Easy Chicken Marsala Recipe

Pan-fried Chicken Cutlets in Wine Sauce
Chicken Marsala

An Italian-American entrée, this Chicken Marsala is a stovetop dish featuring pan-fried chicken breast cutlets and mushrooms in a rich and savory Marsala wine-reduced sauce. Italian influenced, it is a derivative of Italian Scaloppine dishes.

I love to make restaurant-quality dishes at home and Chicken Marsala is one I place in that category. Chicken Marsala is a lot simpler to make than you might think. With a bit of organization, this dish is easy enough to make on a weeknight but impressive enough to serve to company, too.

So, when it comes to organizing the making of Chicken Marsala, I recommend starting with some pre-prep work. Wash and slice the mushrooms. Chop the shallots, mince the garlic, chop the parsley, and measure out all ingredients. This will help the actual cooking portion of the process go a lot quicker and smoother than having to stop and prepare ingredients as you go.

This recipe will yield four servings so you will need two large chicken breasts (about 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts), each breast weighing about 8 ounces. Slice each breast in half, horizontally, parallel to the cutting board. Then, use the smooth side of a meat mallet to gently pound each of the four pieces of chicken to a uniform thickness of 1/3” – ½” thick. This will break down the fibers in the chicken thus tenderizing the chicken. What you now have is what is known as escalopes, thin boneless chicken pieces ready for pan frying.

After being dredged in flour (which will help to encourage browning of the chicken), cook the chicken pieces in a frypan until they register 165°F on an instant read thermometer. This should take about 3 minutes of cooking per side of chicken. Don’t crowd the chicken pieces in the pan. Work in batches, if necessary, or use two frypans. Once cooked, keep the chicken pieces warm while cooking the mushrooms and making the wine-reduced sauce. I place the chicken pieces in the oven set to the “warm” setting. Alternatively, tent them with tinfoil.

Cook the mushrooms in the same pan as the chicken was cooked in and cook them for 5-6 minutes or until their water has evaporated and they start to turn a brown color. Either button or cremini mushrooms work well in this recipe with cremini mushrooms lending a more earthy flavor to the dish. Add the shallots, thyme, and garlic, cooking them briefly, then remove the pan from the heat and add the Marsala, the core ingredient that gives this recipe its name.

Marsala is a fortified wine (usually fortified with brandy) that hails from Sicily, Italy. Use a dry Marsala, not sweet, for this savory dish. Cook the wine until it has reduced to about half, scraping up the bits of fond from the bottom of the pan since those brown bits contain a wealth of flavor that will enhance the sauce. As the wine reduces, most of the alcohol cooks off so the sauce will not have a heady wine taste.

Because Marsala is a key ingredient in this dish (and, after all, is the reason it is called Chicken Marsala), it simply would not be Chicken Marsala without the Marsala wine. As such, I recommend no substitutes for the genuine Marsala in this recipe. If you are looking for chicken breast recipes that do not call for wine as an ingredient, I’d suggest any of the following from my website:

Goat Cheese and Basil Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Asparagus-stuffed Chicken Breasts
Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken Breasts

Some chicken stock and light seasonings are added near the end of the cooking to add more flavor to the savory sauce. A small amount of cornstarch mixed into the chicken stock gives the sauce a bit of body without making it overly thick and pasty.

Italian Skillet Chicken Dish
Chicken Marsala

The sauce can be made with or without whipping cream. I almost always have whipping cream on hand so usually add it to the sauce for this recipe as it makes a richer, more luxurious sauce. I have, however, made it without the cream and it is just fine. Without the whipping cream, the sauce has a richer brown color giving the sauce a more vibrant appearance (first photo below). Including the cream will dull the color of the sauce slightly (second photo below).

Chicken Cutlets in wine sauce served with steamed rice
Chicken Marsala (made without whipping cream)

Chicken Marsala can be served with a choice of potato, rice, or pasta and, if desired, a side dish of choice. Good side dish options include carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, or zucchini (or a medley of veggies, should you so wish).

Skillet Chicken Cutlets Served with Mashed Potato and Carrots
Chicken Marsala (made with whipping cream)

This entrée freezes well. To reheat, I recommend thawing the Chicken Marsala in the refrigerator then re-heating it in either the microwave or on the stovetop.

Chicken Marsala

Ingredients:

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (apx. 1 lb)
2-4 tbsp all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
8 oz mushrooms (e.g., button or cremini), sliced
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2/3 cup dry Marsala (no substitutes)
¾ cup warm chicken stock
½ tbsp cornstarch
1½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ – 1/3 cup whipping cream, room temperature (optional)

Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Method:

Pre-prep: Wash and slice mushrooms. Chop shallots, mince the garlic, chop parsley, and measure out all ingredients.

Slice each chicken breast in half, horizontally, parallel to the cutting board. Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently pound each piece of chicken to a uniform thickness of 1/3”– ½” thick, being careful not to tear the chicken.

Mix flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Dredge all sides of each piece of chicken with the flour mix. Shake off excess flour and set chicken aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot and the oil is shimmering, add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken pieces, making sure not to crowd them in the pan. Work in batches, if necessary, or use two pans. Cook the chicken about 3 minutes per side, or until their internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in heatproof dish. Cover. Place chicken in oven set to the warm or lowest setting or, alternatively, tent with tin foil to keep the chicken pieces warm.

Over medium heat, add 1 more tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, or until their water has evaporated and they start to brown.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the shallots, cooking and stirring constantly until they start to become translucent- approximately 1½ – 2 minutes. Add the garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Cook for about 20-30 seconds, stirring constantly. Do not let garlic scorch. Reduce heat, if necessary.

Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in the Marsala. Return pan to stovetop and bring wine to a boil over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and let wine reduce to about half then add the chicken stock into which ½ tbsp cornstarch has been whisked and cook over medium low heat for apx. 3 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon mustard, and Italian seasoning until blended. If using, stir in the whipping cream. Cook slowly over low heat for about 4-6 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring frequently.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan and heat for about 2-3 minutes, coating chicken pieces with the sauce.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately alongside rice, pasta, or favorite potato side dish and vegetable(s) of choice.

Yield: 4 servings

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Chicken Cutlets in Wine-reduced Sauce
Chicken Marsala (made with whipping cream)

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Chicken Marsala

An Italian-American dish, this Chicken Marsala is a stovetop dish featuring pan-fried chicken breast cutlets and mushrooms in a rich and savory Marsala wine-reduced sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Chicken, Chicken Marsala
Servings 4
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (apx. 1 lb)
  • 2-4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz mushrooms (e.g., button or cremini), sliced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2/3 cup dry Marsala (no substitutes)
  • ¾ cup warm chicken stock
  • ½ tbsp cornstarch
  • tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ - 1/3 cup whipping cream, room temperature (optional)
  • Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pre-prep: Wash and slice mushrooms. Chop shallots, mince the garlic, chop parsley, and measure out all ingredients.
  2. Slice each chicken breast in half, horizontally, parallel to the cutting board. Place each piece of chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently pound each piece of chicken to a uniform thickness of 1/3”– ½” thick, being careful not to tear the chicken.
  3. Mix flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Dredge all sides of each piece of chicken with the flour mix. Shake off excess flour and set chicken aside.
  4. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot and the oil is shimmering, add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken pieces, making sure not to crowd them in the pan. Work in batches, if necessary, or use two pans. Cook the chicken about 3 minutes per side, or until their internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in heatproof dish. Cover. Place chicken in oven set to the warm or lowest setting or, alternatively, tent with tin foil to keep the chicken pieces warm.
  5. Over medium heat, add 1 more tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, or until their water has evaporated and they start to brown.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the shallots, cooking and stirring constantly until they start to become translucent- approximately 1½ - 2 minutes. Add the garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Cook for about 20-30 seconds, stirring constantly. Do not let garlic scorch. Reduce heat, if necessary.
  7. Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in the Marsala. Return pan to stovetop and bring wine to a boil over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and let wine reduce to about half then add the chicken stock into which ½ tbsp cornstarch has been whisked and cook over medium low heat for apx. 3 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon mustard, and Italian seasoning until blended. If using, stir in the whipping cream. Cook slowly over low heat for about 4-6 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring frequently.
  8. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and heat for about 2-3 minutes, coating chicken pieces with the sauce.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately alongside rice, pasta, or favorite potato side dish and vegetable(s) of choice.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 4 servings

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Pan-fried Chicken Cutlets in Wine Sauce
Chicken Marsala

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