Coated with crispy Japanese panko and fried to perfection, this Chicken Cheese Katsu is a favorite among kids and adults alike. What makes it extra special? The melt-in-your-mouth molten cheese filling! You’d find it hard to resist. The dish is also the highlight of Netflix’s Midnight Diner (Season 2).
The Japanese have a deep affection for fried chicken. From karaage to chicken katsu to chicken tempura (toriten), we have a lineup of fried chicken that we just can’t get enough of. And one thing they all share in common? Crispy skin and juicy meat. Today I’d like to introduce another Japanese’s crispy fried chicken – Chicken Cheese Katsu (ささみチーズカツ).
You heard it right. This one has melt-in-your-mouth, gooey cheese in it! If you’ve been following the popular Netflix® show – Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Season 2), you’d see the spotlight on the dish referred to as “Fried Chicken Breast with Cheese” in Episode 2.
Chicken Cheese Katsu may be lesser-known compared to karaage or chicken katsu, but it’s definitely a popular home-cooked dish in Japan. The combo of fried juicy chicken with cheese seems to be the winning factor.
Ready to tackle this recipe? Imagine yourself being the Master of Midnight Diner!
What is Chicken Cheese Katsu?
You probably know Chicken Katsu already. If not, it’s a chicken cutlet (“Katsu” came from this word) that is very similar to Chicken Schnitzel. In Japan, we make cutlets with chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or vegetable.
- Chicken Katsu (Baked Chicken Katsu)
- Tonkatsu (Baked Tonkatsu)
- Gyukatsu – our favorite restaurant in Tokyo
- Tofu Katsu – our favorite restaurant in Hakone
Some Tonkatsu specialty restaurants offer variations with cheese, and that’s Cheese Katsu (チーズカツ). It’s very popular among the kids and ladies that restaurants even offer the cheese katsu in “lady’s lunch set” and “children’s lunch set” menus.
This Chicken Cheese Katsu is:
- Crispy and crunchy on the outside
- Juicy on the inside
- Filled with molten cheese oozing out from the chicken
- Delicious with flaked salt or tonkatsu sauce
- Your new favorite katsu that you don’t typically find at Japanese restaurants
Plus, it’s freezer-friendly, and perfect for bento or emergency dinner menu!
How to Make Chicken Cheese Katsu
Coated with crispy Japanese panko and fried to perfection, this Chicken Cheese Katsu is a favorite among kids and adults alike.
The cooking process is quite simple, and you can make this entire dish in less than an hour.
- Butterfly the chicken tender and season with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the chicken with cheese.
- Coat the chicken with flour, egg, and panko.
- Deep fry till golden brown.
The video above will help you visualize the process, but you can also see my step-by-step pictures in the recipe box below.
3 Success Tips
Here are 3 important tips to remember when you make chicken cheese katsu.
- Evenly pound chicken tender. It’s easier to roll up the chicken when it’s evenly flat. Also, it’s faster to cook a thinner piece of meat with even thickness.
- Do not expose the cheese. When cheese is exposed to the oil, it will melt right away. Therefore, it’s important to tuck the cheese in the chicken tightly and coat well with the breading.
- Check your oil temperature. The right oil temperature will ensure your last path to success. Check my post How to Deep Fry Food and get a cooking thermometer so you don’t have to guess your oil temperature.
Once you have these down, you’d have great success with the recipe.
Do We Really Need to Deep Fry?
I have shared oven-baked versions for my other chicken katsu recipes, but I would recommend deep-frying for this Chicken Cheese Katsu. Deep-frying could be messy, but it is the way to go for the best texture and flavor.
However, if you still like to use the oven, use my Toasted Panko Method and bake the chicken.
The Processed Cheese in Japan
Growing up in Japan in the late 70s to late 90s, the cheese I ate was this creamy yellow cheese called “Process Cheese” (プロセスチーズ).
In Today’s recipe, I used this exact “process cheese” the master of Midnight Diner was using. The local Japanese grocery store here in San Francisco happens to carry it. It’s basically the processed cheese made from 100% cow’s milk from Hokkaido, and the taste is specifically made for the Japanese taste (according to their website).
You don’t have to use this cheese, of course. Mozzarella, fontina, gruyere, provolone, or any kind of creamy cheese would work in this Chicken Cheese Katsu recipe.
Serve with a pile of shredded cabbage, some cherry tomatoes alongside with rice, and enjoy!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Chicken Cheese Katsu
- 1 lb chicken tenders/tenderloins (8 pieces)
- kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- white pepper powder (you can use black pepper)
- 4 oz cheese (I used the same Japanese “processed cheese” which was used in Midnight Diner (see blog post). You can use mozzarella, fontina, gruyere, provolone, or any kind of cheese you want to stuff in the chicken.)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) (plus more as needed)
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) (plus more as needed)
- 3-4 cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (for deep frying)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Cut the cheese into thin long sticks.
- Lay the chicken tender on the counter, tendon side down. Grab the end of the tendon with your finger, slide your sharp knife under it at a 20-degree angle, and simply pull the tendon toward you. Place your hand flat on top of the chicken tender. Slice into the thicker side and butterfly the chicken without slicing through to the other side. NOTE: A tough white tendon attached to the chicken tender can be left in and cooked; however, it is more pleasant to eat if removed.
- Carefully open the chicken and pound the chicken tender to a uniform thickness using the back of your knife (or a mallet or rolling pin).
- Season the chicken tender generously with salt and white pepper.
- Place long pieces of cheese on each chicken tender. Start rolling from one end.
- Make sure the cheese is tucked in tightly and not visible from the outside.
- Add the oil in a deep pot (I used a 3.5QT Dutch oven) and set over medium-low heat (slowly heat up while you bread the chicken). If you have a cooking thermometer, heat the oil to 340ºF (170℃).
- Whisk 2 large eggs in a bowl and set out flour and panko in separate shallow bowls. Working with one chicken tender at a time, coat it with flour.
- Shake off any excess flour and dredge in eggs.
- Then coat with the panko, pressing firmly, and shake off any excess panko (excess crumbs will get burnt in the oil).
- When the oil is heated at 340ºF (170℃), or small bubbles appear around chopsticks inserted in the oil, gently add the chicken to the oil. Do not overcrowd (oil temperature will drop significantly) and fry in several batches.
- Fry chicken cheese katsu until the exterior is golden brown, the interior is just cooked through, 3 minutes total.
- Transfer the chicken to a wire rack or a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Between batches and as needed, clean the oil with a fine-mesh skimmer. It’s important to keep the oil clean; otherwise, the oil gets darker with burnt crumbs. Continue the rest of the batches.
- Slice the chicken cheese katsu in half diagonally.
- Serve with shredded cabbage and cherry tomatoes. Optionally, you can serve with flake salt and Tonkatsu sauce. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to a month. Reheat the katsu in the oven or oven toaster at 350ºF (177ºC) until heated through and avoid using a microwave.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories 1 Recipes
Thank you to all of you who reached out regarding the Season 2 Midnight Diner recipes! For those of you who are interested in Midnight Diner Season 1 recipes, you can click on this link to check them out.