Shallow-Fried Chicken with Southern Tomato Gravy

If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying Southern tomato gravy, you’re in for a treat. Unlike Italian-style tomato sauces, it’s made with a blonde roux that combines flour and butter and/or bacon drippings, chopped sweet onion, diced tomatoes, chicken broth and whole milk. The result is a creamy tomato gravy that’s perfect for serving over these cornmeal-crusted chicken breasts and a side of mashed potatoes, rice or buttermilk biscuits.

Shallow-Fried Chicken with Southern Tomato Gravy

Shallow-Fried Chicken with Southern Tomato Gravy

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Topped with a creamy, Southern-style tomato gravy, these cornmeal-crusted chicken breasts are shallow-fried until tender and juicy with crisp, golden coating.


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

For the tomato gravy

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F and coat a shallow baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. If your chicken breasts have tenderloins attached, remove them and reserve for another use.
  3. Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound gently to an even thickness of 1/2-inch.
  4. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow dish (a pie plate works well). Thoroughly combine the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper on a plate or sheet of wax paper.
  5. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg, then coat with the cornmeal mixture, pressing gently to get a solid, even coating.
  6. Add about 1/8-inch of oil to a large, heavy frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts in a single layer and cook, turning several times, until golden brown, 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side.
  7. Transfer to the prepared baking pan and place in the oven to keep warm while you make the gravy.
  8. Wipe any remaining oil from the pan and melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until blended. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and develops a pale, golden color, 2 minutes.
  9. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened, 3 to 4 minutes longer. If you find the mixture starting to brown, turn down the heat.
  10. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth and milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has a thick, gravy consistency. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
    Note: If you feel the gravy is too thick, add a little extra chicken broth and milk in equal amounts.
  11. To serve, plate individual servings of the chicken, spoon a little gravy on top, and place the remaining gravy in a bowl to pass at the table. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or biscuits.