Crispy Italian Breaded Chicken Cutlets

This recipe for Crispy Italian Breaded Chicken Cutlets is the best you'll ever have! Thin slices of chicken breast are breaded with a homemade seasoned breadcrumb mixture then pan fried in extra virgin olive oil to get super crispy and flavorful.

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side view of a stack of thin breaded chicken breasts with a lemon

Here in New Jersey, Italian breaded chicken cutlets are a staple and this recipe is the best one you'll ever make. This is the most popular recipe on my website for good reason - it's perfect. Just read the comments!

This crispy chicken cutlet recipe was developed over several years. I took the recipe that was passed down through my Italian family and tweaked it with my professional chef experience to produce the crispiest, most flavorful chicken cutlets possible.

My old friend, chef Michelle, taught me some key tips for making these back when we cooked together at Lisa's Italian Market in Ventnor, NJ. Her cutlets are legendary and this recipe wouldn't exist without her!

Keep reading to learn all of my secrets to making the best Italian pan fried chicken cutlets you'll ever try!

Love crispy chicken cutlets? Try my recipe for crispy Chicken Milanese with lemony arugula salad, or check out this brilliant method for making the crispiest Chicken Parmesan recipe!

What is a chicken Cutlet?

A chicken cutlet refers to a boneless skinless chicken breast that has been thinly sliced and pounded out to an even thickness. They're used frequently in Italian recipes such as chicken Picatta, chicken Francaise, chicken saltimbocca and chicken Marsala. You can also make cutlets from veal, pork, or beef.

Chicken cutlets are similar to chicken scallopini in that they are sliced thin and pounded out, but chicken cutlets are usually bigger.

Why This Recipe Works

  • A beginner friendly recipe - I started making these when I was just a kid!
  • Instead of using store bought Italian breadcrumbs, these are made with homemade seasoned breadcrumbs to make them extra crispy and cheesy.
  • Pounding out the chicken super thin ensures they cook through in the pan with no oven required.
  • Seasoning each piece of chicken before breading makes the meat juicy and full of flavor.
  • Adding grated cheese to the egg mixture makes the breading extra crispy and flavorful!
Ingredients for Italian breaded chicken cutlets.

Ingredient notes

Breadcrumbs - If you have homemade breadcrumbs - use those. Otherwise, unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs are the way to go. They're lighter than traditional breadcrumbs and make the best crispy coating. I prefer to season my own breadcrumbs rather than using already seasoned Italian breadcrumbs because the flavor is so much better.

Grated Cheese - You can use either a good quality parmesan, such as Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, or a good quality Pecorino Romano, such as Locatelli. Use either one or both, just make sure you're using the good stuff - it makes a difference.

Chicken - Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. You can start with whole chicken breasts and slice them thin, or buy chicken breasts that have already been thinly sliced. We will take it one step further and pound the chicken out to be extra thin, because the thinner they are, the better they are.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Some people say you should never to fry in extra virgin olive oil, but I disagree. It makes all the difference in this recipe and gives the chicken much more flavor than when it's fried in vegetable oil. For frying, use a less expensive olive oil and not the top-shelf stuff that's best reserved for finishing.

*Find the full ingredient list in the recipe card below!

Helpful Equipment

Meat Mallet - Pounding out the chicken ensures it will fry up evenly without having to go into the oven to finish. A meat pounder works best, but you can use the bottom of a skillet or a flat bottomed coffee mug in a pinch.

Wire Rack - You can drain the fried chicken cutlets on paper towels, but a wire rack will help them stay extra crispy.

Crispy pan fried Italian breaded chicken cutlets stacked with arugula scattered beneath.

How to make chicken cutlets - Step by step instructions

Prepare the breading station

  1. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, and ¾ cup cheese to a medium shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then use your fingers to mix it together, working the garlic into the breadcrumbs until evenly distributed. 
  2.  In another medium, shallow bowl, whisk together 3 eggs with ½ cup cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon water until combined. 
  3. Pour the flour into another shallow bowl or plate, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.

Prepare the chicken cutlets

Mixing breadcrumbs together with a fork.
Pounding a breast of chicken under plastic wrap.
  1. Slice: Take a whole chicken breast and lay it flat on a cutting board with the palm of your hand over top. Starting at the thickest side, use a long chef's knife or fillet knife to slice the chicken lengthwise into thirds. It's ok if they're not totally even. You can skip this step by purchasing thin sliced chicken breasts from the grocery story!
  2. Pound: Place a piece of plastic wrap over the sliced chicken breast, then use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound it out to be about ½ inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken. You can skip this step if your cutlets are already thin and even enough!
  3. Season each piece of chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

Seasoning Tip!

To season the chicken cutlets faster, liberally season one side only, then stack another piece of chicken on top of it and repeat. This allows the seasoning to transfer onto the other piece, so both sides can be seasoned more quickly and efficiently.

Bread the chicken

Tongs lifting a chicken breast on a white plate.
Dredging a piece of chicken in a station.
  1. Set up the breading station so that the chicken is on the far left, then next to it the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, and then a landing plate or pan to hold the breaded chicken.
  2. Take a piece of chicken and dip it into the flour to coat on all sides, then tap off the excess (*See note). 
  3. Next, dip it in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. 
  4. Transfer the chicken into the breadcrumbs. Be sure to press it down and move it around so that it's thoroughly coated. Place the chicken on the reserved plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Pan Fry the chicken cutlets

Pan frying two chicken cutlets in a pan with olive oil.
Crispy chicken cutlets cooling on a wire rack.
  1. Line a sheet pan with foil or paper towels, then top with a wire rack for draining.
  2. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Place 1-3 chicken breasts in at a time, depending on how many your pan can hold. Don't overcrowd the pan. 
  4. Cook until golden brown on each side, then remove to a rack or paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve immediately. or place in a 250 degree F oven for up to 1 hour before serving to keep warm.

Tips for Success

  • Let the breaded chicken sit for about 30 minutes before you fry to help the breading stick.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan when frying. Try not to fry more than two at a time, but depending on your pan or size of the cutlets you may only be able to fit one.
  • Use a fork to bread the chicken and flip it in the pan. It's much easier than tongs!
  • Drain fried chicken cutlets on a rack rather than paper towels to keep them crispier.
  • If you have leftover breadcrumbs, freeze them in a zip-top bag and use them again the next time you make chicken cutlets!
The crispy breading of an Italian breaded chicken cutlet.

Serving Suggestions

There's nothing like hot, crispy chicken cutlets right out of the pan! My favorite way to eat them is with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Perfection!

We love making chicken cutlet sandwiches! Layer them on an Italian roll with sharp provolone, roasted Italian long hots and sautéed broccoli rabe, or smother them with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella, then broil, for the best crispy chicken parm sandwich!

They also make a wonderful addition to salads, like this warm spinach salad or this kale Caesar salad. Serve it with a bowl of soup, like my famous New England clam chowder or a classic creamy Lobster Bisque and you have the perfect meal!

Italian chicken cutlets are fantastic leftover! I like to eat them cold, straight out of the refrigerator, often with my hands!

Chicken Cutlet Variations

To switch up the flavor profile, try seasoning your breadcrumbs differently.

Replace the grated cheese with za'atar and serve with a garlicky, lemony tahini sauce for a Mediterranean twist. For an Asian twist, omit the cheese and Italian seasoning and add sesame seeds, then serve with a simple soy based dipping sauce. Or leave the breadcrumbs plain and serve with honey mustard, barbecue sauce or ranch!

My Almond Crusted Chicken Cutlets are a perfect example of how you can use this base recipe to create something original!

You can also use a different type of meat, such as a veal cutlet, pork, or beef. For a vegetarian version, you can substitute eggplant, seitan or tofu!

Faq about Italian Breaded Chicken Cutlets

How do you get breading to stick to the chicken cutlets?

It helps to let the breaded chicken cutlets rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before frying. This helps the breading adhere to the chicken and form a crust.

Why did my chicken cutlets turn out oily?

If the oil isn't hot enough, the breadcrumbs will absorb the oil and turn soggy, resulting in chicken cutlets that are more greasy than they are crispy. Make sure the oil has plenty of time to heat up before placing the chicken cutlets in the pan. It should look shimmery.Ho

How do you keep chicken cutlets crispy for a long time?

The best way to keep the chicken crispy is to set a rack on top of a sheet pan and allow the cutlets to drain on that rather than paper towels. You can keep them in a 250 degree F oven for up to an hour before serving to keep them hot and crispy.

Is it ok to fry chicken cutlets in olive oil?

Yes. A lot of people prefer to fry in a neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil because they have a higher smoke point, but I find they have a much better flavor when fried in olive oil. If you're not comfortable frying in all olive oil, try a 50-50 mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil instead.

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A stack of thin crispy Italian breaded chicken breasts with a lemon.
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Best Ever Chicken Cutlets

This recipe for Italian breaded Chicken Cutlets is the BEST you'll ever have! There a few key secrets to getting that crispy outer coating just right.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 489kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 cups homemade breadcrumbs or panko
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning optional
  • 1 ¼ cup finely grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese (or both) divided
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, and ¾ cup cheese to a medium shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then use your fingers to mix it together, working the garlic into the breadcrumbs until evenly distributed. 
  2.  In another medium, shallow bowl, whisk together 3 eggs with ½ cup cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon water until combined.
  3. Pour the flour into another shallow bowl or plate, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.
  4. Take one piece of thinly sliced chicken and place it on a cutting board. Place a piece of plastic wrap over top, then use a meat mallet to pound it out to be about ½ inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  5. Season each piece of chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  6. Set up the breading station so that the chicken is on the far left, then next to it the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, and then a landing plate or pan to hold the breaded chicken.
  7. Take a piece of chicken and dip it into the flour to coat on all sides, then tap off the excess (*See note).
  8. Next, dip it in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off.
  9. Transfer the chicken into the breadcrumbs. Be sure to press it down and move it around so that it's thoroughly coated. Place the chicken on the reserved plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces.
  10. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat. Place 1-3 chicken breasts in at a time, depending on how many your pan can hold. Don't overcrowd the pan.
  11. Cook until golden brown on each side, then remove to a rack or paper towels to drain.
  12. Serve immediately, or place in a 250 degree F oven for up to 1 hour before serving to keep warm.

Notes

  • *When breading, I try to designate one hand for touching only dry things, like flour and breadcrumbs, and one hand for touching only wet, like the raw chicken and eggs. This prevents you from breading your fingers in the process.
  • Serve as is with a squeeze of lemon, with a tomato arugula salad, or smother with marinara and mozzarella to make chicken parm. This procedure also works equally as well with veal and pork.
  • Leftovers can be stored, wrapped tightly, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • If you have leftover breadcrumbs, freeze them in a zip-top bag and use them again the next time you make chicken cutlets!

Nutrition

Calories: 489kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 197mg | Sodium: 792mg | Potassium: 725mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 460IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 269mg | Iron: 4mg

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189 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe ! We make chicken sandwiches , and they are great just cold out of the fridge as well . My son likes them in a sandwhich with pepperjack cheese.

  2. 5 stars
    The recipe turned out wonderfully. It was packed with flavor, and the crust was perfect. I did put it in the oven after pan frying the chicken, just to make sure it was fully cooked and to add a bit more crispiness. My family gave it high reviews! Thank you for sharing.

  3. 5 stars
    These are legit. Made them twice last month and already craving them again!! Hate to say it but better than my moms! Don’t tell her

  4. 5 stars
    It definitely deserves a five star rating.! Delicious.! My go to cutlet For all meal types. Bon appétit