This crispy chicken schnitzel with panko is a Mediterranean-inspired riff on the classic German fried chicken cutlet. Here, za’atar is added to the crispy panko coating on the chicken before pan-frying. The chicken is served with baked sweet potato wedges and a bright herby vinaigrette.
A classic Austrian schnitzel is made of veal or pork that’s battered and then fried in clarified butter, and the dish is now prevalent, with modifications, in Israeli cuisine. Austrian and German Jews brought the dish to Israel during the 1930s and 40s, but veal was not widely available and pork ran counter to Jewish dietary laws. Chicken and turkey were perfect stand-ins and what you’ll commonly find.
Often sesame seeds, nigella seeds, or za’atar find their way into the coating in Israeli versions, and they provide appealing extra flavor and crunch. We use za’atar. It’s common to find schnitzel served with fries or chips; for a highly nutritious side in that vein, we roast sweet potato wedges until beautifully seared on one side and sweet and fudgy in the center. A zippy, herb-forward vinaigrette balances this sweetness and makes the side just as special as the cutlets. We also enjoy serving this dish with tahini sauce.–America’s Test Kitchen
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel FAQs
It would appear that what is considered to be the correct pronunciation is dependent on what area of the world you happen to be in. A quick Google search will result in pronunciations like “ZAH-tah”, “za-taar”, or “ZAH’taarrrr” (roll that r!) and in some cases, the name of this popular spice blend has three syllables and is pronounced za-ah-tar. For the record, we say ZAH-tar.
For this recipe, we don’t recommend substitutions. Fresh herbs impart a green, herby flavor that can be lost with dried herbs. Fresh herbs also contain natural oils that will help to flavor your dishes – crushing or rubbing your herbs together will help release those tasty oils. Particularly in the vinaigrette, you want those herby flavors to really sing – but if you don’t have access to fresh herbs and must substitute, it’s fine. A good rule of thumb to remember is that 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs is about equal to 1 teaspoon of dried.
Placing the cooked chicken schnitzel cutlets on a rack instead of directly on the paper towel will help to keep them crispy while you cook the remaining cutlets. Allowing air to move underneath the cutlets prevents the panko breadcrumbs from becoming soggy.
In this recipe
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with Panko
For the vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
For the chicken and potatoes
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 1 1/2 inch-wide (4-cm) wedges
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt divided, plus more, if needed
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 to 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade za’atar
- Two (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts trimmed, or substitute 4 (1/4-inch thick) chicken cutlets
- Freshly ground black pepper
Make the vinaigrette
- In a medium bowl, whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together.
Make the chicken and potatoes
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- On the prepared baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange potatoes cut side down in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the potato bottoms are well browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, spread the flour in a shallow dish. Lightly beat the egg in a second shallow dish. Combine the panko and za’atar in a third shallow dish.
☞TESTER TIP: The za’atar tends to settle to the bottom of the panko mixture so be sure to mix it up before dredging each cutlet.
- Halve the chicken breasts horizontally to form 4 cutlets of even thickness. Place 1 cutlet between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4‑inch (6-mm) thickness. Repeat with the remaining cutlets.
- Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge in the flour, dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off, then coat with the panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
- Line a second rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and set a baking rack inside it. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a 12‑inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 2 cutlets in the skillet and cook until deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to the rack on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining 2 cutlets. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle the potatoes with the vinaigrette. Serve the chicken cutlets with the potatoes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This crispy chicken schnitzel with panko is a good take on a breaded chicken breast with my favorite vegetable, sweet potatoes. The vinaigrette ties everything together. I would say that I probably needed a little instruction in the right way to cut potato wedges, but despite some of mine being misshapen, the end product still ended up very edible!
Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, what’s not to like? I only wish there had been a more pronounced za’atar flavor to the panko crust. Next time I will try doubling the amount. The roasted sweet potatoes were a great accompaniment with the vinaigrette adding a welcomed flavor oomph. The recipe is a great template for other flavor combinations – herbs de Provence with this vinaigrette? Cajun/creole seasoning with a thyme vinaigrette? Italian seasoning with a basil vinaigrette? The possibilities go on…
Chicken Schnitzel or Chicken Milanese? Whatever you call it, it’s one of my favorite quick weeknight meals. I make Chicken Milanese often and serve it with lemon parsley sauce. But I was intrigued by this recipe that requires no sauce and instead derives a lovely flavor profile from za’atar seasoning. With a bit of attention to detail I think this recipe can reward you and your eaters often!
During the breading process the seasoning didn’t integrate well with the panko and basically fell to the bottom, so that some areas of the breast meat had only panko crumbs, and other areas had a large concentration of the seasoning. I think I would try to rectify this by sprinkling the za’atar on the chicken breast first while the meat is damp and press it onto the flesh, OR sprinkle the za’atar onto the egg coating, then into the crumbs. I found that one egg wasn’t quite enough for 4 cutlets. My trick in this case is to add a tablespoon of water to stretch the egg out and then you should be able to get away with only using one egg.
Final word of advice speaks to the generous amount of oil called for—do NOT try and skimp on the oil. If you do you will end up with burned breadcrumbs, the chicken needs to slide around in the oil. If you’re doing two cutlets at a time you could start with 1/3 cup oil and add more as needed for the second batch.
This chicken schnitzel recipe was absolutely delicious served with a side of orecchiette with chickpeas, turmeric, and greens. Just a squeeze of bright lemon was all that was needed to complement the crispy chicken schnitzel.
You had me at za’atar! I make my own version of chicken cutlets with za’atar and wanted to compare. This crispy chicken schnitzel with panko knocks it out of the park. The amount of za’atar is just right and I drizzled tahini sauce over the chicken and the potatoes. It was just perfect. My husband took one bite and told me that these were spectacular and worthy of the special china I served them on.
Using olive oil to fry the chicken made it light and crispy. I will admit that I added a sprinkle or two of the za’atar to the sweet potatoes as well. They roasted up crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. A great weeknight meal that can be on the table in under an hour but special enough to serve guests.
This is a very nice way to prepare chicken. Because the cutlets are pounded to only 1/4-inch thickness, they only need a short cooking time. The result is a tender, juicy finished product with a deliciously crispy exterior. The side of roasted sweet potato wedges is a nice accompaniment. My favorite part of this recipe may be the vinaigrette drizzled on the potatoes, which adds some acidity and “zing”. I will likely find other users for it.
The next time I prepare this crispy chicken schnitzel with panko (and there will be a next time!) I will add more za’atar seasoning and perhaps mix it with the flour or even sprinkle some directly on the chicken. My husband thought the mustard cream sauce would be a nice addition to the chicken. The easy preparation and short cooking time make this a great weeknight meal, but it is also “special” enough to serve guests. I added a pear, pecan and arugula salad and a glass of sauvignon blanc.
Originally published May 10, 2022