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This Vegan Chicken Piccata is made from pan-seared crispy tofu and served in a creamy vegan butter lemon caper sauce for a cozy main dish.
When comfort food comes to mind, I’m willing to bet your first thought isn’t piccata – but let me tell you, crispy pan-fried protein in a creamy lemon butter sauce with pops of briny capers and refreshing parsley? It’s as cozy as it gets.
This Vegan Chicken Piccata is relatively straightforward, but makes the perfect date night (or just satisfying weeknight) dinner. You won’t even miss the meat with this plant-based version that’s just as savory, succulent, and satisfying!
“Piccata” is an Italian term which means “to be pounded flat”, and usually refers to meat that has been pan-fried and then served in a lemon, butter, and caper sauce. Chicken Piccata is incredibly popular in the US, and today I’m giving it a plant-based twist!
I first had a veganized piccata when my mother-in-law came in to town – it’s one her signature dishes, and hers is extra cozy with lots of lemon and sliced mushrooms in the sauce. My version omits the mushrooms for a more classic variation, but feel free to add them in – you won’t regret it 😉
INGREDIENTS FOR VEGAN CHICKEN PICCATA
The ingredients for this recipe are relatively simple, and also easy to keep on hand for a weeknight dinner! All you really need is a protein source, flour, and some capers and lemon for the creamy, zesty pan sauce.
Like traditional piccata, this recipe uses a combination of vegan butter and olive oil for the best browning and flavor. This is not the recipe to go easy on the oil – it adds creaminess to the dish, and tones down the acidity of the lemon. If you have Meyer lemons on hand I prefer to use them, but regular lemons will work as well!
Tofu vs. Vegan “Chicken” – I tested this recipe using both super firm tofu and imitation vegan “chicken” cutlets (Gardein’s Chick’n Scallopini) and they both came out great! The tofu had a hearty but slightly chewier texture, which I personally preferred. The vegan chicken was a little more dense, but the shape, to me, was more realistic. I think both would be a good choice, so use what you think you would enjoy best! You could also make this recipe with a vital wheat gluten-based seitan, but I prefer to use ready-made products to save time.
HOW TO MAKE TOFU PICCATA
If you’re efficient, you can have this piccata ready-to-enjoy in just only 30 minutes – see, I told you it was a great weekday dinner!
- Prepare your tofu or vegan “chicken” cutlets (see recipe) and dredge them in flour.
- Pan-fry the protein on both sides until golden brown, then remove and let rest on a lined plate
- Sauté the shallot, garlic, and capers, then add in the broth and simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low, then stir in the lemon juice, lemon slices, and vegan butter.
- Return the piccata to the pan to warm briefly, then serve as desired!
The capers are usually added in at the end with the lemon juice, but I prefer to fry them with the shallot and garlic to infuse the sauce more flavor.
Speaking of sauce, this recipe is a little extra saucy, which gives you extra (delicious) piccata sauce for serving. I like to serve my “chicken” piccata with pasta and a salad on the side, and it makes the perfect sauce for the noodles! For a lighter main dish you can also serve this recipe with a side of roasted vegetables, like asparagus.
COOKING TIPS + FAQ:
- Warm the oil well: make sure the oil is properly warmed before you add your dredged tofu to the pan – otherwise it won’t get as crispy. The oil is warm when the butter begins to bubble, but I also recommend swirling the oil around a few times to make sure all of the oil is the same temp, and not just the center of the pan.
- Make it boozy: Chicken piccata can also be made with a dry white wine – I chose to use broth instead, but if you have some on hand, replace up to 1/2 of the broth with white wine for even more depth of flavor
- Turn the heat down: Make sure to turn the heat all the way down to low before you add the lemon slices -they only need a little heat to infuse into the sauce, and if they cook too long they will make the sauce taste bitter.
- Can I make this gluten-free? Yes! The only gluten in this recipe is the flour that the tofu is dredged in, and you can easily replace that with a gluten-free flour blend.
If you’re looking for more cozy and comforting plant-based dinner recipes, you’ll also love these Portobello Mushroom Steaks with Peppercorn Sauce, this Vegan Tempeh Marsala, and this Creamy Mushroom Risotto!
Vegan "Chicken" Piccata | Tofu Piccata Recipe
- 1 16- ounce block super-firm tofu OR 10 ounces Vegan chicken cutlets see note
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup 45 g all purpose flour (or gluten-free blend)
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon capers drained
- 1 cup imitation “chicken” broth
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or 2 teaspoons cornstarch*
- Juice of 1 lemon about 2 teaspoons tablespoon
- ½-1 Lemon sliced (or up to 1 tsp lemon zest)
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Prep: Place the flour on a wide plate.
- Tofu: carefully cut the tofu block into four pieces; I prefer to cut it in 4 thin layers. Sprinkle salt (I used 1 teaspoon) and pepper over both sides of each tofu piece, then dredge in flour and shake off any excess. Discard any remaining flour.
- “Chicken”: Cutlets should be thawed completely. I opted not to season the Gardein cutlets because they are pre-seasoned. Dredge in flour, then shake off any excess. Discard any remaining flour.
- Fry the “Chicken”: Heat Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat and swirl together. Once the butter has melted and begins to bubble, add the tofu or “chicken” and fry for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Aromatics:Reduce to medium heat and add the shallot. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and capers and sauté for an additional minute.
- Make the Pan Sauce: Add the broth to the pan and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Dissolve the arrowroot powder in water, then add the slurry and simmer for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until thick and glossy.
- Final Touches: Reduce the heat to low and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, lemon juice, lemon wedges, and salt to taste. Add the tofu or “chicken” back to the pan and let sit until warmed. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with parsley.
- Serve: serve warm, topped with the remaining pan sauce. This recipe is best served fresh; if you plan to have leftovers, do not add those cutlets back into the sauce and reheat both the tofu/“chicken” and sauce separately to prevent it from getting soggy. Enjoy leftovers within 3 days of making and store in the refrigerator.
- Wine: if you'd like to add even more flavor to this dish, replace 1/2 cup of the broth with a dry white wine
- "Chicken" Broth: I like to use this bouillon, but a garlic broth or vegetable broth will also work in a pinch.
- Tofu: make sure you use super firm or high protein tofu, not extra firm. This tofu holds up well to frying and won't fall apart. You can try to make this dish with extra firm tofu, but i would press it very well first.