This delicious creamy lemon chicken, or Pollo al Limone in Italian, is a very quick and easy recipe. Chicken breast bites with a creamy lemon sauce, ready in 30 minutes, and perfect for any weeknight meal. Serve them with some greens or broccoli and some bread to scoop out all that creamy lemon sauce.
Chicken is one of the most versatile meats and that's why I cook it so often. There are so many chicken recipes, you can marinate it, bread it, steam it, fry it, bake it, dress it in sauce, shred it and so much more.
But whenever I feel tired or uninspired and don't know what to cook, I always go back to the classics, and one of our favorite Italian classics is "Pollo al Limone" or Lemon Chicken.
This Chicken Limone is a perfect busy weeknights dinner that the whole family loves! You only need one large skillet and it's ready in just 30 minutes with only a few simple ingredients which you most likely already have available!
- Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breast will work best because chicken breast is lean and chunky.
- Lemon: Use 1 whole fresh lemon for the best flavor of the sauce. I do not recommend using bottled lemon juice.
- Butter: 1 tablespoon of melted butter is used to brown the chicken. But you can also substitute it with vegetable oil or plant-based butter as well.
- Flour: Chicken is coated in flour to help create the creamy sauce. The flour will mix with the butter making a sort of roux that will turn the lemon juice and milk into a smooth creamy sauce.
- Milk: I used whole milk for this recipe to get a perfect sauce. But you could also use 2% milk or heavy creamy for a thinner or denser sauce.
- Seasonings: I like to keep it simple with only salt and pepper, but you can add fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, or garlic, for extra flavor.
- Garlicky: Add a couple of minced garlic cloves to get a delicious Lemon Garlic Chicken.
- Richer: You can use heavy cream in place of whole milk for a denser and richer sauce.
- Dairy-Free: You can omit the dairy altogether by only using lemon juice. The sauce will be thinner and zestier, but still delicious.
- Other proteins: Try the same recipe with pork, veal, codfish, salmon, or tofu. Simply adjust the cooking time for the different proteins!
- Pasta: As an Italian, I'm not a fan of the chicken and pasta combination. But if you like it, you can add cooked pasta to get delicious creamy lemon pasta with chicken.
Instructions with Photos
Cut the chicken breasts into large chunks and coat them in all-purpose flour.
Melt the butter in the skillet then brown the chicken.
Add the lemon juice and then add the milk. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste and serve with lemon slices and fresh parsley.
Tips for a creamy lemon sauce
The creamy sauce is what makes this Chicken Limone fantastic. It's easier than you may think but there's a trick which is often missed.
The original version of this dish is made with thin veal escalopes and it's called "Scaloppine al Limone", but it does not include any cream or milk. So how does the sauce become creamy? If you just squeeze lemon juice on meat, you will only get the flavor, but not a sauce.
The trick is to coat the meat in all-purpose flour before cooking it. You can then brown the meat in butter as you would normally do and in the end, add the lemon juice. The butter and the flour coating will make a sort of rudimental roux that will turn the lemon juice into an incredible creamy lemon sauce.
But if you want it even more creamy, then you can add some milk or cream. In this recipe, I use whole milk. The lemon flavor will soften lightly and the sauce will coat the meat wonderfully.
The best part is then scooping out all the sauce from the bottom of the pan with a piece of bread.
NOTE: The acidity of the lemon may make the milk or cream curdle a little bit. But do not worry, keep mixing it with a wooden spoon and simmer it a low heat for 10-15 minutes and it will slowly turn into a smooth creamy sauce.
The only equipment you need to make this Chicken Limone is a nice pan. I used a cast iron skillet, but you can use what you prefer. Here are some of my favorites:
What to serve with lemon chicken
Whenever I cook meat or fish, I always need to serve it with a side dish. Without it, it feels incomplete. Side dishes don't have to be complex or laborious, especially for a busy weeknight dinner. Sometimes a simple salad will do.
But my favorite side dishes for most meat or fish dishes are simply sautèed or roasted veggies. Some veggie side dishes that would work well with this Chicken Limone are:
- Spinach, sautèed in olive oil with a couple of garlic cloves and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of nutmeg.
- Green Beans, first boiled for a few minutes and then sautèed in olive oil with a minced garlic clove and seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Broccoli or Broccoli rabe, sautèed in olive oil with a garlic clove and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and chili pepper flakes.
- Potatoes, boiled and lightly mashed with a fork, seasoned with minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, and parsley. Or mashed finely to make creamy mashed potatoes.
Feel free to serve this Pollo al Limone with whichever side dish you prefer. From sweet potatoes to Brussels sprouts, to carrots, or any of the options above.
💭 Recipe FAQs
You can prep the chicken 1 or 2 hours in advance. I wouldn't keep it longer or the flour will get wet and will not turn out as it should.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave or in the stove. Add a bit more milk if needed.
Do not panic! It's normal to curdle a bit when you mix lemon and milk. But keep stirring and simmer at low heat. It will turn into a creamy sauce after a few minutes.
You can find step-by-step photos, and tips in the post above.
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"Pollo al Limone" Creamy Lemon Chicken
- 2 Chicken Breasts
- 1 Lemon
- All-Purpose Flour
- ⅔ cup Milk, whole
- Black Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- Cut the chicken breasts into large chunks, then add the flour in a bowl and coat well all the chicken pieces. Set aside.
- In a skillet, add the tablespoon of butter and turn on the heat. When it melts, add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.
- Add the lemon juice, then let the chicken absorb it for about 30 seconds, then add the milk. It may curdle a bit but don't worry, keep stirring with a wooden spoon and it will turn into a smooth cream after it simmers for a few minutes.
- Season with salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well and bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and let the sauce reduce for 10-15 minutes until creamy.
- Serve immediately with freshly chopped parsley.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.