This Italian Chicken Cutlet Recipe is a classic Italian-American recipe that everyone should know how to make. They're tender, lightly crispy, comforting chicken cutlets that are also so easy and versatile. Simply put, they're perfect.
Like many Italian American children in this country, I grew up eating Italian Chicken Cutlets... all the time.
Crispy chicken cutlets are also relatively inexpensive to make. So they can act as Sunday dinner for the whole family or even a week's worth of prepared meals.
And leftover chicken cutlets are the best for making sandwiches!
So, what makes Italian Chicken Cutlets Authentic?
In this case, "authentic" refers to the authentically Italian American way of making chicken cutlets. The recipe may vary slightly from the methods used to make chicken cutlets in Italy. But they were still passed down through generations and originated in Italy.
I surveyed 10 Italian-American home cooks for their opinions on this question. Here are the summarized results.
- They all stated that the defining characteristic of Italian fried chicken cutlets is the seasoned breadcrumbs. Most people specified the need to season the breadcrumbs with fresh parsley and either Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, but others said to use dried herbs and even pre-seasoned Italian breadcrumbs.
- Almost all responders dredge their chicken in flour, egg, and regular (not panko) breadcrumbs, however some skip the flour layer all together. The main purpose of the flour is to bind the egg to the chicken, but if you like a thinner layer of breading, you can leave this layer out.
- A few of the individuals surveyed stated that the word cutlet implies being thin. Some people pound them thin, and others simply slice them thin.
In summary, most Italian American cooks agreed that Italian Chicken Cutlets should be thin pieces of chicken, with a well-seasoned breading that is slightly crunchy, but not overly crunchy.
How to Make Italian Chicken Cutlets
Now that you've read everyone else's opinions, here's how to make my [perfect] Italian Chicken Cutlet Recipe.
You probably already have many of these ingredients on hand.
- Chicken breasts, each sliced into two thin cutlets.
- Milk (or water)
- Plain breadcrumbs
- Grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino)
- Fresh parsley
- Dry oregano
- Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper
- Olive oil for frying the chicken cutlets
See recipe card for exact quantities.
Step 1: Prepare the Chicken Cutlets:
- First, using a sharp knife, slice each breast into 2 or 3 pieces. Cut off the "finger" (optional), then slice the breast into two thinner pieces. (As if you're going to butterfly the chicken, but cut all the way through.)
- Then, pound the breasts using a meat mallet. I feel strongly about this step. Pounding chicken not only tenderizes it and keeps it from becoming rubbery, but also evens out each cutlet's thickness, allowing it to cook evenly. It's totally worth the extra 2 minutes.
Note: The CDC recommends that you do NOT wash chicken before cooking it. Doing so only causes the raw chicken juices splash all over the sink and counters. Plus, wet food and frying do NOT mix. As long as you cook your chicken through, it's safe to eat.
Step 2- Dredge the Chicken Cutlets:
Step 2: Dredge the chicken breasts in seasoned flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.
- The breadcrumb seasoning calls for fresh parsley, dry oregano, grated Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino), salt, pepper, and cayenne. The chicken and flour seasonings call for just salt and pepper (and cayenne if you wish).
- The egg-milk mixture doesn't call for any seasoning because I find salt sometimes does weird things to raw eggs. J.Kenji Lopez Alt found that salt does NOT alter raw eggs in a way that affects their taste or texture once cooked. Having said that, I don't like that the eggs darken in color and appear to separate after adding salt.
Step 3: Refrigerate the cutlets for 30 minutes. This step is not 100% necessary, but I recommend it as it gives the breading time to bind and adhere to the chicken.
Step 3- Fry the cutlets:
Step 4: Fry the Chicken Cutlets in olive oil! It may seem unusual, but it works wonders. Chicken cutlets take very little time to cook through (2 minutes per side), so the olive oil's low smoke point works to our advantage. It can achieve a slightly darker, crispier texture in 2 minutes than vegetable oil can.
Plus, it's quite easy to keep the olive oil from burning. I suggest using an instant read thermometer to make sure the oil stays around 300F. Or simply lower the heat if you notice burning.
- Tenderize the chicken to get it thin and keep it from becoming rubbery once cooked.
- Season at every stage
- Use olive oil for flavor and crunch
- Use regular, not panko breadcrumbs, for more authenticity
- Use a wide vessel such as pasta bowls or even small baking sheets to do the dredging.
Variations on Chicken Cutlets
Have fun making these Italian cutlets! Here are the most interesting chicken cutlet variations I learned after talking with my survey participants:
- Fry the Chicken Cutlets in a combination of fats. One person even reported using three fats: extra virgin olive oil, butter, and duck fat for a more complex flavor.
- Fresh herbs, dry herbs, cheese, oh my! It's important to use what you have. If you're out of fresh parsley, just use dry! Season the breadcrumbs well, but don't worry if you don't have every seasoning on hand. Chicken cutlets aren't supposed to be worrisome!
- Introduce other Italian flavors: two people surveyed said they first fry onion and garlic in the oil to flavor it. Then they remove the resulting caramelized onion and garlic to use as toppings later. Brilliant!
- Extra Crispy: use Panko breadcrumbs. This decision comes down to how crunchy you want your cutlets. "Authentic" Italian cutlets use fine breadcrumbs because they're not meant to be ultra crispy. But some people are constant crunch chasers. If this sounds like you, use Panko. Or if you're like my mother-in-law, make your own homemade breadcrumbs!
- Serve with lemon wedges: many Italians I know add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to their chicken cutlets to cut through the breaded cutlets.
- Gluten free Chicken Cutlets: Traditional Italian cutlets are obviously very gluten full. To accommodate gluten allergies, make the recipe using a different flour, like almond or chick pea flour, and gluten free breadcrumbs.
- Dairy free: Use water in your egg mixture instead of milk- just enough to thin it out. You'll have to leave out the cheese too. Try using nutritional yeast instead.
You can read about how to make breadcrumbs in my recipe for Pumpernickel Chicken Cutlets.
How to Store Leftovers
- Place the leftover chicken cutlets in foil or an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Wrap the leftover cutlets tightly in foil and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. \
How to Reheat Leftovers.
- The best way to reheat chicken cutlets is to put them in the toaster oven set to "bake" until heated through. The breading will crisp up again also.
- Do NOT use a microwave unless you want to turn your juicy Italian chicken cutlets into rubber.
Similar recipes from this Website
- Chicken Vodka Parmesan
- Eggplant Milanese
- Veal Parm Sandwiches (can substitute with chicken)
- Pumpernickel Chicken Cutlets (with homemade breadcrumbs)
Italian Chicken Cutlet RecipePrint
Italian fried chicken cutlets are deliciously seasoned chicken cutlets, fried in olive oil until lightly crisp and tender.
- 3 large chicken breasts, each cut into three pieces: the finger, and two thin cutlets.
- 2 large eggs
- ⅛ cup of milk
- 1 cup of flour
- 1.5 cups of fine, plain breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley
- 1 tsp of dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper (2 pinches)
- Olive oil, enough to make a ½ inch layer in the frying pan, plus more if needed
- Prepare the chicken breasts as stated above, then cover them in plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until each piece is about uniform in thinness. Lightly season chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides. (about 1 teaspoon of each)
- In 3 separate bowls, prepare the dredging mixtures. Place flour in the first bowl and lightly season it with ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper, and a pinch of cayenne, if using. Beat 2 eggs and milk in the second bowl. Finally, place the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and oregano in the third bowl and lightly season it with ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper, and a pinch of cayenne, if using.
- Dredge the chicken, first coating it in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture.
- Arrange breaded cutlets on a plate or wire rack and place them in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes so the breading can set. (optional)
- In a frying pan set over a medium flame, heat the olive oil. (see note 1) When the oil reaches 290F (see note 2), add the first batch of chicken: 2-3 pieces max. Fry the chicken for 2 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches a medium brown color. If using a thermometer, check for an internal temperature of 150F.
- Remove chicken onto a plate lined with a paper towel. To keep the chicken hot while frying the other batches, you can optionally place the plate in a low oven, as low as your oven will go. (see note 3)
Note 1: The amount of olive oil will vary depending on the type and side of the pan you use. Use enough olive to make a ½ inch layer of oil. You may need to add more oil as you go to make sure the oil reaches at least half way up the side of the chicken cutlet.
Note 2: If you don't have an instant read thermometer, check for other heat cues. The oil will start to shimmer and become a thinner consistency.
Note 3: The breading protects fried chicken from drying out, so you can place the chicken in a low oven without fear of them becoming dry or tough. I wouldn't leave them in there for more than 30 minutes though because you also don't want to overcook them.
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