Chicken is a staple in almost every type of cuisine. It’s got a simple flavor that most people like, it goes with almost everything, and it’s relatively cheap and easy to find. That’s why I want to make sure you have a good, basic, dairy-free pan-fried chicken recipe. You can cook these chicken breasts up to top a range of meals for dinner, tomorrow’s lunch, or your weekly meal prep. This recipe has a unique cooking method that helps ensure tender, juicy results every time. But it’s still healthy and relatively low fat.
This Dairy-Free Pan-Fried Chicken is Your New Staple
Arguably the two biggest fears when cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts are undercooked middles or a dry tough texture. This recipe pretty much solves both issues. Seasoning the chicken and lightly dusting it with starch or flour helps to lock in moisture when you sear it. Then letting the chicken breasts gently steam as they fry and rest in the covered pan helps to ensure the meat is cooked through but remains juicy and tender. Not to mention, it involves very little hands on time and virtually no fuss! The recipe itself is quite simple, but I’ve included more notes and answers in the FAQs below.
How Much Salt Should I Use?
This varies based on the size of your chicken breasts. I typically use about 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon salt per chicken breast. But just lightly sprinkling a few pinches onto each breast should work. I didn’t put the sodium amount in the nutrition facts because it can vary widely by the amount you choose to use.
How Much Pepper Should I Use?
In my opinion, this is personal taste. Just a pinch or liberally shake it on if you love peppery chicken. I typically use about 1/8 teaspoon black pepper per chicken breast.
Can I Use Other Seasonings for Different Variations?
Definitely! This is a baseline dairy-free pan-fried chicken recipe. I’ve made it with garlic powder and onion powder, everything seasoning, Cajun seasoning, taco seasoning, curry seasoning, you name it! I also like to do an herb chicken with thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, and/or rosemary. Herb blends like herbes de provence also go well. Stay simple or jazz it up to suit your meal. Sprinkle the additional seasonings on with the salt and pepper. You could also squeeze on some fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or balsamic vinegar. Whatever suits your meal best.
How Much Flour or Starch Should I Use?
Again, I keep this open since chicken breasts can vary quite a bit in size. A dusting over the entire surface of each chicken breast is great. This is often about 1 tablespoon per chicken breast.
Can I Use Gluten-Free Flour for the Coating?
If you don’t like to use cornstarch, and need gluten-free, you can substitute potato starch, arrowroot starch, rice flour, or a gluten-free flour blend for the flour.
Can I Use a Different Oil?
Technically, any oil that’s good for medium heat pan-frying will work just fine. That includes canola oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oil (often contains soy), and many others. I just prefer olive oil or avocado oil for the fat profiles and flavor.
How Thin Should I Pound the Chicken Breasts?
You just want to pound the thick part so the whole breast has an even thickness. If you pound them too thin, then the full cook time will be too long. These aren’t cutlets, but are still somewhat thick, juicy chicken breasts once cooked. See the photo below. The chicken breast is only about 1.5 times the original size.
Can I Use this Method to Cook Other Meats?
In theory, you can. I’ve seen both steak and pork cooked this way. But the cook times at each stage might be different. Likewise, chicken strips and boneless skinless chicken thighs could be cooked this way, but the cook time might be different. They are usually thinner and will typically require less time. With pork and chicken, make sure the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. They say the internal temperature of chicken should be 165ºF and pork should be 145ºF to be fully cooked.
Can I Bake the Chicken Instead?
I prefer this pan-fried chicken method for juicy results with a lightly seared outside. It’s still low in fat, like baking, and is more foolproof. If you bake it, you’ll still want to baste the chicken with the oil, and the bake time and method are a little more finicky for best results. Baked boneless skinless chicken breasts tend to dry out more easily. And really, that’s a completely different recipe!
Should I Use a Cast Iron Skillet?
If you have a cast iron skillet with a tight fitting lid, by all means, go for it! I use a regular skillet and have tried this recipe with various types. They all seem to work just fine.
Can I Make this Chicken Ahead?
Definitely! It’s great for meal prep. The USDA recommends that you use cooked chicken within 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can individually wrap and freeze the chicken breasts for longer keeping.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Pan-Fried Chicken
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, added sugar-free, soy-free, and optionally top food allergy-friendly.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil (can sub avocado oil)
- Black Pepper
- All-purpose flour or cornstarch
- Place a chicken breast on a cutting board or protected surface. Optionally cover the chicken with a piece of plastic wrap. Pound the thick part of the chicken with a meat mallet until the breast has a relatively even thickness. You aren’t pounding it flat, but just evening it out. Repeat with the other piece of chicken breast.
- Sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with salt and pepper, followed by a dusting of all-purpose flour or cornstarch.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook it for 1 minute. Flip, and cook it for 1 minute. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook the chicken for 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid.
- Keep the pan covered, remove it from the heat, and let the chicken sit in the warm pan for 10 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through and the juices should run clear.
- Slice the chicken to serve over salad, rice, pasta, or vegetables.