Prepare yourself for a delicious weeknight dinner. This easy chicken schnitzel recipe is ready to serve in just 30-minutes! The meat is coated with a flavorful breadcrumb mixture and then pan-fried until golden and crunchy.
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I’ll show you how simple it is to master fried chicken cutlets at home. My version of crispy chicken schnitzel has layers of flavor, including Dijon mustard and lemon zest. You’ll love this recipe if you’re a fan of breaded chicken.
It’s essential to slice the meat first. Then dredge the pieces in flour, eggs, and panko crust. A quick pan-frying in hot oil delivers a golden surface with a crunch. You can serve mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans to complete this meal.
What is chicken schnitzel?
Schnitzel is a preparation technique for flattening, breading, and frying chicken cutlets. The pieces can be pan-fried or deep-fried until golden brown, crispy, and tender. It’s similar in style to Italian Milanese or French escalope, with variations in ingredients to flavor the dish unique to the country.
For meat that flattens with ease, use boneless skinless chicken breast. Select pieces about 10 to 12 ounces, roughly 1 ½ pound in total. This size will make it easy to halve and tenderize. Smaller 6 to 8-ounce pieces don’t usually require slicing.
If you prefer dark meat, use chicken thighs. They have more connective tissues, so it will take a little more time to flatten evenly. Trim off the excess fat, so the pieces are too greasy beneath the coating.
Cut and flatten the chicken
Flattening the chicken to an even thickness is critical for consistent and fast cooking! Slice the chicken breasts into thinner cutlets to yield four pieces. The top portion of the breast is still thicker than the tapered end. Transfer to a large resealable bag for less splatter or between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Use the flat end of a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound into ¼-inch thickness. It may seem thin, but the proteins will tighten up and get thicker once cooking. I find that this gives the ideal meat-to-coating ratio.
Bread crumb selection
Traditional schnitzel recipes use plain bread crumbs. They are more refined in texture to give a more compact crust. Instead, I prefer an extra crunchy texture and use panko bread crumbs. The irregular shape and coarse texture deliver a crispier surface. However, it’s the chef’s choice! If you have time to make homemade bread crumbs, that will give the best of both worlds, and you can control the size of the bread.
How to coat chicken schnitzel
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then get ready to coat. I use the standard breading procedure to create a crunchy coating that will stick on!
- Flour Layer: Salt and pepper seasoned flour dry the surface of the meat, creating a primer for the egg to stick to.
- Egg layer: Eggs are beaten with Dijon mustard for a subtle tangy flavor. Added olive oil helps the fat coating to be crispier from below the breadcrumbs.
- Bread Layer: Panko or traditional bread crumbs are combined with lemon zest (optional). The oils in the peel add a fresh citrus note to the crust without tasting sour.
Fry the chicken
Use a large 12-inch skillet or saute pan. Nonstick, cast iron, or stainless steel works great. For frying, use a neutral-tasting, high-smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, or avocado oil. Use enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan and the surface of the food. I pour in about ⅓ cup per batch.
Use medium heat. You want the temperature to be about 350ºF (177ºC). Higher than 400ºF (204ºC) and the bread will cook too fast, leaving the center of the meat undercooked. Keep a close eye on the color change, adjusting the heat as needed. The process takes about 3 minutes per side to achieve a golden brown crust.
Garnish and serve
You can serve the hot chicken pieces uncut, family-style on a big platter, or slice it up. Top with freshly chopped parsley for a pop of color. I like to add lemon wedges for guests to squeeze the juice on top. The acidity helps to balance the richness of the fried crispy coating.
Serve this with
- Potato salad
- Hasselback potatoes
- Sauteed cabbage
- Creamy Cucumber salad
- Garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Schnitzel is a European dish from Germany and Austria. It’s made from thin slices of meat pounded to even thickness, often with a meat mallet or tenderizer, breaded, and fried. Popular meat choices include chicken, pork, beef, turkey, or veal. Weiner schnitzel is a version only made with veal.
They both use thin slices of chicken, pounded to even thickness for fast and even cooking. The breading and frying procedures that create a crispy crust are similar. What can differ is what ingredients are used in the coating to flavor the meat and what is served with the dish. Often, schnitzel is served with lemon juice and a potato side dish like mashed potatoes or potato salad.
Yes! Heat the air fryer to 390°F (200°C). Spray the surface of the chicken with cooking oil for a crispier texture. Cook for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. The chicken should reach an internal temperature between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Add more time as needed.
Can I use thighs for chicken schnitzel?
Yes, but dark meat has more connective tissues and fat. It may require more pounding with a mallet to flatten into a 1/4-inch thickness. The thigh area yields less meat, so the pieces will not be as wide. Cook the thighs between 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC) to thoroughly finish and tenderize the meat.
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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 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 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 breasts with paper towel. Cut each piece horizontally lengthwise to make two thinner cutlets, four total. Place one of the pieces between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag and flatten to an even ¼-inch thickness. Repeat with 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, mustard, and olive oil. In a third shallow bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with lemon zest (if using).
- Bread the Chicken – Dip the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess coating. Next, dip in the 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 heat. Once the oil is shimmering, about 350ºF (177ºC), carefully place two chicken pieces in the pan. Fry until the first side is golden brown and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. 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 – Garnish 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 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.
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