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.
The flavor combination is incredible, and much like blackened chicken, it's an excellent way to upgrade chicken breast.
A few weeks ago, staring at the chicken breasts in my fridge (I didn't have all the ingredients needed for plan A, which was Greek chicken), it occurred to me that I could use my recipe for baked chicken breast and adjust it to include the homemade pesto sauce which also needed using up.
The dish was delicious. Pesto goes incredibly well with chicken! I also love how easy this recipe is. It's perfect for a weeknight dinner.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this pesto chicken 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.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.
- Pesto sauce: Homemade or store-bought. Both work.
- 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 excellent in this recipe.
- Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. I've tried both options and enjoy using chicken thighs.
- Use another melty cheese, such as provolone, instead of mozzarella. I like using provolone because it's more flavorful than mozzarella.
- Scatter a few pitted halved black olives on top of the tomato slices, then add the cheese. The olives add saltiness and flavor to the dish.
Pesto Chicken Instructions
The detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps for making this recipe. Note that in the photos below, I used three chicken breasts and adjusted the remaining ingredients accordingly.
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 450°F oven.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven and top the partially cooked chicken pieces with pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Return the pan to the oven for about 5 minutes to finish cooking the chicken and melt the cheese. That's it! Dinner is served.
You can use homemade pesto sauce as I do. Store-bought pesto sauce is fine, but make sure it's made with olive oil. Many brands use soybean oil.
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.
You can make it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They'll cook faster than chicken breasts, so bake them for 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes at the first cooking stage.
When the dish is done, use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the chicken is fully cooked.
I like to serve pesto chicken with a side dish that I can cook in the same 450°F oven, such as:
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.
If you'd like to reheat the leftovers, do it gently, covered, in the microwave at 50% power.
More Chicken Recipes
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- Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grease a rimmed 3-quart baking dish (such as a 9 X 13-inch baking dish).
- Place the chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish. Spray them with oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Bake them for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven. Spread 2 tablespoons of pesto sauce on 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. Serve immediately.
- If your baking dish is broiler-safe, you can finish by broiling for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese.
- The best way to ensure the chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part. Aim for an internal temperature of 165ºF.
- You can make this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They'll cook faster than chicken breasts, so bake them for just 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes at the first cooking stage. After the dish is done, you should use a thermometer to ensure the chicken is fully cooked.
- The leftovers keep okay in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. I prefer not to reheat them so as not to dry the chicken out. I slice them and use them to top a salad the next day. If you'd like to reheat the leftovers, do it gently, covered, in the microwave at 50% power.