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Lemon Chicken Piccata is made with perfectly seared chicken breasts in a bright pan sauce made with fresh lemon juice, rich butter, and briny capers. This five-star Italian dish is ready in under 30 minutes and tastes better than any restaurant version for a fraction of the cost!
Easy Chicken Piccata
Chicken piccata is one of those recipes that you make thinking “I don’t know if my kids are going to eat this”. Mostly because of the capers on top which have a strong flavor and admittedly look a little suspicious. But my entire family gobbled this up and raved about the pan sauce that we drizzled over the chicken and pasta that we served with our dinner. And I was bummed that we didn’t have any leftovers for the next day.
You might have seen this dish on the menu at The Cheesecake Factory, although they make it a little bit differently by adding mushrooms and making the sauce creamy with the addition of a little heavy cream right at the end. I’ll leave some instructions in the notes below for how I would make those two adjustments for a copycat version of Cheesecake Factory chicken piccata.
Ina Garten, my favorite celebrity chef, and Giada De Laurentiis have both also shared chicken piccata recipes, as has America’s Test Kitchen, and I pulled from all three when developing my own recipe that would be weeknight and family friendly. Although white wine is often used to make chicken piccata (Ina Garten has it in her version), I followed ATK’s lead on this choice by opting to leave it out in place of humble chicken broth and honestly I think this dish is better for it.
What to Serve with Chicken Piccata
Serve the chicken piccata with al dente pasta like angel hair (the most traditional pairing) or spaghetti. But it is also delicious with some creamy mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower and crusty bread on the side for soaking up every last bit of that glorious lemon caper pan sauce.
Or you can serve the chicken piccata all by itself with plenty of steamed or roasted veggies and a copycat Olive Garden Salad for a low-carb dinner that is 100% satisfying.
- Chicken: Chicken breasts are something we always have on hand in the freezer. In this recipe, they are sliced in half horizontally, which is easier to do when they are still partially frozen.
- Flour: While some chicken piccata recipes call for breading the chicken in breadcrumbs, we prefer a simpler approach of just dusting the chicken in a little flour instead.
- Lemons: You will need both the zest and the juice from the lemons so be sure to zest first!
- Garlic: A couple cloves of garlic add flavor to any dish!
- Capers: Drain the capers from the juice they are packed in before adding them to your piccata.
- Chicken broth: For small amounts of chicken broth, I typically will just use a little Better-Than-Bouillon paste mixed with water. For 1 cup of broth it’s just 1 teaspoon of the paste with 1 cup of water.
- Salt & pepper: Seasoning the chicken before dredging it in flour gives the best results for a restaurant-quality meal.
- Olive oil & butter: The olive oil, which has a higher smoke point than butter and doesn’t burn as quickly, is used to cook the chicken. The butter is added at the very end to enrich the sauce with its flavor.
- Italian parsley: This is optional but makes a nice garnish to add a pop of color to the finished dish.
What are capers?
Capers are a type of juniper berry that you will find in small jars in the pickle aisle at the store. They are tangy, salty little flavor bombs the size of small peas and come in a brine solution that you will drain off before using them. Capers are actually the unripened buds of a bush known as a Finders Rose that grows in the Mediterranean. The buds are harvested, then dried and preserved in brine.
How to Make Chicken Piccata
- Season and bread the chicken: If your chicken breasts are particularly thick, even after being sliced in half, you may want to place them between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them with the flat side of a meat mallet so they are an even thickness for better cooking. Otherwise, season them on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then dredge in flour and shake off the excess.
- Pan-fry the chicken: Heat some of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then cook the chicken for a few minutes on each side until a golden brown crust forms and the chicken is cooked through to 165 degrees F when tested with a meat thermometer. You may need to work in batches and add a little additional olive oil as you go so as not to overcrowd the pan. Set the finished chicken on a plate to the side while you make the sauce.
- Make the sauce: In the same pan used to cook the chicken, saute the garlic in the remaining olive oil for 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, and capers and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan (it’s a technique known as deglazing and those browned bits add so much flavor to your pan sauce!). After the sauce has reduced a bit, add the lemon juice and continue to cook another minute or so longer to continue to reduce before adding the butter right at the end. Once the butter has melted into the sauce, it’s done.
- Return the chicken to the pan: Once the sauce is finished, add the chicken back into the pan and spoon the sauce over the meat. Serve with pasta, mashed potatoes, or veggies and enjoy!
The capers you get from a bottle at the store have a briny, pungent taste that is also a little bit lemony and salty. It’s a really bold, wonderful flavor and nothing else is quite like it.
No, capers should be drained but don’t have to be rinsed unless you want to tone down the briny vinegar flavor for a more mild taste to your finished dish.
- Seasoning with salt and pepper: We like to use coarse kosher salt to season chicken and other proteins. You will get more even coverage if you sprinkle it from higher up – at least 6-8 inches above the meat, than if you are holding the salt really close over the meat while sprinkling it.
- Leftovers: This recipe makes fantastic leftovers which keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Just reheat in the microwave or in the oven before serving.
- Substitutions: You could easily swap out chicken breasts for other cuts of meat and pork pork chop piccata or fish piccata keeping everything else about this recipe exactly the same.
Cheesecake Factory Chicken Piccata
If you want to make a version that more closely resembles the version you would get at the Cheesecake Factory, I recommend using sliced baby portabello mushrooms and sauteeing them in the pan used to cook the chicken before adding the garlic. Then add a splash of heavy cream right at the end of making the sauce just before pulling it off the heat.
More recipes that use capers
If you have leftover capers, they are excellent scrambled into some eggs or served with bagels, cream cheese, and lox for breakfast (so good – sign me up!). They can also be added to salads (especially potato salad), chopped and added to compound butters, sprinkled over roasted vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower, or added to pasta dishes.
Basically, anything that calls for pickles would be great with the addition of these tasty little spheres. Here are some other recipes that use capers in them:
- Puttanesca Sauce
- Balsamic Capers Pork Chops
- Black Olive Tapenade
- Creamy Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Roasted Red Peppers and Fried Capers
- Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs with Capers
- Tartar Sauce
More Weeknight Chicken Dinner Ideas
- Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- Chicken Flautas
- Chicken Stroganoff
- Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
- White Chicken Chili
- Russian Chicken
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons capers, strained
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Carefully slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally so that there are four pieces of chicken. If they are still fairly thick, you might want to place a piece of plastic wrap over each piece and use a flat meat mallet to pound them roughly 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick so they cook evenly and quickly. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each total.
- Place the flour on a plate or in a shallow dish and dredge each piece of chicken in it on both sides, shaking off any excess flour. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes until a nice golden brown crust forms on the bottom side. Flip the chicken over and cook on the second side until cooked through. You may need to work in batches. The chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees F when tested with an instant digital meat thermometer. Remove the chicken from the pan and set on a plate while you make the sauce.
- Add the remaining oil to the same pan with the drippings from the chicken. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, capers, and lemon zest, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the liquid has reduced roughly by half.
- Add the lemon juice and cook for another 1-2 minutes until slightly reduced. Add the butter and stir until melted, then return the chicken to the pan with the sauce. Spoon the capers and sauce over the chicken before serving.
- Serve with thin spaghetti or mashed potatoes. Drizzle the lemon caper sauce over the pasta or potatoes with the chicken.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and are wonderful, so I highly recommend doubling the recipe!
- Copycat Cheesecake Factory Chicken Piccata: Saute 8 ounces of sliced baby portabello or crimini mushrooms for 2-3 minutes after cooking the chicken but before adding the garlic. Proceed with the recipe as directed, then add 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream right at the end with the butter before returning the chicken to the pan.