City chicken isn’t actually made with any chicken at all! Tender pieces of pork tenderloin are breaded and fried to golden brown perfection for a family-friendly dinner that’s easy to make.
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While the final dish may look like regular fried chicken, the flavor is even better and more exciting! My family loves the taste of this mock chicken, and I love that it’s an easy recipe I can quickly whip up on busy weeknights. After all, you can’t go wrong with recipes like this city chicken that are guaranteed to please!
City Chicken Recipe
You might wonder why a dish made with pork is called “chicken”. The dish was developed during the Great Depression when pork was much less expensive than chicken and more accessible to the average family. However, they discovered that when the tender meat was breaded and fried, it tasted very similar to chicken.
The skewered fried pork cubes quickly became popular in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and the recipe began to spread across the country, making its way all the way to New York! When ordering city chicken, diners were able to feel like they were eating pricey fried chicken for a whole lot less money! The original mock chicken recipe is still popular today, and once you try it for the first time, you will see why (it is so good!).
My classic city chicken recipe sticks to the way the dish was originally made. The pork tenderloin is cut into cubes and threaded onto bamboo skewers. Then, I roll the skewered pork in seasoned flour, dip it in egg, and dredge it through Italian panko breadcrumbs. A quick dip in an oiled skillet makes the breadcrumbs nice and crunchy. Then, into the oven they go! Serve this city chicken with a side of air fryer sweet potato fries, smashed Brussels sprouts, or a cheesy broccoli rice casserole to make a perfect, complete meal.
City Chicken Ingredients
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Pork tenderloin – Use a sharp knife to cut to pork tenderloin using a gentle back-and-forth motion. It is much easier to cut pork when it is very cold (even half-frozen).
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder – Try using half garlic powder and half onion powder for a little twist on the seasonings.
- Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs – Regular breadcrumbs will also work well. I like the extra crunch from the panko breadcrumbs.
- Vegetable oil – Canola oil is also good for quickly frying the pork. I have even used olive oil in a pinch as well!
Here are a few ingredient substitutions and alterations that you may want to try.
- You can replace the pork tenderloin with pork chops. Pork chops are not quite as tender, but they will still taste great!
- Use regular breadcrumbs, and add 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to make your own seasoned breadcrumbs. My local grocery stores don’t always have Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs. So, I have to get a little creative!
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure the city chicken cooks completely, reaching an internal temperature of 145 degrees in the frying pan.
- Serve your city chicken recipe with a dipping sauce on the side. Brown gravy, honey mustard dipping sauce, or even just some ketchup will all taste delicious.
How to Make City Chicken
- Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Prep the pork: Cut the pork tenderloin into cubes, and place three to four cubes of pork onto wooden skewers.
- Bread the pork: Place the flour and garlic powder in a shallow bowl, and stir the two together. Add the egg to a separate bowl, and whisk until it’s smooth. Add the breadcrumbs to a third shallow bowl. Dip the skewered pork first in the flour mixture, then in the egg wash, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Using shallow bowls makes it easier to coat the chicken in each layer of breading.
- Sear the pork: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the breaded pork skewers in batches in the hot oil, cooking the pork for just 3-4 minutes to lightly brown. Do not fully cook the pork at this stage!
- Bake: Place the fried pork skewers into a 9×13 baking dish, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Then, remove the foil, and bake for another 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF.
- Serve: Serve the city chicken skewers while warm.
When you skewer the pork cubes, leave a little space between the cubes of meat. This will ensure that each piece is completely breaded all the way around. It also helps cook the city chicken faster and more evenly when there is a gap between the skewered meat.
How to Store City Chicken
If you have leftover city chicken, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. I like to reheat the skewers in an air fryer to re-crisp the breading. You can remove the city chicken from the skewers to make it easier to store.
In the early 1900s, chicken was very expensive, but veal and pork were fairly affordable. People living in big cities would prepare the cheaper meats, like pork, using chicken-style recipes and pretend it was the pricier meat. The depression era recipe was so good that it stuck around. You can still find city dwellers, especially in the Pennsylvania area, enjoying city chicken as street food or even as part of Sunday dinner.
City Chicken was originally created by Polish and Ukrainian immigrants. Many communities were concentrated in Cleveland and Pittsburg. The popularity did spread quite quickly though!
City chicken is essentially a type of breaded pork tenderloin. The pork is cut into cubes and threaded on bamboo skewers. Then, it is coated in panko breadcrumbs, quickly fried, and baked in the oven until it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
- Wooden skewers
- 9×13 baking dish
- Aluminum foil
- large skillet
- Measuirng spoons
- Measuring cup
- 1½ to 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil for frying
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Pat the cubes of pork dry with a paper towel, then season with the salt and pepper. Thread 3 to 4 pieces of pork onto each skewer.1½ to 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Prepare three separate bowls for coating the skewers, one with the flour and garlic powder, one with the beaten egg, and another with the breadcrumbs. Working one at a time, dredge the skewers in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, followed by the egg, then the breadcrumbs.½ cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 eggs, lightly beaten, 2 cups Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil to a depth of about 1 inch. Once the oil has heated through, fry the skewers in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Turn the skewers halfway through and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.vegetable oil for frying
- Arrange the skewers in a 9 x 13 baking dish, then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 10 to 12 minutes until cooked through. If using a meat thermometer, the meat will reach an internal temperature of 145ºF when done. Remove to a plate and serve.