Learn how to make my family’s chicken parmesan recipe! An Italian-American classic made of breaded chicken that is typically pan-fried, then baked with rich tomato sauce, Italian cheese, and herbs. My family has enjoyed this recipe for so many years. It is undoubtedly the best I’ve ever had. Whether you like the chicken pan-fried like the traditional version or baked to use less oil, this recipe has a method for both. From my family to yours!
My family has been making this chicken parmesan recipe for as long as I can remember. It was my favorite growing up, and I often asked for it to be made on my birthday when my mom made us a special dinner. I learned to make this dish alongside my mom at a young age, so it brings me great joy to share such a beloved family recipe with you all!
A few things that make this recipe special are tenderizing the meat before assembling the dish, using homemade breadcrumbs for the crispiest breaded chicken, and using a quality marinara for rich flavor. We love to use our homemade San Marzano tomato sauce – another recipe of my mom’s that is so loved.
Chicken Parmesan History
Chicken parmesan (also known as chicken parmigiana) is an Italian-American dish that consists of thin breaded chicken cutlets that are typically fried, then baked with marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese!
You might be surprised to know that you’ll never find this dish in Italy. Although the recipe roots return to Italy, it is strictly an Italian-American dish.
Chicken parmigiana is similar to the famous Italian dish eggplant parmesan, also known as “parmigiana di melanzane” in Italy. It’s believed that Italian immigrants here in America drew inspiration from eggplant parmesan to then make it with chicken (and even veal!).
So, it is not common in Italian cuisine, but rather, chicken parmesan is Italian-inspired.
One of the many reasons we love this recipe is because it’s…
COMFORTING & SPECIAL. There is always something special about homemade chicken parmesan. It’s a dish full of love and comforting Italian flavors!
RESTAURANT-QUALITY. It is a tried-and-true family recipe and better than any restaurant chicken parmesan I’ve had! A true restaurant-quality dish made in the comfort of your own home.
PERFECT FOR HOSTING. If you’re hosting a gathering, this dish feeds a crowd perfectly. And once it’s baking in the oven, you’re free to be with your guests and not be tied to the kitchen!
To make this recipe, the ingredients are pretty straightforward. Each component develops the perfect texture for the chicken’s crust and delicious flavor when it bakes in the oven!
Use the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients and measurements.
Chicken breasts – use boneless skinless chicken breasts, then slice each breast in half length-wise to create two cutlets. Or you can use pre-cut breasts, also known as chicken cutlets.
Flour – use all-purpose flour or white whole wheat for dredging the chicken in. This is used to brown the chicken.
Eggs – an egg mixture is used to help the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken after coating it in flour.
Breadcrumbs – for the breading mixture – you can use store-bought panko breadcrumbs or homemade breadcrumbs.
Marinara – use a quality store-bought marinara sauce or make a homemade sauce! See below for my top recommendations.
Olive oil – oil is used in the pan-fried method to brown the chicken in batches. If you instead bake the chicken, you’ll only need a little oil.
Parmesan cheese – is used to add salty richness to the breadcrumbs and for sprinkling over the chicken at the end!
Fresh mozzarella cheese – used for layering over the chicken for baking. You can use shredded or sliced pieces of mozzarella.
Dried Italian herbs – I like to season my own breadcrumbs using a dried Italian herb blend.
Garlic powder – used for flavoring the breadcrumb mixture.
Black pepper & salt – for flavor.
Fresh basil – for sprinkling over top of the finished chicken parmesan!
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How to Make Chicken Parmesan – Step by Step (Baked and Pan-Fried Method)
First, prepare the chicken and ingredients!
Tenderize the chicken. Place chicken cutlets/breasts in a large ziplock bag, or between two sheets of parchment paper. Firmly pound with a rolling pin or smooth side of a meat mallet – chicken thickness should be 1/2 inch.) After, pat the chicken cutlets dry with a paper towel.
Set up an assembly line. Line three shallow bowls together with the breadcrumb mixture, flour, and egg mixture.
Next, bread the chicken!
Dredge in flour – First, dip the chicken cutlets in the flour on both sides. Shake off the excess flour.
Dip into eggs. Then, transfer floured chicken and dip in egg mixture on both sides.
Coat in breadcrumbs. Last, dip both sides of the chicken in bread crumbs. Evenly coat and pack breadcrumbs lightly using your hand.
Brown the chicken!
Pan-fry the chicken. In a cast-iron skillet or heavy pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the breaded chicken and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden in color. Then lay the browned chicken in a large stainless steel baking dish.
Lastly, layer and bake! (Pan-fried method continued)
Layer with mozz. First, layer the mozzarella slice on each breaded cutlet.
Add sauce. Then spoon a general amount of sauce over top.
Bake…then parm! Bake the chicken parmesan uncovered for 14 minutes at 425F. Then sprinkle parmesan over top and broil on high for the last minute.
Difference Between Baking Chicken Parm vs. Pan-Frying
I have two options for browning/cooking the chicken parmesan in this recipe. I love both but for different reasons! Here’s the difference between the two methods.
The pan-fried method is the traditional method for chicken parmesan that uses quite a bit of oil to brown the chicken cutlets in a pan. This method only browns the chicken, so it is not fully cooked and needs to be baked in the oven for the chicken parmesan to be finished. This requires a little effort but is always delicious!
The baked method uses less oil and bakes the chicken completely in the oven. The first chunk of the baking time is for the chicken to cook through and the crust to brown, then the last few minutes are for layering the sauce and melting the cheese. In my opinion, the results are almost identical to the pan-frying. This method saves time, uses less oil, and is healthier!
Tips for Success
Use tongs for less mess. You can use kitchen tongs for breading the chicken if you prefer not to use your hands!
Use quality marinara. This recipe is so delicious using my family’s San Marzano Tomato Sauce or this fresh tomato sauce. But when we don’t have homemade sauce, we also love to use our favorite store-bought sauce!
The best pan for browning chicken. Use a cast iron skillet for browning chicken. This heavy-duty pan gets hot quickly and helps brown the breading perfectly for this recipe. You can use stainless steel if you don’t have a cast iron pan.
The best pan to bake chicken parmesan in. In the years I’ve spent making chicken parmesan with my mom, she always used stainless steel baking pans – never glass. Her reason for it is the stainless steel pans heat up much quicker than glass, so it leaves for a crustier chicken. We’ve found baking it in glass yields a soggy crust.
Make your own breadcrumbs. To elevate the taste and texture of chicken parmesan, I always recommend making your own breadcrumbs. It takes minutes to do and makes a world of difference from store-bought. Plus, you can make the breadcrumbs gluten-free or use healthier bread!
Make it gluten-free. If you’d like to make this recipe gluten-free, you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs or make your own breadcrumbs using your favorite gluten-free bread! Also, use a gluten-free flour blend to dredge the chicken in. We like Bob’s Red Mill one-to-one gf flour blend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the breading falling off my chicken? This is because of the liquid/moisture already on the chicken breasts. The best way to avoid this is by patting the chicken breasts dry with paper towels before breading them! This will ensure the breading stays on the chicken and doesn’t slip off when baked.
How can I prevent a soggy chicken parmesan? To avoid a soggy bottom, don’t over-sauce your chicken parmesan! Also using a thicker consistency marinara helps too. A few other things are using stainless steel pans for baking (not glass) and leaving it uncovered to get crisp edges! Once you cover the chicken, it traps the moisture and will begin to soften the crust.
Why is my chicken parmesan tough? One of the best ways to avoid “tough” chicken parmesans is to tenderize the meat! This step is used in my recipe by pounding the chicken cutlets in a ziplock bag. This makes the chicken thinner, breaks down the muscle fibers, and naturally tenderizes it.
Our Favorite Ways to Serve It
Pasta. Chicken parmesan pairs so well with pasta. We serve it with whole grain/whole wheat pasta like rotini, farfalle, rigatoni, or a classic pairing with spaghetti! If you’re gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free pasta – we like Jovial.
Zoodles. If you’re looking for a lighter side to pair it with, you can do zucchini noodles or vegetable noodles as a healthier replacement for pasta.
Bread. And of course, some crusty Italian or sourdough bread on the side is a must!
Tips For Freezing & Storing Leftovers
Keep leftovers fresh: store cooked chicken in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days. To reheat, place in a baking tray and cover with foil. Bake at 350F until warm.
Freezing tips (2 ways):
Freeze chicken parm: as the recipe instructs, let cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container. Freeze for 1-2 months. When ready to serve, let thaw at room temperature, cover in foil, and bake at 425F until warm.
Freeze chicken cutlets: another way to freeze is by breading the chicken cutlets and browning them in a pan. Let cool to room temperature before storing in freezer-friendly bags (air removed). Freeze for 1-2 months, thaw at room temperature, and assemble in chicken parmesan when ready to bake.
Other Delicious Italian Recipes to Try
- Baked Eggplant Rollatini
- Classic Eggplant Parmesan
- The Best Vegetable Lasagna
- San Marzano Tomato Sauce
- Sweet & Spicy Italian Sausage Lasagna
The Best Chicken Parmesan (Parmigiana)
For the Chicken
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Tenderize chicken: place chicken cutlets/breasts in a large ziplock bag or between two sheets of parchment paper. Firmly pound with a rolling pin or the smooth side of a meat hammer (chicken thickness should be 1/2 inch). Remove cutlets from the bag and pat dry with paper towels.
- Breadcrumbs: In a shallow dish, mix all of breadcrumb ingredients together.
- Assembly line: Set up a line of shallow bowls/dishes with flour, whisked eggs, and breadcrumbs.
- Bread the chicken: First, coat the chicken in flour on both sides, then shake off the excess flour that isn't sticking. Transfer to whisked eggs, then dip into the breadcrumbs. Use your hands to gently pack the breadcrumbs onto each side of the chicken. Repeat until all the cutlets have been breaded.
- Brown the chicken: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil at a time in a cast iron skillet or pan on LOW to MEDIUM heat. Brown chicken for 2-3 minutes on both sides until the breading is golden.
- Layer and bake: arrange browned chicken in a large baking dish or pan. Layer first with mozzarella slices then tomato sauce over top. Bake uncovered in the oven for 14 minutes – remove from oven then sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Then broil on HIGH for 1 minute until the cheese is melted and browned. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve!
Instructions for Baked Chicken Parmesan
- If you would like to use less oil, use this baking method instead! I love making chicken parmesan this way and the results are almost identical to pan-frying. Baked method: preheat oven to 450F. Follow steps 2-5 above, then after breading the chicken, lay the cutlets in a generously oiled baking pan. Spray the chicken with olive oil, or brush with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven and layer with mozzarella, sauce, and parmesan and bake for 5 additional minutes. Broil on HIGH for the last minute for the cheese to brown. Serve with fresh basil!