Chicken Katsu (チキンカツ) is a variation on Tonkatsu, which uses chicken instead of pork. The name “Katsu” comes from the English word “cutlet,” which becomes “katsuretsu” when transliterated into Japanese. It’s typically made with either chicken breasts or thighs coated in panko before being deep-fried and served with sweet and savory tonkatsu sauce.
Why this recipe works
- If you’re using chicken breasts, it’s important to butterfly them. This makes them an even thickness, allowing you to cook them through quickly, which keeps them from getting dried out.
- The seasoning mix of salt, white pepper, and onion powder adds a ton of flavor to the Chicken Katsu.
- The three-step breading process (flour, egg, panko) ensures the breadcrumbs adhere to the chicken without flaking off.
Ingredients for Chicken Katsu
- Chicken – Both breast meat and thigh meat will work for this. Because breast meat is leaner, it’s easy to overcook and dry out; this makes it tricker to fry. Thigh meat includes more fat, which makes it much harder to overcook, and it’s the more flavorful cut of chicken. I recommend using the highest quality chicken you can afford.
- Seasonings – I like to season my Chicken Katsu with salt, white pepper, and onion powder, but you can get a little creative here and use other spices such as curry powder, garlic powder, etc.
- Flour – The flour is like a primer in that it helps the egg and panko stick to the chicken. Any flour that contains starch will work.
- Egg – The egg, acts together with the flour to form an edible glue that helps the panko adhere to the chicken.
- Panko – Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs. It’s made by coarsely crumbling crustless sandwich bread, which makes the coating light and crispy once fried. You can make it by slicing the crusts off of stale sandwich bread and then pulsing it in a food processor. Although panko is not gluten-free, there are gluten-free brands of panko available.
- Oil – Any oil with a neutral flavor and high smoke point will work for this. I used rice bran oil.
How to make Chicken Katsu
If you are using chicken breasts, you will want to butterfly them by slicing them in half horizontally. You may find they still aren’t an even thickness, in which case you can use something heavy such as a kitchen mallet, rolling pin, or the bottom of a pot to flatten the high spots, so the chicken is an even thickness throughout. The goal here is not to pound the chicken out thinly, so don’t overdo it.
If you are using chicken thighs, you will want to trim off any excess skin, fat, or cartilage.
Beat an egg in a shallow bowl or tray and then prepare another bowl or tray with the panko. Preheat 1 1/2 inches of oil to 340 degrees F or 170 C. Line a wire rack with 2-3 sheets of paper towels.
Mix the salt, white pepper, and onion powder together in a small bowl and then sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.
Sprinkle the flour over every surface of the chicken and then pat the pieces of chicken together to distribute the flour evenly. Be careful not to miss any spots here, or you will end up with bald spots when you fry your katsu.
Dip the flour-dusted chicken in the egg, turning it over a few times to coat it evenly. Be careful not the scrape off the flour from the chicken.
Transfer the chicken to the tray with the panko and bury the chicken in the breadcrumbs. Gently pat the panko into the chicken to help it stick, and then flip the cutlet over and repeat until every surface is evenly coated.
Lower the breaded chicken cutlets into the oil and fry them for 6-8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees F for chicken breasts, or 165 degrees F for chicken thighs.
Be sure to flip the Chicken Katsu over a few times to ensure they brown evenly.
When the cutlets are done, transfer them to the prepared rack and let them rest for 2-3 minutes before you slice them. This prevents the chicken from leaking out all of its juices when you slice it.
Serve the Chicken Katsu with shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce, and hot Japanese mustard.
Other ways to serve Chicken Katsu
- Katsu Curry – Instead of serving this with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, the cutlet can be served alongside Japanese curry rice.
- Katsu Sandwich – Served in a bun, or between two pieces of sandwich bread, Chicken Katsu makes for a delicious cutlet sandwich.
- Katsu Donburi – Leftover chicken katsu can be used to make a rice bowl called Katsudon.
The simplest way to make Tonkatsu sauce is to mix ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in a 50:50 ratio. If you want to make something more flavorful, check out my Katsu Sando recipe, which includes a recipe for the sauce.
Yes, any tender cut of meat will work, including beef, pork, or lamb. In Japan, other ingredients such as seafood and vegetables are breaded in panko and fried as well; however, these aren’t cutlets, so they are not called “katsu.” For example, breaded and fried shrimp is called “Ebifurai” (shrimp fry), mackerel is called “Ajufurai” (horse mackerel fry), and oysters called “Kakifurai” (oyster fry).
Yes, but if your goal is to make it contain less fat, it won’t make much of a difference because the panko needs to be doused in a fair amount of oil to brown and crisp properly. That being said, some people prefer the easier cleanup of baking this in an oven, so if you choose to do so, you can follow the instructions on my baked chicken parmesan recipe (after you’ve breaded the katsu), to bake this in an oven.
chicken 2 boneless skinless breasts or 4 large thighs
panko 1 1/4 cups
onion powder optional
vegetable oil for frying
cabbage about 8 leaves
Japanese hot mustard
If you are using chicken breasts, butterfly them by cutting them in half horizontally. If you are using thighs, trim any excess skin, fat, or gristle off of them.
Break the egg into a tray or shallow bowl that’s large enough to hold one piece of chicken and beat it until uniform. Pour the panko into another tray.
Mix the salt, white pepper, and onion powder together and sprinkle it evenly over every surface of the chicken.
Dust the seasoned chicken in a thin coating of flour. Be sure you don’t miss any spots.
Dip the chicken into the egg, making sure there is no dry flour left.
Place the chicken cutlet into the panko and cover the cut with the breadcrumbs. Press gently on the crumbs to help them adhere to the chicken. Flip it over and repeat until every surface of the chicken is coated in an even layer of panko.
Heat 1 1/2 – inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 340 degrees F (170 C). Prepare a cooling rack lined with a few layers of paper towels.
When the oil has reached the desired temperature, lower the chicken into the oil.
Flip the chicken over a few times to ensure it browns evenly.
Fry the chicken katsu for 6-8 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. You can check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Breast meat should register 155 degrees F, while thigh meat should reach 165 degrees F.
Transfer to the cooling rack and let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing it.