This easy Monterey Chicken tastes just like Chili’s signature dish with a sweet marinated chicken covered with bacon, cheese, and pico de gallo. It’s the perfect weeknight meal that is prepped in just 10 minutes either on the grill or in a skillet on the stovetop.

I’ll be honest, I only eat at Chili’s when I’m stuck in the airport and have no other options. But I remember trying the famous Monterey Chicken dish and being surprised at how fresh and flavorful it was. So, I figured, for all you Chili’s lovers, why not find a way to make it at home? And I can confidently say, this version of the dish is much better than Chili’s.

With just a handful of ingredients and 10 minutes of prep time, this is a weeknight dinner dream for busy weeks—it’s so easy to make! Use the grill if it’s summertime or make it right on the stovetop during the winter months. Better yet, it’s also great as leftovers the next day.

I first developed this recipe for Cuisine at Home Magazine while I was an Associate Editor there. So, I can ensure you this Chili’s Monterey Chicken is completely foolproof and has been tested numerous times—both in and out of the Test Kitchen—for cooking method and flavor.

I can’t wait to share all of my secrets to making this restaurant-style recipe at home. If you’re looking for other delicious chicken recipes, try my Baked Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Paillard, and Grilled Chimichurri Chicken.

Grilled chicken breast topped with melted cheese, crispy bacon bits and pico de gallo on a white dinner plate with a fork set on plate and a yellow glass set to the top right.

What is Monterey Chicken?

Monterey Chicken is a classic, famous recipe from the restaurant Chili’s. It’s grilled chicken that’s smothered in barbecue sauce and topped with crispy bacon, melted Monterey Jack cheese, and pico de gallo.

There are so many delicious flavors in one bite! My version takes a bit of a modern twist on the recipe and uses a homemade sweet marinade for the chicken with brown sugar, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. It gives the chicken a sweet and tangy flair that perfectly compliments the toppings.

I also swapped the Monterey Jack cheese for Pepper Jack cheese which adds a hint of spice in each bite, it’s too delicious.

Four grilled chicken breasts topped with cheese, bacon and pico de gallo set on a large platter.

Why this Recipe Works

  • Restaurant-quality meal at home. This version doesn’t just taste as good as Chili’s—it tastes better. Plus, it’s uses a handful of simple ingredients, making it an affordable and practical recipe for weeknights.
  • Dinner in less than 1 hour! It’s the ideal recipe for a busy weeknight. With just 10 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cook time, you can easily have a homemade meal on the table.
  • Modern flavors for the classic recipe. I changed this recipe a bit from the Chili’s original by making a homemade marinade and using Pepper Jack cheese rather than Monterey Jack and Cheddar for a kick of spice!

Lauren’s Tip

Pounding chicken breasts is a game changer when grilling or cooking on the stovetop. It makes the breasts even in thickness for even cooking throughout. The end result is tender and juicy meat.

Raw chicken breasts, shredded cheese, Dijon, brown sugar, diced uncooked bacon, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeno, chopped onion, chopped red onion, minced garlic, Worcesterhsire, salt and pepper all measured out and in bowls set on a counter.
ingredients: olive oil, Dijon mustard, pepper Jack cheese, bacon, brown sugar, tomatoes, salt, pepper, chicken breasts, Worcestershire, red onion, lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro and garlic.

Ingredients

The best part about this Monterey Chicken recipe is all of the ingredients are simple and approachable. You probably have several of them already in your kitchen at home.

Chicken:

  • Dijon Mustard: A great flavorful base for the marinade that offers an acidic and spicy kick.
  • Brown Sugar: We use light brown sugar but dark is also fine too! Adds just a hint of sweetness to each bite and encourages caramelization on the chicken.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: seasons the chicken with a boost of savoriness and umami from the anchovies in it.
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts: Make sure these are on the smaller side, 5 to 6 ounces each. This makes for juicier meat.
  • Thick-sliced Bacon: One of our secret ingredients in this recipe, the thick-sliced bacon really takes the flavors of each bite to another level.
  • Pepper Jack Cheese: Another new secret ingredient when compared to the original recipe. It adds a kick of spice that’s still pretty mild, but if you prefer the original recipe then use a blend of Monterey Jack and Cheddar.
Diced tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, chopped cilantro, minced garlic and chopped red onion in a small glass mixing bowl with a spoon.

Pico de Gallo:

  • Large Tomatoes: We like to use big beefsteak or better boy tomatoes. The key to a great pico de gallo is to seed the tomatoes before dicing them.
  • Red Onion: Diced small to add that bit of fresh onion flavor.
  • Jalapeño: Adds a nice vegetal flavor and a hint of spice. Be sure to remove the seeds for a mild flavor.
  • Cilantro: Essential in any pico recipe for its zesty and fresh flavor. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, use parsley.
  • Garlic: Just a little bit does the trick to infuse each bite with delicious garlic flavor.
  • Lime Juice: Make sure it’s freshly squeezed and not pre-bottled, it makes all the difference in flavor.

How to Make Monterey Chicken

To Make the Chicken:

Dijon, brown sugar, and worcestershire in a large glass mixing bowl.
  1. Whisk together the Dijon mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Raw chicken breasts marinating in a dijon mustard-based marinade in a glass mixing bowl.
  1. Add the chicken, toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.
Diced bacon cooking in a cast-iron skillet with a wooden spoon stirring the bacon.
  1. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl to cool.
Shredded pepper Jack and cooked, crumbled bacon combined in a small white mixing bowl.
  1. Reserve the drippings and add the cheese to the bacon.
  1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan with the bacon drippings—be careful of flare ups if cooking over an open flame. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Discard the remaining marinade.
Chicken breasts grilling on a cast-iron grill pan.
  1. Cook the chicken, covered, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165ºF, about 5 minutes per side.
Two chicken breasts topped with melty cheese and crumbled bacon, cooking on a grill pan.
  1. Top the chicken with the bacon cheese mixture, cover, and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute more.
  2. Serve the chicken with the pico de gallo.

To Make the Pico de Gallo:

Fresh pico de gallo—diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno and garlic—in a glass mixing bowl.
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and allow the flavors to marinate.

Expert Recipe Tips

  • Pound the chicken correctly. Place the breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten until 1/2-inch thick. This will tenderize the meat and allow for more even cooking.
  • Marinate the chicken longer for more flavor. You can keep the chicken in the fridge in the marinade for up to 2 hours before cooking. This will create a richer flavor.
  • Use a skillet instead of the grill. Would you rather make this indoors? Use a cast iron skillet or stainless skillet for ease!

Storing Leftovers

This cheesy bacon grilled chicken can be stored easily in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for a couple of minutes on 80-percent power or in a 300ºF oven until warmed through.

You can also freeze this chicken for up to 2 months by wrapping in plastic wrap and placing in a zipper-lock bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature on the counter for a couple of hours before reheating.

A white dinner plate with a cooked chicken breast topped with pico de gallo, melty cheese and bacon. A fork with a piece of cooked chicken on it.

What to Serve with Chili’s Monterey Chicken

We love to serve this chicken recipe with a fresh side salad like a Cold Green Bean Salad, Mexican Coleslaw with Charred Corn, or Simple Radish Salad.

It’s also great served with other salsas! Turn this chicken, especially leftovers, into tacos with our Tomato and Chipotle Salsa or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and charred tortillas.

A simple dinner roll or bread also pairs nicely with this chicken. Try my Healthy Cornbread (or Gluten-Free Cornbread), Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls or Cheese Biscuits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make chicken breast tender?

The best way to tenderize chicken breasts is to pound them to 1/2-inch thickness evenly between two pieces of plastic wrap using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Can I make Monterey Chicken in the oven?

Yes! We like the flavor the grill or a skillet gives the chicken, but you can also bake the chicken as well if that’s preferred. Simply cook it at 350ºF (177ºC) for 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken reaches 165ºF on a meat thermometer.

Can I use chicken thighs instead of breasts?

Yes, thighs work great as well. We recommend boneless, skinless thighs for this recipe. You may need a slightly longer cook time, and be sure to cook them to an internal temperature of 172ºF.

Can I add other toppings besides bacon and cheese?

Yes, we also love scallions, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, pickled onions, or herbs on top.

More Delicious Chicken Recipes

Monterey Chicken

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Category Dinner
Cuisine American

Description

This easy Monterey Chicken tastes just like Chili's with a sweet marinated chicken covered with bacon, cheese, and pico de gallo. It's the perfect weeknight meal that is prepped in just 10 minutes and can be made either on the grill or in a skillet on the stove.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 (5 to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 4 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded pepper Jack cheese

Pico de Gallo

  • 2 large tomatoes (such as Big Beef or Better Boy), seeded and diced about 1 cup
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeño
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

For the Chicken

  • Whisk together the Dijon mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the chicken, toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl to cool. Reserve the drippings and and add the cheese to the bacon.
  • Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan with the bacon drippings carefully. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Discard the remaining marinade.
  • Cook the chicken, covered, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165ºF, 5 minutes per side. Top the chicken with the bacon cheese mixture, cover, and cook until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more.
  • Serve the chicken with the pico de gallo.

For the Pico de Gallo

  • In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and allow the flavors to marinate.

Equipment

Grill or grill pan

Notes

This recipe was originally developed for Cuisine at Home Magazine. 
Storing Leftovers: This cheesy bacon grilled chicken can be stored easily in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for a couple of minutes or in a 300ºF oven until warmed through.
You can also freeze this chicken for up to 2 months by wrapping in plastic wrap. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature on the counter for a couple of hours.
Pound the chicken correctly. Place the chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten until 1/2-inch thick. This will tenderize the chicken, allow for more even cooking, and make it not so tough after being grilled.
Marinate the chicken longer for more flavor. You can keep the chicken in the fridge in the marinade for up to 2 hours before cooking. This will create a richer flavor.
Use a skillet instead of the grill. Would you rather make this indoors? Use a cast iron skillet or stainless skillet for ease!

Nutrition

Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Four grilled chicken breasts topped with cheese, bacon and pico de gallo set on a large platter.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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