Classic Chicken Parmesan Recipe

Chicken Parmesan may be many people's go-to order at an Italian restaurant, but it's actually a dish that was created here in the U.S. While immigrants from southern Italy brought with them their memories of a dish called melanzane alla Parmigiana, or, as we know it here, eggplant Parmesan, they were pleasantly surprised to find that meat was much more affordable in the Americas. Pretty soon, this traditional vegetable dish was adapted to create a new recipe centered around chicken instead (via Paesana).

Recipe developer Kit Hondrum of Kit's Kitchen has created a slimmed-down, less-fatty version of this favorite restaurant dish. Instead of being pan-fried, her chicken breasts are baked, and she skips the traditional mozzarella topping in favor of using Parmesan cheese. Her recipe also contains one additional twist not found in traditional chicken parm: She likes to top it with caramelized onions, something she says "adds a unique taste to this dish ... unexpected, yet perfectly suited to complement the traditional flavors of chicken Parmesan."

Get the ingredients for your chicken Parmesan

You'll want to use boneless, skinless breasts for this recipe. You're also going to need salted butter, a large yellow onion, fine ground sea salt, panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (although just plain Parmesan would work, too), chopped fresh parsley, red wine, and pasta sauce. When it comes to pasta sauce, Hondrum used the store-bought kind (her preferred brand is Bertolli, if you're looking for a recommendation) and notes that the amount of pasta sauce called for in the recipe is about half of what's found in most standard-sized jars. You can, of course, make your own spaghetti sauce if you don't care for the bottled kind.

Another ingredient swap you can make, if you'd rather not cook with wine, is using beef stock or broth instead, although Hondrum does say to add "just a tiny splash of acid" as well. She suggests that lemon juice or apple cider vinegar could work if they're what you have on hand, though red wine vinegar might be even better, as it could give you a hint of the wine taste without the alcohol. Hondrum also offers a tip for those who don't mind cooking with wine but don't care for drinking it: She suggests buying a bottle, using what you need for a recipe, then freezing the leftovers in ice cube trays to use for future cooking use.

Caramelizing the onions is the most time-consuming part of the recipe

While some recipes suggest (incorrectly) that onions can be "caramelized" in a relatively short amount of time, the fact is, they will actually only be sauteed unless you cook them long enough for their natural sugars to release. Hondrum tells us this should take about 45 minutes, although she does say you'll only need to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan every now and then as they cook.

You'll first need to slice the onion a quarter of an inch thick, then melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Cook the onions low and slow, and once the 45 minutes is up, you can then add the wine (or broth and vinegar) along with the sea salt. Stir these in, scrape up the browned onion bits from the bottom of the pan, then allow the mixture to cook for about three more minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, and allow the onions to sit while you turn your attention to other things.

You can multi-task by cooking the chicken at the same time

You don't need to wait until the onions are done before you get on with the rest of the cooking. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Then, while it's warming up, take your chicken breasts and slice them through the middle horizontally to make thinner sections of meat. Pour the breadcrumbs into a bowl, then melt half a cup (one stick) of butter in a separate shallow bowl. Dip each piece of chicken into the melted butter, turning to coat all sides, then dredge them in breadcrumbs. Shake off the excess crumbs, then place each piece on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush or drizzle the remaining butter over the chicken pieces in the pan. Bake the chicken on the center rack for 20 minutes or until it is cooked through and is firm to the touch. Remove the chicken from the oven, then spoon the pasta sauce on top of each piece. Hondrum's recommendation is that you "leave some edges uncovered so they can stay crispy."

Top off the chicken Parmesan with cheese

Hondrum's choice of Parmesan cheese to replace the familiar mozzarella topping does make her chicken Parmesan a bit healthier than the usual version. "I personally try to limit the amount of dairy in my diet," she tells us," explaining that the ingredient swap "is a great way to add cheese in moderation." While she says she doesn't miss the mozzarella since "Parmigiano-Reggiano has a great strong flavor and I think that it's all this dish needs," she adds that "mozzarella can definitely be added, though, if desired."

Whichever cheese you choose, finish off the cooked chicken breasts by sprinkling them with the Parmesan and/or covering them with sliced mozzarella and then broiling them for five minutes until the cheese is melted and just starting to turn brown. Top the cheese with the caramelized onions. Hondrum does say that if you like, you can also place the onions on top of the sauce and under the cheese, which might help them stay in place.

Garnish your chicken Parmesan and serve it with a side of spaghetti

As a finishing touch for her chicken parmesan, Hondrum tops it with chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, though she tells us that "any kind of parsley" will do. You might be tempted to skip this step if you think of parsley as being just window dressing, but the stuff does have its nutritional benefits if you don't mind the slight bitterness it adds. Simply Recipes says parsley not only helps to stimulate your appetite (not that this will be a problem with such a tasty dish on the menu), but will also help facilitate digestion. In case you're reluctant to buy something perishable for a recipe that just calls for a tiny amount of it, they say you can always use the leftover parsley to make chimichurri or pesto.

Whether you choose to parsley or not to parsley, chicken Parmesan is best served with a side of spaghetti or some other type of pasta. That way, you'll have something to catch all the delicious sauce, cheese, and onions that may slide off the chicken breasts.

Classic Chicken Parmesan Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
Recipe developer Kit Hondrum of Kit's Kitchen has created a slimmed-down, less-fatty version of this favorite restaurant dish.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Chicken parmesan with pasta
Total time: 1 hour
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) salted butter, divided
  • 1 large onion sliced to ¼-inch thickness
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups seasoned Italian-seasoned panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 12 fluid ounces pasta sauce
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Optional Ingredients
  • Thin-sliced mozzarella
  • Chopped parsley
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion slices and allow to cook for about 45 minutes, occasionally stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan.
  2. Once the onions have cooked down and caramelized, add ¼ cup wine and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir, scrape the bottom, and allow the wine to reduce for about 3 minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked off. Turn off the heat and set it aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  4. Place 1 ½ cups of the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Melt ½ cup butter in a separate shallow bowl. Dip one piece of chicken into the butter to coat all sides, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture and shake off excess. Place on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
  5. Carefully brush or drizzle the leftover melted butter on the chicken.
  6. Bake the chicken on the center rack for 20 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through and firm to the touch.
  7. Remove the pasta from the oven and spoon the pasta sauce over the chicken, leaving some edges uncovered so they can stay crispy. Sprinkle ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
  8. Top the chicken with the caramelized onions and garnish if desired with 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.
  9. Serve and enjoy.
Calories per Serving 775
Total Fat 51.6 g
Saturated Fat 26.0 g
Trans Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 199.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 27.7 g
Dietary Fiber 3.1 g
Total Sugars 8.0 g
Sodium 1,040.3 mg
Protein 46.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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