A healthier spin on an Italian classic, Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata is made with juicy grilled chicken breast smothered in a light and tangy piccata cream sauce. The bright taste of lemon and capers and the savory flavor of the chicken combine into a classy and sophisticated meal that’s simple enough to satisfy the pickiest eater.
Want to make chicken piccata the traditional way? Check out this classic Chicken Piccata with Green Beans!
The Quick-Fix Chicken Dinner of Your Dreams
Get restaurant-quality chicken piccata in 30 minutes or less. The tender chicken breast is smoky and earthy while the creamy sauce gives you a fresh burst of citrus. Studded with tangy capers to round out the flavor profile, it’s like a chicken-dinner dream come true.
Where traditional chicken piccata is breaded, this recipe calls for grilled chicken. This helps cut down on carbs, making this version of the classic Italian dish a little healthier. It’s impressive enough for date night and simple enough to satisfy the kids, making it a perfect family meal.
What is the Difference Between Piccata and Francese?
In a word? Capers. They’re the main thing separating the French favorite Francese from its Italian brother, piccata sauce.
Similar in taste to green olives, capers are immature buds plucked from a caper bush and soaked in brine. They have a distinctive sharp flavor, making them a wonderful ingredient for marinades and creamy sauces like this one. Their herbal and earthy undertones give this simple dish a sophisticated flair.
With only 10 ingredients you probably already have on hand, this creamy lemon chicken piccata is a cinch to make. You can scroll down to find the exact amounts for everything on the recipe card.
- Chicken Breasts: Boneless, skinless, and lightly pounded until flat.
- Lemon-Pepper Seasoning: Look for a brand with lemon zest, pepper and salt as the only ingredients.
- Salt: Depending on how much salt you like, this may not be necessary with the lemon-pepper seasoning.
- Olive Oil
- Garlic: Chopped finely or minced.
- Milk: Anything less than 2% won’t bring the sauce together.
- Thyme: Chopping up fresh leaves gives you the best flavor.
- Capers: Drained.
How to Make Creamy Lemon Caper Chicken
This lemony chicken piccata with its creamy caper sauce will satisfy the whole family. Here’s how to make it.
- Pound the Chicken: Lightly pound the chicken breasts until they are an even thickness all the way across. Make sure not to pound them too thin or they might become dry.
- Season: Season the chicken with lemon-pepper seasoning and add salt if you want to. Set the seasoned chicken aside.
- Grill the Garlic: Heat the olive oil and butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until the butter melts fully. Add the garlic and cook it for 30 seconds, or until the fragrance is unlocked.
- Cook the Chicken: Add the chicken breasts and cook them for 10-12 minutes. Flip them when one side browns, then wait for the other side to brown. Make sure they are cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep it covered while you return your skillet to the heat.
- Start the Sauce: In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and cornstarch and whisk until everything is incorporated. Stir in the fresh chopped thyme.
- Thicken the Sauce: Pour the milk mixture into the skillet and whisk, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the skillet so that the smoky flavor of the chicken gets incorporated. Continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened and becomes bubbly, which takes about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the Capers: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the capers.
- Taste, Adjust and Serve: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
Tips for Success
Making this creamy, lemony chicken piccata is a breeze. Follow these quick tips to really impress your guests or leave your family wanting more.
- Flatten the Chicken Gently: If you pound the chicken too hard and it becomes flat, it will be dry and might even burn. Make sure you make the chicken breasts even but not too thin.
- To Salt or Not To Salt: You can go without adding extra salt to this one. I find the lemon-pepper seasoning salty enough on its own.
- Make Your Own Seasoning: You can make a whole jar of lemon pepper seasoning at home by drying out the zest from 5 lemons and adding salt and pepper. Just spread the zest on a sheet pan in the oven on the lowest setting for 2-3 hours. When it’s dried completely, add 1/4 cup peppercorns and 2 teaspoons of coarse salt, then blend in a food processor or high-powered blender.
- Get Smokier Flavor: When the sauce is thickening, make sure to lightly drag the whisk over the bottom of the pan to get that smoky flavor into your sauce. Scraping too hard can damage a nonstick pan though, so be careful.
Creamy chicken piccata is a natural crowd-pleaser, but you can adjust it to make the perfect meal for your family. Try one of these fun ways to shake things up.
- Sub Out the Capers: If you don’t have capers on hand or you’re just not a fan, try swapping them out for olives, sliced gherkins or artichokes. These have similar briny flavors, though they’re missing some of the herbal notes and pepperiness of capers. Try adding a little extra ground pepper to make up for it.
- Ramp Up the Lemon: If you want something a little more lemony, try adding a garnish of lemon zest to the top of each portion. You can also soak the chicken in a 1:1 mixture of olive oil and lemon juice in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking.
- Try a Tenderloin: Looking for something a little more substantial than chicken for the main protein of your meal? Try using pork tenderloin instead. It’s a similarly thin and tender cut of meat.
What Goes With Chicken Piccata?
The pairing possibilities of chicken piccata are endless. Starchy sides like pasta, rice, or these Slow Cooker Country-Style Garlic Mashed Potatoes pair really well with this creamy chicken, and you can even save a little bit of the sauce to pour on top. Round out this meal with a vitamin-rich vegetable side like green beans, steamed broccoli or Cheesy Grilled Asparagus, which has a hint of lemon that makes it pair wonderfully with the chicken’s tangy piccata sauce.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
This creamy chicken piccata can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to eat it, pop it into the oven for 10 minutes at 350°F or reheat it on the stove until it’s warmed through.
Can I Freeze This?
Since the chicken is unbreaded and the piccata sauce doesn’t contain any fresh lemon juice that could lead to curdling, you can absolutely freeze this dish! Be sure to freeze the chicken and the sauce separately. Keep the sauce in a sealable freezer-safe container and wrap the chicken well in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Fully thaw this dish overnight in the fridge before reheating it.
Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
- salt, if desired
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- Lightly pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. DO NOT POUND THIN.
- Season chicken with lemon-pepper seasoning and salt, if using; set aside.
- Heat olive oil and butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add chicken and continue to cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly, turning once during cooking.
- Transfer chicken to a plate and keep covered.
- Return skillet to heat.
- In a mixing bowl, combine milk and cornstarch; whisk until incorporated.
- Stir in fresh thyme.
- Pour milk mixture into the skillet and whisk, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the skillet; continue to whisk until thickened and bubbly, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in capers.
- Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
- Pour sauce over chicken.
- To Store: Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- To Freeze: Keep the sauce in a sealable freezer-safe container and wrap the chicken well in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Thaw in fridge overnight before reheating.
- To Reheat: Pop in the oven for 10 minutes at 350°F or reheat on the stove until warmed through.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.