Chicken schnitzel is one of our favorite easy family dinners– click here for my regular schnitzel recipe and here for a gluten free version. Schnitzel is always a crowd pleaser, and it’s especially popular with kids. Recently, I decided to come up with a twist on the schnitzel theme. My stepdaughter likes her schnitzel cut into bite-sized pieces, which makes it more like a finger food. I decided to take these smaller chicken pieces and marinate them in Italian dressing and spices. The result? Italian Schnitzel Bites! These seasoned chicken bites are full of herby Italian flavor, a tasty twist on traditional chicken schnitzel.
Schnitzel is Austrian in origin; it was traditionally made with veal (known as wiener schnitzel) or pork. The dish later found its way to Israel with European Jewish immigrants. Like many Jewish foods, immigrants adapted this regional dish to suit their unique dietary kosher laws. In the case of schnitzel, pork (which is treif) and veal (which was expensive and difficult to obtain) was replaced by chicken and turkey. The resulting poultry schnitzels are very popular in Israel and throughout the Jewish community.
Schnitzel is usually coated with egg to help the breading stick, but recently I developed a new batter-and-bread method for my Crispy Panko Fish Tacos. I used the same technique for these schnitzel bites, including using seasoned panko breadcrumbs, which gave them a super crisp coating. Getting rid of the egg lightened the coating considerably; the pieces turned out crispier and less greasy. Warm marinara sauce ended up being the perfect compliment to these flavorful little bites. I like making homemade marinara, especially during tomato season, but I haven’t had a chance to post my family recipe yet. Feel free to use a jarred variety from the grocery store, or use your own favorite recipe.
Now, we all know that this isn’t a low calorie dish– anytime we fry food, we consider it a “treat” rather than the norm. While you can make a meal out of these schnitzel bites, I’d suggest serving them with steamed veggies or a side salad to lighten things up a bit. You can also serve them as a finger food or appetizer. Whenever I post a fried dish, I inevitably get the question, “Can I bake this instead of frying it?” I haven’t tested this recipe in the oven yet, so I can’t tell you if baking it will work or not. Generally speaking, I don’t like fried dishes when they are baked– they tend to lose their crispy charm. If I have a chance to test it over the next few weeks, I’ll update this blog and let you know the results. Or, if any of you are up to testing it out, let us know in the comments how it worked out for you!
This dish is super easy to make, as long as you’re comfortable with frying. The marinating does require some forethought, but it’s simple to throw together. You can start the marinade in the morning before you go to work, or even better the night before. By the time you’re ready to cook dinner, the chicken will be full of juicy Italian flavor. The battering and frying only takes a few minutes. And if you use a jar of marinara sauce rather than homemade, it’s even easier!
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- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup Italian dressing - light or lowfat is okay
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups seltzer water
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (or substitute regular breadcrumbs)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Vegetable oil with a high smoke point for frying (I prefer grapeseed)
- 2 cups marinara sauce for dipping - warmed before serving
You will also need
- Glass, ceramic bowl or plastic zipper bag for marinating, medium and small mixing bowls, plate, large skillet, wire cooling rack (optional)
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces (tenders), about 1 inch wide and 2-3 inches long. Put the chicken pieces into a glass or ceramic bowl, or in a plastic zipper bag. Pour the dressing, garlic and chili flakes over the chicken. Stir till all ingredients are mixed and the chicken is well coated with dressing.
- Cover the chicken and place it in the refrigerator. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours. The longer it marinates the better it will taste.
- Prepare your batter by whisking together the flour, cornstarch, and seltzer water.
- In a separate bowl, use a fork to mix together the panko breadcrumbs, salt, basil and oregano.
- Coat the chicken pieces. Pick up a piece of chicken from the marinade and let the excess marinade drip off. Dip the chicken piece into the seltzer batter first. Let the excess batter drip off...
- then dip it into the panko to coat.
- Place the coated chicken piece on a plate. Repeat for remaining chicken pieces.
- Heat your cooking oil in a skillet over medium high. Fry the breaded chicken pieces in batches of 6. If the oil is at the correct temperature, it should bubble and sizzle evenly—no splatters or popping.
- Flip the chicken pieces when they turn dark golden brown. It will take 2-3 minutes per side for the chicken to become golden and crisp. Try to only turn them once, rather than repeatedly turning the pieces-- this will help to keep the crispy coating intact and keep them from becoming overly greasy.
- Place fried chicken pieces on a wire rack to drain, if you have one. This will keep the chicken as crisp as possible. Use paper towels to catch the oil drips underneath the rack. If you don’t have a wire rack, you can drain the chicken pieces on a double layer of paper towels.
- Serve schnitzel bites hot with warm marinara sauce for dipping.