This Creamy Lemon Piccata with Chicken is a classic Italian American pasta dish. It highlights tender chicken breasts that have been dredged in flour, pan-seared, then rests in a delectable lemon sauce with capers. This will soon become your family favorite as it is a one-pan meal and in out of that pan in 20 minutes or less.
An impressive dish that is simple yet elegant enough to serve at any dinner party or special occasion. The lemons contribute a bright sassy attitude while the cream in the sauce balances out the tangy citrus flavor. Honestly, I could drink this scrumptious sauce out of a cup and call it a night but then of course the golden brown chicken has no place to rest.
The bonus: because it is a one-skillet dinner, clean-up is fuss-free and effortless. It doesn’t get any better than that my friends.
The Best Creamy Lemon Piccata
Piccata is an Italian word that is possibly translated from the French word “pique” which means to slice and sauté in a lemon butter sauce specifically when preparing meat or fish. And believe it or not, the dish originated in the United States in the 1930s by perhaps a Sicilian immigrant from Italy. And because veal was less expensive in that era, piccata was originally prepared with veal. All of this comes from a site titled Frankiebones. It’s an interesting read about the origins of piccata, marsala, and Parmigiano.
Main Ingredients Needed
The Meat – The Substance of the Dish. You can use boneless skinless chicken (as I did in this recipe), veal, pork, or even white fish. For any of these meats except the fish, you’ll want to either slice them horizontally or pound them thinly.
Lemons – The Highlight of the Dish. The beauty of the dish, in my opinion, is the charred lemon slices that sit atop the chicken breasts. I got the idea of charring the lemons from a Cooking Light recipe that I came across years ago. Make sure and slice the lemons fairly thick so they don’t turn to mush when they cook in the skillet.
The juice of a lemon is what delivers the tart citrusy pop in the sauce. It’s what makes the Lemon Chicken Piccata so enticing. But if you use too much, it is “too much” and you’ll know it. It’ll taste bitter and sour. If that’s the case, add a little bit of sugar to the finished sauce and it should soften it a bit.Shallots, Garlic and Thyme – The Aromatics of the Dish. These are the ingredients that give the dish depth and dimension. Shallots are milder than onions which are nice here because they don’t compete with the other flavors just enhance them. Garlic when cooked right in this recipe takes on a sweet subtle flavor because of its caramelization. And then thyme is a perfect complement that freshens the dish.
Heavy Cream and Butter – The Creaminess of the Dish. Heavy cream and butter!! I know exactly what you’re thinking. All of those calories and the fat content. Ugh! My philosophy – every once in a while it’s okay and actually nice to treat yourself and splurge a bit. This is a splurge kind of meal. You can use half and half (or whole milk) if you prefer and use more olive oil and less butter, but it does take away from the richness of the Lemon Chicken Piccata and it will take longer for the sauce to thicken.
Dry White Wine – The Acidity of the Dish. Wine in a recipe is designed to accent the flavor and aroma of the food not to mask the flavor of whatever you are cooking. It should enhance the dish. If you don’t have wine on hand or would rather cook without it, you can substitute the same amount of chicken broth in its place.
Capers – The Briny Addition to the Dish. These small little green buds pack a powerful flavor punch. It doesn’t take a lot of them either. One-fourth of a cup is what I used in this Piccata recipe and it gave the perfect amount of salty briny addition.
How to Make this Dish
Step #1 – Combine Lemon Slices, Sugar, and Garlic
Maceration happens with the lemon slices when sugar is combined with them. That’s a fancy way of saying that sugar draws out the juices of the lemon and creates a nice sugary liquid that will help caramelize the lemon slices when charring them. The garlic is sliced in half lengthwise and added to this mixture.
Step #2 – Slice the Chicken Breasts in Half Horizontally
You’ll want to grab either a boning or chef’s knife to slice the chicken breasts. Make sure the knife is sharp. Place your hand on top of the breast and slice horizontally, dividing it in half. To get the thickness of each piece more evenly you can cover it with plastic wrap and pound it with the flat side of a meat mallet.
Step #3 – Dredging the Chicken Breasts in Flour
Dredging chicken in flour helps preserve the moisture in the meat. The high temperature of the skillet can dehydrate the thin slices of meat making them tough and rubbery. A light dusting of flour on each side will partially protect the chicken from the heat in the skillet and will keep it moist.
Step #4 – Cooking the Chicken Breasts
Turn the heat on your stovetop to medium-high. Use a large skillet to hold all four pieces of chicken breast or you could cook in batches if you don’t have enough space in the skillet. Give the chicken pieces space in between each other to not crowd them. Frying the chicken in a combination of olive oil and butter prevents the butter from burning at this stage, especially since the chicken will be in the skillet for a little bit of time.
Cook the chicken breasts for three minutes until they turn golden brown on the underside. Turn them over and cook for another three minutes or until an internal temperature reads 160°F. Remove from the skillet and cover with foil to keep warm. They will continue to cook when removed from the heat.
Don’t wipe out the skillet after cooking the chicken. All of those little brown bits in the bottom are called fonds and are actually flavor bombs for when you add the wine later on.
Step #5 – Charring the Lemon Slices
In the same skillet that you cooked the chicken and the heat turned down to medium, add three tablespoons of butter and place the lemon slices in a single layer around the plan along with the garlic halves. Pour the sugary lemon juice around the pan also. It doesn’t take long for the lemon slices to get a nice char on them, barely a minute on each side. Remove them from the skillet and set them aside. Leave the garlic in the pan.
Step #6 – Sautéing the Shallots
The shallots should be sliced thin, therefore they take very little time to turn brown. Add them to the same skillet along with 4 large sprigs of thyme and stir continually for one to two minutes.
Step #7 – Adding the Dry White Wine
You want to make sure it is a dry white wine. Don’t grab a sweet one like Moscato or a riesling. Choose a chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc. Either of these is a good choice. Bring to a slight boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. This could seem like a waste of wine, but in truth, some of the alcohol is burning off and leaves a concentration of flavor, including acidity and sweetness.
Make sure and scrape the bottom of the skillet when you add the wine. It releases the fond (brown bits left behind) and distributes amazing flavor into the recipe.
Step #8 – Adding Heavy Cream
Oh! My Goodness!! This is where creamy delight begins. Adding the whole cream is obviously what gives this Lemon Piccata recipe its mouthwatering richness. It adds a “few” calories, but if you’re gonna go in, go ALL in. You only live once and every once in a while it’s okay (in my opinion) to splurge a bit.
Step #9 – Adding the Charred Lemons & Chopped Thyme
The garnish that embellishes this Lemon Chicken Piccata is the charred lemon slices that sit atop the chicken. They add a sophisticated charm to this already dazzling dish. A sprinkle of chopped thyme completes it with a pop of color and freshness.
How to Store Leftovers
I find it hard to believe that you would have any leftovers from this dish unless, of course, you made extra. In that case, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Due to the cream in the sauce, I do not recommend freezing this recipe. Dairy products tend to separate into water and fat when thawed. It won’t harm you, but it is definitely unappealing.
How to Serve Creamy Lemon Piccata
Because the dish itself is so elegant and I want it to be the center of attention, I serve it over a simple bed of angel hair pasta that has been tossed with the lemon sauce.
Also, a simple side salad is the perfect lite addition to an already perfect meal. Another great idea is to toast or grill buttered slices of a baguette and use the bread to sop up the luscious sauce left in the pan.
If you’re looking for more chicken recipes, check these out:
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Lemon Chicken Piccata
This Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata is a classic Italian American pasta dish. It highlights tender chicken breasts that have been dredged in flour, pan-seared, then rests in a delectable lemon sauce with capers. This will soon become your family favorite as it is a one-pan meal and in out of that pan in 20 minutes or less.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 18 minutes
- Total Time: 28 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stove-Top
- Cuisine: Italian-American
- 2 Lemons
- 2 teaspoons Sugar
- 4 Garlic Cloves, sliced in half
- 2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (about 1–1/2 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour, for dredging
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 tablespoon Butter, divided
- 1/2 cup Shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 Sprigs of Thyme
- 1 cup Dry White Wine (I prefer Chardonnay)
- 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/4 cup Capers, drained
- 8–10 ounces Angel Hair Pasta, cooked
- Chopped Thyme, for garnishment
- Slice 2 lemons medium thickness and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar over the lemons and add 4 garlic cloves that are cut in half lengthwise. Toss together.
- Slice 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts horizontally. Salt and pepper each piece.
- Dredge each chicken piece in 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Swirl the skillet to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Add flour-coated chicken to the skillet and fry for 3 minutes on each side until they are no longer pink in the middle or until they register 160°F with a digital thermometer. Remove the chicken and place them on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Turn the heat to medium and add 3 tablespoons of butter and place the lemon slices in the skillet along with the garlic and lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute on each side of lemon slices until they are golden brown. Remove lemon slices but leave the garlic halves in the pan.
- Add 1/2 cup of thinly sliced shallots and 4 sprigs of thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until the shallots are tender. Stirring continually.
- Add 1 cup of dry white wine and bring to a boil. Make sure and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all the chicken bits. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid has evaporated to half its original amount.
- Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of drained capers. Stir to combine.
- Add the chicken pieces into the skillet with the sauce. Place the charred lemon slices on top of the chicken pieces.
- Sprinkle chopped thyme and serve the warm chicken and sauce over cooked angel hair pasta.
- You’ll want to grab either a boning knife or a chef’s to slice the chicken breasts. Make sure the knife is sharp. Place your hand on top of the breast and slice horizontally, dividing it in half. To get the thickness of each piece more even you can cover it with plastic wrap and pound it with the flat side of a meat mallet.
- Dredging chicken in flour helps preserve the moisture in the meat. The high temperature of the skillet can dehydrate the thin slices of meat making them tough and rubbery. A light dusting of flour on each side will partially protect the chicken from the heat in the skillet keeping it moist.
- Don’t wipe out the skillet after cooking the chicken. All of those little brown bits in the bottom are called fonds and are actually flavor bombs for when you add the wine later on. Make sure and scrape the bottom of the skillet when you add the wine.
- If you use too much lemon juice, you’ll know it. It’ll taste bitter and sour. If that’s the case, add a little bit of sugar to the finished sauce and it should soften it a bit.
- You want to make sure it is a dry white wine. Don’t grab a sweet one like Moscato or a riesling. Choose a chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc. Either of these is a good choice.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Due to the cream in the sauce, I do not recommend freezing this recipe. Dairy products tend to separate into water and fat when thawed. It won’t harm you, but it is definitely unappealing.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the dish
- Calories: 721
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 647 mg
- Fat: 38 g
- Saturated Fat: 17 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 10 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 51 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 34 g
- Cholesterol: 159 mg
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