Bake this 3 ingredient pesto chicken to juicy perfection in under 30 minutes. The chicken is coated in fresh basil pesto, topped with mozzarella cheese and baked perfectly. The chicken is so tender and cheese bubbles and melts on top.
Say goodbye to boring, dry chicken and hellooooo to a chicken breast coated in fresh garlic-herb pesto topped with melted, bubbly cheese. I tested this recipe 3 times to make sure you have everything you need to make a killer basil pesto chicken.It's an easy meal the whole family will love!
A chicken dinner is one of the most common and most searched recipes on the internet. We're always coming up with new and exciting ways to make chicken breast, if you couldn't tell by our everything bagel chicken, one pot hawaiian chicken, air fryer bacon wrapped chicken breast, or our spaghetti squash chicken alfredo.
We wanted another simple recipe to go along with that list and this easy baked pesto chicken was a no brainer because it's so easy and delicious, which makes it the perfect weeknight meal.
- Chicken breast: Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. We've been getting all of our chicken delivered from Cook's Venture and we love it.
- Basil pesto: make your homemade basil pesto or buy it at the store! Scroll down below for details on all of the pesto options.
- Mozzarella (optional): omit this if you're dairy-free, but if not, grab a fresh mozzarella from the store, you won't regret it!
The size of the chicken breast matters
Chicken breast can range from 4-10 ounces. That's a massive difference! When it comes to baking chicken, it's critical that each piece is relatively the same size so they cook evenly and finish baking at the same time.
A 10 ounce piece of chicken will take a lot longer to cook than 4-5 ounces. The smaller breast will be overcooked when the larger piece is just right, if you have the both in the same pan.
A standard serving is about 4 ounces. This recipe calls for 4-5 ounce chicken breasts, so use a food scale (affiliate) if you have one to weight out each chicken breast.
If the Chicken Breasts Are Too Large
- If they're very large (8-10 ounces), cut them in half lengthwise to make two pieces of chicken out of one. See the video in the recipe card for an example.
- If they're just over (6-8 ounces), pound them out with a tenderizer so they're all similar in thickness.
A Guide to Pesto
Store-bought basil pesto: This is the most simple pesto option because it's the most readily available at any grocery store. I like a good quality basil pesto and they're usually in the aisle with the pasta and sauces.
Store-bought dairy free (vegan) pesto: This is a little harder to come by, but you can pick it up at health food stores like Whole Foods. Trader Joe's has a great Kale Basil Pesto made with cashews.
Homemade vegan pesto: You can use this recipe to make your own vegan pesto with a few simple ingredients like pine nuts, olive oil, basil and nutritional yeast.
How to Make Pesto Chicken
- Prep the chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pat boneless chicken breast dry and trim off any excess fat. If your chicken breast is really large (8 ish ounces), slice it in half lengthwise to get a 4-5 ounce portion (chicken breasts can be very thick and large).
- Assemble: Spread ¼ cup of the pesto into the bottom of a square baking dish then place the chicken breasts in the dish in an even layer. Spoon the remaining basil on top of the chicken breasts and spread it evenly to cover. Place a 1-ounce slice of mozzarella cheese (if using) on top.
- Bake: in the preheated oven for 22-26 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. If you want the mozzarella brown and bubbly, turn on the broiler for the last 1-2 minutes.
- Serve: the cheese should be melted and just golden brown. Serve it warm and be amazed at the stretchy cheese as you pull it out of the baking dish.
Pro tip: use a digital read thermometer to make sure your chicken is perfectly cooked, use a . Insert it into the center of the chicken breast. Then it reads 165°F, the chicken is done (or a few degrees lower to account for carryover cooking while it rests).
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Frequently Asked Questions
This chicken breast is best cooked at 400°F for 22-26 minutes.
There are 285 calories in one 4-ounce chicken breast with 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Warm at 350°F until heated all the way through or cover with a wet paper towel and microwave in 30 second increments on high.
This pesto chicken bake can totally stand on it's own as the star of a weeknight dinner, so I have side dish ideas outline here, but if you want to add this simple dish to something else, I've got those ideas too!
- Roasted tomatoes: This is one of my favorite sides to serve with chicken pesto. Halve 1 qt of cherry tomatoes then drizzle them with olive oil and toss with salt, pepper and fresh minced garlic. Bake on a sheet pan at 350°F for 25 minutes. You could also add them to the same baking pan as the pesto chicken and roast it all at once. Another option is to add sun-dried tomatoes right to the baking dish too.
- Rice: we love to serve chicken dishes with white or brown rice. Lately I've been loving my chicken with cauliflower rice for a low carb option.
- Pesto chicken pasta: Bake the chicken without the mozzarella then cut it up into pieces and toss with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles and a bit more pesto. Top with parmesan cheese!
- Sandwiches: sandwich the chicken and fresh mozzarella between two pieces of sourdough and cook over the stove for a pesto chicken panini/sandwich.
- Pizza: Bake the chicken (without mozz) and add it to homemade pizza with your other favorite toppings like fresh tomatoes and shredded mozzarella.
- Salad: To keep this low carb, cut up the chicken and put it on a salad with red onion, bell peppers and black olives, or serve it with a side salad.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. I'd love to hear from you! You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More Easy Baked Chicken Recipes
- Crispy cilantro lime chicken (with chicken breast or chicken thighs)
- Healthy chicken teriyaki (on a sheet pan with veggies, yes please).
- Sheet pan paleo baked chicken (crispy, whole30 chicken with veggies is our kind of dinner).
Easy Pesto Chicken
- 4 (4-5 ounce) chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup (6.5 ounces) basil pesto vegan (dairy free) pesto recipe or store bought
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella optional
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pat the chicken dry and trim off any excess fat if needed. If your chicken breast is much larger than 4-5 ounces, you may need to slice it in half lengthwise to get a 4-5 ounce portion (chicken breasts can be very thick and large). The chicken will cook more evenly if each piece of chicken is similar size. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Spread ¼ cup of the pesto into the bottom of a square baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in the dish and cover them with the remaining pesto. If using the mozzarella, place a 1-ounce slice on top of each piece of chicken.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 22-26 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. If you want the mozzarella brown and bubbly, turn on the broiler for the last 1-2 minutes.
- If using the fresh mozzarella, remove the chicken from the oven at 20 minutes (or when it reaches about 160 degrees) and place back in the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes