Chicken Piccata with Lemon Caper Sauce

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This chicken piccata recipe with lemon caper sauce is a quick and easy weeknight meal. Lightly breading and pan-frying creates a beautiful golden-brown crust that allows the tangy lemon sauce to cling onto.

Chicken Piccata with lemon caper sauce cooking in a pan

Chicken piccata is a classic Italian dish and while the name might sound fancy, it’s actually quite simple to prepare. This recipe uses lean poultry meat with a simple dredging technique and skillet cooking. But the sauce is so good that if you want to switch it up, veal or fish can be substituted.

I use everyday pantry staples and fresh ingredients to create a rustic and satisfying meal. The contrast of lightly breaded and pan-fried cutlets cradled in a lemon caper reduction sauce is a wonderful combination. You’ll want to serve this with pasta or rice to soak up all of the luscious flavors.

lightly breaded chicken cutlets frying in a pan

What is chicken piccata?

Piccata is an Italian preparation of dredging thin pieces of protein like chicken, veal, or fish in flour before cooking. For this recipe, you dip chicken breasts in a flour mixture then pan-fry in olive oil until golden brown in color. To finish, simmer in a tangy piccata sauce made of lemon juice, chicken broth, and capers. If you like, you can add white wine to provide depth to the sauce.

Flatten the chicken for even cooking

Chicken breasts are thicker on one end and taper down on the other side. This can cause overcooked and/or raw sections. To prevent this from happening you want to make the pieces thinner. You can either cut each breast in half lengthwise or use a meat tenderizer, mallet, wine bottle, or rolling pin to pound the meat to an even thickness. Aim for ½-inch thick pieces if flattening, then cut each piece into two portions.

golden brown chicken cutlets cooking in a pan with lemon caper sauce

What coating do you use for chicken piccata?

Traditionally, chicken piccata has a light coating of flour on the surface that when cooked in a little olive oil forms a subtle golden crust. Flour has a very neutral taste, so I add in more seasonings to the mixture for a savory coating. Each cutlet is dredged in flour before hitting the hot pan. If you want a thicker and crunchier exterior, use the standard breading procedure.

Lemon caper sauce

The piccata sauce is a reduction of fresh lemon juice and zest, chicken broth, and capers. It simmers until concentrated and until the flavorful brown bits from frying the chicken dissolve. The trick to thickening the sauce and creating a silky texture is to whisk in cold butter at the very end to create an emulsion. Incorporate the butter over low heat as this will prevent the sauce from breaking.

What are capers?

Capers are pickled flower buds from a shrub-like bush called Capparis spinosa. These little spheres are sun-dried and brined or salted, and when added to a dish provide an intense, pungent, salty, and tangy flavor. It’s an acquired taste, but they make this dish unique and exciting. I like to add a generous amount, ¼ cup to pack massive flavor into the sauce.

butter being whisked in a pan with lemon caper sauce

What is a substitute for capers?

If capers aren’t available or not your thing, olives are the next best choice. They are both brined and provide a similar salty piquant taste. Use green olives, then thinly slice or chop them into smaller pieces. Kalamata would work as well for this dish.

Can you make this in advance and reheat?

It’s best to enjoy chicken the same day for the best taste. It’s possible to reheat, however, the flour coating will be slightly soggy and the sauce may not hold an emulsion. If reheating, add chicken to a pan with the sauce and reheat over medium heat until warmed through. Whisk the sauce before pouring on top of the meat.

What to serve with chicken piccata

To complete the dish, I like to serve this with angel hair pasta, rice, or crispy roasted potatoes. This helps to soak up all those luscious flavors. For vegetables try, broccoli or sauteed green beans are healthy pairings.

More Italian recipes

Chicken Piccata in a pan with lemon wedges and capers

How to prevent the chicken from drying out when pan-frying

The key to evenly cooking chicken especially when pan-frying is to pound out the pieces or cut them in half to the same thickness. About a ½-inch is good, you don’t want to go paper-thin. If you have an instant-read digital thermometer, check the doneness temperature, and stop cooking when the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71ºC).

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Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata with lemon caper sauce is an easy weeknight meal. Lightly breading and pan-frying chicken breasts creates a beautiful golden brown crust.
Pin Print Review
4.14 from 65 votes
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • lemon zest, from one lemon
  • cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • To ensure even cooking, cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create 4 total portions. Season both sides of chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  • In a shallow bowl combine flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Dredge chicken breasts in the flour mixture shaking off excess, transfer to a plate.
  • In a medium bowl combine lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken broth, and capers. Set aside.
  • Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, carefully add chicken to the pan. Cook until lightly browned and the thickest part of the meat reaches 160°F (61ºC), about 3 minutes per side. Remove and transfer to a plate.
  • Add lemon caper sauce and thyme sprigs to the same pan used to cook the chicken. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Scrape down the brown bits from the pan and whisk until dissolved into the liquid. Reduce by ⅓, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Return chicken to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer chicken to a serving dish. Remove and discard the thyme.
  • Over low heat, vigorously whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired. Add the chicken back and pour the sauce over top. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

Recipe Video

Equipment

Notes

  • Add wine to the sauce: (Optional) Add ¼ cup of dry white wine to the sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer for an additional 1 minute before adding back the chicken to warm.

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Nutrition Facts
Chicken Piccata
Amount Per Serving
Calories 319 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 6g30%
Cholesterol 87mg29%
Sodium 833mg35%
Potassium 464mg13%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Protein 24g48%
Vitamin A 250IU5%
Vitamin C 12.5mg15%
Calcium 10mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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50 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Janice says

    Happy Birthday, Jessica! Hope you have a great one. I love chicken piccata. I used to smash my chicken with a frying pan before I invested in a meat tenderizer. I would also butterfly the chicken as well to get the same thickness. The secret to any juicy chicken for me is to always brine the meat for at least an hour. It works every time.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much Janice! It was a great indulgent day celebrating with my guys 🙂 I love the brining idea, I have used that before for thick pork chops and fried chicken, definitely a great suggestion!

  2. John Mullen says

    I made this for the fam last night. It turned out great! U used medium heat so my chicken took a little longer. The key is just to wait for it to turn a little golden brown. Excellent flavor. I added angel hair pasta with clam sauce to the dinner menu. It complemented the chicken very well. This pairs well with a light bodied chardonnay. Thanks for a great recipe Jessica!

  3. Cristina McCarter says

    Another slam dunk from Jessica! My 7 year old gobbled up this dish, which I served with green beans and rice. The sauce was super delish and the chicken was very tender and juicy. Not to mention, easy cleanup!! I made plenty for easy reheating on Monday which is my busiest and least favorite night of the week to cook. Thanks for all the great recipes – my family appreciates it too!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your wonderful comment Cristina! I’m so happy to hear that the whole family enjoyed the recipe 🙂 Glad the clean up was a breeze too. Looking forward to sharing more recipes with you!

  4. Shari says

    Just made this piccata with gluten free flour and it was FABULOUS! So lemony!
    Cucumber-tomato dill salad with pasta and a bit of Parmesan. Yu-um!!!
    Thanks for the recipe!!!
    Shati

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay Shari! So happy to hear that you enjoyed the chicken piccata recipe. I’ll have to give your side salad a try 🙂

    • Claudia Vazquez says

      Just made this for dinner and we absolutely loved it. I will probably double the sauce recipe as I served it over thin spaghetti and there enough of this delicious sauce for our taste.. ie nothing left for soaking up with some bread 🙂 Made enough for lunch leftovers, hubby was tempted to eat those now 😆. Looking forwarded to trolling through your other recipes. Thanks for this one. Piccata is one of my favorite meals.

  5. Marguerite Bisson says

    Jessica,
    Tried this recipe last night – Definitely a ‘keeper’! Keep these amazing recipes coming!
    Maggie

  6. Carrol Brown says

    What would you suggest I use in place of butter to thicken sauce at end? I am trying to be dairy free. Thank you.

  7. Trang says

    Made this over the weekend for meal prep, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, almost 3x the recipe for left over during the week. I did not increase the ingredients for the sauce, but I did add more capers, and it was just enough to lightly coat everything. It was delicious! I will definitely make this again, but I’ll reduce the lemon juice and increase the chicken stock to make it less sour for my husband though, he’s weak sauce, can’t take a little lemon and capers. The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is to make!

  8. Andrea Dixon says

    Made this for my daughter’s visit last night.
    It was all ready for the final reduction when she arrived and it was perfect!
    Served with Jasmin rice and cold cucumber salad it was devine.

  9. BarbaraJean McDougald says

    I’m compiling a months’ worth of meals/recipes to take the nightly guesswork out of “what’s for dinner?”. I came across your recipe in my google search and gave it a try. Girl…you nailed it! This is a restaurant quality dish! I look forward to trying more of your recipes. Thank you. Bj.

  10. William O'Sullivan says

    Hi Jessica! I’m gonna make this tonight and am wondering why you use chicken broth instead of white wine as I’ve seen in a few other recipes? Looking forward to it!

  11. Todd W. says

    Hi Jessica,
    Made this last night and doubled up on the chicken so we had lots of lunch leftovers. Great recipe. We all loved it and my sweetie got it sliced on her lunch salad this morning. I sided it with GF cauliflower spaghetti and steamed broccoli. Delicious! Many thanks for the recipe.

  12. Jessica says

    Made this last week and my husband and I were in HEAVEN! SOOOO good! My mom and dad came for dinner this evening and when pondering what to make he said, please make picatta again haha! So I did and it was amazing. Paired with a balsamic salad, crusty bread, and a glass of wine with Dean Martin Pandora, it’s a restaurant meal and atmosphere that makes you linger, savor, talk more, and have a relaxing meal any day of the week ❤

  13. Jan says

    We are all staying home & so I’m trying some new recipes. This was a hit! Hubby says it was like eating in a restaurant! Paired with spaghetti squash instead of noodles, a bit of cranberry sauce & side spinach salad. Yummy!

  14. Freda H. says

    Hi Jessica, I just cooked your chicken piccata recipe. I served it with cilantro-lime rice and steamed broccoli. It was great, however I will try it with plain rice next time or pasta. I think the rice made it a little too tart. Thanks for the recipe.

  15. Julie S. says

    I love picatta sauce and will be making this in the next few days. Do you think almond flour would work in place of regular flour?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think that the almond flour would give a nice contrast in texture. I would cook the chicken on medium heat the entire time to make sure that the nuts don’t burn when you’re pan-frying. Please let me know how it turns out!

  16. JJ says

    I cooked this last night and it came out perfect. I used the whole sauce recipe, but only split one big chicken breast (we’re two at dinner). I’d made the sauce and put it in the ‘fridge, and it stayed there to ‘marinate’ for more than 24 hours. I think it punched it up a bit and let the caper flavor meld with the others. I LOVE the butter at the end, after reducing a bit and thickening it up. Wow…amazing over the chicken.
    I had the chicken nicely browned, and putting it back into the sauce a while took the crunch off the chicken surface, I flipped it, but took it right out so it didn’t cook too far, and plated with the delicious sauce drizzled over. Yummmm.
    I served your Chow Mein recipe on the side. GREAT flavors together. We POLISHED the whole thing off…not a speck for leftovers. A real winner…!!

  17. Sarah Stephens says

    This was deeeelicious! Made it tonight and I’m in love with all things lemon! We served it with pearl cous cous and a Caesar salad kit ❤️

  18. Kellie Trulove says

    I made this for dinner tonight using 3 large chicken breasts the regular amount of sauce with the white wine added and reduced. Made linguine tossed it in butter salt and pepper. Pulled out the chicken and added the pasta to the sauce poured on a serving platter and laid the chicken on top. It was great. The family loved it although 1 child did not care for the capers. That’s kids for you…..lol. Wonderful recipe thank you.

  19. marina rapisarda says

    Hey Jessica, your recipes never disappoint. I made a very picky granddaughter very happy with this recipe.
    Thank you.

  20. Susie Pickleball says

    Oh my this was so tasty! The only issue I had was that my chicken was swimming in a pool of oil and I could not easily brown. I believe my pan was too small, thus the oil wading pool.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback! I think a larger pan would help to give heat for browning the surface. When you added the butter, was the heat low? If it’s too high the butter will break, or separate, and if it’s left on the heat it will break as well.

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