There’s a lot of lore surrounding various chicken cutlets in some sort of light sauce. There are many gatekeepers and secrets of old grandparents around the world that proclaim to know the truth of the chicken cutlet. There are, of course, very classic chicken cutlet recipes out there, but this Easy Lemon Chicken Cutlet recipe is intended to be a simple breath of fresh air.
When I’m crunched for dinnertime ideas, slicing up thin chicken cutlets, giving them a quick skillet fry, and topping them in a quick pan sauce, guarantees dinner in about 30 minutes and is healthier than a full-on fried chicken option.
So, take a deep breath, and try these EASY lemon chicken cutlets even on a busy weekday!
What cuts of chicken work best for these lemon chicken cutlets?
You can actually purchase chicken cutlets from most stores these days, but I find they are cut incorrectly for recipes like this. Usually the store-bought chicken cutlets are cut more like chicken fingers, in longer, chunkier cuts.
Instead, for cutlets that cook fast, you want thinner, flatter cuts.
So, I normally just buy chicken breasts and then slice them into thin cutlets myself, which takes just a minute or two.
Do you need to pound flat the cutlets?
The cooking advantage of pounding meat flat before pan-frying it is that it cooks evenly and quickly. If I’m making something like a traditional chicken piccata or something like a pork schnitzel for guests, I’ll take the time to pound it thinly.
But, on a busy weekday, I never do this. I just do my best to make sure the chicken isn’t more than 1/2-inch thick at any pound in the cutlet and go with it.
Ultimately, I always use a meat thermometer to make sure my chicken is cooked through anyway so it doesn’t really matter if some cutlets need another minute or two in the skillet.
Featured in: Fast Chicken Dinners
Seasoning and breading the cutlets
A traditional breading station is how you would normally work for a fried chicken cutlet, but for this easy cutlet version, I take a little shortcut.
First, I season the cutlets with lemon zest, salt, and pepper. This makes sure the chicken is seasoned well.
Then add the seasoned cutlets to a bowl with a mixture of egg white and a little fresh lemon juice. This egg white mixture will give something to build up the crust on the chicken.
Then add some flour to the bowl and coat the cutlets. You don’t need a super-thick coating on the cutlets. You just want a light, crispy crust on them.
Crunch Time Tips
To make a thicker breading on the cutlets, stir the cutlets with an egg white and some lemon juice to coat them so the flour, or bread crumbs, sticks well.
How to cook the chicken cutlets in a skillet
I prefer to cook these in a wide, large skillet with just enough oil in the skillet to glaze the bottom of the skillet. I like a skillet for these because they cook quickly and you can make a pan sauce in the skillet.
Once your oil is shimmering hot, over medium-high heat, add the cutlets and shallow pan-fry them for 5-6 minutes per side. Be sure to check a thicker part of a cutlet to make sure the chicken is cooked through.
When the chicken cutlets are cooked through and golden brown, remove them to a plate and you can work on the pan sauce.
Cooking the chicken cutlets in an air fryer
While you miss the opportunity for a pan sauce, you can make these cutlets in an air fryer. They will need to air-fry for 12 minutes at 375˚F, flipping them halfway through and you will have to cook them in batches to avoid overlapping pieces. Test a piece of chicken to make sure they are cooked through.
Making a buttery pan sauce
I love these lemon chicken cutlets, but I really love this easy buttery pan sauce.
When you’re done cooking the chicken, remove the chicken from the skillet and pour off any extra oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the skillet.
Return the skillet to low heat and add some white wine and chicken stock along with the juice from half a lemon (I used the other half from the egg white lemon from earlier).
Use that liquid to scrape up any bits stuck to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Once it has thickened for just a minute, add butter and stir into the sauce. Finish the sauce off the heat with fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.
What to serve with these lemon chicken cutlets
Want something lighter, use these lemon chicken cutlets for chicken spring rolls!
This is a starter version with a million variations you could try.
- Parmesan to the mix. Adding parmesan to the flour mixture will give the cutlets a crispy cheese crust with not much extra work.
- Spice up the cutlets more with spices like garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika.
- Give the cutlets a little extra texture by adding some Italian bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs.
- Amp up the pan sauce with some capers.
These chicken cutlets will store well in the fridge for a few days and reheat really well with one note. If you pour the sauce over the chicken cutlets, it will obviously make the breading soggy if they sit in the fridge. So don’t expect crispy leftover cutlets.
If you haven’t sauced the cutlets, they reheat great in a skillet with a drizzle of oil or in a 350˚F oven for a few minutes. You can microwave them, but it’ll kill the breading.
If you did sauce all the cutlets and have a few leftovers, they will keep fine for a few days, and in that case you can just microwave them for a minute to warm them up!
Easy Lemon Chicken Cutlets
- 2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cutlets
- 1 large lemon, zest and juice, divided
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large egg white, whisked with juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup olive oil, for frying
Buttery Pan Sauce:
- ¼ cup white wine
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ lemon, juice only
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper , to taste
- Noodles or rice, for serving
- Slice chicken breasts into thin cutlets. You don't need to pound them evenly unless you have very uneven slices. Ideally, your cutlets should be around four ounces so you might get 4-6 cutlets depending on the size of your chicken breasts.
- To the chicken cutlets, add the zest of one lemon along with salt and pepper. Add an egg white mixed with 1/2 the juice from a lemon and coat the cutlets with the egg white mixture. It should be a very light coating on the cutlets.
- Add all-purpose flour and coat well (you add some breadcrumbs to this mixture if you want a little more texture.) Remove the cutlets from a bowl and let rest on a rack for a few minutes.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering and hot, add the cutlets in a single layer and fry them for 5-6 minutes per side or until they reach 165˚F in the deepest part of the cutlet. Remove cutlets from the skillet and place them on a plate.
To make pan sauce:
- To make pan sauce, drain off any extra oil, leaving maybe a tablespoon of oil along with any bits stuck to the pan.
- Add white wine, chicken stock, and the other 1/2 of the lemon juice you should have remaining. Bring to a simmer and turn heat to low. Use the liquid to scrape up any bits stuck to the skillet. Let the pan sauce thicken for just a minute.
- Finish the sauce with butter, stirring constantly so it incorporates evenly in the sauce. Remove from heat and season the sauce with fresh parsley, salt, and pepper.Serve the cutlets over pasta or rice with the sauce on top.