Lemon Chicken

4.88 from 8 votes
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Looking for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner? This easy lemon chicken recipe is ready in 30 minutes. It’s sure to become a family favorite!

Lemon chicken recipe cooked in a stainless steel skillet.

Recipe Science

  • Cooking chicken with lemon juice adds acidity, which enhances flavor and helps keep the meat moist and tender.
  • As the chicken cooks, the lemon juice caramelizes slightly, creating a balanced flavor profile with brightness and depth.
  • Adding lemon zest releases essential oils, intensifying the lemon flavor and adding a fragrant aroma to the dish.

Why It Works

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.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this lemon chicken recipe.
  • 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.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

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.

How to Make Lemon Chicken

Two flattened chicken cutlets in a resealable plastic bag.

Step 1: Flatten the Chicken

Chicken breasts are thicker on one end and taper towards the bottom, which 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 flatten the chicken cutlets further into an even thickness—I target about 1/2-inch thick. I like to keep the seasoning simple with salt and pepper before dredging for layers of flavor.

Four chicken cutlets on a white plate that have been dredged with flour.

Step 2: Dredge the Pieces

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.

Four chicken breasts being cooked in a skillet.

Step 3: Pan-fry the Chicken

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.

Garlic and lemon juice in a pan.

Step 4: Make the Lemon Sauce

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.

Melted butter being whisked in a pan to make a sauce.

Step 5: Thicken the Sauce

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.

Chicken breasts in a skillet with lemon slices and parsley.

Step 6: Coat the Chicken

Add the chicken breasts back to the pan and toss to coat. I like to garnish the dish with lemon slices and fresh parsley.

Lemon chicken dinner plate with salad and couscous.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of chicken should I use for lemon chicken?

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.

Should I marinate the chicken before cooking?

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.

What other seasonings can I add to enhance the flavor of the chicken?

Add dried garlic powder, onion powder, sweet or smoked paprika, spicy cayenne, or dried Italian seasoning to the chicken or the flour coating.

Can you use 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.

Serve This With

If you tried this Lemon Chicken recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Easy Lemon Chicken

I absolutely love making lemon chicken because it combines the tangy brightness of fresh lemons with tender and juicy chicken, creating a dish that is bursting with flavor.
4.88 from 8 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American


  • 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
  • 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 455kcal (23%)Carbohydrates 14g (5%)Protein 38g (76%)Fat 27g (42%)Saturated Fat 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat 2gMonounsaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0.4gCholesterol 132mg (44%)Sodium 600mg (25%)Potassium 690mg (20%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 400IU (8%)Vitamin C 13mg (16%)Calcium 22mg (2%)Iron 2mg (11%)

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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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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4.88 from 8 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. D.hopf says

    Love it. Quick, ex & delish
    Quick, easy & delish. Just what I was looking for. Will make this again.. Thank You.

  2. Valerie C. says

    Clean plates all around tonight. Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe Jessica! You can’t go wrong with lemon and garlic with chicken.