Imagine a thinly tenderised veal cutlet with a crispy, golden-brown crust. Are you ready for the BEST Wiener Schnitzel? This classic Austrian national dish is a favourite all around the world. You can prepare this Viennese Schnitzel in no time and it's really easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes. What is more challenging is selecting the perfect side dish. What will you pick - Potato salad, Bratkartoffeln, Fries or parsley potatoes with cranberry sauce ?
What is Vienna Schnitzel?
Vienna Schnitzel is one of the most famous dishes from Austria. It consists of tenderized veal cutlet, which is breaded and pan-fried.
As you might have guessed, the famous Schnitzel from Austria is named after its capital Vienna.
In German, you call it “Wiener Schnitzel” which translated means “Viennese Schnitzel”. You pronounce it as an English speaker as “WEE-NAR-SHH-NITS-ELLE”
The original Wiener Schnitzel is made with veal. If you use pork or turkey meat you can only call it “Viennese Style Schnitzel”. In German “Schnitzel Wiener Art”. This is protected by law.
Wiener Schnitzel Origin – Was it really invented in Italy?
According to a popular tale, the Austrians did not invent the Wiener Schnitzel but imported it from Milan. It was discovered by the legendary Field Marshal Josep von Radetzky, who was the commander of the Austrian army in Italy from 1831-1857. (Austria had conquered Milan in 1713) There he tried the Italian dish “Costoletta alla Milanese”. He brought the dish back to the Austrian Emperor who enjoyed it so much he asked his royal cook to make something similar. And this is how the first Wiener Schnitzel was born.
This story has been revealed to be the product of the imagination from an Italian gastronomy guide and the legend is no older than 40 years. In reality, breaded meat dishes are part of Austrian cuisine since the beginning of the 18th century and the recipe for pan-fried breaded veal escalope can be found in cookbooks as early as 1740. So long before von Radezky's time. You cannot rule out that there is some Italian influence, but breaded meats have organically evolved in Austrian cuisine. (Source: Petra Foede (2009) Wie Bismark auf den Hering kam, Pößneck: GGB Media Gmh)
What is Vienna Schnitzel called in Vienna?
The Viennese Schnitzel in Vienna is just called “Veal Schnitzel” (Kalbsschnitzel). This is because the Viennese know where their Schnitzel comes from. The name “Wiener Schnitzel” only established itself from abroad. In 1864 in Paris, Napoleon III ate “Cotlettes de veau a la viennoise” with his wife. (Source: Petra Foede (2009) Wie Bismark auf den Hering kam, Pößneck: GGB Media Gmh)
What are the differences between Wiener Schnitzel and Scaloppina alla Milanese?
Scaloppina alla Milanese is a breaded veal escalope, as is Wiener Schnitzel. However, you prepare Scaloppina ala Milanese with herbs and parmesan, whereas Viennese Schnitzel only uses flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Both dishes are very similar.
How to make the BEST Vienna Schnitzel
- 4 veal escalope/ veal cutlets (about 150 g/ 5 oz each. If cut by a butcher it should be about 5-7 mm thick)
- 2 tbsp whipped cream (you can substitute it with double/heavy cream)
- 2 medium eggs
- 50 g/ 1.7 oz plain flour
- 150 g/ 5 oz breadcrumbs
- 200 g/ 7oz clarified butter (alternatively use 200 g/ 7oz vegetable oil)
- salt and pepper to taste
Wiener Schnitzel Recipe
- Let’s start by tenderizing the meat. Place a veal cutlet between a strong plastic sheet. (I used a cut up freezer bag). Using a meat mallet or a large heavy pan pound the meat until it is about 4-5 mm thin. Repeat for the rest of the cutlets.
- Place flour, salt and pepper in a large plate. Lightly whisk the two eggs with the cream until combined. Place into a wide shallow bowl. Lastly pour the breadcrumbs onto a third plate. (All three plates lined up – flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs are called Schnitzel Strasse (Schnitzel street)
- Lightly coat a veal schnitzel in the flour and shake of the excess.
- Next dip the veal escalope into the egg mixture. Ensure that your meat is completely coated in the egg wash.
- Lastly turn the schnitzel in the breadcrumbs.
- In a large frying pan, heat up the clarified butter/oil on a medium heat. Fry the schnitzel in batches for 2-3 minutes on each site. With a spoon keep on spooning the hot oil/butter over the schnitzel. This will create the famous waves effect.
- Repeat with the other cutlets. Let the schnitzel dry on a paper towel. Serve with a slice of lemon.
- For a glutenfree Vienna schnitzel, substitute the flour with corn starch/flour or gluten free flour. Also use gluten free breadcrumbs.
- As mentioned, before you can substitute pork for veal escalope. But then you cannot call it Viennese Schnitzel. It will be a Viennese style schnitzel.
Tips for the BEST Vienna Schnitzel
Use quality breadcrumbs for schnitzel
It does make a difference. The restaurants in Germany and Austria often use fresh breadcrumbs delivered from bakeries. You can also just create your own breadcrumbs by using a kitchen machine or grater. A mixture of dried and hard white and rye bread is great. My secret tip is to add some dried pretzels into the mix.
Oil or clarified butter for Schnitzel
Whether you fry in oil or clarified butter is a matter of personal taste. Clarified Butter (Butterschmalz) may not be easily available in the UK and US. You can use ghee instead but it has a nuttier taste. I like clarified butter as gives the schnitzel a sweet buttery taste.
Regular butter is not suited for frying schnitzel as it burns at high heat.
A tip for those of you who cannot get hold of clarified butter but want the taste: Add 1 tablespoon of butter to your oil. It will give it a buttery flavour.
Which oil is best for schnitzel?
The best oil for schnitzel is neutral-tasting cooking oils such as sunflower, vegetable, canola or rapeseed oil. You can also use olive oil, but it will affect the taste.
How to fry schnitzel?
The schnitzel is shallowly fried, but you need enough oil/clarified butter for the schnitzel to “swim” in the pan. So about 5 mm deep. This will ensure that the veal escalope will fry evenly without drying out.
The ideal temperature for frying schnitzel is around 170°C/338°F. However, the temperature will drop once the schnitzel is placed in the pan. You may increase the temperature if you notice the temperature cooling if for example, the oil does not bubble as much.
Slightly shake your pan while frying the wiener schnitzel. This will allow the hot oil to pour over the breadcrumb coating. Alternatively use a tablespoon and pour the oil over the schnitzel. This will allow the coating to loosen up from the schnitzel, as an original Wiener schnitzel has a light breadcrumb coating.
Side dishes for Wiener schnitzel
There are many traditional side dishes for Vienna Schnitzel. Here are some of the most popular ones.
- Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad is one of the classic combinations. The potato salad is served cold. Have a look at my German potato salad with cucumber and dill or Potato salad with apple for authentic choices.
- Parsley potatoes are also a common accompaniment. They are boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and sprinkled with parsley.
- Fried Potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) are also a popular choice. My tip is to fry the potatoes in the same oil/clarified butter as the schnitzel. (see Bratkartoffeln Recipe)
- Spätzle – are great with schnitzel. Especially if you serve them in a sauce.
- Pommes Frites (French Fries) are also a very popular choice. And also a classic dish on the kids menu at restaurants.
- German Bread Dumplings are traditional with a German Schnitzel meal and goes well with sauces.
- Green salads are often served with this dish. I would recommend Waldorf Salad (by Bible of Taste) or this cucumber salad.
- A classic vegetable dish is the German red cabbage, which is often eaten in winter.
Choose your sauce for Wiener schnitzel
You will find that there is no consensus as to whether to serve Wiener Schnitzel with a sauce. Some believe that the only thing the Wiener Schnitzel needs is a light and fluffy breadcrumb coating and a slice of lemon as veal is expensive, and you will want to taste it.
However, it is up to you. And even if your Viennese Schnitzel is fine without a sauce, your potatoes, spätzle or bread dumplings may need them.
Here are some popular sauces that can be served with schnitzel.
- Cranberry Sauce (Preiselbeer Soße) is a classic accompaniment for this dish. It is especially popular in Austria.
- Another favourite is to have with your veal is a cream and mushroom sauce. This makes it a Jägerschnitzel. Here is my homemade recipe for Jager Sauce
- Rahmsoße is a cream sauce for Schnitzel, similar to the mushroom sauce but without the mushrooms. Serving a schnitzel with Rahmsauce makes it a “Rahmschnitzel”.
- In Munich they enjoy eating their schnitzel with horseradish sauce.
- A traditional herb sauce in Frankfurt is the Frankfurter Grüne Soße. Serving the schnitzel with this sauce makes it a Frankfurter Schnitzel.
- A less traditional, but still very common sauce to eat the Wiener Schnitzel with is ketchup. This also goes very well with the fries. For something special try curry ketchup – a German recipe where the ketchup is spiced with curry powder and Worchester sauce.
The best way to store a cooked schnitzel is in an airtight container in the fridge. Here it will last between 2-3 days.
If the schnitzel is uncooked but already coated in breadcrumbs then you can keep it in an airtight container overnight but fry it the next day.
Can you freeze schnitzel?
You can freeze the uncooked schnitzel meat, in an airtight container for up to three months. Defrost at room temperature and prepare as usual.
Technically you can freeze a cooked schnitzel that is already coated in breadcrumbs. However, the breadcrumb coat will get soggy when defrosted, as it soaks up the water. You cannot expect the schnitzel to be as crispy as when freshly made.
More Delicious German Main Courses
- Königsberger Klopse
- Käsespätzle- German cheese spätzle
- Frikadellen - German Meatballs
- Szegedin Goulash - Goulash with Sauerkraut
- Venison Goulash
- Turkey Schnitzel
- Chanterelle Pasta
Best Wiener Schnitzel
- meat mallet or heavy pan
- 4 large shallow deep roles
- frying pan
- 4 veal escalopes/ veal cutlets about 150 g/ 5 oz each. If cut by a butcher about 5-7 mm thick
- 2 tablespoon whipped cream (you can substitute it with double/heavy cream)
- 2 medium eggs
- 50 g plain flour 1.7 oz
- 150 g breadcrumbs 5 oz
- 200 g clarified butter you can substitute with 200 ml neutral flavored oil such as vegetable, rapeseed or canola oil. If you like you can add 1 tablespoon butter to the oil for a buttery taste.
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon sliced
- Let’s start by tenderizing the meat. Place a veal cutlet between a strong plastic sheet. (I used a cut up freezer bag). Using a meat mallet or a large heavy pan pound the meat until it is about 4-5 mm thin. Repeat with the rest of the schnitzel.
- Place flour, salt and pepper in a large plate. Lightly whisk the two eggs with the cream until combined. Place into a wide shallow bowl. Lastly pour the breadcrumbs onto a third plate. (All three plates lined up – flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs are called Schnitzel Strasse (Schnitzelstreet)
- Lightly coat a veal schnitzel in the flour and shake of the excess.
- Next, dip the veal escalope into the egg mixture. Ensure that your meat is completely coated in egg wash.
- Lastly, turn the schnitzel in the breadcrumbs.
- In a large frying pan heat up the clarified butter/oil on medium heat. Fry the schnitzel in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side. With a spoon keep on spooning the hot oil/butter over the schnitzel. This will create the famous waves effect.
- Repeat with the other escalopes. Let the schnitzel drip on a paper towel. Serve with a slice of lemon.