Lighter Chicken Parmesan


A lighter Chicken Parmesan recipe. Instead of frying the chicken cutlets in lots of oil, they’re baked so they’re crispy and cheesy, but also healthy and delicious.

Marie of “Proud Italian Cook” and Maryann of “Finding La Dolce Vita” are hosting a delicious new food event called “Festa Italiana”.

“Picture a long table set under the shade of twisting grape vines on a warm summer’s evening. One by one our friends are arriving, each one carrying their favorite Italian dish or drink. We eat and drink with happy hearts and before long, the guitars and accordions are filling the air with song. Everyone is eating, drinking, laughing, singing and dancing. As the sun sets, we are filled in every way and no one wants this evening to end.”


I leave for Italy in 51 days! So I’m hoping I’ll have a dinner as perfect as that! Until then I’m looking forward to the wonderful recipes at Festa Italiana.

I recently purchased the Best Light Recipe cookbook from Cook’s Illustrated. Included in it is this fabulous Chicken Parmesan recipe. It’s crispy, chessy, healthy and delicious. I made a few changes to the recipe, topping it with my favorite quick, super easy, so-much-better-than-store-bought pasta sauce.

Lighter Chicken Parmesan

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 310

Lighter Chicken Parmesan


  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced horizontally into 6 cutlets
  • 2 cups quick tomato sauce, warmed (see below)
  • 3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • Quick Tomato Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes in rich puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes. (I think next time I make it I'll flip it over to crisp up the other side a bit.)

Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.

QuickTomato Sauce

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and salt and heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Cover and set aside until needed.


adapted from the Best Light Recipe cookbook from Cook's Illustrated.

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    Leave a Comment:

  1. says

    I love this lighter version. I love ordering chicken parmesan in restaurants but always feel guilty since it’s so heavy. This looks perfect! I love that you’re highlighting older recipes… I think I’m going to try and do the same this summer!

  2. says

    Robust and nostalgic, what a compelling recipe! Impressive flavor without added fat is always a great dinner recipe! Enjoy your trip to Italy!

  3. Ellieut says

    Hi Barbara. I made the chicken tonight. It came out very good and my dearest daughter has given me the ok to make it again! Score! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  4. Ellieut says

    You know, I just made something similar (Parmesan Chicken) but it was far from light. We tend to be calorie conscious around here and I love this version of it-instead of my whole stick of butter, to replace that with just a tbsp of oil….perfect! I am going to give this a try, going out to look for Panko today!

  5. Proud Italian Cook says

    Barbara,Thanks for joining us with this tasty chicken parm dish for our Festa Italiana, can’t wait to try your lighter version!