Chicken Milanese: An Italian Staple!
This Chicken Milanese is one of our favorite Italian dishes to enjoy at home. Imagine this: thin chicken cutlets, breaded in a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese with lots of fresh sage, all served with a light, delicate salad on top. Truly, this recipe checks all the boxes:
- It’s simple enough for a weeknight!
- Is loved by adults and kids, alike!
- It’s impressive enough for dinner parties! (We’ve tested this theory multiple times…)
It just doesn’t get better than that!
What sets this Chicken milanese recipe apart from the rest, however, is the light, delicate fennel salad on top. Trust me, you’ll definitely go back for seconds.
*This post was sponsored by Little Leaf Farms. All opinions are my own. I only support and promote brands that I believe in and use in my own kitchen – I hope you’ll check them out! Thank you for supporting the brands that make Well Seasoned possible.
What Is Chicken Milanese?
Sometimes referred to as chicken milanesa, this dish is very similar to a parmigiana, except that it’s pan-fried in less oil. Milanesa refers to breaded thin cuts of meat common in Italy — in this case chicken milanesa — coated in breadcrumbs or panko, then fried until golden brown.
You won’t need a ton of oil to pan fry the chicken cutlets; they’ll finish cooking in the oven. As a result, this chicken milanese recipe never feels greasy or heavy! In fact, just the opposite: it eats light!
Ingredients For Chicken Milanese
We’re keeping this recipe simple, as it should be! Grab the following and let’s get cooking!
- Fennel bulb plus fennel fronds: don’t discard the fronds, we’ll use them in the light salad served on top!
- All-purpose flour: Used for dredging the chicken cutlets
- Eggs, lightly beaten: On top of the flour, used to adhere and keep the panko breadcrumbs securely on the chicken!
- Panko breadcrumbs: Because nothing adds crunch like panko!
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese: This goes into the panko breading to add a touch of nuttiness! Use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano if you have it. If not, Pecorino is great too!
- Fresh sage: The sage adds the most wonderful, fresh flavor! Chopped finely, this gets mixed in with the panko and grated parmesan.
- Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper: To season everything.
- Chicken cutlets: If you can’t find chicken cutlets, use chicken breasts! Simply pound the chicken breast into cutlets about ½” thick and proceed with the recipe.
- High quality extra virgin olive oil: Dress the light fennel salad with high quality extra virgin olive oil, something that’s special, nutty, and a step up from your everyday cooking olive oil.
- Soft, tender salad greens: We recommend Little Leaf Farm’s new Sweet Baby Butter Leaf lettuce. The tender butter lettuce leaves are the perfect delicate, sweet contrast to crunchy slices of fennel.
- Flaky sea salt: As with most of our recipes, sprinkle a tiny bit of flaky sea salt just before serving. It brings all the flavors out and adds the loveliest crunch!
- Lemon wedges: A bright hint of acidity rounds out the flavors of the pan-fried chicken cutlets and the distinct anise flavor of the raw fennel.
- Canola or vegetable oil: To fry the chicken cutlets.
Season pan-fried chicken cutlets with flaky sea salt as soon as you remove them from the hot oven to serve! The salt sticks better when it hits the hot baked chicken milanese (versus room-temp).
How To Bread Chicken Cutlets
- Coat in seasoned flour — you’ll want to season the flour with Kosher salt and black pepper, then whisk.
- Dip in beaten eggs on both sides — make sure you fully coat the chicken (or whatever else you’re breading); the egg will help the breadcrumbs adhere to the chicken.
- Dredge on all sides with breadcrumbs. We’re using panko bread crumbs, but of course any type of breadcrumb will work. This is also when you can introduce additional ingredients. For instance, we add chopped fresh sage and grated Parmesan to the panko. It’s so delicious!
How To Cook Chicken Cutlets
- Heat a few tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. The amount of oil will depend on the size of the pan you use — you need an even layer on the bottom of the pan that goes up approximately ⅛” – ¼” up the side.
- When oil is hot, transfer breaded chicken cutlets to pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown, but not burned. Flip and cook another 3 minutes.
You can transfer chicken cutlets directly from the hot pan into the oven to finish cooking (6-8 minutes at 350F, or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165F).
We recommend the Thermapen MK4 to check for doneness on all meats!
If you’re making a larger quantity to feed a crowd, move chicken cutlets directly from the skillet to a baking sheet with a cooling rack on top. The chicken will stay crisp as long as it’s not directly on the baking sheet and air can circulate beneath.
Variations On Chicken Milanese (Milanesa)
You can absolutely use something other than breaded chicken cutlets! Other common preparations of classic Italian milanese include beef, pork cutlets, veal chops, or even eggplant (an absolute favorite in our family!). Speaking of… leftovers from this recipe on an Italian hero roll? Yes, please — makes one heck of a chicken milanese sandwich!
And if you’re working with larger boneless skinless chicken breasts, you can easily pound them out thinly with a meat mallet so that they cook quicker, like cutlets. Simply place the chicken breast between a folded piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board, then pound to a thickness of about ½”.
The pans above are a breading set I purchased years ago from Williams Sonoma. They make breading chicken cutlets incredibly easy. You can achieve the same breading station setup by using ⅛” sheet pans!
Make It A Complete Meal
While many Milanese recipes are served with arugula salad (which is, undoubtedly, delicious), the star of this Chicken Milanese recipe is unquestionably the light fennel salad on top. Dress thin slices of fennel very lightly with olive oil and Kosher salt, then mix with tender Sweet Baby Butter Lettuce — this is a new product from Little Leaf Farms, and it is absolutely perfect in this recipe!
This chicken recipe is simple, but flavorful and well rounded. A squeeze of lemon juice on top of the cooked chicken is the perfect finishing touch.
As far as side dishes for chicken milanese, crispy roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, or couscous would be lovely and not too lengthy in terms of prep or cook time (remember, we’re making this simple enough for a weeknight!). And if you’re looking for another veggie, you can never go wrong with simple oven roasted broccoli or broccolini!
Can Breaded Chicken Milanese Be Frozen?
There’s nothing quite like fresh from the pan (or oven!) crispy chicken cutlets, but yes you can pre-cook the chicken, let them cool completely, and then store in an airtight container in a freezer until needed. To reheat, simply place on a baking sheet and heat at 350F until warmed up and crispy again, about 10-12 minutes.
Regardless of whether the chicken is cooked fresh or reheated, don’t toss the salad greens and shaved fennel in olive oil until just before you serve! Otherwise, they’ll wilt.
Is Fennel Traditional?
This classic Italian dish is nothing new — pan-fried chicken cutlets, seasoned with breadcrumbs or panko and parmesan cheese, usually served with a light green salad on top is loved by many. It’s the shaved fennel salad, however, that take this over the top.
Fennel is essentially the vegetable version of licorice. To prevent the flavor from overpowering the chicken milanese, soak thin slices of fennel in ice water while you prep the rest of the dish. A mere 10 minutes in an ice bath is all you need!
Toss Little Leaf Farm’s Sweet Baby Butter Leaf and thin slices of fennel with EVOO and Kosher salt just before serving. And don’t forget to garnish with some of the reserved fennel fronds — they add SO much flavor to the salad. Perfect every single time!
This is truly one of our favorite chicken dishes of all time. Try it once and we’re pretty sure it’ll become a favorite in your household, just as it has in ours. Elevated weeknight classics for the win!
As part of my Date Night In series, I’m offering up a few wine suggestions to serve alongside. The distinct flavor of raw fennel is a match made in heaven medium-bodied, crisp white wines.
White wine: The grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc (especially Sancerre) is a natural pairing with crunchy, bright fennel. Another good option is Viognier, with its luscious, viscous, full-flavored mouthfeel with notes of apricot and nectarine.
Red wine: A fruit forward, medium-bodied Pinot Noir is your go-to here! Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir is my FAVORITE. With its luscious notes of black cherries and it’s nice long finish, it drinks far more expensive than the moderate price tag that accompanies it. I always keep a few bottles on hand!
If you make Weeknight Chicken Milanese, please let me know by leaving a review below!
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For more simple weeknight meals, check out the following recipes:
- Weeknight Salmon with Herb-Shallot Butter
- Easy Chicken Meatballs
- Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash with Shiitakes and Apples
- Veal Saltimbocca (Saltimbocca alla Romana)
- Turkey Feta Burgers with Apple Cabbage Slaw
- Asian Stuffed Peppers
Chicken Milanese with Fennel Salad
- 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs fronds reserved
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp Kosher salt divided
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4-6 chicken cutlets
- 3 Tbsp high quality olive oil divided
- 3 cups Little Leaf Farms Sweet Baby Butter Lettuce
- 1 lemon cut into wedges, for serving
- flaky sea salt
- light neutral oil for frying
- Cut the fennel. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the stems and fronds off the fennel (reserve ¼ cup of the fronds), then discard any bruised outer layers. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise, then using a paring knife cut out the tough part of the core (you essentially cut a small triangle shape to remove). Thinly slice the fennel into ¼" thick half moons, then place in a bowl of ice water.
- Set up the breading stations with 3 pans. In a small, shallow container or bowl, combine 1 cup AP flour with 1 Tbsp Kosher salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. In the second pan, whisk 3 eggs. In the final pan or container, combine 1½ cups panko, ½ cup grated Parmesan, 2 Tbsp chopped sage, and remaining 1 Tbsp Kosher salt.
- Preheat oil. Heat a few tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. The amount of oil will depend on the size of the pan you use — you need an even layer on the bottom of the pan that goes up approximately ⅛" – ¼" up the side.
- Dredge cutlets in flour. Place cutlets one at a time in the flour mixture, coating on both sides, then shaking off any excess flour. Move chicken to the eggs, turning to coat on all sides, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, transfer the cutlets to the panko breadcrumbs, being sure to evenly coat on all sides.
- Pan fry the cutlets. When the oil is hot, carefully place breaded chicken in the oil (working in batches, as needed) and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown, but not burned.
- Finish in the oven. Move pan to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through. Chicken is safe to eat at 165F, but you can remove it from the oven when it’s reached ~155F — it will continue to cook while it rests. If you're cooking more chicken cutlets than will fit in the skillet, transfer to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.
- Make the salad. While chicken is resting, drain the fennel, then add to a large mixing bowl with salad greens and 1-2 Tbsp high quality olive oil. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper, then toss well.
- Finish and serve. Plate the chicken cutlets, then sprinkle each with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Mound the fennel salad atop chicken, then garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
- To freeze: pre-cook the breaded chicken cutlets, let cool completely, then store in an airtight container in your freezer until needed. Will last up to 3 months.
- To reheat: simply place frozen breaded chicken milanese on a baking sheet and heat at 350F until warmed up and crispy again, about 10-12 minutes. Do NOT toss fennel and mixed greens until just before serving!
- Gluten free: while this chicken milanese recipe is not gluten free, you could substitute gluten free panko breadcrumbs in place of traditional.
- Variations on milanese: other common proteins include veal cutlets or pork cutlets.
This chicken milanese recipe was originally posted in fall of 2017 and has since been updated with tips, tricks, and new photos to make it easier to follow along at home!