Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken

This Catalina Chicken recipe is so flavorful and crazy easy.  It only requires chicken and 3 other ingredients for a really flavorful sweet and sour sauce.  We love this served over rice with a veggie on the side. And right now I need easy.

Since we’re keepin’ it real around here this week, let me give you a little peek into my life right now.  Remember when I showed you my office last week?

Well here’s the view out my master bedroom:

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_moving mess bedroom

And my super stylish entry (I swear there’s not a body in that bag.)

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_moving mess boxes

Annnnd don’t forget the kitchen.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_moving mess dining room

We’re moving.  Well, in the process of moving.  And life is chaotic.  The other day my 4 year old actually said, “Hey Mom, weeemember the time you made us chicken wif sawad for dinner?  Can you do that again?”  Um yeah.  We’ve been in a cereal/pizza/fend for yourself kind of mode for a couple of weeks now.   Which happens to be the perfect time to pull out some of the crazy-easy-totally-not-fancy-but-hot-yummy-and-homemade recipes I like.  The kind of recipes we don’t always post on our blog because the foodies out there tell us they’re not foodie enough.  Luckily we’ve never claimed to be fancy-foodies.  We’re realists.  So here’s a realist recipe.  It’s one of those old-school iconic chicken dishes that’s been around forever.  And yes, it uses pretty much all pre-packaged store-bought ingredients, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need!  I have bunch of recipes like this up my sleeve so you may get a few more in coming weeks as I try to pack my life up, unpack it again, and try to not live completely off of Happy Meals.

For this you’ll only need a few basic pantry items.  I always keep this stuff around because it will last forever in the pantry and then it’s always available when I need a quick, last-minute meal.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_ingredients

Apricot jam is pretty standard, but I use Apricot-Pineapple a lot, and even peach.   They’re all great.  There’s another version that uses a can of whole cranberry sauce instead, and that one is good too.  Catalina or Russian dressing works here, too and you can make this with pretty much any cut of chicken you want.  See?  Easy peasy!

Start by putting your jam in a bowl and adding the Catalina dressing.  If your jam is particularly jamm-y, it helps to heat it up a little in the microwave to make it easier to stir.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_dressing

Most recipes don’t call for this next ingredient, but I always add a little apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness and balance the flavors.  Just a half teaspoon does it.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_apple cider vinegar

Next bust open that packet of soup mix.  You’re not making soup- just using the dry mix here.  Add half of it to the sauce (that’s about 1 1/2 tablespoons, but you can just eyeball it.)

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_soup mix

This is also something I do a little different.  I use the remaining half of the soup mix to season the chicken itself.  You can definitely just throw all of the ingredients in a pan and pop it in the oven like I know a lot of people do, but I find that seasoning the chicken pieces, and then searing them in a hot pan first develops flavor, adds depth, and results in juicier chicken and a thicker sauce.  So just just sprinkle the rest of the soup mix on your chicken and rub it in with your hands to evenly coat.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_chicken

If you’re using really large chicken breasts like I am, you might want to just cut them in half for easier cooking and serving.

Heat up a large skillet, dutch oven, or other oven-proof pan.  When it’s nice and hot, drizzle in a little olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom.  Place your chicken pieces in the pan and sear them for 2 minutes on each side, they should be slightly golden brown.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_cooked chicken


If you’re using an oven-safe pot already, just pour the sauce on top and spread it out.  Otherwise, you can transfer your chicken pieces to a baking dish and pour the sauce on there.  If you have little brown bits on your skillet, I’d pour some of the sauce in there and heat it to a simmer while scraping those bits off and add those to the baking dish too.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_sauce

Depending on what type of chicken pieces you’re using, baking time will vary.  The very best method of baking chicken is to own a good meat thermometer.  Then you’ll always end up with perfectly cooked meat.  Cook until the thickest portion reaches 165 degrees.  For boneless, skinless breasts it will probably only take about 20-30 minutes.

When you take it out of the oven, let it cool for 10-15 minutes and then serve chicken, ladled with sauce, over hot white rice.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_served

The sauce will be substantially thinner than when you poured it on top (and will thicken the longer it sits)  If you want some of those bits of fruit and onion, just use a slotted spoon and spoon it on top.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_prepared

It kind of tastes like a sweet and sour sauce- or my husband is always reminded of Hawaiian food, like Huli Huli Chicken.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_ready to eat

I’m telling you, there’s nothing like a great sauce spooned over hot white rice- one of my favorite comfort foods!

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_our best bites

Lastly, if you’re stuck in cold, chilly weather and want to dream of tropical paradise (like this)

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_tropical paradise


Sea Cuisine is featuring some of my work on the Seafood Spot Blog today!

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_beach

This past June, my husband and I headed to the insanely gorgeous island of Anguilla, to capture photographs and write articles about the amazing food there.

Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_seaside dining


Click over to see photos of our trip, and read about some of the adventurous eating I did!


Easy Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken_exotic seafood


  1. I am going to second Juliann’s request. More easy peasy is good. Inexpensive is good too, and most of the ingredients for this either are on sale or have coupons, or both.

    Having moved 19 times, with one more looming ahead, my heart goes out to you and your family. I hope things go smoothly, nothing is broken, nothing is lost, and you settle into your new home in record time!!

    Many thanks for a wonderful blog.

  2. This is one of my go-to meals! My grandmother made it for years and then gave me the “recipe”. I use peach preserves, Wishbone Russian dressing, and onion soup mix. We serve it over Rice-a-Roni chicken flavored rice. I’m looking forward to trying your version!

  3. Please bring on the easy peasy recipes! I’m stuck in a cooking rut and have been in the mood to only try out new recipes if they are simple.

  4. Everyone needs some good simple but easy meals! This sounds great. I will have to give it a try! It doesn’t bother me to have more recipes like this, so make things easier on yourself and post some more recipes like this 🙂 Happy moving!

  5. This sounds awesome. I will be trying and then probably adding it to the recipe collection for my college daughter and nephews. Not too many ingredients to have to have on hand. My daughter likes recipes that are 5 ingredients or less.

    Good luck with the moving. By the way, realist recipes are a necessity and less stressful to all.

    1. Lots of people make this in the crock pot- My problem with the crock pot here is that it just cooks for way too long. I really dislike the texture of chicken breasts in the crock pot because they usually end up dry and overcooked. I think the sugar content is fine- if you cook it on low, since the sauce thins out quite a bit. If you cook it in the crock pot I’d use bone-in chicken breasts, or thighs for best results.

      1. I do it in the crock pot and put the chicken in frozen (boneless skinless breasts). Four hours on low and it isn’t dry. That was my work around because I hate cry chicken but love this easy meal.

    2. Actually there is almost the exact same recipe in my crock pot cookbook. I cook it all the time. It is a family favorite. Just plop in the chicken…4 breasts or if you want it a bit more moist…do 2 breasts and 2-3 thighs. Pour the sauce over it. Cook for 3-4 hours on low. We shred it and serve it over rice.. It has never seemed too dry.

      1. my sister makes this in the crockpot, too. i haven’t tried it yet, but now that i have the OBB seal of approval on the sauce… 😉

        1. I make this in the crockpot all the time with frozen chicken breasts. I throw everything in frozen and cook on low a couple hours. Just don’t overcook it so it’s not dry. My kids call it pink chicken.

  6. I love that you said “fend for yourself”! My family used that phrase growing up – my husband had not heard it before but quickly adopted it! (We’ll also call it a “fend night”)

    It’s a sad fact that if you get popular, you are also going to get hate mail. I’ve seen it happen so often I am not surprised! You can’t take it personally because it is going to happen no matter how sweet & lovely you are, but I know they can be hard to ignore – one nasty letter can easily outshine hundreds of gushing fans.

  7. This looks very yummy! I haven’t seen Catalina Dressing in Australia, so I may have to google a recipe to make that bit.

  8. This is one of my favorite easy meals! Easy because I’ve never browned the chicken and it only has 3-4 ingredients!!! I really need to try it with the apricot jam. My cousin that gave me the recipe hates apricot jam, so she just always added a bit of sugar. Oh, and we always used Russian dressing. Um, OK, guess I haven’t really made this recipe after all?? lol Anyway, it is yummy and so super easy!!

    1. Haha. I have a friend who always says things like, “Oh my gosh I have that EXACT same sweater! Except mine is purple not green and has buttons, and short sleeves and isn’t sweater material.” hahaha! Seriously though, I know what you’re saying, same type of recipe!

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