Traditionally, the Italian word “piccata” referred to meat being “pounded flat”. Today, in the culinary world, it refers to a dish prepared in such a fashion where the meat has been thinly sliced (or pounded flat), dredged in flour, pan fried, and then topped with a lemon butter sauce. Veal was originally the meat of choice; however, chicken has become the increasingly popular version — hence, chicken piccata!
This is definitely a go-to recipe in our house. It’s such a comfort food… I mean, who doesn’t love fried chicken and mashed potatoes? But somehow it also feels light, with a punch of flavor and freshness from the lemon and of tanginess from the capers. (My mouth is watering just writing this — it’s that good!) If you are a lemon-lover like me, this will quickly become one of your favorite go-to meals!
I also love adding white wine and chopped shallots to my lemon butter sauce for the extra depth of flavor. These additions are totally optional (and I wouldn’t want to deter you from making this recipe if you don’t have them on hand), but they really do give the sauce that extra “je ne sais quoi”!
As always, however, this is another recipe that you can very easily adapt and make your own to suit you and your family’s tastes. I can — and probably have — made this recipe in my sleep because my family loves it so much. Because of that, I have tried and tested so many different flavor combinations… and I think this version is just perfect!
Here’s how I make it!
Start by preheating the oven to 400℉.
In a flat dish with edges (like a pie plate), pour in the flour. In a second flat dish, whisk together the eggs and water. In a third flat dish, pour in the breadcrumbs.
Next, butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing them horizontally almost all the way through. With a meat matter (or any heavy object), pound out the chicken breasts to a ½-inch thickness.
Season each side of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
Then, submerge each chicken breast, one at a time, first in the flour, next in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs.
Set a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
Pan-fry the first chicken breast for about 2 minutes on each side, until it turns golden brown. Note: the chicken will not yet be fully cooked; it will finish cooking in the oven.
Remove the chicken breast from the pan and set it onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Repeat these submerging and pan-frying steps with the second (and any subsequent) chicken breast, cleaning out the pan and adding 2 Tablespoons of fresh olive oil to the pan each time.
Place all of the chicken breasts (on the sheet pan) into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until all chicken breasts reach an internal temperature of 165℉.
When fully cooked, remove the chicken breasts from the oven. Set them aside and allow them to rest for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, while the chicken breasts are cooking, start preparing the lemon butter sauce.
Clean out the frying pan and set it back over the stovetop, reducing the heat to medium. When hot, add in the olive oil and butter. Heat until the butter foaming subsides.
Add in the shallots and cook them in the hot oil and butter for about 1 to 2 minutes, until they have softened slightly.
Add in the white wine, chicken stock, and salt. Increase the stovetop heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Continue boiling the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by about half.
Add in the lemon juice and capers, and continue boiling the sauce for about 3 to 5 minutes more, until it has thickened.
Remove the pan from heat and add in the cold butter. Gently stir the butter into the sauce.
When the chicken is ready, pour the sauce over the pan-fried chicken, drizzle a bit of extra fresh lemon juice over the top and serve hot.
Chicken Piccata (Pan-Fried with Lemon Butter Sauce)
Crisp pan-fried chicken breast topped with a tangy lemon butter sauce. It’s easy to make, has lots of fresh lemon-y flavor, and is absolutely delicious! Add a side of garlic mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice, and you have the perfect weeknight meal.
For Pan-Frying the Chicken
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- ½ Tbsp water
- ¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the Lemon Butter Sauce
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, peeled and diced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ cup lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 1 Tbsp capers (optional)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
Pan-Frying the Chicken
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a flat dish with edges (e.g., pie plate), pour in flour.½ cup all-purpose flour
- In a second flat dish, whisk together eggs and water.2 large eggs½ Tbsp water
- In a third flat dish, pour in breadcrumbs.¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- Butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing them horizontally almost all the way through. With a meat mallet (or any heavy object), pound out chicken breasts to ½” thickness.2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chicken breasts.½ tsp kosher salt¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Submerge each chicken breast, one a time, first in flour, next in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs.
- Set a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
- Pan-fry first chicken breast in hot oil until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side). Note: chicken will not yet be fully cooked.
- Remove chicken breast from pan and set onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- For second (and any subsequent) chicken breast, add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and repeat steps 8 and 9.
- Place all chicken breasts (on sheet pan) into preheated oven and bake until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (about 15 minutes).
- When fully cooked, remove chicken breasts from oven. Set aside and allow them to rest for a few minutes.
Preparing the Lemon Butter Sauce
- Meanwhile, clean out frying pan for lemon butter sauce.
- Reduce stovetop heat to medium and set pan over heat. When hot, add in olive oil and butter. Heat until butter foaming subsides.1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Add in shallots. Cook shallots in hot oil and butter until they have softened slightly (about 1 to 2 minutes).1 large shallot, peeled and diced
- Add in white wine, chicken stock, and salt. Increase stovetop heat to medium-high and bring liquid to a boil.½ cup dry white wine½ cup chicken stock¼ tsp kosher salt
- Continue boiling liquid until it has reduced by about half (about 5 minutes).
- Add in lemon juice and capers, and continue boiling until sauce thickens (about 3 to 5 minutes more).¼ cup lemon juice1 Tbsp capers
- Remove pan from heat. Add in cold butter and gently stir it into the sauce.2 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
- Pour sauce over fried chicken and serve hot.
- If making more than 2 breasts, you may find that crumbs accumulate and burn in the pan. So, after each set of 2, I suggest wiping out darkened breadcrumbs with kitchen paper towel and reheat pan and continue on.
- While adding butter to sauce, you may see it start to separate if the pan is too hot. If this happens, let the sauce cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in an additional 1 to 2 Tablespoons of butter.