Fried with a light and crispy crust and juicy inside, Chicken Katsu is truly irresistible. A staple at Japanese restaurants, this panko chicken is served with an addictive sweet and tangy tonkatsu sauce.
If you end up with any leftover chicken, the next day use it to make this Asian Chicken Salad for lunch!
Easy Japanese-Style Panko Chicken
My daughter has a friend whose parents own a Japanese Hawaiian BBQ restaurant. For months she would eat there and come home with leftover chicken katsu and I would devour it. Though it’s very similar to other fried chicken dishes, like chicken fried steak and chicken tenders, the crispy panko crumbs, light seasoning, and amazing sauce it’s served with really make it stand out.
In my opinion, the BBQ-esque katsu sauce is really what makes this dish special. Made with ketchup, worcestershire sauce, mirin, and a few other ingredients it’s sweet, tangy, and savory all in one.
And, despite it sounding difficult to make, this entire recipe comes together in under 30 minutes.
What is Chicken Katsu?
Chicken katsu (also called tori katsu or panko chicken) is a Japanese dish made of chicken cutlets with a panko breading. They’re typically deep-fried and the panko creates a light, crispy outside, while the inside stays nice and juicy. It’s usually served topped with tonkatsu sauce and with sides like white rice, cabbage salad, and macaroni salad.
What is Tonkatsu Sauce?
Tonkatsu sauce (aka katsu sauce) is what you’ll usually find drizzled over the top. It’s basically Japanese barbecue sauce, with a flavor that’s a bit similar to steak sauce but with more of a soy sauce umami flavor. It’s traditionally served over pork katsu, but it works perfectly for this chicken version, too. While it definitely pairs with this tori katsu recipe, you may find that you want to use it as a dipping sauce for other foods as well.
Both the chicken and sauce come together with pretty basic ingredients.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
For the Tonkatsu Sauce
- Ketchup – The sweet, lightly acidic base.
- Worcestershire sauce – Adds the savory taste to the sauce.
- Soy sauce – I recommend using low-sodium to avoid making this too salty.
- Mirin – Rice wine will also work as a substitute, though you may want to add a pinch more sugar.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar with just a tiny bit of brown sugar sweeten this sauce.
- Spices – Garlic powder and ginger round out the flavor profile.
For the Chicken
- Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast will work for this recipe.
- Salt & pepper – For flavor.
- Egg – Helps hold everything together.
- Oil – Both for th egg wash and deep frying.
- All-purpose flour
- Panko breadcrumbs – Adds the crunchy texture.
- For serving – Panko chicken is typically served with sticky white sushi rice, cabbage salad, macaroni salad, and sliced tomatoes.
A Note On Preparing the Chicken
If you are using thighs, trim any excess skin, fat, or gristle off of them. Make sure the chicken thighs are an even thickness throughout so that it cooks at the same rate. If you have one side that’s a little thicker, you can make a butterflied filet to even out the thickness. Make a shallow cut towards the center of the thicker area and open up the meat like you’re opening up a book.
If you are using chicken breasts, butterfly them by cutting them in half horizontally. Slice the chicken breast in half horizontally so you have two thin breast cutlets, then place the halves between some plastic wrap and using a meat mallet, gently pound out to a 1/4 to 1/2-inch even thickness.
How to Make Chicken Katsu (3 Ways!)
The traditional way to make panko chicken is in a deep fryer – but I’ve also included the instructions for air frying and baking as well!
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Make the sauce. Whisk all of the ingredients together. Adjust according to your liking.
- Prepare the chicken. Trim any skin or fat off the chicken thigh, then tenderize and flatten as described above. Each piece of chicken should be about 1/2-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare the breading stations. Place the flour in one bowl, egg whisked with vegetable oil in another, and the breadcrumbs in the third.
- Coat the chicken. Dredge the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, and then finally the panko. Press gently to get the panko to stick.
- Fry the chicken. Fry the chicken one piece at a time, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until crispy and golden brown. Repeat with all of the chicken.
- Serve. Slice the chicken into 1-inch wide strips. Serve with katsu sauce, macaroni salad, sticky white rice, shredded cabbage, and sliced tomatoes.
- Air fry the chicken. Place chicken pieces in air fryer basket in a single layer. Spray the tops with oil. Air fryer at 350F for 9 minutes then flip, spray the top side with more oil, and air fryer for another 9 minutes. (Cook time can vary depending on the size of the chicken. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook in batches.)
- Bake the chicken. Place the breaded panko chicken on a baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 12 to 15 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165F.
Video: How to Make Panko Chicken (Tori Katsu)
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat
- Storing leftovers. You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for up to a month.
- To reheat. To reheat, bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 15-20 minutes for chicken katsu that was thawed in the refrigerator overnight, or for 30 minutes if heating directly from frozen. Check that the inside is warm before serving.
- Storing leftover sauce. The sauce should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.
More Asian-Inspired Chicken Recipes:
For the Tonkatsu Sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon mirin
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
For the Chicken
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (5 ounces each) – see note below to use chicken breasts
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cup panko Japanese breadcrumbs
- 3 cups vegetable oil , for deep frying
- katsu sauce
- cooked sticky white sushi rice
- shredded cabbage salad
- macaroni salad
- sliced tomato
- Make the katsu sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the sauce according to your liking. Set aside.
- Trim any excess skin, fat, or gristle off of each chicken thigh, then place between some plastic wrap and tenderize the meat, gently pounding until both sides are flattened and about a 1/2-inch even thickness.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over the surface of each side of the chicken pieces.
- Set up a breading station with 3 shallow bowls: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the panko breadcrumbs. (Beat the egg with the 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil.)
- Dredge the chicken with a thin coating of flour, making sure not to miss any spots, shaking off any excess. Then coat it in the beaten egg, making sure there is no dry flour left, letting any excess dip off. And finally coat the chicken in the panko fully, gently pressing the panko into the cutlet to adhere.
- Add the oil to a medium-size, heavy-bottomed pot – the oil should be 1 & 1/2 inches deep. (If you use a larger pot, you will need to add more oil to get it 1 & 1/2 inches deep.) Start heating the oil to 340F over medium heat.
- Once oil has reached 340F, gently lower one piece of chicken at a time into the hot oil and deep-fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until crispy and golden brown and the chicken is cooked through at 165F. Using tongs, remove the chicken cutlet from the oil and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off the grease.
- Using a handheld skimmer, remove any crumbs in the oil and bring the temperature back up to 340F (if it dropped) so it's still bubbling, before adding the next piece of chicken.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 2 minutes before slicing. Cut the chicken into 1-inch wide strips.
- Serve with some of the katsu sauce, and a side of shredded cabbage, sticky white rice, macaroni salad, and sliced tomato.