Learn how to make the best Chicken Schnitzel! This classic recipe consists of a breaded and fried chicken cutlet that turns out so crispy and juicy. A squeeze of lemon on top and you’ve got a truly fantastic dish.
My family is from Germany, so this is a dish I grew up eating. I remember my grandma lovingly preparing this fried delight often, and with fried potatoes or her famous potato salad and a simple vinegar and oil dressed green salad. It was absolutely one of my favorite meals!
Now I’ve been able to pass that love down to my kids, who rejoice when it’s schnitzel and spaetzle for dinner. My daughter has even learned how to prepare the chicken herself, although the frying part still makes her a little nervous.
What is Chicken Schnitzel?
In German, “schnitzel” literally means “cutlet,” and can be made with a variety of thin meats like chicken, pork or veal, breaded and fried in a fat like oil or butter. Contrary to popular belief, Weinerschnitzel is not really a thing in the hot dog sense – it’s a pounded, breaded and fried veal cutlet, usually served with fries and a lemon slice. Schnitzel is popular fried dish all over Europe, not just Germany, although the recipes and styles may vary slightly from country to country.
My German Chicken Schnitzel recipe is prepared similarly to fried chicken, but uses a boneless chicken cutlet and no milk.
How to Make Chicken Schnitzel
Sometime recipes that have funny names feel complicated, but this recipe is anything but. It doesn’t take long to prepare and the frying is probably the most tricky part.
We use thin chicken breasts for our schnitzel, and I try to buy the cutlets that are already nice and thin (about 1/4-1/2-inch thick). If I can’t find those I use regular chicken breasts and just lightly pound out the thicker side using a meat mallet.
For the breading, I set up stations for each step.
- Flour with salt and pepper.
- Eggs. Whisk 4 eggs together. Sometimes dijon mustard is added.
- Breadcrumbs. For the crispiest result, Panko breadcrumbs are a must. However Oma always made her own from stale bread.
- Dip the chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess with each step. Set the chicken on a plate to rest for 10-15 minutes before frying.
Pan-Frying Chicken Schnitzel
Start with a heavy bottomed skillet, like cast iron; it holds the heat better so the oil is less likely to have hot spots and burn the chicken. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of oil. You may need to add more after frying a few batches, just make sure to let the oil heat up each time. This is pan frying, not deep frying so you don’t need a ton.
Fry the breaded chicken in batches. You want space between each piece so the golden crust can form all around the chicken, otherwise it just steams and gets soggy. I can usually fit 2-3 cutlets in my 12-inch cast iron skillet, depending on their size.
Because they are thin, it should only take a few minutes per side. Check the temp with a meat thermometer if you’re unsure – it should be 165 degrees F. After frying, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Baked Chicken Schnitzel
If you’d like to bake chicken schnitzel instead of frying, you can by making just a few changes to the recipe. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper, then follow the assembly line steps for breading the chicken. Place each piece on the baking sheet, at least 1-2 inches apart and spray the tops with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until crispy and golden brown and cooked through. If the tops aren’t brown enough for your taste, flip on the broiler for a few minutes; careful not to let them burn.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Chicken Schnitzel
- You can add a pat or two of butter with the oil for flavor, but I’ve found it’s not necessary.
- Right after you remove the chicken schnitzel from the oil, sprinkle with salt while it’s still hot so it can absorb the salt which enhances flavor.
- We love our German chicken schnitzel with a squeeze of lemon and fresh parsley on the top, but you could also serve with mashed potatoes and gravy like traditional fried chicken.
- The best oil for frying chicken schnitzel is vegetable or canola oil. Both have a neutral flavor and a high smoke point.
- To keep chicken warm while cooking, heat your oven to its lowest temperature. Place an oven safe rack over a baking sheet and into the oven. As the chicken is cooked, transfer pieces to the rack to keep warm, being cautious to avoid oil dripping into the oven.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Can you Make Chicken Schnitzel ahead of time? Absolutely! You can prep up to the frying step, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hour. Remove from the fridge so the chicken can come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before frying.
How to store leftovers: Store leftover cooked schnitzel in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in the oven at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. Or don’t reheat it – it’s actually really delicious cold! Leftovers can be frozen for up to 6 months, but need to thaw before reheating.
Don’t try to re-fry chicken schnitzel. That will result in the breading absorbing even more oil and make a greasy mess.
More Chicken Recipes to Love
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (or breast cutlets)
- 2 teaspoons salt divided
- 2 teaspoons black pepper divided
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups regular breadcrumbs
- 4 large eggs
- Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
- For serving: lemon wedges fresh chopped parsley garnish
- Pat chicken dry and place in a resealable plastic bag; leave about an inch open for air to escape. Lightly pound using the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of about ¼-½ an inch thick. *Note - you can also use chicken cutlets if you can find them at the grocery store. They are already thin and won’t require pounding.
- Create an assembly line for breading: In one dish, combine the flour with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, in a second dish whisk the eggs, and in a third dish add the breadcrumbs.
- Bread the chicken. Pat the chicken dry first, then coat with the flour, then the egg (make sure it’s fully coated), then the breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess after each step. Arrange breaded chicken on a plate, with sheets of parchment paper between layers. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat about ¼ - ½ cup of oil in a large skillet. The oil should sizzle when you sprinkle a few drops of water or breadcrumbs into it. Place a piece of chicken into the oil, careful not to crowd. You should be able to get 2 pieces in a 12 inch skillet, but it’s important to make sure they aren’t touching each other. Fry schnitzel about 2-3 minutes per side or until breading is a deep, golden brown. Place on a paper towel lined plate and repeat until all chicken has been cooked.
- Garnish with fresh minced parsley and serve with lemon wedges. For a full meal, we love to serve with mashed potatoes and a big green salad.