Better than you'll find at your favorite Italian-American restaurant, this homemade lemon chicken piccata recipe ready in under 20 minutes! The secret is in the lemon-wine piccata sauce with capers.
Who doesn't love a quick skillet chicken dinner, especially a saucy one with loads of flavor like this homemade chicken piccata. Get a few thin chicken cutlets seared in a good cast iron skillet then finish them with a delicious, perfectly silky, lemon sauce...that's pretty much it!
This is truly one of the best chicken recipes to make with chicken breasts as the sauce keeps them juicy and tender. Serve it with a simple pasta (I think this garlicy lemon spaghetti pairs well here) or with cooked barley, if you're craving a hearty grain!
In this post
- What is chicken piccata?
- What is piccata sauce made of?
- What kind of wine to use?
- How to make chicken piccata
- Tips for success
- What to serve with chicken piccata?
- Leftovers and storage
- More chicken cutlet recipes
What is chicken piccata?
Lemon chicken piccata is an easy Italian-American dish made of chicken breast cutlets that are dredged 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?
Piccata sauce is very simple and typically made of butter, white wine, and capers. This lemon piccata sauce is slightly different as we swapped some of the butter for rich and delicious extra virgin olive oil to give us some good fat. Here are the 4 simple ingredients you need for the piccata sauce:
- Extra virgin olive oil - Olive oil is an important part of the chicken piccata sauce, so use the best quality EVOO you can find.
- Ghee - Ghee is a form of clarified butter with a rich, nutty flavor. But you can use regular butter instead if you prefer.
- White wine - A dry white wine is your best bet here (see more info just below!). If you do not cook with alcohol, use an equal amount of low-sodium chicken broth instead.
- Capers - Brined capers are salty and aromatic, and add just the right amount of tang to the lemony sauce.
The key to a good lemon piccata sauce is depth of flavor, so adding it to the same pan where the chicken was seared is a great way to capitalize on flavor from the brown bits left from searing the chicken.
I am personally a big fan of piccata sauce that I also use it with fish!
What kind of wine to use?
You will want to use a dry white wine in this lemon chicken piccata recipe. 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
If you do not use alcohol in cooking, use low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth instead.
How to make chicken piccata
In 4 easy steps and less than 20 minutes, you can have perfectly tangy, rich lemon chicken piccata. Here’s how to make it:
Step 1: Butterfly the chicken breasts
Chicken breasts can be thick and uneven. So it's a good idea to butterfly them so that they cook quickly and evenly, by splitting them in half horizontally, creating thinner cutlets. To do that, start with a sharp knife. Place your hand on top of the chicken, and carefully slice horizontally. (And if you need to, you can even cut the cutlets in halves crosswise, ending up with smaller pieces. So if you started with 2 large chicken breast halves, you can end up with up to 8 smaller pieces.)
Pat the butterflied chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and season the chicken with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides.
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.
Step 2: Sear the chicken
In a large cast iron skillet or pan, heat 2 or so tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat or medium-high heat until shimmering (not smoking). Cook the chicken for 3 minutes on each side. You are looking for a golden-brown color. You may need to work in batches so all the chicken is equally golden in color. Remove the cutlets from the skillet and set aside briefly.
Step 3: Make the lemon-caper sauce
To make the chicken piccata sauce, heat the same large skillet to medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons of ghee (or butter if you prefer) and let it melt. Once melted, stir in ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice, ½ cup white wine, and 3 to 4 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers.
Bring the lemon butter sauce to a boil and scrape all those yummy browned bits from the chicken from the bottom of the pan. This adds depth of flavor to your piccata sauce.
Step 4: Simmer the chicken in the sauce
Add the chicken cutlets back to the pan with the sauce. Lower the heat and let chicken simmer in the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure to baste the chicken pieces with that flavorful sauce as it simmers! 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. Serve and enjoy.
Tips for success
Here are some tips for the best chicken piccata recipe:
- Butterfly your chicken breasts for more even and quick cooking! Chicken breasts are uneven in thickness, which means they also cook unevenly. You might end up with some overcooked parts while other parts are still raw. Butterflying the chicken breasts (cutting them in half horizontally to make thinner cutlets) ensures the breasts cook evenly, so you have juicy chicken. See more tips above for how to cut chicken breasts into cutlets.
- Don’t overcrowd the skillet when searing the chicken. To keep your pan hot for perfectly golden-brown chicken, work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan.
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 complement the flavors from the chicken and are great for soaking up the lemon sauce.
Leftovers and storage
If you have any leftovers, you can store your leftover lemon chicken piccata in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through.
More chicken cutlet recipes
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 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO
- 3 tablespoon 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 tablespoon 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.
- Serve chicken piccata with: Toss chicken piccata with pasta (like orzo), or serve it with lemon rice, Lebanese rice, herby boiled potatoes, crispy Brussels sprouts, or a colorful Shirazi salad.
- 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, and much more!
*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019 and has been updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.