We took Japanese style chicken katsu and fried it in the air fryer for a delicious twist! Our air fryer chicken katsu turns out juicy, crispy, and perfect for drizzling with katsu sauce.
There are countless ways to prepare chicken but few are as popular as crispy breaded and fried chicken! However, it can sometimes be difficult to properly air fry breaded chicken. We’ve got all the right steps for success in this recipe! This chicken katsu recipe is crispy and juicy with perfectly air fried chicken.
Tender, juicy chicken thighs with a crispy panko breading are an excellent choice for a weeknight dinner and the air fryer makes it all so much easier! This recipe is a little different than our classic air fryer fried chicken and is a lot more like our pretzel crusted chicken which is also worth trying!
To keep this meal a bit more authentic, we like to serve the sliced breaded chicken over cooked white rice with shredded cabbage and a drizzle of savory sweet tonkatsu sauce! It’s often served with Japanese curry and steamed or boiled edamame, if you want to get a little more traditional.
What is Chicken Katsu?
A popular dish in Japan is Tonkatsu which means “pork cutlets”. In this case we’re making chicken katsu, or chicken cutlets! It’s basically just panko breaded and fried chicken served with a tonkatsu sauce. It’s also very similar to chicken schnitzel.
Katsu sauce, or tonkatsu sauce, is a sweet and savory sauce that we find to be very similar to American style barbecue sauces. It’s fairly easy to find this sauce in the store or to make your own with ketchup, oyster sauce, Worcestershire, and sugar following this recipe.
In Japan, chicken katsu is often served over white rice with thinly sliced cabbage.
Chicken Katsu Ingredient Notes:
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Chicken Thighs – We’re using boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. You’ll pound them out so they are flatter and will cook more evenly. We prefer juicy chicken thighs but this recipe works great with chicken breast too so use whichever you like best.
Breading – This chicken katsu is prepared by seasoning the chicken with salt & black pepper and then dredging it in all-purpose flour followed by beaten egg and then panko bread crumbs! This air fried chicken will end up with a perfectly crispy and golden brown exterior that makes it irresistible!
For Serving – There’s lots of ways you can serve this chicken katsu but we generally prefer it with some cooked rice, thinly sliced or shredded cabbage, and a drizzle of savory sweet tonkatsu sauce!
We use and love this ThermoPro meat thermometer anytime we’re making chicken, steak, or pork chops! It’s the easiest way to ensure meat is cooked to the perfect temperature every time and is a great gift for beginner cooks too!
How to Make Chicken Katsu:
Prepare – To get started you’ll prepare each chicken thigh by placing it between two pieces of plastic wrap and pounding the chicken out to an even thickness of about a 1/2″ with a meat mallet or tenderizer.
Season – Season the chicken thighs with some salt and pepper on both sides.
Breading – You’ll need three shallow dishes or bowls which you’ll fill with the flour in one, eggs in another, and the panko breadcrumbs in the third. Whisk the eggs until they are smooth.
Dredge – Dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the panko. Thoroughly coat the chicken on all sides with the breading.
Air Fry – Spritz your air fryer basket with some oil spray and then arrange the breaded chicken thighs in a single layer in the basket. Make sure to leave a bit of space between for air flow. Spritz the chicken with some oil too and then air fry them at 390 degrees for 10 minutes. Flip once halfway through. They’re finished when the internal temperature is 165.
Serve – After cooking slice the air fryer chicken katsu into thin slices and serve it over some cooked rice with shredded cabbage and a bit of your favorite tonkatsu sauce!
Pounding the chicken to an even thickness is a step you might think you can skip but it’s pretty important. Not only does it help the chicken cook faster and more evenly but it also creates more surface area for the panko breading. The flatter it is the more evenly the panko breading will cook until it’s nice and crispy without burning.
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You can keep any leftover katsu chicken stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about 4 days. The chicken can be reheated in your air fryer or in the oven.
Sure! Let the air fried chicken cool completely before transferring it to a freezer safe container or bag. You can keep it frozen for up to a few months. Let it thaw before reheating in the air fryer or oven!
Tonkatsu actually means “pork cutlets” but the savory sweet sauce that is used is just as good on chicken as it is on pork! You can find it in the Asian section of most grocery stores or try this homemade tonkatsu sauce! It’s great for topping the chicken or even using as a dip.
If you don’t properly dredge the chicken in flour, beaten egg, and panko the breading will not adhere to the chicken. It may fall off when air frying. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly as written!
Air Fryer Chicken Katsu
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- cooked rice, shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce for serving
- Place one chicken thigh between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken thighs.
- Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Add the flour to one shallow dish, the eggs to a second shallow dish, and the panko to a third shallow dish. Whisk the eggs together well until smooth.
- Dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour, then egg, then panko, making sure to thoroughly coat the chicken in the breading.
- Spritz the bottom of your air fryer basket with oil spray and arrange the chicken in a single layer in the basket, leaving space between each piece for air to flow. Liberally spritz the chicken with oil spray.
- Air fry at 390 degrees for 10 minutes, flipping carefully halfway through cooking, or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees.
- Slice the chicken into thin slices and serve over a bed of rice with a side of shredded cabbage and a drizzle of tonkatsu sauce.