One of my family’s longtime favorite chicken dinners is Chicken Milanese. These crisp chicken cutlets, served with a bright arugula salad, are on the table in just 30 minutes. Great for a weeknight dinner, date night, or a casual dinner party!
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What is Chicken Milanese?
In the culinary tradition of breaded and fried meat cutlets, just about every region across the globe has its own delicious take on the theme. Austria has Schnitzel, Japan has Tonkatsu, the Southern U.S. has Chicken Fried Steak, and Italy (specifically, Milan) has Veal Milanese.
Chicken Milanese is a popular variation of this namesake recipe. It’s made with thinly-sliced, breaded chicken cutlets, shallow-fried in a pan with clarified butter or oil.
For a lighter variation, we also like to make Chicken Milanese in the air fryer. We’ll talk about both methods in this post.
This dish is often served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a simple salad (usually, arugula-based). Utterly delicious!
How to Make Chicken Milanese
This dish is easy to make and needs only a few ingredients. These prep tips will yield the crispiest chicken and most delicious results.
To start, you’ll need thin chicken breast cutlets. You can usually purchase them pre-cut from the butcher counter at the grocery store. If cutlets are unavailable, buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and prep them at home.
To make thin cutlets, you’ll need to pound the chicken using the flat side of a meat mallet, meat pounder, or even a heavy skillet to about 1/4-inch thickness. I like to do this on a cutting board in a plastic zip-top freezer bag (unsealed so there’s no trapped air).
If you’re starting with full chicken breasts, use a sharp knife to slice the thick breast horizontally into two thinner halves before pounding. When pounding the cutlets, be sure to hit evenly and not too hard so the meat keeps a consistent thickness and doesn’t tear.
Need a new meat mallet? I have this Reversible Meat Tenderizer (shown in the photo above), which has both flat and spiked sides for tenderizing and flattening. This one has a nice weight and I especially like that the components are dishwasher safe for easy sanitizing.
Breading the Cutlets
For breading, you’ll need three separate plates or trays: flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), eggs beaten with cool water and seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper, and panko breadcrumbs mixed with Parmigiano Reggiano and another pinch of salt.
I like to use panko breadcrumbs in this recipe since they fry up especially crispy. If you don’t have them on hand, you can also make this with plain (unseasoned) regular breadcrumbs.
Why flour the chicken cutlets as the first step? Flour gives the egg a drier surface to grab onto as compared to the raw chicken. This helps to create an even breading that stays on the Chicken Milanese when it’s fried.
For each step, it’s important to make sure that your coating is even, and that you’ve eliminated any excess before moving to the next layer. This is especially key for the eggs–you want the egg wash to cover, but don’t want a thick, eggy coating.
When you get to the final panko layer, press the crumbs into the cutlet to make sure they adhere firmly and gently let any that haven’t stuck fall away before transferring them to your holding plate.
Shallow Frying vs Air Frying
It’s traditional to shallow fry the cutlets for Chicken Milanese on the stove, but I also love to make them in the air fryer for a quick, lighter weeknight meal.
To Shallow Fry:
You’ll need a large skillet and either vegetable oil, olive oil (not extra-virgin) or the classic for Milanese-style cutlets, clarified butter. The oils and butter will each lend a slightly different flavor to the chicken cutlets; try them out and see which you and your family like best.
Heat about 1/4-inch of your chosen fat in the skillet over medium heat. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F) and the breading is golden.
Depending on the size of the pan, I fry 2-3 cutlets at a time. For the crispest cutlets with the most even browning, don’t crowd the pan.
To Air Fry:
Spray each side of the chicken cutlets with olive or vegetable oil spray. Place in a single layer in your air fryer basket and cook at 390-400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, flipping once. Like the pan-fried cutlets, the chicken should be cooked through and the breading lightly-browned.
In my experience, air fried chicken cutlets will not come out quite as golden as shallow-fried, but they’re lighter on the calorie scale, crunchy, and delicious. We have air fried Chicken Milanese at least once a week in my house.
Cooking times will vary by air fryer brand. Check the cutlets frequently the first time you make them to determine the optimal time for your model.
Shopping for an Air Fryer? Check out this Essential Air Fryer Buying Guide from Taste of Home.
What to Serve with Chicken Milanese
When the chicken cutlets first come out of the fryer (either the pan or air fryer), sprinkle them with a little kosher or flaked sea salt. I also like to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over them.
My favorite way to serve Chicken Milanese is with my simple Arugula Salad with Fennel. Tossed with a light lemon dressing and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, it’s the perfect pop of freshness against the crunchy breaded cutlets.
For a wine pairing, we love this dish with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio. A great dinner for date night!
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thin-sliced chicken cutlets (about 3-4 breasts or 6-7 cutlets)
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon cool water
- 1-1/4 cups unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- kosher salt and black pepper
- olive oil, vegetable oil, or clarified butter , for frying (not extra-virgin olive oil) OR
- olive oil or vegetable oil spray , for air frying
- lemon wedges , for serving
- Arugula Salad , for serving
- If using boneless chicken breasts, slice them in half horizontally to create two thinner halves. Pound these halves, or the pre-cut chicken cutlets using a meat mallet between layers of plastic wrap, or in an open plastic zip-top bag, to about 1/4-inch thickness.
- Prepare 3 plates or breading trays. Place flour in the first with 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. In the second, beat the eggs with the cool water and a pinch of salt and pepper. In the third, mix together panko, Parmigiano Reggiano, and a pinch of salt.
- Bread each chicken cutlet by dredging both sides in flour, then dipping in the egg wash to coat, and finally in the panko, gently pressing the breadcrumbs into the cutlet to adhere. In each step, let the excess coating fall off before moving to the next ingredient.
- Heat about 1/4 inch of oil or clarified butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Cook cutlets 2-3 at a time (don't crowd the pan), for about 3-4 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer) and the breading is golden.
- Transfer chicken cutlets to a platter and finish with a sprinkling of kosher or sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top with arugula salad and serve.
- Spray chicken cutlets on each side with olive oil or vegetable oil spray.
- Cook chicken cutlets at 390-400 degrees F, flipping once, until chicken is cooked through and breading is crispy and lightly browned (about 10-15 minutes total). Cooking times will vary by air fryer brand – keep a close eye on your first batch to determine the correct cooking time for the model you're using.