Are you looking for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner option? This zesty lemon chicken recipe is ready in just 30 minutes. Serve these pan-seared chicken breasts with a tangy citrus sauce and your favorite sides. It’s sure to become a family favorite!
Table of Contents
This easy lemon chicken recipe will become your go-to meal on busy weeknights! The tender pieces of poultry are flattened for quicker and even cooking. They are coated with a light dusting of seasoned flour to help the sauce cling to the surface, then pan-seared until golden brown and juicy.
A bright and citrusy sauce is made in the same pan for extra flavor. Whisking in pieces of rich butter creates a luxurious, emulsified consistency. Serve this lemon chicken with your favorite sides, like mashed potatoes and vegetables, or a crisp Greek salad for a lighter meal.
“Clean plates all around tonight. Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe Jessica! You can’t go wrong with lemon and garlic with chicken.”—Valerie
- Chicken: Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for a quick cooking, lean protein option. Chicken thighs can be used; just remove the excess fat to prevent a greasy sauce.
- Coating: The chicken is seasoned with salt, pepper, and flour. The light layer of starches creates a texture contrast, helps brown the surface, and allows the sauce to better coat the meat.
- Sauce: To make a tangy lemon sauce, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, and chicken broth is reduced, then combined with butter to add richness.
Flatten the chicken
Step 1: Chicken breasts are thicker on one end, then taper towards the bottom. This causes uneven cooking and dried-out pieces. First, cut into cutlets and create four pieces to ensure juicy pieces that cook efficiently.
I use the flat end of a meat mallet to further flatten it into an even thickness—target about 1/2-inch thick chicken cutlets. I like to keep the seasoning simple with salt and pepper before dredging for layers of flavor.
Dredge the pieces
Step 2: To make a seasoned flour coating, add some salt and pepper. Some garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or even cayenne for spice can be added to the mixture for heat. Dredge the flatted chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess that doesn’t stick.
When cooked, this will encourage more browning and flavor development on the surface due to cooking the proteins in the flour. It also creates a primer base so that the sauce clings better. I also use this technique when making chicken marsala. It’s not a thick crust like fried chicken. It just adds a little texture contrast.
Pan-fry the chicken
Step 3: To develop a golden brown crust on the surface of the chicken, pan-fry the pieces over medium-high heat. I prefer to cook the cutlets in hot olive oil, which has a nice fruity flavor. Once the chicken is added to the pan, don’t move it! Let them sit and sear until browned, about 5 minutes.
Flip over and reduce the heat to medium to gently finish cooking the chicken. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about another 5 minutes, depending on the size. Transfer to a plate and cover while you make the lemon sauce.
Make the lemon sauce
Step 4: First, saute the minced garlic and lemon zest in the rendered fat in the pan. This helps to extract the fat-soluble flavor molecules from the allium and citrus peel. Add the fresh lemon juice and chicken broth, whisking to dissolve the fond bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pro Tip: Little browned bits of fond will be on the pan used to cook the chicken. Don’t waste the tiny flavor bites! Use it to incorporate more flavorful juices into the sauce.
Step 5: Reduce the sauce over medium heat to concentrate the flavor. To thicken the sauce, whisk in cold pieces of cold butter. It won’t be thick like gravy, just a light consistency to coat the meat.
Coat the chicken
Step 6: Add the chicken breasts back to the pan and toss to coat. I like to garnish the dish with lemon slices and fresh parsley.
There are endless flavorful ways to vary the recipe from lemon chicken. Try these tasty ideas!
- Bread Crumbs: If you prefer crispy chicken pieces, use the standard breading procedure to adhere to traditional bread crumbs or panko. This will add an extra crunch, like making chicken parmesan or chicken Milanese.
- Herbs: Add fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, dill, tarragon, basil, or chives to the sauce at the end of cooking or as a garnish. Dried herbs can be added to the flour coating.
- Spices: For a spicier flavor, add red pepper flakes, chili powder, or cayenne to the flour coating or lemon sauce. Sriracha can be added to the sauce for a kick of heat.
- Sweetener: Add honey or maple syrup to the tangy citrus sauce.
- Cream: For a creamier sauce, add some heavy whipping cream, sour cream, cream cheese, or plain Greek yogurt to thicken the sauce instead of butter.
Frequently asked questions
Lean boneless skinless chicken breasts yield large pieces and quick cooking. Bone-in or boneless thighs can be used if you enjoy crispy skin and dark meat. Cooking time will need to be increased.
Marinating is not required. However, if you have more time and you’d like to infuse more flavor and increase the juiciness, try my chicken marinade.
Add dried garlic powder, onion powder, sweet or smoked paprika, spicy cayenne, or dried Italian seasoning to the chicken or the flour coating.
Using bottled lemon juice for the sauce
For convenience, bottled lemon juice can be added instead of freshly squeezed lemon juice. However, since it’s pasteurized, it will be less aromatic, with a subdued citrusy taste and stronger acidity. You also won’t be able to incorporate the flavorful zest into the sauce, which intensifies the lemon taste from the citrus oils.
Easy Lemon Chicken
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, 2 pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, plus slices for garnish
- ½ cup chicken broth, or stock
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- Flatten the Chicken – Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create 4 total pieces. Place one of them between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Flatten with a meat tenderizer to an even thickness, about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Dredge the Chicken – In a shallow bowl, combine flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Dredge each chicken breast in the mixture, shaking off the excess, and transfer to a plate.
- Fry the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, carefully add the chicken to the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Flip the pieces and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC) on a meat thermometer, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate; cover to keep warm.
- Reduce the Sauce – Heat the same pan used to cook the chicken over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon zest, and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the lemon juice and chicken broth. Bring the liquid to a simmer and scrape down the brown bits on the pan, whisk until dissolved into the liquid. Reduce by ⅓, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Thicken the Sauce – Turn off the heat. Whisk in the butter until a lightly thickened emulsion is formed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To Serve – Add the chicken back to the pan, turning to coat. Drizzle the sauce over top. Garnish with lemon slices and some parsley.
- Storing: Cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and reheat on high setting in the microwave in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
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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