Lemony chicken piccata is absolutely one of my go-to dishes for both entertaining and family dinners. It’s fast, it’s a crowd-pleaser, and it’s absolutely bursting with flavor, thanks to a simple pan sauce
What Is Chicken Piccata?
Chicken piccata is an Italian dish in which slices of chicken are dredged in seasoned flour, then sautéed in butter or oil, and finished in a pan sauce with broth, lemon juice, butter and spiked with salty capers. Browning the chicken first with a dusting of flour gives them a beautiful golden brown color, elevates the flavor, and also helps to thicken the pan sauce. In Italy, veal is more commonly the star of this dish than chicken (called veal piccata, obviously), but in the U.S. chicken reigns supreme.
Chicken Piccata is very similar to the French dish, Chicken Francese.
Chicken Cutlets: Pounded or Sliced
You can either pound the hell of out some chicken breasts (see right below) OR buy thinly sliced chicken cutlets and save yourself the whacking. Or you can use a steady hand and a sharp knife and cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make two thinner cutlets.
Having said that, if you were to make this with regular skinless boneless chicken breasts, without pounding them thin, that’s very fine, too. Just sauté regular thicker breasts for about 5 minutes on each side, and make sure they finish cooking all the way through, with or without the sauce. It’s nice to slice them on the diagonal before serving, which just looks very appetizing in general.
How to Pound Chicken Breasts
Place the chicken breasts, one or two at a time, between two large pieces of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or a mallet to firmly but gently pound the breasts all over until they are about ½-inch thick throughout. They will get pretty large, so you will want to use big pieces of plastic wrap, and probably want to cut them into two pieces after pounding.
Capers in Chicken Piccata
I adore capers. Love them. Capers are pickled flower buds, often grown and packaged in Italy, though also available from other Areas of the Mediterranean, or Australia or Asia. They may be packed in salt, or bottled with a brine. They are a magical little ingredient to keep in the door of the fridge, adding briny-ness and salinity to all kinds of dishes.
My family is ambivalent. Let’s actually be clearer than that. For the most part they like them, but they don’t like to see them or know that they are there. Actually that’s Gary. The husband. The boys are more open.
If you think your kid (or partner) MIGHT like the sauce, but might be thrown off by the capers, leave them whole. You can pretty easily pluck out whole capers, but once they are chopped up into the sauce they are quite hard to retrieve.
In its lemony light sauce, chicken piccata is seriously one of the best chicken breast dinners in the world. Easy, pretty, and weeknight-friendly.Tweet This
How to Make Chicken Piccata
Start by cooking the chicken part way through. Brown the chicken breasts, and remove to a plate.
How to Make the Chicken Piccata Sauce
Saute up the shallots and garlic in the leftover oil in the pan. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add the broth and bring to a simmer. The sauce will start to thicken up, thanks to the toasted flour in the pan from sautéing the chicken breasts.
Finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.
Remove the chicken to a platter, and finish the sauce.
Add the lemon juice, butter and capers to the sauce and stir until the butter is melted. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle it with parsley, if desired.
Why add the little bit of butter at the end? You don’t have to, but that little bit of butter pulls the sauce together deliciously. And two teaspoons of butter is negligible, divided by 6 people, so no stressiness there, please.
Chicken Piccata for Entertaining
This is a great dish to make if you are having a family with kids over and you don’t know how finicky or open the kids’ palates are. It’s a Mom 100 Cookbook favorite recipe for me and many others.
Many kids usually eat the grown-up version BUT occasionally one of them has a moment, and declares the caper-flecked sauce to be unfit for human consumption. Suddenly the simplified version of the chicken breasts and rice with no sauce is all they will touch.
This is exactly the kind of flexible option that doesn’t make the cook (aka you) nuts and vaguely irritated since you will make one dish, just one, and allow the blander eaters to enjoy the meal without rendering the adults bored out of their skulls. And frankly, who couldn’t use another easy skillet chicken recipe?
What to Serve With Chicken Piccata
Serve this with rice or mashed potatoes, or any starch you love. You could go with a salad, or maybe brussels sprouts, asparagus, Sauteed Escarole or green beans. Sugar Snap Pea Salad? Spinach Parsley Pesto Garlic Bread would be spectacular on the side.
Other Chicken Skillet Pan Sauce Meals!
- How to Make a Pan Sauce
- Chicken with White Wine, Leek, Spinach and Arugula Pan Sauce
- Grits with Chicken and Creamy Green Chili Pan Sauce
- Chicken with Arugula and Mustard Pan Sauce
- Chicken with Tomato and Leek Pan Sauce with Jasmine Rice
Also see: How to Safely Thaw Frozen Chicken.
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- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 boneless (skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut into two pieces OR sliced horizontally in half)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots or minced onions
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ cup dry white wine (optional)
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon rinsed chopped capers (or leave them whole if you prefer)
- Minced fresh parsley (to serve)
- Cooked rice (white or brown to serve, or small cooked pasta shapes, or potatoes of any kind)
- In a wide shallow bowl, mix together the flour, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Dredge (coat) the chicken breasts in the flour.
- Heat a very large skillet over medium high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When it’s hot, place 2 or 3 of the chicken breasts, whatever will fit comfortably in a single layer in the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with another tablespoon of oil, and 2 or 3 more breasts, until all of the chicken is almost cooked (it will be slightly pink inside). If you are planning to serve some of the chicken without any sauce, cook for 4 minutes on each side, making sure the chicken is cooked through, and set those breasts aside on a different plate.
- Don’t clean the pan! Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until translucent and tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom (you’re deglazing the pan, look at you!). Add the chicken broth and cook for 2 more minutes until it reduces slightly and begins to thicken from the leftover flour in the pan. Add the slightly undercooked chicken (any pieces that are going to be finished in the sauce) to the pan and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Add the lemon juice, butter and capers to the sauce and stir until the butter is melted. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle it with parsley, if desired.. Serve with the starch of your choice.
How to Pound Chicken BreastsPlace the chicken breasts, one or two at a time, between two pieces of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or a mallet to firmly but gently pound the breasts all over until they are about ½-inch thick throughout.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.