Chicken Piccata

If it’s true that opposites attract, lemon and butter are the Jack and Rose of culinary ingredients.

Vertical image of cooked meat pieces on a white plate with a caper and citrus sauce, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Not to say that chicken piccata is a giant sinking cruise ship, or that capers are like tiny round icebergs…

Let me start over.

When lemon and butter are combined, something magical happens.

Lemon – with its bright, sour acidity and tartness – needs a counterpart that balances its feistiness. And who better to come along and mellow out that sassy citrus than supple, beautiful butter?

The marriage of lemon and butter makes a frequent appearance in dozens of different types of cuisine.

When it comes to elegant French fare, the duo is quintessential to Julia Child’s beloved sole meuniere.

Vertical image of a white plate with cooked poultry pieces covered in a citrus and caper sauce next to whole garlic and lemon wedges.

Fresh from the coastal waters, lobster tails and crab legs are often served by the bucketful, and what better companion compares than a bright squeeze of lemon and a silky tub of melted butter for dipping?

Within the garlic-scented walls of a cozy Italian bistro, tangy plates of piccata loaded with lemon-butter sauce fly out of the kitchen faster than you can say, “More ciabatta, please.”

The point is: lemon and butter are a perfect pair. And chicken piccata freakin’ rules, man.

Not to stomp on your style, for those of you who prefer your piccata made with veal or fish, but there’s something about delicately breaded, juicy chicken breasts smothered in the pungent sauce that I can’t get enough of.

My dad’s family hails from northern New Jersey – a land littered with (well, litter, but also) Italian restaurants.

Vertical close-up image of a plate of chicken piccata served with citrus wedges.

I didn’t grow up there, but our visits to Springfield throughout my life have been frequent.

Part of our regular restaurant “hat trick” is a longtime Italian gem one town over called Marco Polo. You’d think the extensive menu would make it hard to nail down a dinner item, but that’s never a problem.

For me, I either crave something cheesy and covered in marinara (like eggplant rollatini, to be more exact) or something on the light and lemony end of the spectrum – the usual suspect being chicken piccata.

When I can’t decide between the dish that’s bright and refreshing or the one that will lead me straight down the path to a Cabernet-coma, my dad always steps up to the (literal) plate and partakes in split-sies.

The goal is to share, but I always find myself sneaking extra bites of the briny poultry. The piccata’s rich, buttery sauce is always just decadent enough to satisfy my salt tooth, and the vinegary pop of the capers keeps my taste buds wide awake.

Vertical image of cooked poultry pieces covered in a citrus and caper sauce and served with lemon slices on a white plate.

When I prepare piccata in my own kitchen, I don’t stray far from tradition. Other than tossing in a few pungent cloves of garlic (not necessary, but always tasty), I stick with the traditional lemon, butter, capers, and parsley.

A good sear on the poultry is crucial to lock in the juices, and I finish the tender pieces in a buttery bath, dolloping spoonfuls of the luxurious, lemony sauce over the top for good measure.

I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it’s made with lemon and butter, definitely eat it.

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Horizontal image of a white plate with cooked poultry pieces covered in a citrus and caper sauce next to whole garlic and lemon slices.

Chicken Piccata


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Buttery chicken meets briny capers and tart lemon in this perfect piccata. Make this Italian delicacy for tonight’s dinner.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (or 2 whole breasts, butterflied and cut in half), pounded to 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper, and then dredge them in the flour. Shake off any excess.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside on a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and cook until light golden brown, about 30 seconds.
  4. Whisking as you pour, to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom, add the white wine, chicken stock, lemon zest, lemon juice, and capers. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan. Simmer uncovered, occasionally spooning the sauce onto the poultry, until cooked through and the sauce is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. 
  6. Divide the chicken among 4 plates, and then vigorously whisk the remaining butter into the pan sauce. Once the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened, whisk in 1 tablespoon of the parsley.
  7. Season the sauce to taste with additional salt and pepper, and then evenly pour over the plated poultry. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: chicken, piccata, capers, lemon

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop the Garlic and Parsley, and Pound and Season the Poultry

Horizontal image of chopped herbs, garlic, and wedges of citrus on a wooden board.

Mince the garlic (or use a garlic press) and chop the parsley. I like to do this first on a dedicated cutting board to avoid cross-contamination with the raw meat, particularly because some of the fresh herbs here will be reserved for garnishing the finished dish, and they won’t be cooked before serving.

Loosely wrap the chicken breasts in parchment paper. Using a meat tenderizer, wine bottle, rolling pin, or pestle, gently pound them flat to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.

Horizontal image of a dredging raw poultry breasts in a red bowl.

Season with the salt and pepper, and then dredge them in the flour. Shake off any excess.

The flour will help to create a crust on the outside of the chicken, and it will also thicken the sauce.

Step 2 – Sear the Chicken

Horizontal image of seared poultry breasts in a cast iron skillet.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.

When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the poultry to a plate.

Step 3 – Saute the Garlic and Deglaze the Pan

Horizontal image of cooking minced garlic in a cast iron skillet while deglazing with broth.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan.

Add the garlic and cook until it becomes lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Zest and juice the lemon.

Whisking as you pour, to deglaze the pan and scrape up any brown bits of flavorful fond from the bottom, add the white wine, stock, lemon zest and juice, and capers.

Step 4 – Finish Cooking and Reduce the Sauce

Horizontal image of a translucent sauce with capers and chopped garlic.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then return the chicken and its juices to the pan.

Simmer uncovered, occasionally spooning the sauce onto the poultry, until it’s cooked through and the sauce reduces by about half. This should only take about 3-5 minutes.

Step 5 – Whisk the Butter and Parsley into the Sauce

Horizontal image of cooking a sauce with capers and a mound of fresh chopped herbs.

Divide the chicken among 4 plates, and then vigorously whisk the remaining butter into the pan sauce.

Once the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened, whisk in 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley.

Step 6 – Sauce and Garnish

Horizontal image of two seared poultry breasts in a sauce with capers and minced garlic in a cast iron skillet.

Season the sauce to taste with additional salt and pepper, and then evenly pour it over each portion of poultry. Garnish with the remaining parsley.

Light, Lemony, and Bathed in Butter

If all of the above sounds like your cup of tea (or butter), you’re going to dive headfirst into this chicken piccata.

Horizontal image of a white plate with cooked poultry pieces covered in a citrus and caper sauce next to whole garlic and lemon slices.

When I’m feeling fancy, I change up the aromatics in this dish to develop a slightly different flavor profile. For a bit of crunch, I toss thinly sliced fennel in with the garlic. For an additional oniony punch, sweet shallots do the trick.

Piccata sauce and pasta are BFFs, but roasted potatoes will soak in every ounce of the lemony goodness just as effectively.

Looking for more chicken-centric recipes to satisfy your craving for Italian fare? These will hit the spot:

When it comes to capers, just a dab‘ll do ‘ya. Where do you dot your leftover briny beads? In homemade tartar sauce? Freshly fried atop a mountain of Caesar salad? Put on your caper thinking cap and share your tips in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 7, 2014. Last updated on February 9, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

22 thoughts on “Chicken Piccata”

  1. I have never tried this dish before, I have taken a print and will possibly try it when I have a day off. I am not sure that I have ever tried capers either, so a lot of new experiences right here.

    Reply
  2. This is one of my mother’s favorite recipes, and one of my favorite dishes of hers to eat. One of the things she says helps the chicken stay tender and juicy is, after butterflying the breasts, pounding them so that they are a bit thinner. She also uses a bit of Chardonnay as well, and it adds a nice kick along with the lemon juice. I’ve never tried to make this myself, but I love eating it.

    Reply
  3. I love chicken with a sauce. I never tried this or capers but it looks very good. I may make this without capers. I don’t think me or my daughter are ready for capers yet. But you never know unless you try. We might just do it. She always likes to taste new things she is way more open minded than me when it comes to trying new things or new foods.

    Reply
  4. Do you think it would be a bad move to add spiced flour with some spicy seasonings mixed in? I like the sound of the recipe. I have a ton of frozen chicken breasts in my freezer I may thaw some tonight so that I can try to make this tomorrow. Thanks it really sounds delicious!

    Reply
  5. This meal is my childhood’s favorite chicken dish! No wonder you kids loved them, too! I remember when I first tried it, it was served with pasta and it was really delicious and flavorful. With your recipe above, I hope I could make it, too, to my family!

    Reply
  6. Thanks to this post I made this tonight 🙂 I too cook chicken more often than any other meat. I like that it’s lean and filled with protein. Chicken piccata is a favorite of mine but I don’t cook it often…I need to change that. There’s something so delicious about the combination of lemon, butter, and capers. It’s a simple dish but very rich and filling.

    I look forward to new chicken recipes on your blog!

    Reply
  7. I’ve never actually tried Chicken Piccata. Never ate it and I’ve never attempted to make it, this might have to change. I love chicken and I use it as the main part of a lot of meals, or in a side, and this looks like it would taste amazing. I’m sure everyone in my house would love it. I’m not a big fan of capers, but I’m always willing to try new things.

    Is the sauce fairly intense? Or is it just mild enough to work with everything else? I’m always afraid some things will be too intense for those I cook for.

    Reply
  8. Wow, this recipe sounds so delicious! I never thought about adding capers to a chicken dish. I’ve only had them with seafood like Tilapia. And it’s so good.

    Hmmh… I think capers will definitely add an extra touch to my chicken. Sometimes, the family gets tired of eating my chicken. But I have a feeling they’ll like this new twist.

    Reply
  9. The capers are what’s making this dish look so interesting to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had capers, but I really like chicken, and would not mind combining the two in the making of this dish. This chicken recipe seems so quick and easy to make, yet substantial enough to be really filling.

    Reply
  10. I’ve never heard of this dish before but it looks simple to make and very quick. I love capers so I’ll certainly consider making this in the near future.

    Reply
  11. I’m a huge fan of capers. I’ve always found their texture a lot more enjoyable than green olives but I do understand the connection you’ve made between the two. I guess I appreciate the petal approach capers takes on rather than the smooth olive alone.

    Reply
  12. This is my first time to hear of chicken piccata. Moreover, I’m not sure if capers are available in our supermarkets. That, or I just haven’t seen them as I’ve never had the need to use them. Visiting this blog has truly introduced to me a lot of new things.

    Reply
  13. I have had this dish a few times in restaurants. I have always wanted to make it at home but I never have capers. Also, the few times I have had it it was served with pasta. Any suggestions on healthier side dish options that would go good with the buttery lemon flavor? I am totally pinning this. I hope I remember to buy capers next time at the store!

    Reply
  14. This looks delicious. In our home we eat mostly chicken because we know it is healthy and we always know what we are getting. This is a new take on chicken for me, but I would like to have a go at it. The chicken on its own will hardly be enough for my family members, so I may ad some mash potato. I may even add olives instead of the capers because husband and son love them.

    Reply
  15. The only time I’ve used capers is when I made muffuletta, and it came out delicious. My family and I all enjoy pickled and salty items, so I’m sure your chicken piccata will be a hit here. It looks surprisingly easy, too, so the next time I have capers and chicken, I’m going to try making this, it looks yummy.

    Reply
  16. This looks so good! I need more options for chicken as we also eat a lot of it. I have not tried anything similar, but would like to. I think it would be great with a little mash. I am going to add this to my shopping list and menu for next week. Thanks.

    Reply
  17. I’ve always wanted to make this. It was a specialty in a restaurant I worked in many years ago, and it was delicious.

    I don’t think anyone else in my household would eat it (especially with capers), so I’ve never bothered learning how to make it.

    This sounds quite simple and manageable though, so I might make some just for me. Can I freeze the unused portion for later or will it ruin it?

    Reply
  18. I love capers and chicken combination. Such a great taste combination and with the lemon…love lemon and chicken combinations. This is a decadent meal for the average family looking to jazz up dinner. I am known for fixing my go-to chicken meals..usually baked in the oven. This recipe sounds like a gourmet type of take on chicken….yummy.

    Reply
  19. I have no idea what capers taste like. I was sent to the supermarket by my chef uncle to find it but the staff doesn’t even know what it is. It’s not a local ingredient where I’m from so it’s understandable. Perhaps I can find a substitute for it.

    Reply
  20. Well, capers are salty and have a similar taste to olives to me, but that’s the closest thing I can compare them to, but they are really very distinct, so I’m not entirely sure whether my description does them justice. The first time I ever had this dish it was veal piccata, not chicken, but both versions are terrific. The citrus of the lemon and the saltiness of the capers pair perfectly together!

    Reply
  21. I’ve never used capers in my cooking before and I have no idea what they taste like, but this recipe really looks amazing. Can you use olives instead? I just read a comment where someone suggested that and I would love to know if that would work.

    Reply

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