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If you love tasty Italian meals, done in 30 minutes or less, this grilled chicken margherita is for you! Start with grilled, tender chicken breasts coated in herbs and cover it in melty mozzarella cheese, fresh pesto, and a tomato basil garnish.

four pieces grilled chicken margherita on a serving plate
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Fire up the grill and get ready to make your new favorite chicken breast recipe! This fresh summer dish is anything but boring. Think margherita pizza on top of slightly charred, juicy chicken breasts.

The layers of flavor start with the chicken breast itself thanks to all the olive oil and Italian seasoning. The char from the grill adds so much flavor. We could stop there, but instead, let’s add a homemade 5-minute pesto, fresh mozzarella, and tomato basil topping. You’re going to love this grilled chicken margherita olive garden copycat! 

I spent last summer perfecting the art of grilling chicken breasts.  I’m sharing a few tips to cook it perfectly below. And if you don’t own a grill, or it’s too chilly, you can also pan sear it (see recipes notes).

Why You’ll Love This Grilled Chicken Margherita

  • Great recipe for family dinner during the week.
  • Better than the Olive Garden chicken margherita recipe.
  • The perfect summer dish.
  • Has a ton of flavor with only a handful of ingredients—many of which you probably have at home.
  • The side dish options are endless.
  • Packed with lean protein. 

Need another chicken dish? Try baked pesto chicken or Boursin chicken next time.

grilled chicken margherita topped with balsamic glaze

Ingredients You Need

Here are the main ingredients you need to make this grilled margherita chicken recipe. Skip to the recipe card for exact measurements.

  • Chicken breasts: We’re using boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe.
  • Olive oil: You can use a light olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil.
  • Garlic: Fresh cloves of garlic are best for extra flavor.
  • Italian seasoning: You can make your own at home with equal parts dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, and dried thyme. Or add garlic powder and red pepper flakes.
  • Salt and pepper: Season to taste.
  • Mozzarella cheese: Use a fresh slice of mozzarella cheese for best results.
  • Basil pesto: A really good homemade pesto is delicious. You can also use store bought pesto.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Grape tomatoes or any fresh tomatoes would work as long as you cut them up small enough
  • Balsamic vinegar: Introduces a tangy, sweetness.
  • Basil: Nothing beats fresh basil when it comes to classic Italian flavors.
chicken, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, pesto, and garlic on a countertop

How to Make Grilled Chicken Margherita

Here are the step-by-step instructions to make this grilled chicken margherita recipe. Jump to the recipe card for printable instructions. 

  1. Season the chicken: Mix together the olive oil, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat.
  2. Grill the chicken: Add the chicken to the grill, close the lid, and grill over medium-high heat (400-425°F) for 5-6 minutes. 
  3. Top with cheese: Flip the chicken, wait 2 minutes, then add the mozzarella. Close the lid and cook until the cheese melts and the internal temp reaches 165°F. 
  4. Tomato basil topping: While the chicken cooks, toss tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and basil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  5. Top with pesto: Top each piece of chicken with 2 Tbsp of pesto and spread it out.
  6. Serve and enjoy!  Spoon the tomato basil on top and finish with fresh cracked black pepper. Serve right away!

Quick Tips

  • Brush and oil the grill grates before you turn it on. I saw a trick on TikTok to rub them with a sliced russet potato to prevent sticking!
  • Preheat the grill for 10-15 minutes.
  • If your chicken breasts are on the larger side, slice them in half lengthwise.
  • Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness for even cooking. Place it in between to pieces of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet, rolling pin, or the back of a frying pan to even it out.
  • Use a meat thermometer to tell when the chicken is perfectly cooked to 165. Cook times can vary depending on your grill and the size of the chicken. The internal temp should be 165°F.
  • Close the grill lid after adding the mozzarella cheese to help it melt. 
  • Freeze and save leftover fresh basil.

Recipe Variations

  • Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, or fresh lemon juice.
  • Sear the chicken in a large skillet instead of on the grill (see recipe notes). 
  • Make your own homemade basil pesto or vegan basil pesto. Use any leftovers for salmon pesto pasta or orzo pasta salad.
  • Use store-bought pesto as needed, but if you have time, homemade pesto with fresh basil, pine nuts, and parmesan is worth the extra 5 minutes!
  • Swap the Italian seasoning for Herbs de Provence.
  • Brine the chicken in salt water for 30 minutes prior to grilling. This prevents it from getting tough.
a plate of grilled chicken margherita

What to Serve with Margherita Chicken

Allow the dish to cool to room temperature then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can warm leftover grilled chicken breast in the oven to keep it juicy.Warm at 350°F for about 15 minutes or until heated all the way through. 

My favorite way to reheat chicken breasts is in the air fryer with a splash of water in the bottom. I reheated this recipe at 375°F for 6-8 minutes and served it over rice with sauteed italian veggies.

grilled chicken margherita olive garden copycat on a plate

If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!

Tap stars to rate!
5 from 3 votes

Grilled Chicken Margherita Recipe

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
This grilled chicken margherita recipe is a combination of tender Italian grilled chicken breasts covered in melted mozzarella cheese and topped with fresh pesto, and a tomato basil garnish. It’s done in under 30 minutes and even better than the Olive Garden version!

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Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto homemade or store bought
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves thinly sliced

Instructions 

  • Brush the grill grates clean the brush them with oil. Preheat the grill to medium-high (400-425°F).
  • Mix together the olive oil, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the chicken breasts and turn to coat.
    4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning, Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add the chicken to the hot grill, close the lid, and grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes on the first side. Flip the chicken, cook for 2 more minutes, then add the mozzarella cheese. Close the lid and continue cooking until the cheese melts and the internal temperature reaches 165°F/74°C. Remove to a clean plate or cutting board to rest.
    4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
    grilled chicken on grill grates
  • While the chicken is cooking, toss together the diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and fresh sliced basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
    1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
    sliced tomatoes, basil, and balsamic mixed in a bowl
  • Make a quick homemade pesto if you haven't already. Top each chicken breast with 1-2 Tablespoons of pesto and spread it out.
    1/2 cup basil pesto
  • Spoon the tomato basil on top and finish with fresh cracked black pepper. Serve right away!
    grilled chicken margherita on a plate
  • Store leftover margherita chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days. I like to reheat it in the airy fryer at 375 for 6-8 minutes (oven works too).
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!

Notes

Pan Sear: Drizzle oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmering, add the seasoned chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes on the first side. Flip, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the cheese, close the lid, and finish cooking for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese melts and the chicken reaches 165°F.

Equipment

  • Indoor or outdoor grill

Nutrition

Serving: 14 ounce chicken breast with toppings | Calories: 500kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 549mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1046IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 232mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating




3 Comments

  1. Cyndie says:

    5 stars
    Fabulous and easy!!! Will definitely be having thus again!

    1. Molly Thompson says:

      Love that, Cyndie! Thanks!

  2. Molly Thompson says:

    5 stars
    My new favorite way to grill chicken!