Chicken Diavolo

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The original of this dish is made with a whole chicken, flattened, marinated, then grilled over a wood fire. Delicious for sure. But a simplified version with quick-cooking chicken breasts can be good too, whether cooked over charcoal or in a ridged grill pan on top of the stove as they’re done here. The devil in the dish, the diavolo, performs his work in simple yet effective fashion: crushed black peppercorns pressed onto the breast. His marinating cohorts, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, offer a speck of relief to his heat.

NotesThe peppercorns can also be crushed with a hammer or with the back of a small skillet using a rocking/pressing motion. Or coarsely grind them in a small electric coffee grinder set aside for grinding spices.

Drying the chicken breasts with paper towels helps the peppercorns and the marinade adhere.

4 servings

Cooking Methodpan-frying



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, healthy, lactose-free, low calorie, low carb, low cholesterol, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentgrill pan

Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturemeaty, savory, spiced


  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • Four 7- to 8-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on counter with peppercorns in center. Fold over sides and ends to enclose. Crush peppercorns to small pieces with meat mallet. Dry chicken breasts with paper towels. Sprinkle peppercorns evenly over both sides, pressing to adhere.

  2. Whisk lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil together in large bowl. Season with salt to taste. Add chicken breasts and turn to coat. Marinate 15 minutes, turning several times.

  3. Heat a ridged grill pan over medium heat. Place breasts rounded side down in pan, reserving marinade in bowl. Cook first side until golden, lightly spooning reserved marinade over tops as they cook, 5 to 6 minutes. Lower heat at any point if they brown too quickly. Turn, and cook through, spooning over any remaining marinade, 5 to 6 minutes. Serve hot.

  4. Variations for Chicken Diavolo

  5. Split whole Cornish hens down the back, then flatten them before marinating and grilling them. Or use cut-up pieces of chicken. Large shrimp, lobster tails, or sea scallops can be done diavolo fashion, too.

  6. Add chopped fresh oregano or a little fresh rosemary to the marinade. Or use dried.

  7. Dressing Chicken Diavolo Up

  8. Slice the cooked breasts on the diagonal and lay them on a bed of cooked spinach or chard.

  9. Servings Suggestions for Chicken Diavolo

  10. Tossed salad with slivered fennel or celery and sliced radishes sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese. Penne or other short pasta in a light tomato sauce or Italian-Style Potato Salad.


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