How to Make Lemon Pepper Chicken

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Start to Finish: 90 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Lemon pepper chicken is a flavorful dish that you can adapt to a wide variety of settings and moods. Serve it whole for an elegant dinner, or substitute boneless, skinless breasts for the whole bird to lighten the recipe. This dish pairs well with pasta or rice, which soak up the sauce.


  • 1 lemon
  • Lemon juice, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns or 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3-pound chicken, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine 


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer peel from the lemon. Cut away any of the white pith that remains, leaving only the yellow zest. Finely dice it and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon to release up to 1/4 cup of juice. Add lemon juice if needed to reach 1/4 cup.

Crush the peppercorns using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. If you don't have these tools available, put the peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a heavy skillet. The peppercorns shouldn't be finely ground, just broken apart.


  • Use a specialty pepper, such as Tellicherry from India or Talamanca from Ecuador, to add subtle flavor differences to your dish.

Mix the lemon zest, juice, crushed peppercorns, 1 tablespoon of softened butter and salt in a small bowl.

Gently separate the chicken skin from the meat, forming a pocket on each piece. Do not fully detach the skin. Use your fingers to press the lemon, salt, pepper and butter mixture into the pocket. Spread it over the meat in an even layer.


  • If you are using boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken, simply rub the lemon, spice and butter mixture evenly over the meat.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof skillet and bake for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Put the chicken in a covered serving dish to rest and drain any excess fat. Place the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the white wine. As the liquid boils, use a wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits of chicken that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Add the remaining butter in 3 additions, whisking until each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Serve the chicken with the pan sauce.


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