My family's Italian Chicken Cutlets are the best! I'm giving up all our secrets so you can make breaded chicken cutlets that are juicy, tender and delicious. Don't miss this recipe!
I took these Italian chicken cutlets for granted my whole life. Then, I realized not everyone makes them the way my family does!
I want you to experience what you may have been missing. So I'm giving up all the secrets right here! Hint: Homemade bread crumbs are a game-changer!
Are you ready to learn how to make the most tender, juicy, flavorful pan-fried cutlets?
It starts with chicken cutlets — boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced thinly. You can buy them already thin, or purchase whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them yourself.
Either way, you'll need to pound the chicken to about ¼-inch thickness. This will tenderize the cutlets and make them cook quickly and evenly. I use a meat mallet (affiliate link), for this, but you also could use a heavy-bottomed pan.
The next key ingredient is the Italian bread crumb mixture. We're adding Parmesan, Romano and seasonings to plain bread crumbs to make them absolutely delicious.
And...we're using homemade bread crumbs for the X-factor that'll make these the best chicken cutlets of your life. Oh, yes, my friends.
Next, we're using eggs to dip the chicken before breading them. Unlike chicken Milanese, these Southern Italian chicken cutlets aren't dipped in flour.
Finally, we're using olive oil to pan fry them. Olive oil provides the best flavor for the cutlets, but it will darken after frying the first batch. You'll need to wipe out your pan and replenish the oil.
Tips for the best Italian chicken cutlets
- Using homemade bread crumbs will take your cutlets over the top! The post I linked to will give you four easy methods to choose from.
- To save yourself a step, buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts already sliced into thin cutlets. You can ask the store's butcher to do that for you, if you don't see any on the shelves.
Breading and frying the cutlets
Set set up an assembly line with the chicken, beaten eggs and bread crumb mixture. Dip each cutlet in the eggs, then the bread crumbs, making sure to coat each side.
Once all the chicken is breaded, it's time to fry it up! You just need enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
When the oil is sizzling, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden brown on both sides.
How to serve them
But, every Italian knows you have to serve the leftover cutlets in a sandwich! We spread my Homemade Basil-Garlic Mayonnaise on the bread and top the chicken with mozzarella...so good!
A pound of chicken yields six cutlets, so I often double the recipe, to make sure we can all have a bello sangwich the next day!
You can decide whether to double the recipe. Just make these breaded Italian chicken cutlets — with the homemade Italian bread crumbs — and let me know what you think!
I promise, it'll be worth it.
Frequently asked questions
My family uses olive oil to fry our cutlets, because it tastes delicious. However, olive oil has a low smoke point, and will turn dark once you've fried a panful of cutlets. You'll need to wipe out the pan and replenish it with clean olive oil to fry the next batch.
You can use canola or vegetable oil instead of olive oil, if you prefer. Canola and vegetable oils have a higher smoke point than olive oil and won't darken as quickly.
Once the oil is sizzling hot, add the cutlets and fry the first side for nearly three minutes, or until they are golden brown. Flip the cutlets and fry the second side for another couple of minutes, or until they are golden brown.
You certainly can, although the texture won't be as good as with the crumbs you grate yourself. If you bought seasoned Italian bread crumbs, just add the Parmesan and Romano to them and omit the other bread crumb ingredients in the recipe.
More chicken recipes
If you love these Italian chicken cutlets, you'll also enjoy these Parmesan chicken drumsticks. And don't miss my Chicken Marsala, Nonna's chicken meatball soup or this one-pan roasted chicken and vegetables.
Italian Chicken Cutlets (The Best!)
Bread Crumb Mixture
- ¾ cup plain bread crumbs (ideally homemade) (see notes)
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (use freshly grated for best results)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (use freshly grated for best results)
- ⅓ teaspoon dried basil
- ⅓ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅓ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 pound thin, boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (or 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts)
- 2 extra large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (divided use) (for pan frying; see notes)
- Grate the cheeses, if needed. Mix the bread crumb ingredients in a bowl.
- If starting with thin chicken cutlets, proceed to the next step of pounding them. If starting with thick chicken breasts, you'll need to slice them thinly. On a large cutting board, use a large, straight-edged knife to thin the chicken breasts by slicing through them to cut them in half. (See the photo in the post.) It helps to place one hand flat on top of the chicken breast, while using the other hand to hold the knife while cutting through the chicken with a sawing motion. You will end up with two halves connected in the middle like a butterfly. Vertically slice through the center to separate the two halves.
- To pound your chicken cutlets, cover them with a large sheet of plastic wrap (to prevent a mess). Use a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy frying pan to pound the chicken so that it is no more than ¼ inch thick. (It might be a bit thinner than that.) Lift the plastic, flip the chicken over, cover it again with plastic wrap, and pound the other side. Discard the plastic wrap and wash your hands well if you touched the raw meat.
- Crack your two eggs and add them to a small bowl, such as a pasta dish. Season the eggs with the salt and pepper and beat the eggs with a fork.
- Set up an assembly line from left to right with your chicken, the bowl of eggs, your bread crumb mixture and a clean platter. Use a fork to pierce a cutlet, dip it in the egg, then in the bread crumbs. Cover the breast with the bread crumbs and pat them onto the chicken with the fork or your hands. Flip the chicken over and bread the other side. Place the breaded cutlet onto the platter and continue until you have breaded all of your chicken. Discard any leftover egg mixture and any breadcrumbs that had raw chicken dipped in it.
- On the stove, heat your largest skillet on medium high. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and let it get hot. When the oil is sizzling, add some chicken cutlets to the pan in a single layer. You will probably need to cook them in two batches, since they won't all fit. Cook the chicken on the first side for almost three minutes, then flip the chicken over and cook it for another two minutes. The chicken should be golden brown on both sides.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean platter. (You can cut into one to make sure it's done. It should not be pink inside.) Cover the chicken loosely with foil.
- If the olive oil has turned dark after cooking the first batch, remove the pan from the heat and wipe out the pan with paper towels. Add another 3 tablespoons of olive oil so you can cook the next batch of cutlets in clean oil.
- Continue cooking the rest of the cutlets. Let the cutlets rest under the foil for at least five minutes before serving, to help keep them juicy.
- Store leftover Italian chicken cutlets in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The leftovers are great in sandwiches.
- The cutlets are amazing with homemade bread crumbs, but use what you have. If starting with seasoned Italian bread crumbs, just add the Parmesan and Romano and skip the other bread crumb ingredients.
- My family uses olive oil to fry our cutlets, because it tastes delicious. However, olive oil has a low smoke point, and will turn dark once you've fried a panful of cutlets. You'll need to wipe out the pan and replenish it with clean olive oil to fry the next batch. If you prefer, you can use canola or vegetable oil, which have higher smoke points.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom's method. Originally published on July 11, 2016 and updated now with new text, additional photos and a video.)