Learn how to make a very crispy chicken parmesan (never soggy or greasy!) with fresh ingredients and easy tips. Tender and juicy lightly fried chicken breasts are quickly coated in a seasoned, flavorful panko breadcrumb blend and then individually baked with a generous layer of fresh mozzarella. Serve alongside some al dente pasta and tangy homemade red sauce and you've got the best Sunday supper!
We Italian-Americans knew what we were doing when we invented chicken parmesan, right? A super crispy chicken cutlet topped with a rich red sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese. Now that's a Sunday dinner the fam will come running home for!
Back in the 50's, Italian-American home cooks loved to find that chicken was shockingly accessible in America (unlike Italy) and reasonably priced (also unlike home) so their usual go-to eggplant parmigiana (also known as melanzane di parmiginia or eggplant parm) was upgraded with chicken.
And we never looked back.
Looking forward to making it at home? Let's gooooo....
Everything this chicken parmigiana has...and doesn't!
You order chicken parm and many times, your expectations differ from what appears on your plate. What comes is a big blob of cheese over some spaghetti sauce (is there even chicken under there?). Where's the crispy, tender piece of breaded chicken, layered with the perfect amount of zesty red sauce and the Instagram-worthy cheese pull you imagined?
Here's what the best chicken parmesan should have:
- crispy breadcrumb coating that is loaded with flavor
- juicy, perfectly fried, chicken breast (just wait till you learn how!)
- red sauce that compliments the chicken and the cheese
- mozzarella cheese that is ever-so-slightly charred
And here's what it shouldn't:
- a greasy, soggy coating without any crunch
- a dried out chicken breast that chewy
- too much sauce that overpowers the dish instead of highlighting it
What you need for juicy crispy chicken parm
Chicken parmesan starts with really fresh, super simple ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
The key ingredient to crispy fried chicken
It's all in the coating...and one secret pantry ingredient: cornstarch. Cornstarch is dry and absorbs moisture and doesn't help create gluten, all of which makes for a crispier fried coating. It also helps the breadcrumb coating stick to the protein.
Step by step process
The key to juicy and crispy chicken parm lies in the layers. You're going to learn all the keys and tips for each layer.
Prep the chicken
To help the chicken cook evenly, place the breasts between a folded piece (or 2 pieces) of parchment paper. Use a meat tenderizer to pound the chicken to an even thickness of ¼". This meat mallet is my favorite and one I use to make my always juicy sauteed chicken breasts.
Step #1: Bread the chicken
Create a breading station. You can use pie plates or there are even these super nifty 3 piece breading station setups you can buy. You'll make three sections:
- Beaten eggs
- Cornstarch and flour blend
- Seasoned breadcrumbs mixture
Dip the chicken. Here is the process for breading the chicken.
- Egg. Dip the breast on both sides in the egg. Allow excess to drip off.
- Cornstarch/flour. Coat both sides in the cornstarch/flour blend.
- Egg. Place back in the egg (both sides again!)
- Seasoned breadcrumbs. Now generously coat the chicken on each side with the breadcrumb/cheese blend and place on a wire rack fitted over a baking sheet to dry for a bit.
Step #2: Fry the chicken
Let's get to frying!
- In a large skillet with high sides, heat the oil to 375˚ using a fry or candy thermometer. Using tongs, carefully place a breast in the oil and repeat until about 4 pieces are in the skillet but aren't touching each other.
- Fry 2 minutes on each side but keep an eye on it!
- Remove to the wire rack and repeat until all your chicken is fried.
If the chicken looks to be too dark before 2 minutes, flip it anyway. Your heat might be too high or too low so adjust your cooking time as needed..-Josie + Nina
Step #3: Assembly
To assemble the chicken, transfer the chicken to a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil.
Top each piece of chicken with about ¼ cup of red sauce and a couple of pieces of sliced fresh mozzarella and bake in a preheated oven until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted and slightly charred.
Insider secrets for chicken parm perfection
In addition to the above, the following are tried and true chicken parm top tips:
- Dry the chicken completely so the breading adheres to the chicken while frying
- Use a frying thermometer to maintain the temperature of the oil (350˚) at all times for even cooking
- Don't skip the garlic in the egg mixture...it adds so much flavor!
- Don't oversauce or top the chicken with too much cheese. You've worked hard for all those crispy edges so don't cover them up!
What to serve with classic chicken parmesan
The obvious suggestions are a crispy green salad like this fresh arugula salad. The olive oil and lemon dressing is so. darn. easy!
And if you're feeling really inspired, roll out a batch of homemade pasta dough and cut into fettuccine topped with butter and light cream sauce and you have the perfect Sunday dinner!
Best tomato sauces for classic chicken parmesan
Leftover chicken parm can be stored in an airtight, sealed container for up to 4 days.
Reheat any leftover chicken parmesan on a rack set on a baking sheet in a 350˚ oven until crispy and warmed through.
You can freeze breaded and cooked chicken parmesan that hasn't been topped with sauce or cheese for up to 3 months using a freezer safe bag.
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Very Crispy Chicken Parmesan
For the breading
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
For the sauce
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup red wine, optional, see notes below
- 3 oz tomato paste, or ½ small can
- 1 28 oz can of whole Italian tomatoes, pureed in a blender first; preferably San Marzano, see note
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, to start
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, start here; optional
- water as needed, in ¼ cup increments
- fresh basil leaves
- Preheat oven to 400˚.
For the chicken
- In between a folded sheet or two sheets of parchment paper, and using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breasts flat. You want them even and thin to about ¼" thick. Trim any fatty pieces or white tendons.6 chicken breast halves
- Heat ½" oil in a large skillet to 375˚. While that is heating, you'll bread the chicken.canola, avocado or safflower oil
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs together and add the garlic and parsley. Add the chicken breasts to the eggs turning to coat for 20 minutes. If making ahead, you can refrigerate them for up to 4 hours.3 large eggs, 2 teaspoons chopped garlic, 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Set up a breading station with 3 pie plates containing:1. cornstarch and flour mixed together2. eggs beaten with garlic and parsley3. breadcrumbs, cheese and seasoning¼ cup cornstarch, ½ cup flour, ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, ½ cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Now get ready to coat the chicken. Here is the order of things:egg>flour>egg>breadcrumbs.Remove a piece of chicken from the egg mixture. Dredge the chicken in the cornstarch and flour on both sides. Dunk the chicken back into the egg mixture and then coat on both sides with the breadcrumbs. Pat it firmly to make sure the chicken is coated completely.
- Move the chicken to sheet pan with a cooling rack set inside and repeat until all the chicken is breaded. NOTE: You can make ahead to this point and refrigerate uncovered for up to 2 hours.
- Using tongs, carefully add the chicken breasts (one at a time) to the hot oil. Keep the meat thermometer in the oil to maintain a temperature of 350˚ especially if you have chilled the chicken. Watch the thermometer and adjust your flame or heat as needed. Fry 2 minutes on each side but keep an eye on it! If it's too dark before 2 minutes, flip it anyway. Your heat might be too high or too low so adjust your cooking time as needed.Remove chicken back to rack and repeat until all the chicken is browned.
- Lift the rack out of the sheet pan. Spray the sheet pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. Place the chicken on the sheet pan (don't crowd!) and spread about ¼ cup of red sauce leaving the crispy edges revealed. Top with a slice of fresh mozzarellaDon't cover the whole piece with sauce or you'll lose that crispy crunch you crave!1 batch Italian red sauce, 6 slices fresh mozzarella
- Bake in the 400˚ preheated oven for 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165˚.
For the sauce
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so until you smell it.2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic
- Pour in red wine and cook down about 2 minutes for the alcohol to evaporate. The onions will become syrupy. That's what you want!½ cup red wine
- Stir in tomato paste and caramelize it for about a minute or so.3 oz tomato paste
- Pour in tomatoes followed by seasonings through red pepper, if using. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes.1 28 oz can of whole Italian tomatoes, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 Tablespoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Add water as needed if the sauce becomes too thick to adjust to your preference and/or use. Taste for seasoning often and add in a little more salt as needed. Finish with torn up fresh basil stirred in.water as needed, fresh basil leaves
- Store leftover chicken parm can be stored in an airtight, sealed container for up to 4 days.
- Reheat any leftover chicken parmesan on a rack set on a baking sheet in a 350˚ oven until crispy and warmed through.
- You can freeze breaded and cooked chicken parmesan that hasn't been topped with sauce or cheese for up to 3 months using a freezer safe bag.