Simple Sauces for Chicken

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Chicken is the go-to protein for a light and healthy meal, but when you announce that you're having grilled chicken breasts for dinner, does anyone applaud or yell "great, I can't wait"?

What if you said you were having Grilled Chicken Breasts… with a Citrus-Infused Sauce?

And the crowd goes wild! 

Let's start with the chicken. I recommend one of these two easy cooking methods:Chicken is so versatile--I often call it the little black dress of lean proteins because you can dress it up or dress it down for any occasion--but it can be a bit bland on its own. With five to 10 extra minutes in the kitchen, you can flavor up all your chicken dishes, without reaching for a bottle of sauce loaded with salt and sugar. Here's how.
Use What is Left in the Pan
The next time you sauté chicken in a skillet remove the cooked meat and let the "fond" or crust left in the pan be a base for a quick sauce.  While the pan is still hot, pour red wine vinegar, stock, fruit juices, wine, or tomatoes into the pan.  Stir, scrape and swirl to pull up the flavor cooked in the bottom of the pan and reduce the liquid.  Finish by adding with Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, or sliced fruit to flavor the sauce.
Make a Reduction Sauce
Concentrated juices make great quick sauces.  Simply add your favorite juice (I like pomegranate, orange, apple, or cranberry juice) along with fresh herbs or spices to a sauce pan and cook over high heat 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy.
This same technique works well with balsamic vinegar.  
Vegetable Coulis
This sounds difficult but really simple to prepare. "Coulis" (pronounced KOO-lee) refers to a thick sauce of pureed vegetables and some flavorful liquid, with herbs and spices. Cook 1 pound chopped vegetables with 1 clove garlic over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup tomato juice, vegetable juice, or stock.  Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender and season to taste.  My favorite two are Red Pepper Coulis with garlic and onions and Yellow or Tomato Coulis with garlic and onions flavored with chopped oregano and thyme.
Cool and Creamy Greek Yogurt Sauces
These are super quick. Just peel back the foil top and add your favorite chopped vegetable, condiment, spice or herb for a quick cold sauce. Spoon the cool sauce over chicken just before serving, or mix with shredded cold chicken for a quick salad. Here are some of my favorite combinations:
  • Chopped fresh thyme, parsley, dill, chives, rosemary, oregano or basil
  • Roasted red peppers (packed in brine) chopped
  • Salt free spice blends
  • Dijon mustard and honey
  • Horseradish with Dijon mustard and  white wine vinegar
  • Roosters or Sriracha sauce
  • Segmented oranges and juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Chopped shallots
  • Crumbled blue cheese with chopped chives
  • Peeled and chopped cucumbers with dill
  • Prepared barbeque sauce
Lighter Coconut Milk Sauces
Coconut adds richness and sweetness to your sauces.  A little goes a long way--1-2 tablespoons of sauce will be plenty for one serving.

Kids love peanut sauce over chicken and noodles too.  Combine 1/4 cup coconut milk with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 garlic clove, 1 lime zested and juiced with 1/2 cup warm water over low heat.  Stir and simmer 3-4 minutes.  Switch up the sauce and omit the peanut butter, add red or green curry paste with some added grated ginger.  Opt for a two ingredient sauce with just coconut milk and prepared mango chutney or fruit preserves for a sweet sauce.  Combine 2 tablespoons chutney with 1/2 cup coconut milk, then warm.  
Sauces don't need to be fussy or complicated.  The goal is to simply add flavor and moisture to the dish which will in turn wow the crowd or better yet your family.

Try some of my other sauces:
Creamy Fat Free Herb Dressing
Mole Sauce
Ginger-Garlic Sauce
Hummus Dipping Sauce
Chipotle Mustard Dipping Sauce
Lemon Zucchini Dip
Avocado Cream
Black Bean Spread
Strawberry-Rhubarb Conserve
Summer Corn Relish
Spicy Chili-Garlic Paste
What is your favorite quick sauce for chicken?
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