Chicken Katsu—Japanese-style breaded chicken breast cutlets—is comfort food that still warms my bones the way it did the first chilly afternoon I tried it in a small restaurant in Tokyo.
It was a damp November day.
We’d been going for hours and were tired and hungry (ever feel that way after work?).
We followed our noses to a tucked-away basement restaurant, grabbed our picture menus, and pointed at what looked like the ideal meal for the moment: juicy chicken breaded, fried, and served with a sweet, sticky Asian sauce often called tonkatsu.
It was simple, satiating, and exactly what the moment needed.
What sets chicken katsu apart is how it’s pounded thinly, the use of panko breadcrumbs (which make it extra crunchy), and how it is served: with shredded cabbage, rice, lemon wedges, and tonkatsu sauce.
If your family loves crispy breaded chicken (me too!), then you’ll adore chicken katsu.
Today’s recipe is my baked version of chicken katsu, made accessible for the average American cook.
- Instead of deep frying, I bake the chicken at a high temperature to make the outside crispy and keep the inside juicy.
- To mimic the indulgence of fried, prior to breading the chicken, I toast the breadcrumbs in a little bit of butter. It works like a dream!
Chicken Katsu Sauce
Chicken katsu is typically served with tonkatsu sauce, a sweet and tangy Japanese condiment that is made of fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, celery, onion, dates, and prunes, along with soy sauce and more than 10 spices. It’s complex!
Here in the U.S., you can purchase it from many grocery stores or your local Asian market. I’ve also included a shortcut chicken katsu sauce recipe below that I adapted from Just One Cookbook.
How to Make Chicken Katsu
This baked version of chicken katsu uses butter-toasted breadcrumbs to create a yummy, crispy chicken without the fuss of a deep fryer.
Serve it the traditional Japanese way (with shredded cabbage, rice, lemon, and tonkatsu sauce), or do a cultural mash-up and opt for your family’s favoring dipping sauces, like Barbecue Sauce, Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip, or the honey mustard dipping sauce from my Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders.
- Chicken. Pounding the chicken cutlets until they’re nice and thin helps make them more tender. Plus, they cook in a flash! You can purchase chicken that is already sliced into cutlets, or cut your own from regular chicken breast.
To make the chicken easier to split into cutlets place it in the freezer for 15 minutes prior to slicing.
- Butter. Toasting the panko in butter adds rich, mouth-watering flavor to the breadcrumb coating without the need for a deep fryer.
- Panko. Creates the perfect crispy, crunchy coating.
- Flour + Egg. Helps the egg and breadcrumbs adhere to the outside for maximum crisp-age.
- Pound the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
- Toast the breadcrumbs in a skillet with butter. Add the flour to a separate bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg.
- Lightly dredge each chicken cutlet in the flour.
- Then, dip it into the egg.
- Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs.
- Lay the cutlets on a baking sheet topped with an oven-safe rack, then coat each one with nonstick spray.
- Bake chicken katsu at 425 degrees F for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with tonkatsu sauce and desired sides. DIG IN!
To Make in the Air Fryer
Here’s how to make chicken katsu in the air fryer (fans of my Air Fryer Fried Chicken Breast will love this!):
- Follow the recipe as directed through Step 6.
- Coat an air fryer basket with nonstick spray. Cook the chicken cutlets in a single layer (you may need to do a few batches) at 390 degrees F for 4 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over, then cook for another 2 to 5 minutes or until it is cooked through. Repeat with any remaining chicken.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover breaded chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, pound the chicken. Refrigerate it in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Sheet. My go-to for everything from roasted veggies to chicken katsu.
- Pie Dish. Perfect for the flour, egg, and breadcrumb mixtures.
- Meat Tenderizer. Great for pounding the chicken.
Every bite of this chicken katsu takes me back to that cozy restaurant in Tokyo.
I hope it brings warmth and nourishment to your family too!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’d like to make a chicken katsu Parmesan version, you can add grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumb mixture (after the breadcrumbs have been toasted in butter and cooled).
To make dairy-free chicken katsu, swap the butter for canola oil or olive oil.
FOR THE CHICKEN KATSU:
- 4 chicken breast cutlets*
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter**
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- Nonstick cooking spray recommended: olive oil spray
- Tonkatsu sauce***
- Finely shredded cabbage
- Lemon wedges
- Cooked rice white is traditional; use brown rice for a nutritional boost or cauliflower rice
Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place an oven-safe rack on top and coat generously with nonstick spray and set aside.
Lightly pound the chicken cutlets into an even ½-inch thickness. Sprinkle the chicken cutlets with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to coat the breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Let cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted and turning golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wide, shallow bowl or dish (a pie plate works well).
In a separate shallow bowl, place the white whole wheat flour. In a third shallow bowl, beat the egg.
Set up your workstation: chicken, flour, egg, panko, baking sheet. Working one at a time, dip each chicken cutlet lightly in flour.
Then, dip the chicken in the egg.
Finally, dip the chicken into the panko. Pat the panko as needed so that it adheres. Arrange on the baking sheet so the cutlets are not touching. Mist the tops with nonstick spray.
Bake the chicken katsu in the upper third of the oven, until the chicken is cooked through (it should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F; I pull mine out several degrees early and let the carryover cooking finish the rest), about 12 to 14 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.
To serve, cut the chicken katsu into thin slices (if desired). Drizzle with the tonkatsu sauce. Serve with cabbage, a small bowl of rice, and lemon wedges, with the extra tonkatsu sauce in a bowl alongside.
- *Chicken breast cutlets are chicken breasts that have been split in half horizontally to create two thinner pieces of chicken. You can buy them already cut or carefully cut your own. Or, you can pound very small chicken breasts to a ½-inch.
- **Traditional chicken katsu is deep-fried in vegetable or peanut oil; to mimic that indulgent spin, I toast the panko breadcrumbs in melted butter; if you prefer, you can toast them in canola oil or olive oil.
- ***Tonkatsu sauce is available at many grocery stores or at your local Asian market. Or, you can make your quick version by combining 2 1/2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon oyster sauce. Add a pinch or two of sugar to taste (sauce adapted from Just One Cookbook).
- TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 344kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 41gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 165mgPotassium: 685mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 286IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 50mgIron: 2mg
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