Chicken Marsala is an impressive yet surprisingly easy-to-prepare meal! It’s savory and rich, with a creamy mushroom sauce that bursts with flavor and texture. If you’ve been wanting to learn how to make Chicken Marsala at home, this step-by-step tutorial has got you covered! I’m also going over the different types of Marsala wines and which are best to use, substitution options, and some basic chicken cooking techniques.
Chicken Marsala is a fast and flavorful Italian-American dish that I think every home cook should try preparing at least once. Not only is it tasty and impressive, it’s an excellent way to learn some basic yet important skills! The results definitely won’t seem basic, trust me.
How to Make Chicken Marsala
Making a chicken Marsala recipe at home involves four chicken cooking techniques:
- Pounding the chicken breasts into thinner, more even pieces to help tenderize them and promote even cooking
- Dredging the chicken in flour
- Pan searing the chicken
- Creating a pan sauce once the chicken has finished cooking
These are wonderful techniques that don’t just apply to this chicken Marsala recipe. Once you’ve mastered them, you can throw together countless quick and easy chicken dinners.
If you don’t have a meat mallet or tenderizer, you can use something like a rolling pin to flatten the chicken. I like to lay the chicken on a cutting board and then cover it with plastic wrap, but you can also place it inside a plastic bag.
You definitely want to contain the raw meat somehow to avoid cross contamination. If the breasts are very thick, you may also want to butterfly them first.
Dredging chicken in flour is often the first step when creating a batter for deep frying, but we’re not going that far. There’s no egg or breading here, just flour with some salt and pepper mixed in.
All of the excess flour should be tapped off. This thin layer of flour helps create a flavorful brown exterior on the chicken, and it also helps thicken the pan sauce.
Pan Searing Chicken
You can use any type of high heat oil (this means an oil with a high smoke point so it won’t burn the meat). Avoid anything with a strong flavor like coconut oil. My favorite is option is clarified butter, which has a high smoke point and adds a subtle yet rich buttery flavor.
Since not everyone has clarified butter sitting around, another good option that provides similar results is a mix of olive oil and butter. The olive oil raises the smoke point of the butter.
Do not sear with regular butter; it will burn. (Note: extra virgin olive oil doesn’t have the highest smoke point, but it works just fine here).
Be patient and let the chicken develop a deep brown color on each side. To be safe, you can use a digital thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell when the chicken breasts are done simply by touch.
Which Skillet is Best for Pan Searing?
You can use either a regular or nonstick skillet to pan sear meat. I’m using a nonstick skillet here because it works with my induction burner, but I actually prefer and recommend using a regular skillet if you have one.
You can get the surface of the chicken to brown using either pan, but you’ll wind up with more brown bits on the bottom of the pan if you use a nonstick skillet. Those brown bits (also known as fond) have tons of flavor that will wind up in your pan sauce.
Creating a Pan Sauce
There are typically three easy steps involved in making a pan sauce:
- Adding aromatics (onions, garlic) and vegetables to the pan while scraping up and incorporating any brown bits left from the meat
- Adding liquid, scraping up any additional brown bits, and allowing it to reduce and thicken while simmering
- Finishing with a fat, typically butter or cream
What Kind of Marsala Wine is Best for Chicken Marsala?
There are two varieties of Marsala wine: dry and sweet. When making savory recipes like chicken or veal Marsala, you’ll want to use a dry Marsala. Use sweet Marsala wine for dessert recipes.
A pricy Marsala is unnecessary; go for a brand like Florio, which is available at most liquor stores.
Avoid bottles of “cooking” Marsala, which are seasoned with salt and include extra preservatives. They don’t taste as good. If you don’t want to purchase the real deal, I’d rather you use the substitution option below with a reasonably priced dry white wine and brandy.
What Can You Substitute For Marsala Wine?
Marsala is a brandy-fortified wine, so while I recommend using actual Marsala wine, you can get away with substituting 1/4 cup of dry white wine combined with 1 teaspoon of brandy (scale up as needed).
Once you try these techniques for yourself, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to prepare chicken Marsala at home, and how amazing the results are! This is a restaurant quality dish that anyone can make, and I hope you’ll give it a try.
Understanding the Smoke Point of Oils
This recipe requires using an oil with a high smoke point. Are you wondering what a smoke point is, and which oils are appropriate to use? Check out my post Understanding The Smoke Point of Cooking Oils and Fats!
What Are Shallots?
This recipe uses one of my favorite ingredients: shallots! Learn more about shallots and when to use them in recipes with my ingredient overview: What Are Shallots?
Looking for More Chicken Recipes?
For the chicken
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (clarified butter may be substituted)
- 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter (clarified butter may be substituted)
For the Marsala sauce
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 large shallot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered (button mushrooms may be substituted)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
- 3/4 cup chicken stock, either homemade or low-sodium
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- Place the flour, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag, shaking to combine, and set aside. Alternately, you can combine the ingredients in a shallow dish, such as a pie pan.
- Place one chicken breast on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound the chicken breast until it’s 1/4-inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining breasts. (Note: if the chicken breasts are on the larger size, you can butterfly them prior to flattening, which will double the recipe yield. See notes).
- Place the flattened chicken in the bag with the flour mixture. Seal and shake to combine. (If you’re using a shallow dish, use tongs to dip each breast into the flour mixture, tapping off the excess.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering and thin, add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl the pan around. Add 2 chicken breasts and pan sear until golden brown on both sides, approximately 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set on a clean dish or cutting board and set aside. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding the remaining oil and butter first if needed.
- Once the chicken is cooked and set aside, adjust the heat to medium-low. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring with a spatula, until crispy and brown, 3-4 minutes. Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan left from the chicken and stir them in with the pancetta. Add the shallots and continue cooking for an additional minute while stirring, then add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have softened, darkened, and decreased in size, around 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Pour the marsala wine into the pan, using a spatula to scrape up any brown bits that are stuck to the bottom. Add the stock and bring the liquids to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has reduced by half, 12-15 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and add the chicken back to the pan, stirring to coat. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the chicken is warmed through.
- Before serving, top with the chopped parsley. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
- Set the chicken breast on a cutting board and place your hand firmly on top.
- Keeping your fingers lifted out of the way, use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the breast in half lengthwise, starting with the thicker end. Avoid slicing motions by starting with the back end of the blade and pulling it toward you. Then lift the breast open and continue slicing through the center in single strokes until you cut through to the other side. Slice in half.
- Optionally, you can further thin out the halves by placing plastic wrap over each one and then pounding with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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