The easiest way to know is to use an inexpensive instant read thermometer so that it's never over or undercooked.
Substitutions and variations
- You can sub chicken breasts for thighs. You may need to cook the thighs a little longer so they become tender, however.
- Don't have the individual spices to make Taco Seasoning? Sub for store bought if you're in a pinch, but note that some can be well salted.
- If you're one of those people that can't eat cilantro, try substituting with parsley and/or some chopped green onions for that fresh contrast.
- This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, so if you want less or don't want it quite as creamy, you could get away with using half a block of Philly vs. the whole thing.
What to serve with southwest chicken
- As with any Tex-Mex recipe with chicken, rice is a fantastic pairing. A big pile of Mashed Potatoes is my personal favorite for all that sauce. Even pasta works!
- For veggie sides, you can't go wrong with a side salad or Roasted Green Beans. Try my Black Bean Corn Avocado Salad with Rice for a zesty complement.
Leftovers and storage
- Any leftovers of this southwest chicken will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Warm slowly over a low heat in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave. You may need to add a splash more broth to thin the sauce if desired.
- I don't recommend freezing it. The sauce may change texture due to dairy content.
If you want to leave a review of this easy southwest chicken recipe, talk to me in the comments below! You can also showcase anything you made on Instagram by tagging me #saltandlavender.
Creamy Southwest Chicken
- 2 chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 (10 fluid once) can Ro-tel diced tomatoes & green chilies with juices
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 8 ounces cream cheese (I use a block of Philly) softened
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
- Take the cream cheese out of the fridge for at least an hour before starting the recipe so it softens up and/or microwave it for 30 seconds or so. I also cut it into cubes.
- Slice the chicken in half lengthwise to make 4 thinner pieces. Season both sides with some salt & pepper.
- Add the oil and butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken and sear until nicely browned and cooked through (about 5-6 minutes/side). Transfer chicken to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic to the skillet. Cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken broth and Rotel to the skillet, along with the chili powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and ground cumin. Give it a good stir.
- Stir in the cream cheese (it may take a few minutes until it's fully incorporated), then add the chicken back in to warm through. If the sauce gets too thick at any point, add a splash of chicken broth.
- Season with salt & pepper if needed, sprinkle the chopped cilantro over top, and serve immediately.
- If using Original Rotel, the sauce will have a little kick to it, but the cream cheese does mellow it out. Use mild if needed. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a hot chili powder blend (most are mild) if you want more kick.
- Chicken is safe to eat when it's 165F in the middle. Use an instant read thermometer to take the guesswork out.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Hi! Do you think I could use plain greek yogurt instead of cream cheese? Trying to be healthier this new year lol Love your website and recipes!
Hi Chelsey!! Honestly, I don't think it'll turn out the same. The sauce could curdle, and it won't be as silky, unfortunately. 🙁
Brian Dickson says
I loved it. We forgot to add red peppers, will do that next time.
So glad it was a hit, Brian! Thanks for your 5-star review!
K Lockwood says
We loved it. I did add some red pepper to the seasoning. We made rice for the side, and it was good with the sauce. Thank you! Easy and fast, and I had all the ingredients in my pantry!
You're very welcome! 🙂 Thanks for your review!
Quick and delicious weeknight dinner! Very easy, 30 minutes to the table. Served with mashed potatoes and veggies. I only had about 4 oz. of cream cheese, but it still came out perfect. Next time I'll add a little cayenne (we like the heat) and try it with rice.
I'm so glad you liked it, Christine!! 🙂 I appreciate your review!