This chicken piccata recipe is an classic Italian American dish that’s simple and bursting with flavor! Tender chicken cutlets are pan-fried to golden perfection, then bathed in a vibrant lemon butter sauce…
Here’s a classic dish that impresses every time: chicken piccata! Tender, golden-brown chicken cutlets are bathed in a vibrant lemon-butter sauce with pops of briny capers. This classic Italian American dish has captured hearts and stomachs around the world, and it’s a huge favorite over here. Don’t be intimidated by its fancy name; this chicken piccata recipe is surprisingly simple to make at home! In this post, you’ll discover:
- Tips and tricks: Learn how to achieve perfectly cooked chicken and a flavorful sauce with our easy-to-follow instructions.
- Side dish ideas: Find the perfect side dishes to complement your chicken piccata, from fluffy rice to flavorful pasta.
- Variations: Explore delicious twists on the classic recipe, like using different types of meat or adding unique ingredients to the sauce.
- Recipe: Jump right to the recipe to get started!
What is chicken piccata, anyway?
Chicken piccata is a dish where chicken cutlets are pounded, dredged in flour, pan fried and served with a lemon butter sauce. You might think the dish is Italian in origin, but it turns out it’s not a well-known traditional dish in Italy! It’s more likely a creation by Italian immigrants that moved to America in the 1930’s and it was originally made with veal, a cheaper protein in those days.
Piccata is a go-to dinner because it’s so versatile: it comes together in about 20 minutes and you can vary the protein based on what you like or have on hand. It works with many types of meat and fish, like chicken, veal, salmon, swordfish, scallops or shrimp.
Tips for butterflying the chicken
The most important part of chicken piccata is using chicken cutlets, or you can butterfly the breasts yourself. Chicken breasts are often very thick, making them tricky to cook evenly. Slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally (butterflying it) makes thinner pieces that cook quicker and more evenly, are easier to eat, and are better seasoned.
You can buy a chicken breast already butterflied, which is marked on the package as butterflied or “cutlets”. If you buy regular chicken breasts, you can butterfly them yourself:
- Place your hand over the top of the chicken breast. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice the breast horizontally, leaving the edge intact so it can open up like a book.
- Unfold the chicken breast, then cut along the fold to separate the two halves (each half is a cutlet).
- For chicken piccata, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and lightly pound the chicken with a mallet or heavy pan to make it an even 1/4-inch thickness.
How to make chicken piccata: an overview
This chicken piccata recipe is quick and simple to make. Because the chicken is pounded to an even thickness, it cooks extremely quickly. Here’s an overview of the process (or jump to the recipe below):
- Prepare the chicken: Make chicken cutlets (breasts sliced in half horizontally) and use a mallet or heavy skillet to pound them to an even 1/4” thickness.
- Season the chicken: Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with the kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour spread on a plate, shaking off the excess.
- Pan fry: Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until browned on both sides.
- Make the sauce: In the same skillet, reduce the heat to low and add minced garlic and capers. Cook about 1 minute, then stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and white wine or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the butter and cream (if using). Simmer 1 minute, then return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Serve: Remove the chicken to a serving plate and top with sauce and chopped parsley.
Notes on the piccata sauce
Every home cook or chef makes their piccata sauce slightly differently. Here are a few notes about this sauce and a few substitutes you can make if desired:
- White wine vs chicken broth: We like this sauce with white wine base, which adds tangy, crisp notes to the sauce. If you don’t want to open a bottle, chicken broth or vegetable broth work too.
- Heavy cream: The traditional chicken piccata sauce typically doesn’t use heavy cream. However, adding a hint gives the sauce a creamier body (otherwise the sauce is clear). We like adding the cream, but it’s not necessary for flavor.
- Capers: Do not, we repeat, do not omit the capers in this recipe! They add briny, salty pops that make this a standout recipe.
Sides to accompany this recipe
What to serve with chicken piccata? This classic Italian American dish goes well with many different sides, like rice, pasta, green beans or a crisp salad. Here are a few ideas:
- Rice: Try white rice or lemon rice
- Pasta: Go for garlic butter noodles, angel hair pasta, orzo, or any of these pasta side dishes
- Green beans: Try green beans almondine or haricot verts
- Salad: Make chopped salad, kale salad, apple salad, or these salad recipes
- Broccoli or broccolini: Try roasted broccoli, Parmesan broccoli, roasted broccolini, or pan fried broccolini
- Potatoes: Go for our best mashed potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, or garlic roasted potatoes
Variations on chicken piccata
The piccata concept is incredibly versatile! You can make piccata sauce to go with many different proteins. Here are a few ideas:
- Salmon: Lightly season and coat salmon in flour, then make pan seared salmon. Remove it from the pan and make the piccata sauce in the recipe below.
- Scallops: Make pan seared scallops, then remove from the pan and make the piccata sauce.
- Swordfish: This is a classic Italian variation! Make pan fried swordfish then make the piccata sauce.
- Tilapia: Make pan fried tilapia, then remove and make the piccata sauce.
This chicken piccata recipe is…
Gluten-free with gluten-free 1 for 1 flour.
Chicken Piccata Recipe
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 4 cutlets about 1 ½ pounds, organic if possible*
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1-for-1 flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup capers drained
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus zest of ½ lemon
- ½ cup dry white wine or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream optional
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 8 cutlets about 1 ½ pounds, organic if possible*
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1-for-1 flour
- 6 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup capers drained
- 4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus zest of ½ lemon
- 1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
- 4 tablespoon salted butter
- 2 tablespoon heavy cream optional
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 12 cutlets about 1 ½ pounds, organic if possible*
- 3 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1-for-1 flour
- 9 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- ¾ cup capers drained
- 6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus zest of ½ lemon
- 1 ½ cup dry white wine or chicken stock
- 6 tablespoon salted butter
- 3 tablespoon heavy cream optional
- ¾ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. If using breasts, slice them in half horizontally (if you bought cutlets, skip this step). Place chicken cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap and place them on a cutting board. Using a mallet or heavy skillet, pound them to an even 1/4” thickness.
- Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with the kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
- Spread the flour in a shallow plate. Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, shaking off the excess.
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until browned on both sides. When the internal temperature is 165°F, or the center is no longer pink, remove to a plate.
- In the same skillet, reduce the heat to low and add minced garlic and capers. Cook about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant, then stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and white wine (or chicken stock). Bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the pan for extra flavor.
- Reduce to a simmer, then add the butter (and optional heavy cream). Simmer until thickened slightly, about 1 minute, then return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes, allowing the chicken to soak up the sauce.
- Remove the chicken to a serving plate and top with a drizzle of the sauce and chopped parsley to garnish.