Chili and Brown Sugar Spice Rub Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
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Spiced Brown Sugar Chicken and Sweet Potatoes — An EASY sheet pan meal that’s ready in 30 minutes and loaded with layers of flavors from the spice rub, which features a mixture of chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, and more!!
Spiced Brown Sugar Baked Chicken
I love sheet pan dinners because they’re easy, tasty, and ready in no time. This easy sheet pan recipe takes advantage of one of my favorite fall ingredients: sweet potatoes.
However, I eat sweet potatoes year round and I love them prepared in any way.
Here they become lightly caramelized thanks to the brown sugar marinade from the chicken that runs off and clings to the sweet potatoes. They are literally finger-lickin’ good!
The brown sugar chicken is tender, juicy, moist, easy, ready in a half hour from start to finish, and best of all, made on one sheet pan. Cleanup is as easy as tossing away a sheet of foil.
Chunky wedges of red onions roast alongside the sweet potatoes and chicken for an extra layer of flavor. They too become caramelized from the chicken marinade that runs off and coats them.
Between all the spices and the brown sugar in the marinade, the range and layers of flavors is off the hook.
What’s In Spiced Brown Sugar Chicken?
For this easy oven baked chicken and sweet potatoes recipe, you only need a few common pantry staples:
- Sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper, optional but recommended
- Fresh parsley or cilantro, optional for garnishing
How to Make Brown Sugar Chicken Breasts
Begin by cutting the sweet potatoes small enough so that they are done at the same time the whole chicken breasts are ready. I recommend 1-inch pieces and give them an 8 to 10 minute head start in the oven before you add the chicken and red onions to the sheet pan.
For this recipe you will need to pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness.
The reason for pounding is that chicken breasts are thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges. If you don’t pound them, the edges will become dry and can burn before the center is cooked through.
Additionally, the pounding helps to tenderize the protein.
Drizzle the chicken and red onions with olive oil, seasonly both generously with salt and pepper, and then add the chili powder and brown sugar-based dry rub to both sides of the chicken breasts.
Bake this one pan easy sheet pan meal for about 20 minutes.
After baking, make sure to let the chicken rest for five to ten minutes so that the natural juices stay in the chicken and don’t run out when you slice into it.
Can I Use Chicken Thighs?
Yes, you can make the brown sugar baked chicken with thighs instead of breasts. Just note that the cook time will differ, so use your best judgement.
Can I Use Different Vegetables?
Yes, of course! The spicy-sweet brown sugar chicken pairs nicely with lots of different veggies.
Again, keep in mind that different vegetables will have different bake times.
Tips for Pounding Chicken Breasts
You don’t need to pound it overly thin, just make sure it’s of uniform thickness.
I keep the chicken in the plastic bag it comes in from the butcher and then pound it with an empty wine bottle from the night before since I don’t have a meat pounding tool. I am all about being resourceful and the less kitchen equipment I need to have in my small kitchen, the better!
Try a rolling pin, heavy frying pan, heavy duty ice cream scoop, or even a can of beans that you first wrap in a plastic baggie.
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika or smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional and to taste
Chicken & Potatoes:
- 1.5 to 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided; or as needed
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1.50 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 large breasts)
- 1 large or extra-large red onion, cut into thick chunks or wedges
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro finely minced, for garnishing; optional and to taste
- Preheat oven to 425F (use convection if you have it) and line a baking sheet with foil (optional but highly recommended, see Notes below) for easier cleanup.
- To the baking sheet, add the sweet potatoes, evenly drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil or as desired, evenly season with salt and pepper, and roast for 8 to 10 minutes.
- While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the spice rub by combining the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, optional cayenne, and stir to combine; set aside.
- Pound the chicken to an even thickness. I use an empty wine bottle, but a meat pounder or tenderizing tool, a rolling pin, or a heavy frying pan all work. The chicken doesn't need to be pounded 'thin', but it needs to be of pounded to a uniform thickness so it all cooks through at the same time.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven with the sweet potatoes, flip them, add the chicken, red onions, and evenly drizzle them with 2 tablespoons olive oil, or as desired (I use more for better flavor and to keep everything extra moist).
- Evenly season the chicken and red onions with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Evenly spoon the dry spice rub over the chicken on both sides. I add a bit more to the side that's facing up than the side that's on the bottom in contact with the baking sheet. You may not need every last drop of it, but I add a very thick coating, especially to the side of the chicken that's facing up.
- Bake for about 18 to 22 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (165F) and done and sweet potatoes are fork tender. Tip - Keep an eye in the last few minutes of roasting because the brown sugar in the spice rub will have a tendency to burn in the final moments. Once it's starts getting dark, it's almost a guarantee the chicken is done.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into it (cover with foil if desired to keep it warmer). Resting the chicken really helps lock in the juices and moisture so don't skip this step.
- Optionally garnish with fresh herbs before slicing and serving.
Lining your pan with foil is highly recommended in case there are a lot of juices and runoff that gets dark and sticky, it's one less thing to clean up. I use this foil.
Storage: Chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 514Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 129mgSodium: 384mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 7gSugar: 16gProtein: 51g
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