This gluten-free chicken piccata with lemon caper sauce is a one-pan, stovetop recipe that uses a classical pan-reduction technique, cooking and coating the chicken in a silky lemon sauce with capers. It’s a terrifically easy gluten-free recipe for dinner that’s ready within 30 minutes.
Serve this chicken dish over quinoa or brown rice for a change of pace. If you’re a fan of one-pan chicken dishes, check out my gluten-free chicken marsala recipe which is smothered in a silky mushroom sauce and my easy, creamy lemon cumin chicken.
What is Chicken Piccata?
Chicken piccata has a lemon caper sauce that is perfectly acidic and slightly creamy. The dish is cooked in one pan from start to finish. The chicken is cooked first and its residue flavors the lemony caper sauce. The sauce is thickened by the flour of the coated chicken.
Gluten-free lemon chicken piccata is different from the traditional only in the flour that is used to coat the chicken. I prefer to use plain white rice flour, but a gluten-free flour blend will work too.
Pan Reduction Cooking Method
The cooking process in a pan reduction goes pretty quickly so it’s important to have all of the ingredients, chopped, measured and right near the stove. Before the chicken hits the pan you’ll need to have all the ingredients at your fingertips. So take the time to prep everything.
If you’ve ever made chicken piccata with lemon caper sauce or any pan reduction dish before, you might notice that the method I provide is a little different. My French culinary school instructors and all the French and Italian chefs in the world might scold me, but the result is the same. Here’s why I stray from the traditional.
I usually have to cook the chicken in two batches so as not to crowd the pan too much. By the time I get to the second batch, the flour that comes off the chicken starts to burn. That residue is what is going to flavor and thicken the sauce.
So after the first batch I deglaze the pan with some of the chicken broth. This means pour a little broth in the pan and scrape up the residue to loosen it. Then pour out this liquid and save it for later. This can be done after the second batch too if the residue is on the verge of burning.
Flour – The chicken is coated in flour before cooking. Some of this flour will fall off and will help to thicken the lemon sauce. I prefer white rice flour for thickening a gluten-free sauce. It creates a similar texture to wheat flour and has a slightly sweet, neutral flavor. Brown rice flour does not have enough starch content to thicken well. If you don’t have plain white rice flour, a gluten-free flour blend will work too.
Salt – I recommend using a low-sodium chicken broth. Imagine Food’s Chicken broth is very good. Since all low-sodium broths do not have the same salt content I have not put an exact amount of salt in the recipe. Add a little bit at a time and let your taste buds tell you how much is the right amount.
Chicken – The cooking method of this gluten-free chicken piccata relies on using very thinly sliced chicken breast so that it cooks quickly. If it cooks for too long, the flour will start to burn. Here’s how to cut the chicken to make it thin enough for this recipe.
How to Slice Thin Chicken
Most chicken breasts these days are unusually thick and large. For lemon chicken piccata, thin pieces work best. Most chefs would tell you to pound the chicken to make it thin. But this is a messy and time-consuming process and I’m just not that patient!
If you prefer to pound the chicken: Place one piece between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and use a fry pan to pound it flat. I prefer a fry pan to a meat mallet because it covers more surface area and goes faster. Use a medium amount of force. Press too hard and the chicken will tear.
Here’s how I prep my chicken for chicken piccata:
Start with a sharp knife and a stable cutting board. Put a damp paper towel underneath the board keep it from slipping.
If the chicken breast is very large, I like to cut it in half this way before cutting thin.
Next: Place one hand on top of the chicken (fingers flat) and hold the blade parallel to the cutting board. Try to keep it as level as possible. With one long smooth stroke, cut a 1/4′ piece. For most chicken breasts this would be 3rds or quarters.
Then cut the remaining piece in half using the same technique.
How to Thicken Gluten-Free Sauce
I have found that all white rice flour and gluten-free flour blends are not exactly the same. Some brands seem to thicken better than others. Depending on how thick you prefer your sauce you may want to have a plan B if the sauce doesn’t thicken enough.
The best way to fix a sauce that has not thickened enough, is to use something called a buerre manie (burr man-YAY). This is a fancy French name for a mush of soft butter and flour. For this recipe, I recommend having this standing by in case you need it. Mix 1 tbsp soft butter with 1 Tbsp flour until the flour is completely moistened by the butter. Stir this little paste into a liquid and it will melt without lumps of flour. Bring the liquid to a boil and your sauce will become silky.
Gluten-Free Lemon Chicken Piccata (One Pan Recipe!)
- 1½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 lemons
- ½ c white rice flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 1 shallot bulb
- ¼ c dry white wine
- ¾ c low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth I like Imagine “No-Chicken” Broth
- 2 Tbsps unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsps capers
- 2 Tbsps fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- salt to taste
- Cut one lemon in half. Trim the ends from one half and cut into thin slices about 1/8 inch thick, set aside. Zest the other lemon and cut in half. Juice the 3 halves to obtain about 1/4 cup juice; set aside.
- Rinse the capers under cold water in a sieve for 30 seconds.
- Mince the shallot and chop the parsley.
- See above for a visual on how to slice the chicken for this recipe.
- Place the flour on a dinner sized plate and mix in the lemon zest. Remove 1 Tbsp of the mixture and set aside.
- Dredge the sliced chicken in the flour to coat both sides.
- Have a dinner sized plate, small mixing bowl, wood or rubber spatula (heat safe) and whisk at or near the stove.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 1-2 minutes.
- Cook half the batch of the chicken in the skillet without moving them, until lightly browned on the first side, 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 ½ minutes longer. Note that gluten-free flours don’t brown as much as wheat flours.
- Transfer the chicken to the large plate.
- It is important that the residue in the pan not burn while cooking the second batch. If it is looking very brown (likely), follow this step. Pour about 1/4 c of the broth into the pan. Use the spatula to scrape up the residue stuck to the pan. Pour the liquid into the small mixing bowl, scraping out the residue.
- Add the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, add remaining chicken pieces and cook. Transfer the cooked chicken to the large plate.
- Turn the flame to medium and add 1 Tbsp butter to the pan,. When it bubbles add the shallot and cook for 30 seconds -1 minute. Do not brown the shallots.
- Stir in the 1 Tbsp flour set aside earlier and stir to combine. When the flour is incorporated, turn up the heat.
- Add the remaining broth, lemon juice, wine and the liquid in the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
- If the sauce does not thicken enough see the notes section for a solution. If it thickens too much, add a little extra broth.
- Swirl in the parsley and capers. Taste. Add salt and pepper to your preference.
- Place the chicken back in the pan, coat with the sauce and reheat the chicken over a low flame.
- Serve topped with lemon slices over pasta, spinach or quinoa.