Chicken Katsu is a classic Japanese home-cooked meal served with tonkatsu sauce and a side of shredded cabbage salad. These tender and crispy panko-breaded cutlets are surprisingly easy to make, even on a busy weeknight! They also freeze well and make for a delicious meal prep menu. (Deep-fried and baked versions included)
Who can resist the great pleasure of eating crispy, juicy, fried chicken? Not me! Not when I can easily fry them up at home in just about 30 minutes. I’m talking about Chicken Katsu (チキンカツ), a Japanese version of chicken schnitzel or chicken tenders.
The crispy crust and the flavorful juicy meat bring great satisfaction to every bite. Today I’ll like to show you how to make this beloved Japanese chicken cutlet right in your kitchen!
Table of Contents
What is Chicken Katsu?
Chicken katsu (チキンカツ) is made of chicken breast fillet breaded with flour, egg, and Japanese panko breadcrumbs, then deep-fried until golden brown. It’s the chicken counterpart of Tonkatsu or pork cutlet.
With just a few simple ingredients from your pantry, chicken katsu is something you can accomplish even on a weeknight meal!
If you’re curious, katsu is basically a shortened form of katsuretsu (カツレツ), meaning “cutlet” in Japanese. There are different versions of katsu depending on the type of meat you use. I’ve shared many katsu recipes on the blog which I think you’re going to enjoy.
How to Make Chicken Katsu
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken breast – You can also use chicken thighs or tenders, but the popular choice is boneless skinless chicken breast. My mom often made it with chicken tender when I was small and I did the same when my kids were younger.
- Salt and pepper
- Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Oil for deep frying
- Tonkatsu sauce (homemade or store-bought)
As you can see, most of the ingredients for chicken katsu are common ingredients and you can access them fairly easily wherever you are.
Overview: Cooking Steps
- Butterfly chicken and season with salt and pepper.
- Coat the chicken with flour, egg, and panko.
- Deep fry until golden brown and serve with tonkatsu sauce.
Even with deep frying, it’s really an easy 3-step process! For those who are looking for oven-baked method, please scroll down for the link.
6 Important Tips for Making Chicken Katsu
Tip #1: Butterfly the chicken
The thickest part of a chicken breast can be close to 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and it is very hard to cook through.
Therefore, we butterfly the chicken breast by splitting it horizontally, stopping before you cut all the way through it, and opening it like a book. When you open the breast, it has two matching sides, resembling a butterfly.
For Japanese cooking, we butterfly it to the left and right sides to make it even, similar to a French door. We call this cutting technique Kannon Biraki (観音開き).
If you have younger children, you can also cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Interestingly, we do not cut the pork into small pieces, but many Japanese home cooks cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.
To cut into smaller pieces, we use another cutting technique called Sogigiri (そぎ切り) instead of butterflying. You would hold the knife in an angle, nearly parallel to the cutting board, and then slice the chicken. This method will flatten the piece and give the chicken more surface area so that it cooks faster and evenly.
Lastly, remember that we eat chicken katsu with chopsticks. Make sure you cut into smaller pieces either before or after frying so you don’t have to cut at the table.
Tip #2: Add oil to the egg
Adding a small amount of oil to the egg mixture helps adhere the meat to both flour and panko. Some people add water or milk to loosen the thick egg mixture, but a bit of oil also loosens the egg mixture while doing the trick.
Tip #3: Get Japanese panko breadcrumbs
Regular breadcrumbs are VERY different from panko, so I won’t recommend it.
Panko (パン粉) is Japanese breadcrumbs that are lighter and crispier. It is the secret to ultra-crunchy katsu and yields the kind of crust that you can actually hear when you take a bite into it. No regular breadcrumbs can beat that!
Tip #4: Remove excess flour and panko
Dust off excess flour when you coat the chicken breast with flour. The excess flour can be the reason why breading comes off easily from your meat.
You may like the panko texture and want to put more onto chicken katsu. I used to think that too when I was 10 years old while helping my mom. She told me all the excess panko would end up just falling off into the oil, and I didn’t believe it (as I wasn’t the one who did the deep-frying). But, cooking is science—more doesn’t necessary work. You would end up scooping up all those additional panko crumbs from the hot oil. It’s not worth it. Gently press the panko down with your hand, and if some panko falls off, let them go.
We’ll focus on deep frying tips later.
Tip #5: Use Tonkatsu sauce for Japanese katsu
The sauce that comes with Chicken Katsu and Tonkatsu is called So-su (ソース; “Sauce”). When we say So-su or “sauce” in Japan, it refers to Tonkatsu Sauce (とんかつソース), which is a thicker and sweeter version of Worcestershire sauce.
With a tangy and complex taste from the vegetables and fruits, Tonkatsu sauce makes it the best condiment to enjoy with Japanese deep-fried dishes. You’ll also find tonkatsu sauce being served with Korokke.
It’s not common to make this sauce from scratch at home since it requires many hours of cooking fruits and vegetables. We usually buy Tonkatsu sauce from the store, and the most popular brand is Bulldog brand Tonkatsu sauce.
For those of you who have no access to Tonkatsu Sauce, I tried my best to make Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce using available common condiments.
Tip #6: Prepare shredded cabbage salad
The majority of panko-breaded fried foods (Tonkatsu, Ebi Fry, Korokke, etc) in Japan are served with a side of thinly shredded cabbage. You can use a sharp knife to cut into thin slices, but my mom introduced me to this awesome cabbage slicer and it’s amazing how this mandolin slicer can create such a fluffy shredded cabbage!
You can drizzle tonkatsu sauce over the cabbage or use your favorite salad dressing. I almost always use Japanese sesame dressing as it’s mild and creamy, which counterbalances the tonkatsu sauce.
3 Tips for Deep Frying
First, let me say that deep-frying is not as intimidating as it seems. Once you get the technique down, you’d be frying up more delicious katsu meals that win the hearts of every picky eater. That’s why every Japanese home cook embraces deep-frying!
Here are the 3 tips you need to know about frying these crisp, juicy chicken cutlets at home.
- Use a medium-size pot (that fits the chicken) instead of a large pot or pan. The key is to have at least 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of oil for frying. If you use a large pot/pan, you will need more oil to achieve 1 inch in depth. I use a 2.75-QT STAUB Cast Iron Round Cocotte (8 inches or 20 cm in diameter).
- Use a kitchen thermometer to check the oil temperature. I always recommend this instant-read thermometer. If you are new to deep-frying, it’s best to use a kitchen thermometer than doing the guesswork yourself which may not get an accurate result. The optimal oil temperature for chicken katsu is 340 ºF (170 ºC).
- Pick up crumbs frequently and I can’t stress enough how important this is. Fallen breadcrumbs in the oil will keep getting burned and turn your oil dark and dirty if you don’t pick them up.
If you want to learn more about deep-frying, such as how to throw away oil or what kind of tool is helpful, please read the How to Deep-Fry page where I explain in detail.
Deep-fried food can be tricky, but if you do it right the food actually tastes light and not greasy at all. It takes practice to become comfortable with deep frying, but it’s a good skill to have for broadening your cooking options.
Great Meal Prep Menu!
You may not know this, but chicken katsu is perfect for making ahead and freezing if you like to meal prep. You can enjoy the cutlet as it is, but it is also a versatile dish that you can transfer into:
- Chicken Katsu Curry
- Chicken Katsu Sando andwich
- Chicken Katsu Onigirazu
- Make fried rice with a few leftover pieces (my childhood favorite!)
- Put in a bento box
How long does chicken katsu keep?
Chicken katsu will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The only way to make the breaded chicken crispy again is to put it in the oven or toaster oven to reheat. Do not use the microwave to reheat.
Can you freeze chicken katsu?
I always double the recipe and freeze the extra for kids’ lunch or another meal. After deep-frying the chicken, let cool completely before storing it in the airtight container to freeze.
When you are ready to serve, reheat the frozen chicken katsu on a baking sheet at preheated 350 ºF (176 ºC) for 15-20 minutes, then serve with Tonkatsu sauce.
Can I Bake Chicken Katsu?
Yes! For those of you who still prefer to keep your kitchen oil-free, you can bake your chicken katsu in the oven.
My method for Baked Chicken Katsu is to pre-toast the panko ahead of time. This way, the panko is nicely brown and crispy to start. Your baked chicken katsu will look like a deep-fried version, and the outer layer is light and crispy.
Both deep-fried and baked versions are equally delicious, and I use both methods often.
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
- 1 piece boneless, skinless chicken breast (9.5 oz or 270 g for two servings; you can also use the same weight of chicken thighs or tenders)
- ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg (50 g each w/o shell)
- ½ Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (for the egg)
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 3 cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (for deep-frying; you should have 1½ inches (3.8 cm) of oil in the pot)
Before You Start
- If you prefer not to deep fry chicken katsu, see my recipe for Baked Chicken Katsu.
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Butterfly the Chicken
- It's important to butterfly the chicken breast so the meat will be thinner and cook faster (more about it on the blog). To butterfly the chicken breast, split it horizontally from the side, stopping before you cut all the way through it, and open it like a book. When you open the breast, the two sides will mirror each other, resembling a butterfly (see how I do it in my video). Here, I'd like to show you how to butterfly the chicken using the Japanese cutting technique called Kannon biraki (観音開き). With a sharp knife, score the middle of the chicken breast from the top about halfway through the thickness of the breast; do not cut completely through.
- Then, turn the knife parallel to the cutting board and slice the chicken from the center toward the left side (or the right side, if you're left-handed) to make it evenly thin. Stop before you cut all the way through it, and open it like a book. Imagine we're creating a French door here.
- Turn the chicken 180 degrees and butterfly the second side from the center toward the left, creating another "door."
- Cut the chicken in half down the center. Now you have two pieces.
- With a meat mallet or the back of the knife, pound the chicken to an even thickness, about ¼ to ½ inch (6 mm to 1.3 cm).
- Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.
To Bread the Chicken
- Add the oil to a medium-size, heavy-bottomed pot (I use a Staub 2.75 QT Dutch oven, 11 inches in diameter). The oil should be 1½ inches (3.8 cm) deep (you can dip a chopstick in the oil to measure). If you use a large pot, you will need to add more oil to get it 1½ inches deep. Start heating the oil to 340ºF (170ºC) over medium-low heat (or low heat, if you need more time to bread the chicken). Prepare three bowls/trays: One with flour, one with panko, and one with an egg.
- Add the oil to the egg and whisk it all together.
- Coat the chicken with the flour and shake off any excess. Then coat it with the beaten egg.
- Finally, coat the chicken with the panko, pressing the panko into the cutlet so that it adheres well. Remove any excess.
- If you are new to deep-frying, read my How to Deep Fry Food page and get an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. Heat the oil to 340ºF (170ºC). I use medium heat throughout deep-frying, but you may need to increase/decrease the heat based on your oil temperature.
- Fry one piece at a time. Do not overcrowd the pot; remember, your ingredients should take up no more than about half of the oil surface area at any one time. If you add too much food at once, the temperature of the oil will drop quickly and the chicken will absorb too much oil. For chicken katsu, you will deep-fry for a total of 3 minutes, turning the chicken once at the halfway point.
- Deep-fry until both sides are golden brown. Remove the cutlet from the oil and hold it vertically over the pot for a few seconds to drain the excess oil. Then, transfer it to a wire rack or paper towel-lined tray. If possible, keep it vertically to drain the excess oil.
- Pick up all the crumbs in the oil with a fine-mesh skimmer before you add the next piece of chicken. If you don’t clean up these crumbs, they will burn and the oil will get darker. Make sure to keep the oil clean throughout deep-frying.
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and serve it with tonkatsu sauce. Typically, chicken katsu is served with a side of shredded cabbage salad and salad dressing (I used my Japanese Sesame Dressing). I also add a few wedges of tomato for color.
- You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 15-20 minutes for chicken katsu that was thawed in the refrigerator overnight, or for 30 minutes if heating directly from frozen. Check that the inside is warm before serving.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on November 6, 2012. The post has been updated with new images, a new video, and a revised recipe in November 2021.