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What does chicken cordon bleu mean in English?

Chicken cordon bleu is a classic French dish that has become popular around the world. It consists of chicken breasts stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, then breaded and pan-fried or baked. The name “cordon bleu” is French and translates to “blue ribbon” in English.

Origins of the Name

There are a few theories about the origins of the name “chicken cordon bleu”:

  • One is that it refers to the blue ribbon worn by members of the prestigious L’Ordre des chevaliers du Saint-Esprit, an order of knights in 16th century France. The ribbon was the highest decoration of honor bestowed by the French king at the time.
  • Another possible origin comes from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, considered one of the most prestigious culinary institutions in the world. The “cordon bleu” in the school’s name refers to the blue ribbon worn by its top students.
  • It may also simply refer to the beautiful contrast between the golden breaded exterior and the pale chicken and ham inside when you cut into a chicken cordon bleu.

History of the Dish

While the exact origins of chicken cordon bleu are uncertain, food historians trace it back to at least the early 1900s in France or Switzerland. Some claims credit chef Alfredo Zitti for inventing the dish at the famous Restaurant Cordons Bleus in Paris in the 1940s.

It became popular on menus in French restaurants, hotels, and railway dining cars during this period. The dish was likely conceived as an elegant, convenient way to eat chicken, ham, and cheese together by stuffing the ingredients inside a chicken breast.

Chicken cordon bleu began showing up in English and American cookbooks in the 1960s and gained widespread popularity in the 1970s and 80s. Like many classic continental dishes, its reputation as an upscale restaurant menu item led to it being considered a fancy dish appropriate for special occasions.

Typical Ingredients

While recipes can vary, chicken cordon bleu typically consists of:

  • Chicken breast – The chicken can be boneless and skinless, pounded thin.
  • Ham – Slices of cooked ham, such as Swiss, prosciutto or other deli ham.
  • Swiss cheese – Sliced Swiss, Gruyere or other Alpine-style cheese.
  • Bread crumbs – Mixed with herbs and seasonings.
  • Eggs and milk – To coat the chicken before breading.
  • Butter or oil – For pan-frying.

The chicken is stuffed with the ham and cheese, then coated in flour, egg wash, and seasoned bread crumbs. It’s then fried in butter or oil until browned and crisp on the outside while the cheese melts inside. Variations sometimes use ingredients like pancetta instead of ham or mozzarella instead of Swiss cheese.

How to Make Chicken Cordon Bleu

Making chicken cordon bleu at home is easy to do with just a handful of ingredients and a few simple preparation steps:

  1. Pound or butterfly the chicken breasts to about 1⁄4-inch thickness so they can be easily stuffed and rolled.
  2. Layer slices of ham and Swiss cheese on each breast, trimming to fit.
  3. Roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks.
  4. Coat the chicken thoroughly in flour, then egg wash, then bread crumbs.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to help set the coating.
  6. Fry the chicken in a combination of butter and oil over medium heat until browned, flipping once, about 8 minutes per side.
  7. Bake at 375°F for approximately 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.

The classic accompaniments for chicken cordon bleu are buttered noodles, rice pilaf, creamy mushroom sauce, or a lemon or white wine sauce. Steamed vegetables like green beans or asparagus also make good side dishes.


There are lots of tasty ways to mix up the traditional chicken cordon bleu recipe:

  • Use thinly sliced deli meats like roast beef, pastrami, or turkey instead of ham.
  • Try different cheeses such as Havarti, provolone, gouda or Monterey Jack.
  • Substitute pork, veal, turkey, or chicken cutlets for the chicken.
  • Coat in Japanese panko bread crumbs for an extra crunchy texture.
  • Stuff with fresh baby spinach along with the ham and cheese.
  • Top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese for a chicken parmesan spin.

Get creative with ingredients you have on hand or play around with global flavor combinations. The stuffed chicken base of cordon bleu lends itself well to customization for more personalized recipes.

Tips for Making Chicken Cordon Bleu

Here are some helpful tips for perfect chicken cordon bleu every time:

  • Pound the chicken thinner than you think necessary so it cooks evenly and the filling stays sealed inside.
  • Chill the stuffed breasts thoroughly so the coating adheres well.
  • Use high-quality Swiss cheese for the best flavor.
  • Don’t overfill the chicken or the cheese will leak out during cooking.
  • Cook over medium-low heat to avoid burning the breading before the inside cooks through.
  • Let rest 5 minutes after cooking so the juices redistribute.
  • Serve chicken cordon immediately so the coating stays ultra crisp.

Nutrition Information

Chicken cordon bleu is a high protein dish thanks to the chicken and ham. It also provides a range of important vitamins and minerals:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 385
Fat 16g
Carbohydrates 17g
Protein 47g
Vitamin A 8% DV
Vitamin C 1% DV
Calcium 15% DV
Iron 10% DV

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Make sure to pair chicken cordon bleu with healthy side dishes like vegetables or salad to balance out the higher fat and calorie count.

Cost to Make at Home

Chicken cordon bleu costs around $15-20 per serving in most restaurants. Making it at home is much more budget friendly. Here is an estimate of the ingredient costs for a single serving:

  • 1 chicken breast – $1.50
  • 2 slices deli ham – $0.75
  • 1-2 slices Swiss cheese – $0.50
  • 1 egg – $0.15
  • Bread crumbs – $0.30
  • Butter and oil for frying – $0.50

The total material cost per serving is approximately $3.70. This is over 75% less than ordering chicken cordon bleu from a restaurant!

Is Chicken Cordon Bleu Healthy?

While chicken cordon bleu certainly tastes indulgent, it can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. Here are some things to keep in mind about its nutritional value:

  • Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein.
  • Ham provides protein, zinc, and B vitamins.
  • Swiss cheese is packed with calcium for strong bones.
  • Bread crumbs add carbohydrates for energy.
  • Frying adds a significant amount of fat and calories.

Overall, chicken cordon bleu made with high quality ingredients contains lots of beneficial nutrition. But the high fat and calorie content means it’s best enjoyed as an occasional treat. Steaming, baking, or grilling the chicken are healthier cooking methods too.

Freezing and Storage

Chicken cordon bleu freezes very well, so you can prep it ahead of time for quick weeknight meals or a party dish:

  • Assemble the stuffed chicken breasts but do not bread or cook them.
  • Place on a tray and freeze solid, then transfer to freezer bags.
  • They will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator before breading and cooking.

Cooked leftover chicken cordon bleu also freezes well for up to 3 months. Reheat thawed or frozen breaded chicken in a 375°F oven until heated through, about 25 minutes.


Chicken cordon bleu is a culinary classic for good reason – it combines chicken, ham, and cheese into a crispy, savory package. While the fancy French name may sound intimidating, it’s easy to make at home with just a handful of simple ingredients. Serving this impressive looking dish is sure to delight family or dinner guests without breaking the bank. Just be mindful of portion sizes since the high fat and calorie content makes chicken cordon bleu best enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. With its delicious flavors and versatility, chicken cordon bleu is a recipe worth adding to your repertoire.