Classic Chicken Piccata Recipe: Easy to make & so authentic! With a savory lemon sauce, capers, & shallots. A crowd-pleasing one-pan meal!
Chicken piccata is a classic Italian-American meal and one that my family absolutely loves! I’m so happy to be sharing my chicken piccata recipe with you today!
I’m always on the hunt for dinner recipes that will please everyone in the family. Bonus points if they come together quickly and easily, with a minimal number of dirty dishes to wash. By the end of the day I just don’t have the energy!
I’m particularly excited to start posting some of my best Italian recipes. I’ve been practicing them for many years and I think it’s time I get them out there for you!
So today we’re starting with this lemon chicken piccata. It’s savory yet light, with tender chicken swimming in a sauce of garlic, shallots, a little white wine (which is optional but brings out all the flavors in the most incredible way), briny capers, and just the right amount of tangy lemon.
Absolute perfection, and super-simple to make in about 20 minutes flat.
Table of Contents
- What is chicken piccata?
- How to make chicken piccata
- What to serve with chicken piccata
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- How to store
What is chicken piccata?
Many believe chicken piccata to be an American invention, which isn’t surprising when you note the sheer number of “Italian” recipes that have been modified beyond recognition since Italians started settling the US.
Ingenuity is one of our strongest and best traits!
And we have learned to make the best use of what ingredients are available to us.
In this dish, chicken breasts are the star. Seasoned and browned to perfection, they’re napped in a buttery, savory sauce that’s spiked with bright lemon and the occasional pop of salty capers.
It’s truly a delightful meal that feels light yet so satisfying.
What’s great about this chicken piccata recipe
- Tastes amazing: The balance of buttery yet light, savory, and sharply citrusy couldn’t be more perfect.
- Few ingredients: You can make this with just a handful of basic ingredients.
- Easy to make: It all comes together in just a few minutes, in just one pan.
Here is what you’ll need to make chicken piccata.
At my supermarket they have something called “thin-sliced chicken breasts.” These are a huge time-saver!
If you can get your hands on these, you won’t have to cut whole chicken breasts down yourself or pound them out.
They might also be labeled “chicken cutlets,” or “chicken scallopine.”
Chicken piccata is meant to be thin cuts of meat. If you can’t find it already cut like that, you can use regular chicken breasts and just slice them horizontally, to get that thinness.
I season most everything with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
You can use the amounts noted in the recipe card below, or season to your own taste.
Flour will help the chicken to get browned and crispy on the outside. It also helps give the sauce some body.
All-purpose flour is my go-to, but you can swap it out for any kind of whole-grain option if you like.
A gluten-free flour blend that can sub 1:1 for regular flour should also work just fine, if you’d like to make gluten-free chicken piccata.
Oil & Butter
Butter adds a rich flavor and lends a glossy shine to the sauce. It also helps the chicken to brown in the most beautiful way.
I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
Oil also gives flavor and it also has a higher smoke point, so it helps the butter to not burn.
I like extra-virgin olive oil best for this dish, but you can use any kind of oil you like.
Shallots & Garlic
Shallots are similar to red onion, but smaller. They often have a paler color and a slightly sweeter, milder taste. They’re traditional in chicken piccata, but you can sub for another type of sweet onion if you like.
Garlic has a unique savory flavor that adds that signature “Italian” quality. If you don’t want to use fresh garlic, you can put in about 3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder instead.
These ingredients will go into the sauce, so make sure you mince them very finely. You may even want to grate them on a microplane. You don’t want to bite down on a big hunk of shallot or garlic!
Wine will help to “deglaze” or pull all the yummy brown bits up off the bottom of the pan.
If you don’t want to use wine, you can sub the same amount of chicken stock.
But there are certain flavor compounds that are only carried to our tastebuds by alcohol, so I highly recommend using a little white wine in this dish. It enhances the taste in a way nothing else really can.
Chicken stock is the base of the piccata sauce.
Capers are little flower buds that grow on a caper bush.
They are picked off and preserved in salt and/or vinegar.
They look like little green balls and they burst when you bite into them, releasing their uniquely briny, slightly bitter flavor.
You might compare the taste to a lemony olive.
I typically use nonpareil capers. They come in a small jar and they’re usually in the pickle aisle of the supermarket.
There’s also a larger variety known as caperberries. These are sometimes packed in salt instead of brine. I have not tried using this kind, but if you like them then go ahead!
Lemon balances out the savory flavors in the sauce with its bright, sunny, and slightly sharp taste.
If you like an extra-lemony piccata sauce, stir in the zest of the lemon as well as the juice!
Fresh chopped parsley adds a hit of herby freshness and a beautiful bright green garnish.
I prefer Italian flat-leaf parsley, but if you can’t find it curly parsley will work just fine.
You don’t really need any specialty kitchen tools to make this chicken piccata recipe. Just the basics!
How to make chicken piccata
This recipe is made in just 6 easy steps.
Step 1: Season & dredge the chicken
Sprinkle both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then slip them into a shallow bowl of flour.
Get them all covered in a very thin coating of flour.
Then tap off any excess.
Step 2: Brown the chicken
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, along with about a tablespoon of the butter.
Slip in the chicken, just a few at a time, when the butter starts looking foamy.
Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. It’s best to work in batches.
You want plenty of air circulating around the chicken, so a nice golden crust can form. If the pan is too crowded, the chicken will steam instead of browning.
Flip the chicken once it has that nice golden color, then saute the other side in the same way.
Once it’s all evenly browned, transfer it to a plate while you work on the pan sauce.
Step 3: Saute the shallots & garlic
At this point there should be some nice browned bits (aka: fond) on the bottom of the pan, along with oil, butter, and a little flavorful fat that’s rendered from the chicken.
Stir in the finely minced shallot, and once that’s gone tender and translucent, add the garlic.
Stir these around until the garlic becomes fragrant, but don’t let it brown or burn!
Step 4: Make a roux
Sprinkle some additional flour all over the garlic and shallot mixture, and stir it around so it coats every little morsel.
Let it cook for a minute or so, just to get the raw taste out.
Step 5: Deglaze the pan
Hit the pan with a little white wine, whisking it into the shallot-y, garlic-y roux.
Lightly scrape the browned bits up off the bottom of the pan and into the sauce.
Then whisk in the chicken stock, a little at a time, thinning out the pasty mixture to the perfect consistency.
Step 6: Season & serve
Take the pan off the heat and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice.
Then whisk in the butter to enrich the sauce and give it a glossy sheen. Fancy chefs call this “mounting with butter.”
Taste it for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or lemon, if it needs it.
Then, nestle the chicken back into the pan, spooning a little of the sauce over the tops of the golden browned chicken breasts.
Drain the capers and sprinkle them on top, along with the fresh parsley.
What to serve with chicken piccata
When I make this for my family, we usually eat it over cooked thin spaghetti.
If you don’t have thin spaghetti, any kind of pasta will do.
Sometimes, I boil the noodles for a minute less than what’s indicated on the package. Then I drain it and add it into the pan sauce to finish cooking that way. This is a great way to add more flavor to your pasta!
Other times, I fully cook it in salty water and then toss it with olive oil or butter.
It’s also really good over mashed potatoes. The sauce pools in the hollows of the mash and flavors it in the most comforting way!
For a lower-carb meal, serve this chicken piccata alongside some steamed asparagus, broccoli, or green beans.
Coat the chicken thinly
The chicken cutlets are meant to just have a very thin layer of flour on them. There’s no need to pile it on!
We’re not trying to bread the chicken, like chicken fingers or something. We just want a little texture on there to help things brown up and give the sauce something to grab onto.
Don’t crowd the pan
Saute the chicken in batches, just 2 or 3 cutlets at a time.
If you put too many in the pan at once, they can’t crisp up. They’ll just steam. So you won’t get a nice crust and you won’t get those lovely browned bits in your pan that give so much flavor to the sauce.
Don’t burn the garlic
The garlic only needs a minute or so to cook.
If you allow it to brown or burn it will taste very bitter.
Whisk, whisk, whisk!
When making the pan sauce, make sure you’re whisking constantly to avoid lumps in the sauce.
Add the chicken stock about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking a ton, and your sauce will be velvet-y smooth.
Mount with butter
The last three tablespoons of butter should be whisked in at the very last, away from the heat.
This gives the sauce a luxurious mouthfeel and a beautiful glossy sheen.
Frequently asked questions
What if I can’t find thin-sliced chicken breasts?
These also sometimes go under the label “chicken cutlets.” Either will work!
If you can’t find any kind of thin cut of chicken, you can use whole breasts. Just pop them into the freezer for a few minutes, it will make them easier to slice.
Use a sharp knife and keep it parallel to the floor. Slice horizontally into 1/4-inch slabs.
If you like, you can also pound them to an even thickness with a meat mallet.
Or try this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. They may need a little longer to cook all the way through, but they have a lovely flavor.
How long do I cook the chicken?
The chicken should be very thin, so it will cook in just a few minutes on each side.
Once you have a golden brown crust on both sides, it’s probably done all the way through.
If you’re not quite sure, check it with a digital thermometer. It should register around 165 degrees F.
Can I use another kind of meat?
Veal Piccata is also very popular, so veal would make a nice alternative to chicken.
You could also use thin slices of turkey or pork.
I’ve never tried this with beef. It might be good? Or it might overwhelm the delicate flavor of the sauce.
A mild-tasting fish could work too. I’d consider tilapia, flounder, cod, or even salmon!
For a vegetarian or vegan option, try tofu, jackfruit, or a plant-based chicken alternative. The butter can be swapped for your favorite vegan butter substitute, and you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Can I leave out the wine?
If you don’t want to use wine that’s totally ok. The flavor will be a little different but it will still taste very good.
Just use an extra 1/4-cup of stock in place of the wine.
What should I do if my sauce is too thick?
If the sauce comes out thicker than you’d like, just whisk in more chicken stock or water until it reaches the right consistency.
What should I do if my sauce is too runny?
To thicken up the sauce, stir about 2 tablespoons of flour together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Drizzle this mixture into the pan, whisking vigorously. When it comes up to a simmer, it should tighten right up.
How to store
If you want to make this dish ahead, I’d suggest cooking both the chicken and the sauce, but don’t combine them until just before serving. This way, the chicken won’t get soggy or gummy.
The chicken will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Be sure to cover it tightly so it doesn’t dry out.
The sauce will probably last one or two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can freeze these components as well. They should last several months in the freezer.
Thaw the chicken in the fridge. Bring the sauce up to simmer in a large skillet over low heat. Then tuck the chicken in and allow it heat through in the simmering sauce.
A few more of my favorite Italian recipes
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- 1 1/4 pound (566.99 g) thin-sliced chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon (2.25 g) garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup (93.75 g) all-purpose flour, approx.
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 (50 g) shallots, minced
- 3 cloves (9 g) fresh garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup (60 g) white wine*, optional
- 1 3/4 cups (420 g) chicken stock
- 1/4 cup (43.75 g) capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) lemon juice, freshly squeezed from 1/2 lemon
- parsley, chopped (optional garnish)
- Season the chicken with 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and the garlic powder and pepper.
- Lightly coat the seasoned chicken in flour, tapping off any excess.
- Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, along with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
- Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, brown the chicken on each side (approx. 3 minutes).
- Drain the chicken & set it aside.
- Sautee the minced shallots until becoming tender, then add the garlic and continue to sautee until fragrant.
- Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour over the garlic and shallots, and stir to coat.
- Pour in the wine (if using), whisking out any lumps and pulling the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan.
- Whisk in the chicken stock, and simmer the sauce until thickened (about 3 to 5 minutes).
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, along with the capers, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Nestle the cooked chicken back into the pan, bathing it in the sauce.
- Garnish with chopped parsley.