Unsalted pretzels cut sodium in chicken piccata

Is a pretzel still a pretzel if you take away the salt?

Pretzels are naturally fat-free, so it might be tempting to ignore those pesky white flakes. Unfortunately, a serving of fat-free pretzels may contain up to 400 milligrams of sodium.

The National Institutes of Health strongly advises Americans younger than 50 to reduce their sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams, or no more than a teaspoon a day. It all adds up pretty fast, so unsalted pretzels can be a good option, as long as you keep in mind that they are not actually sodium-free. Instead, products labeled “unsalted” whittle the sodium content down to 75 to 100 milligrams per serving.

All this talk of pretzels soon had us considering how to navigate around breading, another high-sodium product.

The Kansas City Star’s Chicken Pretzel Piccata, a remake of a classic Italian dish, swaps the veal for chicken and coats the meat with the crumbs of unsalted pretzels. We also tweaked the high-calorie sauce made from the pan drippings. Instead of using the leftover fat, the sauce incorporates fat-free evaporated milk, low-sodium chicken broth, lemon juice and white wine.

• Shopping tip: Snyder’s of Hanover unsalted pretzels contain 110 calories per serving and 75 milligrams of sodium. We analyzed the recipe using both unsalted and salted pretzels; none of the other nutritional values changed, but the amount of sodium per serving doubled.

• Serving suggestion: This dish is great served with a small portion of whole-wheat spaghetti.

Chicken Pretzel Piccata

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups small, unsalted pretzels
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice plus a wedge for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
  • Whole grain spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  1. Pour buttermilk into a shallow dish.
  2. Place pretzels in a food processor and pulse several times or until finely crushed. Place pretzel crumbs in another shallow dish.
  3. Divide chicken into pieces, approximately 4 ounces each, and place between plastic wrap. Pound until very thin.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip each piece of chicken into buttermilk and then coat evenly with pretzel crumbs. Place chicken in skillet and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden. Turn and continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm in oven while preparing sauce. (If coating starts to overbrown while cooking chicken, remove chicken from skillet, place in an ovenproof dish and bake at 350 degrees until chicken is done.)
  5. Add wine, chicken broth and lemon juice to skillet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Whisk flour into evaporated milk. Pour milk mixture into lemon juice mixture in skillet. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce bubbles and thickens.
  6. Ladle sauce over chicken and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with spaghetti.

Per serving, using unsalted pretzels: 320 calories (17 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 69 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 206 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


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