Baked Pesto Chicken is made easy with just TWO ingredients on a sheet pan for easy cleanup. Even with a side of veggies, it's ready in 30 minutes!
Come on, now. Can chicken recipes get any easier than this easy baked pesto chicken? I don’t think so!! This easy dinner is made with just two ingredients, one of which is store-bought pesto sauce.
I know, I know. Technically we are cheating here with this meal prep, but that's honestly one of my top secrets to prepping quickly – use pre-made ingredients when you can.
Trust me, you are going to love this recipe, whether you use store-bought pesto or make your own!
What Is Pesto Made Of?
Traditional, authentic pesto comes from Italy. The original, pesto alla Genovese, is basil pesto. That pesto recipe uses fresh basil, premium olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and hard shredded cheese, like Pecorino or Parmesan.
These days, there are a lot of different pesto recipes made without basil, or in addition to basil. If you do a quick Google search, you will see recipes for pesto made with a variety of greens, including:
- and there is even a recipe for seaweed pesto!
Store-bought vs Homemade Pesto
You can definitely make your own homemade basil pesto for this pesto chicken recipe, it's actually so easy!
The only reason I use store-bought pesto in this recipe is to save time and save money purchasing all the separate ingredients.
You need the following for homemade pesto:
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup pinenuts (optional)
- 1 pinch salt & pepper
Blend everything up together in a food processor or mini blender like a Magic Bullet and you have the most perfect homemade pesto!
As you can see, the ingredients are fairly expensive and not necessarily items you would already have on hand at home so I do often encourage people to use store-bought shortcuts when they can. It just depends on how much time you have to meal prep and make this recipe!
How to make Baked Pesto Chicken
I make this quick and easy gluten free dinner on a large baking sheet. This way, I can make a side dish of roasted veggies at the same time. It makes clean-up super easy too! If you prefer to use a baking dish, that will work as well. Use a glass 9×11 dish and make sure you grease it a little bit beforehand with cooking spray so nothing sticks. Easy peasy!
While you preheat the oven, go ahead and prep your chicken breasts and cut up any veggies you want to roast. To allow the chicken to cook quickly, you’ll want to slice the breasts in half horizontally. This will make them thinner. Or, if you prefer, just buy boneless, skinless chicken cutlets at the store. These are more expensive typically, but they do really save on prep time.
Coat the veggies in a little bit of olive oil and season them; I just add salt and pepper to achieve this. Then, arrange everything into one layer on the pan and brush the chicken with pesto.
The oven temperature will be hot enough that the baked chicken pesto should be ready in 15-18 minutes. You will want to cook the dish until the chicken is no longer pink, or until the internal temperature reaches 163 degrees F.
You can also add some grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese on top of your chicken in the last 5 minutes of cooking time, which adds even more flavour!
Is Brown Pesto Safe To Eat?
Have you ever made my avocado hummus snack jars, or guacamole? If so, you may know that avocado turns brown when it is exposed to air. This is known as oxidation. Basil pesto, whether it’s homemade or store-bought, also oxidizes. That’s why it comes in olive oil. The oil prevents air from reaching the basil.
It is perfectly ok to eat pesto that turns brown from oxidation. However, you need to be cautious because basil spoils quickly. After you make it (or after the jar is open), basil pesto will only stay fresh for 4-5 days.
If the oil turns brown or the pesto has a foul odor, it is no longer safe to eat and should be thrown out.
Marinating the Chicken in Pesto
If you're looking for the chicken to have more flavour and are concerned that salt and pepper won't be enough to season it, you can go ahead and marinate the chicken in your homemade or store-bought pesto ahead of time. Just 15 to 20 minutes should be long enough for the chicken to soak up some of the flavour so you can go ahead and prep your veggies while the chicken sits.
Can I Use Chicken Thighs Instead?
You can most certainly use boneless, skinless chicken thighs in place of the chicken breast cutlets. The cook time shouldn't change at all either but you will want to make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. You can check this with a meat thermometer.
What To Do With Leftover Pesto
Pesto is a very versatile condiment. Most often, you will see it in pasta dishes, like this whole wheat pesto pasta recipe I made a few years back. Actually, pasta is a great option to serve with the chicken pesto bake if you're looking for a more substantial meal and not just a low carb dish.
You can also use pesto as a sandwich spread, in salad dressing, or as a replacement for tomato sauce on pizza. So many uses, so you will definitely be able to use it all up before it goes bad.
Meal Prep Tools for This Recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on turning this Baked Chicken Pesto into lunches for the week
- I get all of my free-range chicken from Butcher Box, conveniently delivered to me frozen
- I like to use parchment paper with my sheet pan recipes for easy clean up
Baked Pesto Chicken
- 4 chicken cutlets (or 2 chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise)
- 1/2 cup jarred pesto
- grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
Optional side veggies
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
- 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss veggies with olive oil and salt & pepper, then spread on baking sheet. Coat chicken with pesto and add to baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until chicken is fully cooked (will depend on the thickness of the cutlets).
- Remove from oven and add grated parmesan cheese to top of chicken if desired, then serve and enjoy!