Chicken Piccata (Fried Chicken Cutlets With Lemon-Butter Pan Sauce)

How to make a chicken piccata that's crispy, juicy, buttery, and bright as sunshine.

An oval platter holding fried chicken cutlets topped with lemon-butter pan sauce containing capers. The platter is on a blue and white dish towel.

Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

Why This Recipe Works

  • Japanese panko bread crumbs form a coating that becomes shatteringly crisp but still light and tender, not dense and tough.
  • The pan sauce whips up quickly after frying, so the cutlets don't have to wait long.

Several months ago while working on a fried chicken cutlet recipe, I stumbled on the single most important factor in elevating those cutlets from mere greatness to brain-melting splendor. It's butter. I had some clarified butter kicking around in the fridge, and on a whim decided to fry my chicken in that instead of the more economical neutral-flavored cooking oil I normally use. The results were so amazing I couldn't believe I hadn't been frying in butter all along.

Butter Adds Flavor

In retrospect, it's not much of a shock that butter would taste so much better. But it's sort of like the difference between knowing that it'd be awesome to get daily massages and actually getting a massage every single day—understanding that something is great in theory isn't the same as making it a reality. The fact is, cost and convenience are often the things that stand between the ultimate version of something and just a really good version of it. And so it is with frying chicken in ample amounts of clarified butter.

Luckily, there's a pretty freaking delicious workaround, and it's chicken piccata—fried chicken cutlets bathed in a lemon-butter pan sauce.

Crispier Piccata With Panko

Technically, chicken piccata doesn't have to be made with breaded fried cutlets. Some people just sauté plain chicken cutlets and then make a buttery pan sauce for them. It's quick and easy, but can be a little bit boring. In all honesty, if I'm going to eat an unadorned sautéed cutlet, it will almost never be made from chicken; skinless white breast meat really needs a profoundly crisp and flavorful golden crust to be interesting.

Making incredibly crispy chicken piccata starts with the same basic procedure as my basic fried chicken cutlet recipe: Take chicken cutlets that are about 1/4 inch thick, season them with salt and pepper, dredge them lightly in flour, then dip them in beaten eggs, and finally coat them in a mixture of panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Panko, a Japanese style of bread crumb, is light and chunky, and when fried, it forms an incredibly crisp and crunchy crust, one that manages to be delicate without a trace of toughness. I'll take them any day over the Italian-style bread crumbs sold in tubes at the supermarket.

I fry the cutlets in oil until golden on both sides. There's no need to worry about trying to judge the doneness of the chicken—when the coating is fully browned on both sides, the 1/4 inch thick cutlets are guaranteed to be cooked through as well. That's the beauty of thin cutlets: They're always done inside when they're browned on the outside.

How to Make a Creamier Sauce

To make the pan sauce, drain off all but one tablespoon of frying oil from the skillet, then add a good dose of dry white wine and simmer until the raw alcohol smell has cooked off (it takes a couple of minutes). Toss in some capers for a salty, briny punch, and then add the butter, whisking until it's fully melted.

The trick with the sauce is to simmer it down until it takes on a cream-like consistency, that perfect moment where enough of the wine has cooked down to form a tight emulsion with the butter and the mixture transforms from watery to creamy, but not so much that the emulsion breaks into something resembling an oil spill (if it does break, though, you can always bring it back together by whisking in a couple tablespoons of water).

Some lemon juice and parsley at the end brighten the sauce up, giving a fresh flavor and an acidic counterpoint to all that butter, much the same way one balances oil and vinegar for a vinaigrette. Pour the sauce all over the cutlets and you're done.

January 2017

Recipe Details

Chicken Piccata (Fried Chicken Cutlets With Lemon-Butter Pan Sauce)

Prep 25 mins
Cook 35 mins
Active 45 mins
Total 60 mins
Serves 4 servings

How to make a chicken piccata that's crispy, juicy, buttery, and bright as sunshine.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces; 140g)

  • 3 large eggs, beaten

  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs (4 ounces; 115g), roughly crushed by hand if very large

  • 2 ounces (60g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (3 or 4 ounces each), pounded to about 1/4 inch thick

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (120ml)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers (15g)

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (70g)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon (30ml)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley


  1. Set 3 wide, shallow bowls on a work surface. Add flour to the first one, beaten eggs to the second, and panko and Parmesan cheese to the third. Mix panko and Parmesan thoroughly.

    Three bowls arranged in a rough triangle. The left-most bowl contains flour, the top-center bowl contains beaten eggs, and the right-most bowl holds grated parmesan cheese mixed with panko breadcrumbs.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Season chicken cutlets all over with salt and pepper. Working with one at a time, dredge a cutlet in flour with your left hand, shaking off excess. Transfer to egg dish, then turn cutlet with your right hand to coat both sides. Lift and allow excess egg to drain off, then transfer to bread crumb mixture. With your left hand, scoop bread crumbs on top of chicken, then gently press, turning chicken to ensure a good layer of crumbs on both sides. Transfer cutlet to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining cutlets.

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows the seasoned chicken cutlet dredged in flour inside a shallow bowl. The top right image shows the chicken cutlet now transferred to the bowl holding the beaten eggs. The bottom left image shows the cutlet now transferred to the bowl holding the parmesan and panko. The bottom right image shows a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan filled with breaded, uncooked chicken cutlets.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  3. Fill a large skillet with 1/4 inch oil. Heat over high heat until shimmering and just shy of smoking, about 375°F (191°C) on an instant-read thermometer.

    Hot, shimmering oil inside of a stainless steel sauté pan.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  4. Working in batches and using tongs or your fingers, gently lower cutlets into the pan, laying them down away from you to prevent hot fat from splashing toward you. Fry, gently swirling pan and rotating cutlets for even browning, and adjusting heat as necessary for a steady, vigorous bubble, until bottom side is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Flip cutlets and fry until other side is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt right away. Repeat with remaining cutlets, topping up oil if necessary.

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows a pair of tongs gently lowering a breaded chicken cutlet into the oil inside of the sauté pan. The top right image shows three chicken cutlets frying inside of the pan of oil. The bottom left image shows the chicken cutlets flipped over in the pan, highlighting the golden brown color of the coating. The bottom right image shows a blue plate lined with paper towels and covered in fried, golden brown chicken cutlets.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  5. Drain all but one tablespoon oil from skillet. Add wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cooking until raw alcohol smell has mostly cooked off, about 2 minutes. Add capers and butter, whisking constantly, until butter has melted. Lower heat to medium and continue whisking and reducing until a creamy, emulsified sauce forms (the time this takes will depend on your burner power and the size of your pan). If sauce over-reduces and breaks at any point, add 1 tablespoon cold water and whisk to emulsify it again. Whisk in lemon juice and parsley, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows a stainless steel skillet holding butter and capers. There's a hand holding a metal whisk which is inside of the pan. The bottom image shows the sauce now fully incorporated, with chopped parsley in the sauce.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  6. Arrange cutlets on a platter and drizzle warm butter sauce all over. Serve right away.

    An oval platter covered with fried chicken cutlets. There is a hand holding a spoonful of the lemon-butter sauce, which is being distributed over the surface of the chicken.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

Special Equipment

Rimmed baking sheet, large skillet, instant-read thermometer, whisk


You can prepare the cutlets yourself from whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts following the instructions here.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
728 Calories
40g Fat
23g Carbs
63g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 728
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 52%
Saturated Fat 14g 71%
Cholesterol 284mg 95%
Sodium 975mg 42%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 63g
Vitamin C 5mg 25%
Calcium 173mg 13%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 568mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)