Air Fryer Chicken Katsu

This Air Fryer Chicken Katsu is inspired by the classic deep-fried version, and it’s just as crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle. Serve with fluffy steamed rice and shredded cabbage, and enjoy homemade Japanese comfort food any night of the week.

air fryer chicken katsu with rice

Can you air fry chicken katsu? 🤔 Yes, and these easy-to-follow instructions will show you exactly how it’s done. If you’re new to Katsu, keep reading for the breakdown of this DELISH traditional Japanese dish.

Chicken katsu is essentially Japanese fried chicken. Tender chicken cutlets are coated in panko, deep-fried, and served with katsu sauce, aka tonkatsu sauce. The sauce is well-seasoned ketchup, and you may want to make a double batch because tonkatsu sauce tastes great on EVERYTHING.

This lighter version is cooked in the air fryer instead of deep fried in heavy oil, yet the results are just as crisp and juicy as the original. In addition, it cooks quickly and requires no extra fat to accomplish the distinct katsu chicken CRUNCH.

Speaking of the crunch, the ultimate test for chicken katsu success is when you slice the cutlets into strips at the end. If you hear a CRUNCH as your knife makes contact with the breading, you nailed homemade chicken katsu!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • It’s a healthier twist on a traditional recipe. Air frying requires a fraction of the oil needed for deep frying (and clean-up is a breeze!)
  • It comes together in less than 30 minutes with a short list of simple ingredients.
  • There’s nothing dry about these chicken breasts. Preparing them chicken katsu-style results in an extra crispy panko crust surrounding a tender and juice cutlet.
  • The delicious homemade katsu sauce!

🧾 Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Chicken breast – You will need a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or you can purchase bone-in and de-bone them yourself. Since chicken breasts are typically pretty thick, cutting them down the center horizontally into two thinner filets is best. Feel free to use chicken thighs or pork cutlets instead.
  • Seasonings – The spices (salt, garlic powder, and pepper) are kept simple, focusing on the panko crust, naturally flavorful meat, and the sauce.
  • Eggs (whisked) – Eggs are the wet element of the Katsu batter. They give the breadcrumbs something to stick to.
  • Plain panko breadcrumbs – A traditional Japanese-style breadcrumb used to coat chicken katsu. The granules are bigger and more coarse than regular breadcrumbs. As a result, the crust is dry, thick, and extra crunchy.
  • Cooking oil spray – Use a quality high-heat cooking oil spray like avocado, coconut, or olive oil. If you don’t have cooking oil spray, you can lightly brush the oil overtop of the chicken. Check out my guide to the best oil for air frying for more info.
  • Katsu sauce – A smooth and glossy mixture of ketchup, soy sauce (oyster sauce or coconut aminos), Worchestershire (or steak sauce), and brown or white sugar. It is sweet and tangy with umami-forward undertones. You can also use store-bought tonkatsu sauce as it’s the same thing, but making it homemade is easy, and you probably have most of the ingredients.

📖 How To Make Chicken Katsu In The Air Fryer

1️⃣ Prep and season chicken cutlets. Prep the chicken for katsu by trimming the excess fat and fileting the breast into two pieces. Then, pound the filets to an even 1/4″ to 1/2″ thickness. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides.

2️⃣ Assemble breading station and preheat. You will need two bowls. In the first bowl, whisk the eggs. In the second bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs. Set the air fryer to 375°F and let preheat for 3-5 minutes.

3️⃣ Bread chicken in panko. While the air fryer preheats, bread the chicken. Dip the chicken in the egg until coated. Shake off any excess, then dip into the breadcrumbs and coat on both sides.

4️⃣ Cook chicken katsu in the air fryer. Place the chicken in the preheated air fryer, and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set the timer for 16 minutes. At the halfway mark, flip the chicken with tongs, and spray the other side with cooking spray. Continue cooking for the remaining 8 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

5️⃣ Make homemade tonkatsu sauce. While the chicken cooks, add the sauce ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Adjust ingredients to taste.

6️⃣ Serve. Once finished, remove the chicken katsu with tongs, and serve with rice, Japanese curry, and katsu sauce. Enjoy!

🗨 Recipe Tips

  • To filet the chicken successfully, weigh down the chicken breast with your non-dominant hand, so it stays in place while you cut through the center with a sharp knife in your other hand.
  • Cover the chicken filets with a sheet of plastic wrap to help keep the meat from tearing apart as you pound them to a 1/4″ to 1/2″ thickness.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your hands when working with panko. I like to press the chicken into the panko, then spoon more over the top and pack it firmly into place.
  • No overlapping or stacking! Cook the chicken katsu in a single layer, leaving space in between. Work in batches if you need to.
  • Every air fryer functions differently, so keep an eye on your chicken katsu and adjust the time and temperature as needed.
  • Chicken katsu is traditionally served sliced into thin strips. If you’re planning to slice the filets, let them rest for 3-5 minutes once they’re finished cooking, and then cut.

🍽 How To Serve

Make it a meal – Chicken katsu is often served with steamed rice, shredded cabbage, and extra sauce on the side, but it goes great with a variety of sides. Check out the list below for sides to serve with chicken katsu.

  • Miso Soup
  • Asian Slaw
  • Seaweed Salad
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Side of Japanese Curry

Make it a sandwich – Pile sliced chicken katsu in a fresh sub roll with your favorite sandwich toppings.

Storing & Reheating

Storing: Let leftover chicken katsu cool completely, then keep in a shallow, airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. It can technically be frozen, but thawing will damage the breading, so I don’t advise it. Keep the katsu sauce covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Reheating: To reheat, set the chicken katsu at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then return the pieces to the air fryer and reheat at 350F for 4-5 minutes. To reheat in the oven, place the chicken on a baking sheet and heat in a 350F preheated oven for 9-10 minutes.

❔FAQ

What can I substitute for Panko to make chicken katsu?

Chicken katsu has a distinct textured crust that can only be achieved with panko breadcrumbs. Of course, you can use regular breadcrumbs, but you’ll lose some of the crunch.

Is pounding the chicken necessary for chicken katsu?

Yes! “Katsu” translates to “cutlet” in English, referring to meat pounded thin. To work around this step, purchase thin chicken cutlets instead of chicken breast.

Can I make chicken katsu with thighs instead of breasts?

Absolutely. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a perfectly suitable option for chicken katsu. The meat tends to be more flavorsome and tender and doesn’t dry out as quickly as chicken breasts.

How do you make gluten-free chicken katsu?

Easy! In my experience, gluten-free panko breadcrumbs brown and get crispy like regular panko breadcrumbs. You should be able to substitute one for the other successfully.

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air fryer chicken katsu with rice

Air Fryer Chicken Katsu

This Air Fryer Chicken Katsu is inspired by the classic deep-fried version, and it's just as crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle. Serve with steamed rice and shredded cabbage, and enjoy homemade Japanese comfort food any night of the week.
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes
Total Time: 26 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories: 399kcal

Equipment

  • air fryer Ninja Foodi, NuWave, PowerXL, etc.
  • meat mallet
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Whisk

Ingredients

For Chicken Katsu

  • 1 pound chicken breast
  • 2 eggs whisked
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • cups plain panko breadcrumbs
  • cooking oil spray

For Katsu Sauce

  • cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or oyster sauce or coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons Worchestershire or steak sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or white sugar

Instructions

  • Prepare the chicken breast by trimming off the excess fat. Filet into two pieces, then pound the filets with a meat mallet, so they are the same 1/4" to 1/2" thickness.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides.
  • Set up a dredging station using two bowls. In the first bowl, whisk the eggs. In the second bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs.
  • Set the air fryer to 375°F and let preheat for 3-5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, dip the chicken in the egg until coated. Shake off any excess, then dip into the breadcrumbs and coat on both sides.
  • Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of the air fryer basket, and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set the timer for 16 minutes. At the halfway mark, flip the chicken with tongs, and coat the other side with cooking spray. Continue cooking for the remaining 8 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and has a safe internal temperature of 165°F
  • While the chicken is cooking, add the sauce ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Adjust ingredients to taste.
  • Once finished, remove the chicken katsu with tongs, and serve with rice, shredded cabbage, Japanese curry, and katsu sauce. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 399kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 56g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 309mg | Sodium: 2859mg | Potassium: 1071mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 512IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

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