Chicken Tonnato

July 21, 2021 Updated: July 21, 2021

Inspired by the classic Piedmontese vitello tonnato, this elegant recipe marries simply poached chicken breasts with a thick, creamy tonnato sauce of mayonnaise, tuna, lemon juice, capers, and anchovies. The tonnato is quickly made in a blender, spread on top of the chicken, and chilled for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Juicy poached chicken is easily done; the key is not to overcook the meat. If they’re still a little pink in the center at the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat and leave them in the hot water bath to continue cooking slowly, until cool enough to handle.

Do keep the sauce recipe nearby. It is fantastic in potato salad, over grilled vegetables, and used to make deviled eggs. And I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it is in a tomato sandwich. Since the capers are very salty, do taste as you go along and adjust as necessary. The sauce will keep in the fridge, covered, for 3 days.

Serves 4

  • 4 chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), boneless and skinless
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons mixed herbs (dried is fine)

For the Tonnato 

  • 4 ounces canned tuna in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, plus extra for garnishing
  • 2 ounces anchovy fillets in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the chicken breasts in one layer in a stockpot with a lid. Season the chicken with salt and pour in the white wine and herbs. Add enough water to cover the chicken by an inch and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tonnato sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine the tuna, 2 tablespoons capers, anchovies, and lemon juice, and pulse to blend. Add the mayonnaise and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Check the chicken for doneness, using an instant-read meat thermometer (the internal temperature should be 165 degrees F) or by slicing into a piece. If the chicken is done, remove it from the water bath and rest. If it is still a little pink, remove the pot from the heat and let the chicken rest in the hot water bath; it will continue to cook while it cools.

Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes. Once it is cool enough to handle, slice at a slight angle into 1/2-inch slices.

Arrange the slices on a serving platter so that they are overlapping. Spread the tonnato sauce on top and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

Garnish with capers and serve cold.