This delicious chicken Milanese is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Each piece of meat is coated with a flavorful bread crumb mixture, then pan-fried until golden brown and crispy. Ready to serve in just 30-minutes!
Table of Contents
Chicken Milanese is a fancy way to describe tender pieces of chicken, breaded and fried until crispy. It sounds simple and delicious because it is! I’ll show you the step-by-step techniques for preparing the meat and coating it for a crunchy crust. Adding the extra bread crumb layer makes boring poultry pieces an exciting meal.
The breast is cut down into thin cutlets to ensure quick and even cooking. I use the standard breading procedure to ensure the crust sticks on. Frying the meat in a high smoke point and neutral-tasting fat is key to texture development. Serve with your favorite side dishes like pasta, a fresh caesar salad, and garlic bread for a complete Italian feast.
For the chicken milanese recipe, use boneless skinless chicken breast for quick cooking and lean protein. This cut flattens out easier than thighs. Choose two larger breasts, about 12 ounces in size, and slice them into thinner cutlets.
Alternatively, you can use four smaller 6 to 8-ounce breasts. You will only need to flatten these down with a meat mallet.
Cut and flatten the chicken
For consistent cooking, it’s important to pound the chicken to an even thickness. The breast is very thick on one end, then tapers down. The first step is to slice the pieces crosswise in half to give two cutlets. This yields about ½-inch thick pieces on the widest end.
Now flatten the cutlets with a meat mallet. I like to place them inside a large plastic bag or between pieces of plastic wrap for less mess. Pound the meat to ¼-inch thick, and they will be much broader. This action tenderizes the proteins and prevents them from shrinking too tightly when cooked.
Bread crumb selection
I prefer to use Japanese-style bread panko breadcrumbs, which are very light and flakey. I find that the crust is crunchier due to its irregular shape. I use them for my chicken parmesan to make super crispy chicken. However, other types of breadcrumbs can be used.
Traditional plain bread crumbs are finer, giving them a more compact crust. Making homemade breadcrumbs is a fantastic option if you can’t find panko.
Coating the chicken
The key to achieving a super crispy golden brown crust on the fried chicken is to use the standard breading procedure. However, before any coatings go on, season the surface of the meat with salt and black pepper for layers of flavor.
- Flour Layer: Flour seasoned with salt and pepper. This is the primer that helps the egg mixture stick to the meat. Shake off excess flour!
- Egg Layer: Egg mixed with olive oil. The fat helps the coating become crispier underneath.
- Bread Layer: Panko bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese, dried Italian seasonings, and lemon zest. Press this layer in good to the meat so that every space has crispy bread.
Fry the chicken
Use the shallow pan-frying method to cook the coated pieces of chicken. I find that a large 12-inch nonstick pan or cast iron skillet is the easiest way to fry them up. Use a high smoke point oil like vegetable, avocado, or light olive oil for cooking. You want enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan and submerge the surface of the chicken.
Cook the first side over medium-high heat to kickstart the browning of the pale panko bread crumbs, then give it a flip. Reduce the heat to medium so the meat can thoroughly cook without burning the crust. The process takes about 2 to 4 minutes per side. The chicken is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). I like to transfer them to a paper towel for 15 seconds to soak up the excess hot grease.
Place a wire rack set on top of a sheet pan, so the bottom doesn’t get soggy as you fry the next batch. You can also keep them in an oven set at 200ºF (93ºC) to stay warm before serving.
Slice and garnish
Slice the crispy pieces or serve whole for a stunning presentation. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, chives, basil, or oregano. Serve with lemon wedges. The lemon juice adds bright acidity and enhances the flavor.
Once you’ve mastered how to make chicken milanese, there are different ways to switch up the flavor. Try these tasty suggestions:
- Mustard: Add some dijon mustard or honey mustard to coat the chicken for a tangy flavor.
- Herb: Add freshly chopped oregano, thyme, rosemary, or basil to the breadcrumbs for an herbaceous taste.
- Spicy: Add some chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes to the flour or bread crumbs for a kick of heat.
- Pesto: Coat the cutlets with pesto sauce, then add the breadcrumb layers.
- Caesar salad
- Green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
- Garlic bread
- Rosemary focaccia
- One-pot tomato pasta
Frequently asked questions
It’s a simple method for adding a crispy crust to various proteins like veal, chicken, lamb, or pork. Milanese or milanesa is an Italian-style cooking technique from the city of Milan in Lombardy. Thin pieces of meat are coated with sticky eggs and dried bread crumbs, then fried in oil or butter until golden and crisp. I add parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and Italian seasonings to boost the taste.
Chicken breasts are the whole breast section, thick and taper at one end. Chicken cutlets are thinner slices of the breast cut in half horizontally to yield two pieces. The cutlets are used for pan frying because they cook faster and more even.
Keep it simple with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of fresh herbs like basil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and sage for garnish. For a richer texture, try a lemon caper sauce. Try a fresh marinara sauce, herbaceous pesto, or creamy alfredo.
Baking instead of pan frying
The coated pieces of flattened chicken can be baked in the oven for a lower-in-fat cooking alternative. The trick is to use a high temperature of 450ºF (232ºC). Elevate the chicken on a greased baking rack in a sheet pan lined with foil for a super crispy texture. The stand allows the hot air to circulate above and below. The process takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook the meat thoroughly. I’ve noticed with panko that the crumbs are lighter in color than pan frying, but the texture is crunchy.
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- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, more for seasoning
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, optional
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- lemon wedges, for serving
- Flatten the Chicken – Thoroughly dry the chicken with a paper towel. Cut each piece horizontally lengthwise to make two thinner cutlets, four total. Place one of the pieces between two plastic sheets or inside a large plastic bag and flatten to an even ¼-inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Set up the Breading Station – In one shallow bowl, mix the flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. In a second shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and olive oil. In a third shallow bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and lemon zest.
- Bread the Chicken – Dip the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess coating. Next, dip in egg mixture, coat completely, and drain any excess. Lastly, dip in the breadcrumbs, pressing to coat evenly. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces.
- Pan-fry the Chicken – Heat ⅓ cup of vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully place two chicken pieces in the pan. Fry until the first side is golden brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and flip the chicken. Cook until an internal temperature of 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to briefly drain the excess oil for 15-seconds. Place on a wire cooling rack set on top of a sheet pan. Discard the extra oil and wipe the pan clean. Add ⅓ cup of fresh vegetable oil, and repeat the same cooking procedure with the two remaining pieces.
- To Serve – Serve garnished with parsley and lemon wedges.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Reheat individual pieces in the microwave on high power in 15 to 30-second intervals until hot. Alternatively, place on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 375ºF (191ºC) until hot and crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Using Smaller Pieces: Four chicken breasts, about 6 to 8 ounces, can be used. Flatten until ¼-inch thick.
- Bread crumbs: Traditional fine Italian breadcrumbs can be used but won’t be as crunchy.
- Make Ahead: The chicken can be breaded, covered, and refrigerated for 1 day before cooking.
- Baking: Bake chicken in the middle of the oven at 450ºF (232ºC) on top of a wire rack set on a foil-lined sheet pan until the internal temperature reaches between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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