Recipe: Chicken Breast Sautéed in Sweet Red Onion & Lemon

updated Jan 28, 2020
Chicken Breast Sautéed in Sweet Red Onion and Lemon
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

One of the most exciting sections of the upcoming Kitchn Cookbook is the up-close-and-personal tours of ten kitchens. This week I revisited several of our subjects to do follow-up interviews. Bridget, who lives on New York’s Upper West Side, has been an empty nester for over ten years and she’s great at cooking for one. I asked her for some of her favorite homemade-for-one dishes and she immediately told me about a chicken dish with red onions and lemon that her daughter Zoe taught her. “There’s something about red onions,” she said, “I think they have drugs in them.”

Bridget eats this dish with black rice and “there always needs to be something green on the plate.” She suggests spinach — great for spring — or broccoli raab “both cooked in the wokky thing with masses of pre-browned slivered garlic.”

“I often set the table, light a candle, switch from NPR to WQXR [NYC’s classical station] and dim the lights. Unless I want the company of reading while I eat. In which case I don’t dim the lights.”

I was so moved by Bridget’s approach to cooking, and yearned to get back to this simple kind of cooking. After six months of book-writing and recipe developing, the notion sounded pretty great.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Chicken Breast Sautéed in Sweet Red Onion and Lemon

Serves 1 to 2

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1/3 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch strips

  • 2 teaspoons

    olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons


  • 1/2

    small red onion, sliced in thin wedges ("frenched") 

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon


  • 1/2

    small organic lemon, peel intact, ends discarded, sliced in 1/8-inch thick rounds


  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside. 

  2. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter, and swirl the pan until the butter is melted. Add the onions with the salt and sugar, and stir to coat. Spread them out evenly across the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, then add the lemon slices — if there's lemon juice on your cutting board, slide it into your skillet — and a splash of water if there is already a lot of build-up of dark caramelized material on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the onions are a deep reddish-brown color. You may need to decrease the heat to medium-low to prevent burning. Add a splash of water if you feel they might burn imminently. 

  3. Add the strips of chicken to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the centers are no longer pink, about 6 to 8 minutes depending on size of the strips, turning occasionally to prevent burning. Serve immediately.

(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan‘s iPhone while her camera is on loan!)