While chicken piccata is traditionally based on skinless, boneless chicken breasts, I think you will want to give this Dairy Free Chicken Piccata Meatballs recipe a try!
The meatballs have way more flavor than a simple chicken breast, which makes the overall flavor even more interesting! But don’t take my word for it…give this recipe a try and let me know what you think be leaving a comment below!
The inspiration for this Dairy Free Chicken Piccata Meatballs recipe came from a friend of mine who had eaten something similar and wanted me to recreate it into a recipe she can make at home. Challenge accepted!
By the way, I love recreating foods that I eat at a restaurant or that my friends have eaten, so if you ever want a recipe for something you’ve had and loved, leave me a comment to let me know!
Does Chicken Piccata have Dairy?
Usually, yes! Traditional piccata is based on a sauce that contains a lot of butter, which serves to thicken and flavor the sauce.
Many American versions of piccata use heavy cream to make the sauce even more creamy and delightful, and the cream also balances the acidity and tang of the lemon and capers really well too. But, of course, heavy cream is dairy!
How I Made the Sauce Dairy Free
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Since I was trying to recreate a dish my friend had told me about, I knew I had to make the sauce rich and creamy rather than more buttery/lemony like traditional piccata. But, since I couldn’t use heavy cream, I had to come up with an alternate way to make the sauce.
I tried several different versions of the sauce before landing on the final version, which I’m really happy with! Instead if heavy cream, I use canned unsweetened coconut milk in the recipe, which is thicker than refrigerated coconut milk.
Because canned coconut milk has a distinct coconut flavor, I needed to balance that with something else so the sauce wouldn’t taste so much like coconut. So, the sauce uses part low-sodium chicken broth and part coconut milk, which makes it really flavorful and creamy!
I’m guessing the sauce my friend had eaten would have been thickened by simmering the heavy cream until it was thick and cream.
Canned coconut milk doesn’t thicken the same way as heavy cream when you cook it down, so I knew I would have to thicken the sauce another way. I used a combination of egg yolks and arrowroot to make this happen.
The egg yolks help thicken the sauce and add their own rich flavor, which is a big bonus! Plus, since you’ll only be using the yolks, it’s not difficult to keep the sauce smooth and creamy (in other words, no lumps and only 1 simple step!).
Arrowroot can be found in larger grocery stores or ordered online (I like this brand!). Using arrowroot to help thicken the sauce allowed me keep the whole recipe gluten free, which was also my goal!
What Are Capers?
Capers are the unopened flower buds from a shrub that grows in the Mediterranean. They are popular in Spanish, Italian, and French cooking.
Capers are not eaten fresh, but instead are preserved by soaking them in a brine mixture (salt, water, and sometimes vinegar) or by curing them in salt. Most capers you will find in grocery stores are the brined type. They come in a variety of sizes, but most jarred capers in grocery stores are smaller in size.
Don’t let their size fool you, though. Capers pack a HUGE flavor punch that is salty and tangy. For some people, the flavor is too strong. If that’s the case, after draining the capers, rinse them with cold water and drain again before using them in your recipe.
How Can I Use Capers?
My goal when creating recipes is to make it so there won’t be a lot (or any) of leftover jarred ingredients after making the recipe. I don’t want to clutter up my pantry or fridge with ingredients I may not use again.
BUT, chicken piccata is not piccata without capers, so I had to use them. When you use capers for a recipe, take as many capers out of the jar as you need, but leave as much of the brine in the jar as you can. The brine helps them last longer.
Brined capers, kept in the refrigerator after opening, will stay good for at least 1 year, which should be plenty of time for you to use them all. I think you’ll want to make this Dairy Free Chicken Piccata Meatballs recipe multiple times throughout the year!
Here are some other ideas for how to use up the leftover capers in your jar:
- Add them to chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, or salmon salad
- Use them as a garnish on top of deviled eggs
- Sprinkle some on top of grilled or roasted salmon or other white fish
- Toss them with roasted potatoes
- Add some to jarred pasta sauce to serve on your favorite gluten free noodles or veggie noodles
Okay, before this post gets WAY TOO LONG (there was just SO MUCH to say!), put the ingredients for this recipe on your grocery list and plan a dinner to make it for! And, by the way, this is one of those recipes that not only works for a weeknight dinner but will also be a hit at your next weekend dinner party!
Dairy Free Chicken Piccata Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken (not ground chicken breast)
- ¼ cup gluten-free quick-cooking rolled oats
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion or white onion
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Sauce and Garnishes
- 2 egg yolks (remove as much of the egg whites as possible)
- 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ teaspoons arrowroot flour/powder
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- 2/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk*
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 to 3 teaspoons jarred capers, well drained (rinsed and drained if desired)
- Broiled Lemon Halves** (optional)
- Chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley (optional)
- Preheat the broiler. Adjust top oven rack so that it sits 6 to 7 inches below the broiler. Line a heavy shallow baking pan with foil; set aside. For the meatballs, in a large bowl combine chicken, oats, onion, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, the lemon zest, and pepper. Mix well. Using slightly damp hands, shape mixture into 16 meatballs. Place meatballs in prepared pan, leaving space between meatballs.
- Broil meatballs for 11 to 13 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatballs (poke two stacked meatballs to check the temperaturregisters 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Meanwhile, for the sauce, in a medium bowl whisk egg yolks, broth, arrowroot, and ¼ teaspoon salt until very smooth. Whisk in coconut milk. Set mixture aside.
- in a large skillet cook and stir garlic in hot oil over medium heat (use medium-low heat if using a cast iron skillefor about 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add the mixed coconut milk mixture all at once to the skillet. Cook and stir over medium or medium-low heat until sauce is just boiling and has thickened (sauce will continue to thicken as it cools a bit so don’t worry if the sauce seems slightly thin at this point).
- Stir in lemon juice and capers. Season sauce with additional salt if desired. Add meatballs to the skillet. Cook and stir for 1 minute more to coat the meatballs with the sauce. If desired, add broiled lemon halves to the skillet. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.