Chicken parmesan is a perennial dinnertime favorite, but the breading makes it unattainable for anyone following a keto diet. This recipe for a keto take on the Italian-American classic puts the crispy, saucy goodness of chicken parm back into regular dinner rotation. The keto breading can also be used for eggplant, fish, chicken, salmon patties, shrimp, and virtually anything else.
A Quick Keto Primer
The whole point of the ketogenic diet is to transition your body from burning carbs for energy to burning ketones for fuel. Ketones are made naturally by your body from your body’s fat stores and fat in your diet. However, your body won’t produce ketones if it has bountiful access to carbs. This is why the keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet; the general consensus is that if you get 70 to 80 percent of your daily “macros” — or calories — from fat, 20 to 30 percent from protein, and less than 10 percent, or no more than 20 grams, from carbs each day, you can get into (and stay in) ketosis, and transform your body into a fat-burning machine.
But here’s the thing: if you’re trying to stay under 20 grams of carbs per day, there’s no room for even a modest portion of classic chicken parmesan. A mere quarter cup of white wheat flour, a staple in traditional chicken parm breading, has about 24 grams of carbs, while a quarter cup of breadcrumbs has about 20 grams of carbs. Combined, that’s more than double your daily carb allowance on a keto diet.
The Brilliance Behind Keto Breading
Many alternative flours that are low-carb can work in keto chicken parm, but they might not be the ideal solution. Take almond flour for example. It’s keto, it’s nutritious, but it can’t be enjoyed with abandon on a keto diet. Although almond flour has a great fat-to-protein ratio, it also has some carbs. To manage your macros properly, you need to use almond flour in moderation. Enter another keto breading savior: pork panko.
Pork panko is made of ground up chicharones, or pork rinds. While this versatile ingredient is readily available in grocery stores, you can also throw some pork rinds into a food processor and pulse until they’re ground into a sandy texture.
Pork panko doesn’t just add a crispy, golden coating; it’s also a great keto food because it has ample protein and fat and contains zero carbs. For an even tastier take, combine pork panko with almond flour and some grated parmesan, which is also keto-friendly. As demonstrated in the recipe below, this mix yields an epic keto chicken parmesan with all the perks of a carby crust.
Keto Chicken Parmesan
Whether you’re exploring keto for the first time or following a relaxed keto diet, this recipe is everything you could want from chicken parmesan without the heavy carb count. If you want to go “strict keto,” keep in mind that if you use 4 4-ounce chicken cutlets, the macros for this dish will be about 24 grams of fat, 38 grams of protein, and 7.5 grams of total carbs, or 6.3 grams of “net carbs,” which is total grams of carbs minus grams of fiber. Though this recipe contains more protein than fat, it’s common on the keto diet to boost fat content through tasty, keto-friendly snacks or recipe additions. For example, with this dish, you can add half of an avocado on the side or finish with a tablespoon of butter.
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
4 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved (the way you would cut a burger bun)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp water
1/3 cup fine almond flour
1/3 cup pork panko or pork rinds ground in a food processor
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup (3 oz) shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly grease an 11- by 13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the water. Set aside.
In another small bowl, mix together the almond flour, pork panko, half of the parmesan, and the salt and pepper.
PHOTO CREDIT: Erin Ng