Pesto Chicken recipe – Healthy Recipes Blog

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by Vered DeLeeuw

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11.22.2022


In this pesto chicken recipe, chicken breast is topped with pesto sauce, tomatoes, and mozzarella, then baked in the oven until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

Yes, it’s as flavorful as it sounds! The flavor combination here is incredible and it’s such a great way to upgrade chicken breast.

Pesto chicken served on a white platter.

A few weeks ago, staring at the chicken breasts in my fridge and trying to decide what to do with them, it occurred to me that I could use my basic recipe for baked chicken breast and adjust it to include the homemade pesto sauce which also needed using up.

The dish was delicious. As it turns out, pesto goes incredibly well with chicken! I also love how easy this recipe is. It’s just perfect for a weeknight dinner.

I have made it a couple more times for some fine-tuning before posting it here, and it was a big success both times.

Ingredients

You’ll only need a few simple ingredients to make this recipe. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

  • Fresh chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts in this recipe.
  • Avocado oil spray: This oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, making it an ideal cooking oil. You can also use olive oil.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
  • Pesto sauce: Homemade or store-bought. See the discussion below.
  • Sliced tomatoes: It’s best to use firm, red tomatoes. Smaller tomatoes work better in this recipe. I often use Roma tomatoes.
  • Shredded mozzarella: Provolone is also very good in this recipe.
The ingredients needed to make pesto chicken.

Instructions

This is such an easy recipe! The detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:

  • Your first step is to bake the chicken breasts. It’s always a good idea to bake chicken for a short time at a high temperature – this helps keep it juicy. So bake it for 20 minutes in a 450F oven.
  • Next, you carefully remove the pan from the oven and top the partially cooked chicken pieces with pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
  • Now, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes or so, to finish cooking the chicken and melt the cheese. That’s it!
A six-photo collage showing the steps for making a pesto chicken.

Expert tip

The best way to ensure that the chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part. Aim for an internal temperature of 165 ºF.

Frequently asked questions

What pesto should I use?

You can use homemade pesto sauce as I do. Store-bought pesto sauce is fine, but make sure it’s made with olive oil. I find it puzzling that so many brands use soybean oil instead of olive oil.

Can you use pesto straight from the jar?

Yes. if you opt for store-bought pesto sauce, you can use it straight from the jar. There’s no need to cook it first.

Can I make this recipe with a different chicken part?

You can make it with boneless skinless chicken thighs. They’ll cook faster than chicken breasts, so at the first stage of cooking, try just 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes.

But after the dish is done, do use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.

Variations

I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you’d like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:

  • Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. As mentioned above, they will cook faster than chicken breasts.
  • Use another melty cheese, such as provolone, instead of mozzarella.
  • Scatter a few pitted halved black olives on top of the tomato slices, then add the cheese.

Serving suggestions

This dish goes really well with roasted cherry tomatoes. You can roast them in the same 450°F oven for about 15 minutes.

Sometimes I make microwave spaghetti squash (I mix in some olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper) or zucchini noodles and use that as a bed for the chicken.

Storing leftovers

The leftovers keep okay in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. Although as with most chicken recipes, the leftovers are not as good as the freshly cooked dish.

I prefer not to reheat them, so as not to dry the chicken out. So I slice them and use them to top a salad for my lunch the next day.

If you’d like to reheat the leftovers, I suggest you do so gently, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.

Pesto chicken served on a white platter, garnished with tomatoes.

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Pesto chicken.

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Pesto Chicken

This easy recipe for pesto chicken is ideal for weeknight dinners.

Prep Time15 mins

Cook Time25 mins

Total Time40 mins

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Italian

Servings: 4 servings

Calories: 438kcal

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a rimmed baking dish.

  • Place the chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish. Spray them with oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

  • Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven. Spread 2 tablespoons of pesto sauce on the top of each chicken breast. Arrange 2 tomato slices on top, and sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella.

  • Return the chicken to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through (its internal temperature should reach 165ºF) and the cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes. If your baking dish is broiler-safe, you can finish by broiling for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese.

NOTES

  • The best way to ensure that the chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part. Aim for an internal temperature of 165 ºF.
  • You can make this recipe with boneless skinless chicken thighs. They’ll cook faster than chicken breasts, so at the first stage of cooking, try just 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes. But after the dish is done, do use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.

ADD YOUR OWN NOTES

DISCLAIMERSMost of our recipes are low-carb (or keto) and gluten-free, but some are not. Please verify that a recipe fits your needs before using it. Recommended and linked products are not guaranteed to be gluten-free. Nutrition info is approximate and the carb count excludes non-nutritive sweeteners. Nutrition info may contain errors, so please verify it independently. Recipes may contain errors, so please use your common sense when following them. Please read our Terms of Use carefully before using any of our recipes.

NUTRITION PER SERVING

Serving: 1chicken breast | Calories: 438kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 775mg

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