A popular dish throughout Israel, chicken schnitzel is a simple, budget-friendly dish to prepare. It is often served with French fries, but I prefer to serve it with a fresh salad to cut down on calories. This easy recipe is sure to become a mainstay in your kitchen; I make it once or twice a month because it’s so simple and tasty. Try breading it with panko for a lighter, flakier, Japanese-style coating.
History of Chicken Schnitzel
Chicken schnitzel is a popular and tasty treat served throughout Israel. Schnitzel is Austrian in origin; veal (known as Wiener Schnitzel) or pork were the traditional meats of choice. Fried schnitzel later found its way to Israel with European Jews. Like many other foods, Jews adapted this regional dish to suit their unique dietary kosher laws. Pork (which is treif) and veal (which was expensive and difficult to obtain) was replaced by chicken and turkey. Fast forward to today, and most restaurants in Israel have some version of poultry schnitzel on their menu.
Schnitzel is traditionally served with fresh lemon juice. Funny enough, the origin of this culinary tradition is less than appetizing. Before refrigeration was invented, lemon juice helped mask the flavor of meat gone bad. The squeeze of lemon juice stuck, and we still serve schnitzel with lemon slices to this day.
While I do love my schnitzel with lemon, I also like to get creative with mine and dip it in spicy mustard or Louisiana hot sauce. You can’t go wrong either way!
We enjoy schnitzel year-round in our home. Here are a couple of other ways to prepare it.
What to Serve with Chicken Schnitzel
Here are some of my favorite side dishes that pair well with chicken schnitzel.
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- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, matzo meal, or panko
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
- 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
- Oil for frying, avocado oil or grapeseed oil both work well
- Fresh lemon wedges for garnish
For each breast, check to see if there is a tenderloin (an extra flap of meat that sort of hangs off).
If there is a tenderloin, slice it off of the breast. Trim any visible tendons or extra bits of fat from the breast and the tenderloin. Set tenderloin aside.
Lay the breast on cutting board with smooth side facing upward. Identify the thickest round edge of the breast. Place your hand flat on the top of the breast. Slice carefully horizontally into the thickest round edge, slicing about three quarters of the way into the breast (divinding top half of breast from bottom). Do not slice all the way through.
Unfold the breast to reveal two symmetrical halves (this is a "butterfly" of the breast). Slice down the middle to divide the breast into two equal pieces. When finished with the pound of chicken, you should have 4 breasts of relatively equal size, and perhaps a couple of tenderloins as well.
Lay down a 2- to 3-foot long strip of plastic wrap on your kitchen countertop. Place chicken breasts and tenderloins on the plastic, leaving a 2-inch space between each piece of meat. Cover the breasts with another strip of plastic, so the meat is sandwiched between two layers of plastic.
Use the flat side of a mallet to pound the breasts thin until they are of a uniform thickness, roughly 1/8 inch thin throughout.
Place all the pounded breasts and tenderloins on a plate. Set up three wide, shallow bowls and a large empty plate on your countertop. In your first bowl, put the flour. In your second bowl, beat the eggs together with 2 tsp of water until well mixed. In your third bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, paprika, 1/4 tsp salt and sesame seeds (optional) until well blended. Place empty plate nearby where you will put your coated schnitzels.
Pour oil into a skillet or sauté pan until it’s deep enough for frying (about ½ inch). Heat the oil slowly over medium. While oil is heating, dip each breast one by one into your breading bowls—first dredge with flour.
Next, dip the floured breast in egg until well coated.
Finally, place the egg-covered breast into the bowl of breadcrumb mixture. Use a dry hand to coat the breast evenly with breadcrumbs. Repeat process for remaining breasts and tenderloins.
You want your frying oil to be around 350 degreees F - hot, but not so hot that the oil smokes or splatters. You can test the oil temperature with a tenderloin first, if you have one. Fry the coated breasts in single-layer batches until they are golden brown on both sides. If your oil is at the right temperature, it should take about 2-3 minutes per side to cook the schnitzels.
Don’t fry more than two breasts at a time in a regular sized skillet, or the oil temperature will drop and the schnitzels will become greasy. When the oil is at the right temperature, the schnitzels will absorb very little oil and cook up light and crisp.
After frying, set the schnitzels on a drying rack (or on a paper towel-lined plate) to drain excess oil.
Sprinkle the schnitzels with additional salt to taste, if desired. Serve hot garnished with lemon wedges or your favorite condiment. Mustard and hot sauce both pair well with schnitzel. If you have any tenderloins, take dibs on who gets to eat them - that meat is especially tender (hence the name "tenderloin"). Enjoy!