Chicken Marsala is a flavorful Italian entree with sauteed mushrooms and lean white meat simmered in a creamy wine sauce. Cook up a restaurant-quality dish your whole family will enjoy!
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Chicken marsala sounds fancy, but it’s a quick and easy meal to make on the stovetop. This recipe takes nuances from the traditional Italian Scaloppine, which has thin pieces of meat dredged in flour and then fried. The chicken breasts are lightly breaded then pan-seared to create a golden-brown crust. The sweet marsala wine sauce is a simple reduction, simmered until a creamy glaze sticks to each piece.
The key is to flatten the meat to an even thickness for faster cooking and prevent it from drying out. Big slices of mushrooms cook with sweet marsala wine and cream to complement the chicken for a savory flavor. Serve with a big plate of pasta, crisp salad, and a glass of wine for the ultimate chicken dinner.
Look for boneless skinless chicken breasts that are about 6 to 8 ounces in size. This cut is very lean and cooks quickly in a hot skillet. If the pieces are huge, they’ll be too big to pound and flatten. Instead, cut them crosswise into two separate cutlets.
Flatten for even cooking
When cooking chicken on the stove, be sure that the thickness of the meat is about the same. The breast portion is thicker on one end and tapers down on the other, which can cause dry sections. Flattening helps ensure an even cook time. I use a meat mallet, but a rolling pin works well too. Aim for about 1/2-inch thick pieces.
Dredge the surface with flour
To give a light crust on the surface, dip the chicken cutlets in flour. I do this for my chicken piccata recipe, and it’s delicious! Season the meat first with salt and pepper and then flour to prevent it from tasting bland. The proteins brown and stick to the surface, creating a lovely contrast of textures. Make sure to shake off the excess flour. You only need just enough to coat.
The pan-frying technique
Chicken breasts are high in protein, low in fat, and cook very quickly. To ensure juicy pieces, start cooking on medium-high heat. When added to the hot olive oil, this quickly creates a golden-brown crust.
To prevent the chicken from drying out, reduce the heat and flip. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). This process takes about 5 minutes per side. There will be lots of fond (browned bits) and juices in the pan, perfect for making a marsala wine pan sauce.
Marsala is a fortified wine originating from Sicily. It adds a nutty caramelized flavor to sauces. When reduced, the residual sugars create a syrupy glaze, perfect for clinging onto chicken. You can purchase it as either sweet or dry. I recommend the sweet variety because it provides more body and residual sugar in the sauce, enhancing the flavor.
Sweet Marsala wine has a taste that’s similar to port wine. You can find it easily at major grocery stores in the dessert wine section. Use the fino or fine version, which is of a lower quality level and better for cooking versus sipping.
How to make marsala sauce
Start by cooking the chopped onions and garlic in melted butter to add lovely aromatics to the sauce. Then slice brown mushrooms to deepen the umami flavor of the dish. I season them with salt and pepper to draw out the moisture as they cook, allowing more seasoning to infuse into the vegetables.
Deglaze the pan with the wine, stir and let it rapidly simmer until reduced by half. This process helps to cook off a majority of the alcohol and concentrate the aged grape notes. You’ll know that the alcohol has evaporated when you can’t smell it anymore. Chicken stock is added and reduced to balance the sweetness of the wine. Heavy cream adds a luxurious thickness to the sauce.
Serve this with
- Cook pasta like angel hair or spaghetti
- Spaghetti squash for a low carb option
- Caesar salad
- Garlic bread
An Italian-American dish using flattened chicken breast or cutlets cut into thin pieces (escalopes). It’s a variation of scallopine where the meat is coated in flour, pan-fried, and served with a marsala wine reduction sauce.
It’s a reduction of fine sweet marsala wine, chicken stock, and heavy cream. Mushrooms, garlic, and onion are added as aromatics and to enhance the savory notes.
Madeira, port, grape juice plus 2 teaspoons of brandy, riesling, or moscato d’asti. Non-alcoholic substitutes include red grape juice, adding an additional ½ cup chicken stock plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 ½ teaspoon of sugar.
Yes, you can remove the heavy whipping cream from the recipe for a less creamy consistency. After reducing the wine and chicken stock, turn the heat down to low. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of cold butter to thicken the sauce. Add the chicken back into the sauce to warm for a few minutes.
What is Marsala wine?
A port-style wine made from native Sicilian white grapes- Inzolia, Grillo, and Cataratto. The wine is fortified through a process called mutage, adding 20-25 percent pure grape spirit to the fermenting, overripe grape must. Marsala is labeled by Italian DOC wine laws based on how long the juice has been aged in a cask. You can find Fino (1 year), Superiore (2 years), Superiore Riserva (4 years), Vergine (5 years), and Vergine Stravecchio (10 years).
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- 4 boneless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds total
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup white onions, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 4 cups brown mushrooms, ½-inch slices
- ½ cup marsala wine, sweet
- ½ cup unsalted chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Place one of the chicken pieces between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Flatten to an even thickness, about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining pieces.Alternatively, for pieces larger than 1-inch thick and heavier than 8 ounces, cut in half horizontally. This should create eight ½-inch thick pieces.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
- Lightly season each side of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, carefully add the chicken to the pan, presentation side down. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes.Reduce the heat to medium. Flip the pieces over and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 4 to 6 minutes. Fry in batches if needed. Transfer to a clean plate, loosely tent with foil to keep warm.
- To make the sauce, melt the butter. Add the onions and garlic, sauté for 1 minute, constantly stirring to ensure the garlic does not brown.
- Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the Marsala wine. Cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock. Cook until the sauce is reduced by 1/2 (about 1/2 cup), about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the cream. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes—season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken back to the pan, turn to coat and gently simmer until warmed through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.
- Storing: Cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Marsala wine substitute: Madeira, port, grape juice plus 2 teaspoons of brandy, riesling, or Moscato d’asti. Non-alcoholic options are red grape juice, adding an additional ½ cup chicken stock plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 ½ teaspoon of sugar.
- Heavy cream substitute: Omit heavy cream and whisk in 3 tablespoons cold butter to thicken the sauce over low heat. Add chicken to warm for a few minutes.
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