You'll love this flavorful Pesto Chicken! Make an easy homemade basil pesto, coat the chicken bites, then pan fry or air fry. Serve with salad, rice, pasta, or as an appetizer.
Cooking pesto chicken is a great way to add flavor to your meals!
Pesto is a flavorful and vibrant mixture of garlic, herbs, nuts, and cheese that can be whizzed up in minutes. It is perfect when used to marinate chicken to give it lots of bold flavor!
Once you've cooked up your pesto chicken, you can use it in so many ways! Try it in sandwiches or wraps, stirred into cooked pasta, or just serve it up for dinner with a few side dishes.
Pesto chicken is a simple and delicious way to enjoy a flavorful meal. You can pan-fry it or cook it in your air fryer.
What is pesto?
Pesto is an Italian sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt all whizzed together in a food processor.
It is traditionally used as a condiment for pasta, but can also be used to flavor fish, chicken, vegetables, soups, and salads.
Variations of pesto can include different types of nuts and cheeses such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, Romano, or Asiago.
Check out these pesto recipes.
Why You Should Make This Recipe
It's an easy way to add lots of flavor to the chicken.
You can use pesto chicken in many ways, from sandwiches and pasta to appetizers or party food.
Short on time? Use store-bought pesto!
You can cook this recipe in the air fryer or pan fry it.
Keep leftovers in the fridge, chop the chicken up, stir in some mayonnaise and enjoy in sandwiches.
You only need simple pantry ingredients for this recipe!
- Chicken: You will be dicing the chicken into bites (or tenders), so it's easiest to use boneless and skinless chicken breasts.
- Basil: Fresh basil gives flavor to the homemade pesto.
- Parmesan Cheese: Freshly grated parmesan cheese gives a richness to the homemade pesto.
- Pine Nuts: These soft nuts are a classic ingredient for pesto. For substitutions, try walnuts or almonds.
- Garlic: Use fresh cloves of garlic.
- Olive oil: This helps the pesto to come together and turn into a spreadable consistency.
See the recipe card for quantities and method.
Follow these step-by-step instructions, then scroll down for the full ingredients list and method.
Process the basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor until very finely chopped.
Keep the food processor running, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it's all combined.
Cut your chicken breasts into small pieces. Place them into a bowl and stir in half of the pesto sauce. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Air Fry at 400F for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and bake for 5 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a skillet placed over a medium heat on the stovetop. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Then turn the chicken pieces over and cook on the other side for 6-7 minutes or until cooked.
TIP: To ensure your chicken is cooked, check it has reached 165F with a food thermometer.
Scroll down for the full ingredients list and method.
Substitutions & Variations
- Try making a red pesto by adding sundried tomatoes to the pesto sauce.
- Swap the chicken for bites of steak, pork, or turkey.
- Pine nuts can be expensive, use walnuts, cashews or almonds instead.
- Toast the pine nuts in a dry (no oil) frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes.
- Add a little cayenne or hot sauce to the pesto for a bit of heat.
You can use pesto chicken in so many ways! Try some of these ideas:
Enjoy it as a main, along with side dishes.
Spread the pesto chicken into a wrap or sandwich.
Add it to an omelet.
Cut the chicken into small pieces and put it on a pizza.
Food Safety Tips
- Before cooking, wash your hands and countertops.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that has touched raw meat.
- Always wash your hands after touching raw meat.
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Keep those pot/pan handles turned in away from the front of the stove.
- When cooking at high temperatures, use oils with a high smoking point, to avoid harmful compounds.
- Ensure you have good ventilation when cooking on gas.
- Put foods in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours of cooking. Reduce this to within 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or hotter outside.
- Safely thaw food in the fridge, under cold running water, or in the microwave.
- To ensure food is cooked through, it's best to use a food thermometer. Be aware that you can’t always tell by looking.
Cook to safe temperatures:
- Beef, Pork, Lamb: 145 °F
- Fish: 145 °F
- Ground Beef, Ground Pork, Ground Lamb: 160 °F
- Turkey, Chicken, Duck: 165 °F
- Mixing Bowl
- Food processor
- Air Fryer
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Blitz the basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor until very finely chopped.
- With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until smooth.
- Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and put them into a bowl and stir in the pesto. Cover the bowl with a lid and let it marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Air Fry at 400F for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and air fry for 4 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium hea, then add the marinated chicken and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook on the other side for 6-7 minutes or until cooked through.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietician for special diet advice.