This delicious lemon chicken piccata recipe comes together in less than 20 minutes! A few tips make all the difference in this perfectly tender, flavor-packed chicken that's made in a bright lemony sauce with capers. Check out my video and tips below.
What is chicken piccata?
Lemon chicken piccata is an easy Italian-American dinner that is made of chicken breast cultets that are drenched in flour, pan-seared and finished with a rich and flavorful lemon sauce with capers.
This chicken piccata recipe is a quick dinner that comes together in less than 20 minutes (16 to be exact). And while a more traditional version uses only butter, this recipe swaps the butter for quality extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of ghee (clarified butter). You still get all of that buttery goodness in the sauce.
What is piccata sauce made of?
This chicken piccata sauce contains only a few ingredients and you probably have most of them at home already:
- Quality extra virgin olive oil. I used rich and earthy Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
- Ghee (a form of highly clarified butter). If you prefer, you can use butter instead
- White wine (or broth)
- Capers. Brined capers are tangy, salty, and aromatic
The sauce ingredients are added to the same pan the chicken is initially seared in. The key to a good lemon piccata sauce is depth of flavor, and the brown bits from the cooked chicken provide a good bit of that!
What kind of wine do you use?
This lemon chicken piccata recipe is made with white wine.
You will want to use a dry white wine as other types of white wine, (like Moscato) are too sweet and are not suitable for the piccata sauce. Some great white wines to choose from are:
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
There are no hard and fast rules for which kind of the above white wine to use. However, the best rule of thumb to follow is to cook with a white wine you would also want to drink!
How to make chicken piccata (steps + important tips)
Step 1: Butterfly the chicken breasts
Grab your boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pat dry with a paper towel. Season the chicken with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides of the chicken.
Using your flour of choice--all-purpose, whole wheat (for Mediterranean diet) or gluten-free-- dip your chicken pieces in the flour until evenly coated and shake off any extra flour. This is just a light coating of flour.
Tip: Butterfly your chicken breasts for more even and quick cooking! Because chicken breasts can be thick and uneven, it's a good idea to butterfly them so that they cook quickly and evenly. By butterflying chicken breasts, I mean to split them in half horizontally, creating thinner cutlets. To do that, start with a sharp knife. Then place your hand on top of the chicken, and carefully slice horizontally. (And if you need to, you can even cut them in halves crosswise, ending up with more smaller pieces. If you started with 2 large chicken breast halves, you can end up with up to 8 smaller pieces.)
Step 2: Sear the chicken
In a large cast iron skillet or pan of choice, heat your olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. You want the oil to look like it is shimmering, but you don’t want it smoking or your chicken will burn. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes on each side. You are looking for a golden-brown color.
Tip: In order to keep your pan hot for perfectly golden-brown chicken, work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. To keep your chicken warm, place the seared pieces in an oven-safe dish and keep in a 200-degree F heated oven so it stays warm until you are finished cooking all the remaining cutlets.
Step 3: Make the piccata sauce
To make the sauce, heat the same pan to medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the ghee (or butter if you prefer) and let it melt. Once melted, stir in lemon juice and wine (or broth) and capers. Bring the sauce to a boil and scrap all those yummy browned bits from the chicken from the bottom of the pan.
Tip: A couple of easy substitutions here if you need to. If you prefer butter, you can use it in place of ghee. And if you can't use wine, chicken broth will work.
Step 4: Add the chicken to simmer in the sauce
Add your cooked chicken back to the pan with the sauce. Lower the heat and let chicken simmer in the sauce for 4-5 minutes. Make sure to baste the chicken pieces with that flavorful sauce! You can do this by using a larger spoon to scoop some sauce from the pan and pour the sauce over top of the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the heat and garnish with parsley for a pop of gorgeous green color and freshness! And if you like, sprinkle some lemon zest on top.
Can I make chicken piccata in the Instant Pot?
I find it easy and quick enough to make chicken piccata in a skillet, but if you want to use your instant pot (affiliate link) or pressure cooker, you sure can! It is pretty much the same steps as cooking in the pan, but with just a few adjustments. Here's what you need to do:
- Prepare the chicken the same way as in the pan version of this recipe. Butterfly the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and coat in flour shaking off the excess.
- On your Instant Pot, turn on the sauté function and add your olive oil. Once heated, cook chicken on both sides until golden brown. You will likely need to work in batches just like with the pan version.
- When the chicken has all been browned, take out of the Instant pot and make the sauce as per regular instructions. Add more olive oil, ghee, white wine (or broth), lemon juice, and capers. Scrap the bottom to release the browned bits of chicken.
- Add all of your chicken to the pot with the sauce, lock the lid, and pressure cook the chicken and sauce on manual for 4 minutes.
- Once done and pressure is released, garnish with parsley and serve!
Leftovers and storage
If you have any leftovers, you can store your leftover lemon chicken piccata in an air-tight container in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days.
What to serve with chicken piccata?
This easy chicken piccata recipe is a delicious quick meal for any night of the week. If you like, make a bit more of the sauce and toss some pasta to serve along with chicken piccata (orzo pasta is a good option).
You may like to pair the chicken piccata with this lemon rice (if you want to keep with a lemony theme) or Lebanese rice. Simple boiled potatoes with garlic and fresh herbs also compliment the flavors from the chicken and are great for soaking up the lemon sauce.
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Lemon Chicken Piccata Recipe
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast halves, butterflied into thinner cutlets, then cut in half cross-wise
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- ½ cup flour for dredging, use whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, or gluten free flour of your choice
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO
- 3 tbsp ghee or butter, if you prefer
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup white wine (or chicken broth if you don't want to use wine)
- 3 to 4 tbsp capers rinsed and drained
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees F (this is to keep the chicken warm as you work in batches).
- Pat the chicken breast pieces dry and season with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides. Lightly coat the chicken on both sides with the flour (shake off any excess flour).
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Cook the chicken on 1 side for about 3 minutes, then turn over to cook for another 3 minutes (do this in batches and do not crowd the pan).To keep the chicken warm, place the cooked chicken pieces in an oven-save dish and keep them in warm oven while you finish.
- Prepare the lemon sauce. In the same skillet (over medium heat), add a little bit more extra virgin olive oil. Add the ghee (or butter, if you prefer). When the ghee melts, stir in the lemon juice, wine and capers. Bring the sauce to a boil, scrapping off any browned bits from cooking the chicken earlier.
- Now, return the cooked chicken to the skillet with the sauce. Lower the heat, and let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, basting the top of the chicken with the sauce.
- Remove from the heat and garnish with parsley. Serve with plain orzo and your favorite salad (more suggested sides in post).
- Butterfly the chicken breasts. Because chicken breasts can be thick and uneven, it's a good idea to butterfly them so that they cook quickly and unevenly. This means to split them in half horizontally, creating thinner cutlets. Here is how: start with a sharp knife. Then place your hand on top of the chicken, and carefully slice horizontally. Once you have the thin cutlets, if you need to, you can cut them in halves cross-wise, ending up with smaller pieces (so if you started with 2 large breast halves, you can end up with up to 8 smaller pieces)
- For Mediterranean-diet friendly version, use whole wheat flour for dredging.
- Leftovers & Storage: You can store leftover chicken piccata in a tight-lid container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or so.
- Visit our online shop to browse our extra virgin olive oils, all-natural and organic spice bundles more!
*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019 and has been updated with new information and media for readers' benefit