Something about chicken piccata feels so fancy to me, but surprise! This is a surprisingly simple dish to cook.
I’ve got a few ways for you to cook this easy lemon chicken piccata, and all of them are simple and perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Chicken piccata is also one of those wonder dishes that tastes better a day or so after it’s made, so this recipe is also a banging idea for make-ahead lunches and meals!
Traditional chicken piccata, a dish that originated in Italy, is made with chicken or veal that has been pounded thin and then cooked quickly in a simple sauce of lemon and butter.
Over the years, cooks began jazzing the lemon sauce up with the addition of capers, whose briny bite rounds out the flavor and takes the dish to the next level in flavor.
I like to prepare my chicken piccata one of two ways:
1. With chicken (or veal, if I’m lucky) cut into bite sized pieces and then floured and cooked
2. Or with thinly pounded chicken cutlets.
Both quick quickly and taste great, although each version brings a different benefit to the dish.
My recipe for chicken piccata starts with flouring the chicken pieces and then quickly cooking them in oil until they’ve browned.
If you choose to cook this dish using bite-sized pieces of chicken, it will take a few more minutes to cook since you’ll need to turn each little bite-sized piece individually.
But you’ll maximize the texture of the chicken this way, since using smaller pieces means you’ll have 4 full sides of chewy, fried, lemony yumminess (and yes, ‘yumminess’ is a technical term 😉)
A quicker version calls for flouring strips of chicken that have been pounded thin with a mallet.
This way won’t offer the full surface-area-chewiness that cooking with smaller pieces will, but the strips will cook slightly faster, since there’s only one flip to make as the chicken browns.
It’s your call – but either way, you’re the real winner here with this tasty, easy, one-pan weeknight recipe!
Whichever way you toss it (fry it?), it’s still a great recipe to keep in your repertoire.
Chicken piccata feels ‘fancy’ enough for dinner parties (I won’t tell anyone how easy it is if you don’t tell anyone!) and like I said, it makes for banging leftovers; that lemon sauce only deepens in flavor as it sits. It’s so good, I may or may not have been known to eat this baby cold and straight out of the fridge #guilty.
And when served with this spinach and parmesan orzo, the chicken piccata really sings.
It’s cheesy and somewhat healthy and reheats perfectly the next day.
Plus, orzo cooks so fast it’s like making rice without the rinsing and simmering. So the whole dish comes together super quick.
Lemon Chicken Piccata with Spinach & Parmesan Orzo
For the chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs skinless chicken breast
- ½ cup all-purpose white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 garlic clove
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons non-pareil capers
For the orzo:
- 2 cups orzo
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cut chicken or pound into thin cutlets about ¼” thick. Transfer to a resealable bag or container.
- Cook the orzo according to the instructions in “Make From Fresh” Steps 4-5
- Chop the onions and garlic and transfer to a resealable bag or container.
- Cut, pounded chicken will store for up to 4 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer. Cooked orzo and cut onions and garlic will store for up to one week in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer.
Prepare From Prepped:
- Follow the instructions in Steps 2 to 3 to cook the chicken, and set aside.
- Heat the orzo gently over medium heat with half a cup of water, stirring often, until the water has dissolved.
- Add to the orzo the salt and pepper, parmesan cheese, and spinach. Remove from heat and stir until the spinach is wilted.
- Cook the sauce according to the instructions in Steps 6-9, cooking the onions and garlic at the same time and stirring often to not let the garlic burn.
Make From Fresh:
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, pound the chicken into thin cutlets.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour with salt and pepper. Add the cut chicken pieces and toss to coat.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces in an even layer and cook, turning once or twice until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan once browned, and set aside. Do not wipe the pan.
While the chicken is cooking, boil the orzo:
- Fill a medium pot with water halfway, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil.
- Add the orzo and cook, testing occasionally for doneness, about 5-8 minutes. The orzo is done when completely soft all the way through, but still retains a bit of chewy bite.
- Drain orzo and then return to the pot.
- Remove the pot from heat and add in parmesan, then season with salt and pepper.
- Stir the orzo to thoroughly combine the parmesan, then add the fresh spinach.
- Toss the spinach with the cheesy orzo until spinach has softened and wilted, then set aside until service.
Continue cooking making the piccata:
- After the chicken has cooked and has been removed from the pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
- While the oil is heating, thinly slice the onion and mince the garlic.
- Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, 5-8 minutes until they have started to soften. Add the garlic and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken broth to the pan, deglazing the onions, and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the lemon juice, zest, and capers, and stir to combine. Let the sauce come to a simmer, then add the chicken back to the pan.
- Cook until the chicken is heated through and fully cooked, about 3-5 minutes, then serve with the orzo.