Chicken Recipes/ Dinner/ meat

Breaded chicken cutlets

13 August 2020 | Last Updated: 17 May 2021 By Aleksandra

My favorite recipe for classic breaded chicken cutlets. The chicken breast meat is juicy and the breading crispy. If you’re already familiar with this simple technique maybe you will try seasoning the breading like I do – I’m using half breadcrumbs and half grated Parmesan cheese, and I’m also adding lemon zest and chopped parsley to the egg coating. These cutlets are really the best and I can’t imagine making them any other way. In this post, you’ll find exact instructions, step by step photos, and also many tips on how to store and freeze these cutlets.

Breaded chicken cutlets on a white plate, parsley potatoes in the background.

What is a chicken cutlet

A chicken cutlet is simply a chicken breast that has been cut in half horizontally to make two thinner pieces. Often, the cutlet is also pounded out to make it thinner so it cooks more evenly.

These cutlets are sometimes called ‘chicken schnitzel’ as they resemble Viennese Schnitzel cutlets but they are in reality a little bit different. Authentic Viennese Schnitzel is made only from veal meat. Its frying technique is also a little bit different – the pan is tilted while the cutlets are being fried and the hot oil is poured over the surface of the cutlets which results in forming characteristic wrinkled breading. It’s served with lemon quarters and red currant jam. German Schnitzel on the other hand is most usually made with pork meat (pork chops).

Ingredients:

If you want to make traditional breaded chicken cutlets you only need chicken breasts, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Adding Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and parsley is optional but it makes the cutlets taste really exceptional.

What kind of meat can you use: the best is chicken breast meat but you can also use skinless and boneless thigh meat or chicken tenders. If you don’t want to use chicken meat use turkey breast meat (very sweet and delicious with this recipe) or pork chops.

What kind of frying oil is best: any type of vegetable oil that has a high smoke point (can be heated to high temperature) will be good. I also like to cook these cutlets with clarified butter. Don’t use regular butter (will burn too quickly) or extra virgin olive oil, which is too expensive and better suitable for a salad.

Instead of eggs, you can use mayonnaise.

Breadcrumbs: you can use regular breadcrumbs (this is what I used) or panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are a little more coarse than regular breadcrumbs so the cutlets made with them will be more crispy.

How to make homemade breadcrumbs: it’s really simple. If you have stale bread or buns you just need to grate them on a box grater or in a food processor. For more detailed instructions, I recommend this post: how to make breadcrumbs.

Other seasoning options: You can also season the breading with garlic powder, onion powder, your favorite seasoning (like Cajun, French or Italian seasoning), paprika powder, chili flakes, curry powder. You can also swap part or the whole amount of the breadcrumbs to finely chopped nuts like hazelnuts, almonds, or pistachios.

Labeled ingredients for breaded chicken cutlets.

How to make breaded chicken cutlets step by step:

Ingredients for the breading in three plates.

STEP 1: Prepare all the breading ingredients:

Set up your breading station:

  • first plate – shallow – with flour
  • second plate – deep – with beaten egg (+ optionally grated lemon zest and chopped parsley)
  • third plate – shallow – with breadcrumbs (or breadcrumbs + grated Parmesan cheese mixture)

you will also need a fourth plate or a board for the breaded cutlets.

A collage of three photos showing how to prepare chicken breast into cutlets.

STEP 2: Cut chicken breasts into cutlets:

I usually buy already prepared chicken cutlets in store then bread them myself. With store-bought cutlets, this is a really quick 30-minute dinner. If you can’t find chicken cutlets in your store you need to cut whole chicken breasts into cutlets and then pound them with a meat mallet into even thickness.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Place boneless and skinless chicken breast on a chopping board and cut it horizontally in half. You should have two cutlets. Use a large sharp knife and try to avoid sawing motion.
  • If your chicken breast was small you’re probably done as the two halves of the breast are often already thin enough. If your chicken breast was medium-sized or large, the cutlets are often not uniformly thick or too thick so you need to pound the thickest part of the cutlet with a meat mallet. The cutlets should be uniformly thick (more or less of course) so that they cook evenly in each part. To keep the meat from shredding cover it with a thick plastic foil, like a zip lock bag. Instead of a meat mallet, you can use a rolling pin, the bottom of a heavy skillet or even a wine bottle.
  • How thick should the cutlets be: this depends on your preferences. The cutlets should be 1/4-1/3 inch (1/2-3/4 cm) thick, I prefer them rather thicker than thin.
A collage of three photos showing breading steps of chicken cutlets.

STEP 3: Bread the cutlets:

  • First, dredge the chicken in flour. Shake with the cutlets allowing excess flour to fall off.
  • Dip the chicken into the egg mixture. Allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl.
  • Coat the cutlets in the breadcrumb mixture. Transfer on a clean plate.

Always use one hand to pick up the cutlets and dredge them with flour and breadcrumbs, and the other hand for dipping them into the egg mixture.

For extra crispy cutlets, you can make double breading, this means to dip the cutlets again in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs. This way the breading will be thicker and more crispy (note: you would need to have more ingredients on hand as this recipe calls for ingredients for only one breading layer).

Breaded chicken cutlets are being fried in a frying pan.

STEP 4: Fry the cutlets:

Pour the oil into a frying pan, when it’s hot cook the cutlets on both sides until golden in color and cooked through in the middle. It’s important that the pan is well heated.

How much oil do you need: It will depend on how big your pan is. It should cover at least 1/3 of the thickness of the cutlets and for the best results 1/2-2/3 of their thickness. Sadly, more oil = better-tasting and more crispy breading.

How long to cook breaded chicken cutlets: It will depend on your pan and the thickness of the cutlets. I’m frying mine over high heat in a heavy-bottom frying pan. When the breading is golden they are also usually cooked through. If you have a frying pan with a thin bottom, the cutlets may brown very quickly but not be cooked through in the middle so you need to cook them over medium heat. The same goes with the thickness of the cutlets – thicker cutlets will need more cooking time than thinner cutlets, so you would also need to reduce the temperature a bit.

How to know when the cutlets are done? Just cut them in half to see if the meat turned its color to white and the juices are running clear. Measuring the internal temperature of thin cutlets with a meat thermometer is not accurate (source: Harald McGee’s book On food and cooking).

What kind of pan is best: the best is a heavy-bottomed frying pan, which distributes heat evenly and doesn’t cause that the cutlets are browning too quickly. If you’ll use a good amount of frying oil, it also doesn’t matter if it has a non-stick coating (mine, as you can see on the photos, is not a non-stick pan).

What can you do with leftover egg and breadcrumbs:

I developed this recipe so that there would be a perfect ratio of meat to the breading ingredients but if for some reason you have leftover breading ingredients you can either:

  • Double coat the cutlets – this is what I always do if I just eyeball the ingredients and have some left – actually double-breaded chicken cutlets are amazing and their breading is nice and thick. Just dip the breaded cutlets once again in the egg mixture and then coat with breadcrumb mixture (omit dredging in the flour) and cook as per the recipe.
  • You can form small patties by mixing the leftover egg mixture with the breadcrumbs. Cook them on both sides until golden.
Breaded chicken cutlets cut in half and stuck on a fork.

What to make with breaded chicken cutlets

These cutlets are amazing on their own, I usually serve them with potatoes and some slaw/salad, but they can be also a part of other dishes, like:

What to serve it with

Storage:

  • Can you bread chicken cutlets ahead of time? (how to store breaded but not cooked cutlets)

Freshly breaded and pan-fried cutlets taste best and there is no way around it. If you leave breaded but not cooked cutlets for about 30 minutes they will be fine. After this time the coating will start to get soggy.
If you’ve breaded the cutlets but you can’t cook them right away – this is also fine. Like said before, they won’t be as good as freshly made ones but they will be ok.
How to do it: Lay the breaded cutlets on a tray, cover with plastic foil, and put in the fridge. You can cook them a couple of hours later or the next day. Take the cutlets out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan on cooking them. After this time coat the cutlets again in breadcrumbs and pan-fry. The coating will be crispy, but not as good and thick as fresh coating, but the meat itself will be definitely more moist and tender!

  • How to store breaded and cooked chicken cutlets for the next day?

Leave the cutlets to cool after cooking them, then put into a tightly closed container or wrap in plastic foil. Reheat the next day on a dry non-stick pan (or use a small amount of oil) and warm up over medium heat on both sides until warm. Such cutlets will be only partially crispy and not as crispy as freshly cooked.

Freezing:

I must say once again that freshly breaded and cooked cutlets taste best, but freezing is also an option.

  • breaded but not cooked cutlets:
    Place them in a plastic bag, lay flat in the freezer (don’t stack multiple cutlets over each other), and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost in the fridge. When thawed coat them again in fresh breadcrumbs (or a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese) and cook them in the pan.
    These cutlets are quite good, but the coating is semi-crispy.
  • breaded and cooked cutlets:
    This option results in pretty good cutlets, I would say they taste almost like freshly made ones! Cons: the cutlets need to be cooked (briefly) the second time – so more work + a little more oil. How to do it: defrost the cutlets in the fridge. When the cutlets are thawed, warm them up in a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Cook the cutlets over medium heat for about 20 seconds on one side, then about 20 seconds on the other side, just until warm.
    If you’re making a larger batch of cutlets and you know you’ll want to freeze them, make sure to not brown them too much when you’re cooking them for the first time. You can always brown them a little more when they’re thawed and you’re warming them up.
  • baking frozen cutlets (breaded and cooked) in the oven:
    This is a time-saving option. You just have to pop frozen cutlets into an oven preheated to 375°F / 190°C and bake them for about 15 minutes (or longer/shorter, depending on the thickness of the cutlets). This method requires no dredging in breadcrumbs and flipping the cutlets. It is my least favorite method though, the cutlets are just slightly crispy and the meat is far less juicy than the cutlets cooked in a pan.

FAQ:

How to keep the breading on the chicken cutlets so it won’t fall off when frying?

If this is a common problem for you, you can try to bread the cutlets and then refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes before frying. It’s also worth to pat dry the cutlets with paper towels before breading them. Make sure to shake excess flour and egg while breading the cutlets. Make sure the oil is hot enough and keep them cooking briskly, if you lower the heat too much they will soften and coating will fall off. If you don’t think they are fully cooked inside when brown then put them in the oven for a while before serving.

Why does my breading fall off?

Possible reasons: the pan and oil were not well-heated, too much flour and egg in the breading, salting the cutlets and leaving them for too long (salt releases water from the meat), low heat while frying the cutlets, not adding flour to the breading, or you’ve tried to turn them over too early.

Why my cutlets are sticking to the pan?

Possible reasons: the pan and oil are not well-heated, too low frying temperature, not enough oil in the pan, you’ve tried to turn the cutlets on the other side too quickly (breading is not golden brown and crispy).

My cutlets are browned but not cooked in the middle, what should I do?

Try to lower the temperature a bit and cook them little longer or if this is not enough or there’s a risk that the cutlets will burn you can finish them in the oven.

What is the difference between a chicken breast, chicken cutlet and a chicken tender?

Chicken cutlet is a chicken breast cut in half horizontally and pounded into a thin, even-sized flat piece of meat. Chicken tender is a smaller part of a whole chicken breast.

Can I use mayo instead of eggs to bread chicken?

Yes, you can use mayo instead of eggs. Mayo is made with egg yolks and oil so it works great as an egg replacement. Don’t omit the flour or the breading will fall off. I think breading with mayo is just slightly less crispy than breading with eggs. You can not taste mayo in the cutlets.

Breaded chicken cutlets on a white plate sprinkled with parsley.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Breaded chicken cutlets

The best breaded chicken cutlets recipe with grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and parsley.
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breaded chicken cutlets
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 cutlets
Calories 266kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450g) chicken breast 2 medium/large chicken breasts or 4 large / 6 small chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 cup flour 1 oz/30g
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs 2oz/55g
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1.6oz/45g, optional
  • 1 heaped teaspoon grated lemon zest optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons frying oil

Instructions

  • Prepare the chicken cutlets: Cut the chicken breast in half horizontally. Place a thick ziplock bag on top and pound the thickest part of each cutlet. The cutlets should be of even thickness, about 1/4-1/3 inch (1/2-3/4 cm).
  • Prepare the breading: Add the flour to the first shallow plate. In the second, deep plate beat the eggs with grated lemon zest and chopped parsley. Add the breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan to the third shallow plate (stir them together).
  • Bread the chicken: Pat the chicken fillets dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge in flour on both sides (shake with the cutlets allowing excess flour to fall off), then dip in the egg mixture (allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl), then coat in the breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture until coated on all sides. Place on a clean plate.
  • Fry the cutlets: Add the oil into a large frying pan, warm up until well heated, over medium-high or high heat. When the oil is hot cook the cutlets on both sides until golden in color and cooked through in the middle.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • If your chicken breast was small you’re probably done as the two halves of the breast are often already thin enough. If your chicken breast was medium-sized or large, the cutlets are often not uniformly thick or too thick so you need to pound the thickest part of the cutlet with a meat mallet. Instead of a meat mallet, you can use a rolling pin, the bottom of a heavy skillet or even a wine bottle.
  • Always use one hand to pick up the cutlets and dredge them with flour and breadcrumbs, and the other hand for dipping them into the egg mixture.
  • For extra crispy cutlets, you can make double breading, this means to dip the cutlets again in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumbs. This way the breading will be thicker and more crispy (note: you would need to have more ingredients on hand as this recipe calls for ingredients for only one breading layer).
  • The thickness of the fillets: it depends on your preferences – how much meat to the breading ratio you like. I prefer my fillets 1/3-inch (3/4 cm) thick.
  • Amount of frying oil: it should be minimum 1/3 of the thickness of the cutlets and better 1/2-2/3.
  • To make this recipe even quicker you can sometimes buy already prepared chicken cutlets then bread and cook them yourself.
  • How to know when the cutlets are done? Just cut them in half to see if the meat turned its color to white and the juices are running clear. Measuring the internal temperature of thin cutlets with a meat thermometer is not accurate.
  • How long does it take to cook the cutlets: It will depend on your pan and the thickness of the cutlets. I’m frying mine over high heat in a heavy-bottom frying pan. When the breading is golden they are also usually cooked through. If you have a frying pan with a thin bottom, the cutlets may brown very quickly but not be cooked through in the middle so you need to cook them over medium heat. The same goes with the thickness of the cutlets – thicker cutlets will need more cooking time than thinner cutlets, so you would also need to reduce the temperature a bit.
  • What can you do with leftover egg and breadcrumbs: double coat the cutlets or form small patties from the leftover ingredients and cook them in the pan.
  • Storage:
    • breading chicken cutlets ahead of time: Lay the breaded cutlets on a tray, cover with plastic foil and put in the fridge. You can cook them a couple of hours later or the next day. Take the cutlets out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan on cooking them. After this time, coat the cutlets again in breadcrumbs and pan-fry. The coating will be crispy, but not as good and thick as fresh coating.
    • breaded and cooked chicken: Leave the cutlets to cool after cooking them, then put into a tightly closed container or wrap in plastic foil. Reheat the next day on a dry non-stick pan (or use a small amount of oil) and warm up over medium heat on both sides until warm. Such cutlets will be only partially crispy and not as crispy as freshly cooked.
  • Freezing:
    • breaded but not cooked cutlets: Leave the cutlets to cool after cooking them, then put into a tightly closed container or wrap in plastic foil. Reheat the next day on a dry non-stick pan (or use a small amount of oil) and warm up over medium heat on both sides until warm. Such cutlets will be only partially crispy and not as crispy as freshly cooked.
    • breaded and cooked cutlets: This option results in really good cutlets. Defrost the cutlets in the fridge. When the cutlets are thawed, warm them up in a small amount of oil in a frying pan. Cook the cutlets over medium heat for about 20 seconds on one side, then about 20 seconds on the other side, just until warm.
    • baking frozen cutlets (breaded and cooked) in the oven: This is a time-saving option. You just have to pop frozen cutlets into an oven preheated to 375°F / 190°C and bake them for about 15 minutes (or longer/shorter, depending on the thickness of the cutlets). It is my least favorite method.
  • Calories = 1 cutlet = 1/6 of the recipe. This is only an estimate! I assumed that the cutlets absorbed 4 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of oil have remained in the pan. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, international
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