How to Make Crispy, Saucy, Cheesy Chicken Parmesan
The best chicken Parmesan of your life is easier than you think, and we’ve got ten recipes to prove it
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I’m Jewish and my husband is Italian-American, so two dishes appear regularly at our holiday meals: matzo ball soup and chicken Parmesan. While he enjoys a matzo ball or two, I’ve become a chicken Parm devotee. Do you blame me? The crispy coating on tender chicken, the sweet tomato sauce, the gooey cheese — this dish has everything. We tend to save the old-school version, with fried cutlets and homemade sauce, for special occasions like our annual Christmas dinner, but simpler (and healthier) versions make it weeknight-friendly. Read on to learn how to make the best chicken Parmesan you’ll ever have.
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Chicken Parmesan Q&A
Start your chicken Parmesan lesson right here
What is chicken Parmesan?
Whether you call it chicken Parmesan, chicken Parmigiana, or chicken Parm, it all means the same thing: chicken cutlets (usually boneless skinless chicken breasts) coated in seasoned breadcrumbs, topped with tomato sauce and cheese, and baked until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
What to serve with chicken Parmesan
Technically, chicken Parm provides all four food groups: Protein from the chicken, carbohydrates from the breading, fruit and vegetables from the marinara sauce, and dairy from the cheese. So you don’t have to serve it with anything to make a balanced meal. But I like to add a little something, depending on what’s in my kitchen:
Pasta, especially when I use homemade sauce
Garlic bread or Italian bread
Broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or another green vegetable
Chicken Parmesan served with a side of pasta
How to store chicken Parmesan
With the sauce and melted cheese, storing leftovers takes some thought. I usually transfer everything to an airtight container and refrigerate — but if you’ve used a baking dish, you can cover it with foil and pop the whole thing into the fridge. Use it within three to five days.
How to reheat chicken Parmesan
The oven is your friend here — while you could microwave your leftovers, you’ll lose any chance at crispy chicken. Keep the temperature on the lower end, no higher than 350°F, and cover the baking dish or sheet pan with aluminum foil for the first 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until fully heated and crisp.
How to make chicken Parmesan
Crispy, saucy, cheesy. Here’s how to make chicken Parm your family will devour.
The breading step
Whether you plan to fry, bake, or cook the chicken some other way, the prep time is about the same — breading the cutlets follows this process:
Gather three shallow bowls (I use pie plates). Put all-purpose flour in one, lightly beaten large eggs in another, and a breadcrumb mixture (use dried or panko, not fresh breadcrumbs) in the third.
Flatten boneless skinless chicken breasts until they’re an even thickness all around, either by slicing or by placing between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounding with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
Pat dry, then sprinkle each piece of chicken with salt and black pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off the excess. Dip it in the egg mixture, then the breading mixture. Use your fingers to help the breading adhere. Transfer to a plate. If you have time, let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before cooking — this will help the coating stick.
Pro tip: For less mess, use tongs or stick to the wet hand/dry hand method: Use one hand to pick up the uncoated chicken and dredge it in the flour, then transfer to the egg wash. That’s your “dry hand.” Use the other hand — your “wet hand” — to coat the cutlet in egg, then transfer it to the breading mixture. Now use your dry hand to toss and press breadcrumbs onto the chicken.
The cooking step: Pan-fry versus bake
You’ve got several options when it comes to cooking the chicken. In my home, we like to pan-fry them. Here's the pan-fry method:
Place a large skillet (I use a cast-iron skillet, which maintains the heat beautifully) over medium-high heat. Add about a half-inch of olive oil and wait until it shimmers. Test for readiness by dropping a breadcrumb or two into the oil. If it sizzles and browns within a few seconds, you’re good to go. But if the oil erupts as soon as the crumb hits, it’s too hot — lower the flame and wait a few minutes before trying again.
Place chicken cutlets into the pan. For safety’s sake, lower each one gently, laying it down away from your body. Don’t crowd the skillet — if you put in too many at once, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, which leads to greasier fried food, and you won’t give the chicken enough room to get really crispy. Frying in batches means a longer cook time, but the result is worth it.
Cook for 3-4 minutes, then lift an edge to peek at the bottom. When it’s golden brown, flip carefully and cook another few minutes, until both sides are irresistibly crunchy and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 155°F. Transfer fried chicken pieces to a paper towel-lined tray or do put a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, place chicken on top, and let the excess oil drip off.
When I want to avoid oil spatters on the stove and counter and save some calories, I bake the cutlets. Here's the baking method:
Preheat the oven to whatever temperature the recipe calls for, usually between 375°F and 450°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or brush with olive oil.
Place the breaded chicken cutlets on the baking sheet and slide it into the oven. Bake for as long as the recipe says, then flip and bake some more, until each side is golden and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 155°F.
The assembling step
Once the cutlets are cooked, turn them into chicken Parmesan:
Transfer the chicken to a greased baking dish or rimmed baking sheet. If you like, lay down some marinara sauce first.
Spoon a little sauce on top of each cutlet — not too much, or your crispy chicken will get soggy. You can use homemade sauce or save a little time with store-bought marinara sauce.
Top each cutlet with cheese. Here again, you’ve got options — shredded mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, and provolone all work. Fresh mozzarella will work, too, but it tends to release more moisture. Too much can make the dish soggy.
Bake until the cheese is browned and bubbly and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F.
If you like, pretend you’re in an Italian restaurant and top each portion with fresh basil leaves. Pass around extra sauce at the table.
Easy chicken Parmesan recipes
I didn’t used to think of chicken Parm as a weeknight thing, but with any of these recipes, it absolutely is.
This easy recipe saves time on cooking and cleanup, thanks to a single sheet pan. You’ll bread whole breasts — which keeps the meat nice and juicy — and bake them, then top each with store-bought sauce and fresh mozz. Back into the oven goes the sheet pan, and ten minutes later dinner is ready.
Chicken Parmesan in just 15 minutes? Oh, yes. This clever weeknight recipe shaves off a ton of prep time by skipping the breading entirely — each cutlet is covered with grated Parmesan cheese, which forms a nice crust in the skillet. A quick homemade tomato sauce cooks right alongside the chicken. It all simmers for a few minutes, then the chicken gets topped with mozz, which melts right there. Did I mention that while all this is happening, you’re also cooking pasta? Holy cow.
A smart cheat or two makes this a 15-minute recipe. It calls for shredded chicken — so think of this whenever you have leftover cooked chicken. That gets reheated in a lightning-fast homemade tomato sauce, then piled atop cheesy Texas toast. A little shredded mozzarella cheese on top, a quick run under the broiler, and you’re good to go.
Classic chicken Parmesan recipes
This is how my family does it for Christmas — with homemade sauce and fried cutlets. It takes time and effort to produce something this amazing.
The name promises an easy meal, and it is — nothing here is difficult! But you need a solid hour to make a flavorful tomato sauce, bread and fry cutlets, layer everything together, and bake. The trip under the broiler at the end ensures perfectly browned, gooey cheese.
The process here is a little different: You’ll fry the chicken and cook the sauce in the same skillet, which captures all those tasty, browned breadcrumbs left behind. And once the sauce is ready, you lay the cooked chicken on top, lavish it with grated Parmesan, and cover the pan. It all simmers together for a few minutes, until the chicken picks up the saucy flavors and the cheese melts. That’s right, you don’t need to turn on the oven!
The breadcrumb coating here has plenty of flavor, thanks to shredded Parm, dried oregano and other Italian herbs, and garlic powder. And the assembly uses a clever trick to keep the chicken crispy: Instead of spreading sauce directly onto the cutlets, lay down a slice of mozzarella cheese first. As it melts, it makes a barrier. Then add sauce and bake. At the end, sprinkle with more Parmesan and broil — think of that touch as a little chef’s kiss.
Healthier chicken Parmesan recipes
There’s a reason my family only enjoys the full chicken Parm experience a handful of times each year: It’s not exactly health food. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get those flavors …
Light and crispy panko breadcrumbs are the secret to making these baked chicken cutlets extra-crunchy. With just 340 calories per serving, this meal won’t make you feel like you need to take a nap after dinner.
People rave about air fryers, and for good reason. They make it possible to recreate the texture of fried food, with minimal fat. What better application than not-fried chicken cutlets? And they’re ready in a flash, too, including the sauce and melted mozz.
Whole wheat and panko breadcrumbs combine with grated Parmesan and dried Italian herbs for the coating here, and the cooking technique uses just two tablespoons of olive oil. To make the cutlets, you fry them briefly in an oven-safe skillet, then transfer the whole thing to the oven to finish cooking. Then add sauce and cheese, and return to the oven briefly. Serving them on top of zucchini noodles gives you the spaghetti sensation, but without the carbs.
Here’s an easy way to trim calories and saturated fat from your chicken Parm: Skip the lid of melted cheese. This kid-friendly recipe creates homemade chicken fingers, coated in whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. They get served with a very quick homemade tomato sauce, perfect for dunking.
More comforting meals ahead
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