If you want to class up a weeknight dinner but still keep it simple, Chicken in White Wine Sauce is a go-to. Quick cooking chicken breasts in a light white wine sauce work for me every time.
You just might have everything you need in your freezer and pantry already.
How to make Chicken in White Wine Sauce
The key to moist and tender chicken is very simple: Don’t overcook it. Thin breasts cook evenly and quickly. You can pound them to an even 1/2″ thickness, but I prefer to cut them in half horizontally.
Press your hand firmly on the chicken. With your knife hand off the edge of the counter and the blade level, slice evenly through its thickness.
Now you have four nearly equal servings. You can adjust this recipe to serve as many as you like.
All about Dredging
While heating a skillet, season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge it in flour. Dredging is dipping in flour and shaking off the excess. Do this right before adding to the hot pan – don’t let the chicken hang out already dredged or the flour will quickly become gummy.
Why dredge the chicken? If forms a lovely light crust. It’s not necessary, though. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip it.
Add about 2 Tablespoons of oil to the medium hot pan and gently lay your chicken in the hot oil, pretty side of the breast down.
Don’t crowd the pan! Cook it in batches if need be, no worries. Cook for a few minutes. When the chicken is nicely golden and cooking up the sides – you can literally watch it cook up the side walls of the breast – turn it over. It should release easily.
Cook on the other side until just cooked through, adding more oil if necessary. Remove it to a warm platter and cover.
Tired of your chicken sticking to the pan? Success is all about the Maillard Reaction. In short, when food browns on a hot surface, sugars and proteins come apart then go back together again forming a delicious browned crust. Be patient and wait until this reaction happens without moving what you’re cooking. When it’s ready, it’ll flip with very little resistance.
Making the White Wine Pan Sauce
Start by sautéing chopped onion or shallot in the remaining oil. Add some garlic after the onion is translucent.
Next up is the key to our sauce, the cooking of the wine. Any non-sweet white wine will do. I often use a Pinot Grigio. Pour it in and let it boil. This is deglazing, and it’s wonderful. Scrape up all the stuck on bits in the skillet, they’re packed with flavor.
Here’s the big key! Allow the wine to cook until it’s almost dry. There will be a tablespoon or two of liquid left. That’s called Au Sec, a fancy French term for well, what you’re doing, cooking until it’s nearly dry.
This is key because you’re cooking out alcohol and bitterness and just leaving the tasty wine essence to flavor the sauce. If there’s any alcohol left, it will be a trace amount.
What is a Pan Sauce?
A pan sauce is nothing more than a quick sauce made right in the pan, utilizing the drippings and crusty bits from what you just cooked there.
Want to read a little more about cooking with wine? Here’s a good article.
Do you have to use wine in this recipe? No, substitute more chicken broth. It won’t taste the same, but it will still be good.
Pour in the chicken broth and reduce it by about 1/3 of its volume. Reducing means to cook it so water is evaporating. Just eyeball it so it’s about 1/3 less than what you started with.
Stir in the parsley or other fresh herbs of choice and swirl in some butter. Taste your sauce and adjust the seasonings. Maybe it’ll need some pepper, but likely no salt because of the reduced chicken broth.
If there are any chicken juices that have accumulated on the platter, stir them back into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve!
What to serve with Chicken in White Wine Sauce? How about some Perfect Rice Pilaf?
Dinner is ready!
Chicken in White Wine Sauce
For the Chicken
- 1½ lbs. boneless chicken breasts, about 2 very large
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup flour, for dredging
- 2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
For the Sauce
- ¼ cup minced onion or shallot °
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- ⅓ cup white wine, on the dry side
- ⅔ cup chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or other fresh herbs of choice, such as thyme or tarragon
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Evenly cut the chicken breasts in half through their thickness. Lay your hand flat on top of the breast, knife hand off the edge of the board. Keeping your blade level, glide your knife through the thickness of the breast until you're clear through it.
- Heat a large skillet (preferably stainless or cast iron) on medium heat until quite hot, but not smoking. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a wide bowl or on a plate.
- Add about 2 Tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Using tongs, dredge a chicken breast in the flour, shake off the excess and place in the skillet, best looking side down. Repeat with the others immediately. Don't crowd the skillet, if necessary, cook in batches. Add more oil as needed.
- Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed for 2-4 minutes. It will usually stick while it's first cooking then release when it's ready to flip. Test it by wiggling it with tongs. When it's golden brown and the chicken has cooked up the sides, turn it over. You shouldn't be prying it up from the pan.
- Cook the second side about 2 minutes until the chicken is golden and just cooked through. Remove to a platter and cover.
White Wine Sauce
- In remaining oil, sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes until translucent but not browned or crusty. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
- Pour in the wine; it will immediately come to a boil. Deglaze the pan by stirring up the brown bits. Allow the wine to reduce until about 1 Tablespoon or so of liquid remains.
- Pour in the chicken broth and bring it to a gentle boil. Allow it to reduce by one third of the total amount in the skillet. (Just eyeball it.) This will take about 2 minutes. You be the judge.
- Taste it. If there's any bitterness, reduce just a little more. Adjust seasoning with pepper, but you probably won't need any salt. Stir in the parsley.
- If there are any juices accumulated on your platter of chicken, pour them into the pan. Swirl in the butter and pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
- If you don’t have fresh parsley and would rather use dried, add 2 teaspoons to the skillet while the wine is cooking so the parsley has time to rehydrate.
- If you’re concerned that you’re chicken isn’t cooked through, take it’s temperature. When you remove it from the skillet, insert an instant read thermometer horizontally. It should read 160F.