Chicken Katsu is the crispiest chicken cutlet you can easily make at home! Serve this classic Japanese food with tonkatsu sauce and a side of fresh salad for the best family meal. It also freezes well and makes for a delicious meal prep menu.
Who can resist the great pleasure of eating crispy, juicy, fried chicken? Not me! Not when I can easily fry them up at home without making a huge mess and takes just about 30 minutes. I’m talking about Chicken Katsu (チキンカツ), a Japanese version of chicken schnitzel. The irresistible crispy crust and juicy meat that is so flavorful and brings great satisfaction to your every bite. Today I’ll like to show you how to make this beloved Japanese chicken cutlet right at home!
What is Chicken Katsu?
Chicken Katsu (チキンカツ) is chicken fillet breaded with flour, egg, and Japanese panko breadcrumbs, then deep-fried until golden brown. It’s the chicken counterpart of Tonkatsu, pork cutlet.
The very best part of eating this chicken cutlet is that you made it yourself. With just a few simple ingredients from your pantry, chicken katsu is something you can accomplish even for a weeknight meal!
3 Important Ingredients to Make Chicken Katsu
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 things you need to know about frying this crisp, juicy chicken cutlets at home.
You can use different parts of the chicken, but the popular choice is boneless skinless chicken breast. My mom often made the dish with chicken tender when we were small and I did the same when my kids were younger.
Since we eat chicken katsu with chopsticks, katsu is always served in smaller pieces. We use a Japanese knife cutting technique called Sogigiri (そぎ切り), which you cut the vegetable or meat into slanted pieces.
You would hold your knife diagonally, nearly parallel to the cutting board, and then slice meat and vegetable. This method will give the chicken more surface area so that it cooks faster and evenly.
2. Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Panko (パン粉) is Japanese bread crumbs that we use for coating ingredients as they are lighter and crispier. It is the secret to ultra-crunchiness, and yields the kind of crust that you can actually hear when you bite into it. No regular breadcrumbs can beat that!
3. The Japanese “So-su” or Tonkatsu Sauce
So-su (ソース; “Sauce”) – that’s the dipping sauce that completes the chicken katsu meal. 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 version of Worcestershire sauce slowly cooked with vegetables and fruits. It has a tangy, sweet, and complex taste, which makes it the best sauce to enjoy with Japanese deep-fried dishes.
You’ll find tonkatsu sauce being served with Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Tonkatsu, and 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 something similar using available common condiments.
Great Meal Prep Menu!
I like chicken thighs for their juiciness and rich flavor, but you could certainly go for drumsticks, wings, or even breasts. All of these will cook a little quicker than thighs.
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:
- Katsu Curry
- Chicken Katsu Sandwich
- Chicken Katsu Onigirazu
- Make fried rice with a few leftover pieces (my childhood favorite!)
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 in the oven or oven toaster 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 for 15-20 minutes, then serve with Tonkatsu sauce.
How to Make Baked Chicken Katsu
For those of you who prefer to keep your kitchen oil-free, you can bake your chicken katsu in the oven.
My method is to pre-toast the panko ahead of time so the panko is nicely golden brown and crispy to start. Your baked chicken katsu will look like a deep-fried version, and the outer layer is nice and crispy. So many JOC readers have tried my Baked Tonkatsu, Baked Chicken Katsu, and Baked Croquette recipes, so do check them out if you prefer baking, instead of deep-frying.
Both deep-fried and baked versions are equally delicious, and I use both methods often.
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. I hope you’d give it a try!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can also use chicken thighs or tenders)
- 2 Tbsp sake (for marinating chicken)
- ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- 1 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 4 cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (for deep frying)
- Tonkatsu Sauce (or make my homemade tonkatsu sauce recipe)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Slice the chicken diagonally. This cutting technique is called Sogigiri in Japanese. Each piece will have more surface area so it will cook faster. Tip: The Japanese use chopsticks to eat Chicken Katsu, so the chicken is cut into bite-sized pieces. It's easier to deep fry individual small pieces of chicken katsu than 3 big chicken breasts then slice into pieces after deep frying. You also want to consider the chicken katsu texture. If you want to deep fry a big chicken breast, you have to pound the chicken to even thickness. By doing this, it loses some texture. Therefore, I like to pre-slice (diagonally) and deep fry.
- Put the chicken in a bowl and add sake, salt, and pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Coat the chicken with flour and shake off any excess.
- Dredge each chicken piece in the beaten egg.
- Coat the chicken with Panko and remove any excess. If you have time, let the chicken sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Heat 1-2 inch of oil in the cast iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Drop a piece of panko to see if the oil is ready. If you are new to deep-frying, use a thermometer to check the temperature of oil (Read How To Deep Fry Food). The oil should be 350 ºF (180 ºC).
- Put 2-3 pieces of chicken in at a time. If you put too many chicken pieces, the temperature of the oil will drop too quickly and the chicken will end up absorbing too much oil.
- Deep fry until both sides are golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack or paper towel-lined tray to remove excess oil.
- Between batches, make sure to pick up breadcrumbs. When you don’t pick them up, the breadcrumbs will get burnt and the oil will get darker. Make sure to keep the oil clean throughout deep frying.
- Serve immediately with tonkatsu sauce and salad.
- You can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, bake at 350 ºF (180 ºC) for 15-20 minutes for defrosted ones or 45 minutes for frozen ones. Check if the inside is warm before serving.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on November 6, 2012. The post has been edited and republished in July 2020.