Grilled basil pesto chicken breasts are great for batch cooking and having them on hand for the busy week ahead. They can be paired with avocado and cherry tomatoes for a complete meal, or prepared and used in sandwiches, wraps, salads, and pasta dishes throughout the week. Once cooked, this perfectly cooked chicken can also be cooled and frozen.
Basil Pesto Chicken Breasts
This simple recipe is a must-have if you are looking to step up your meal-planning game for the year ahead.
They can be enjoyed as a meal in and of themselves when served with cherry tomatoes and avocado, or a simple salad, and they can also be used throughout the week in lots of ways.
Try slicing the grilled chicken breasts and using them in:
- pesto chicken wraps with avocado, salad leaves, and some extra pesto;
- pesto chicken sandwiches;
- stirred through a creamy pasta sauce;
- layered on top of a simple salad, or in place of the chicken in this Avocado Chicken Salad Recipe with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette;
- on top of some pizza with either a tomato or white sauce base.
Once cooled, the chicken can be sliced and stored in an airtight container in the freezer, making it perfect for meal prepping.
We are keeping this recipe super simple, so it becomes one of your go-to recipes and isn't something that requires a trip to the store.
I list the specific ingredients I used in this recipe below but also include a number of substitutions so you can feel free to use what you have on hand.
You will need:
- boneless chicken breast: these are going to be cut into fillets to ensure they are the same size for even cooking. Feel free to use tenderloins if preferred, you will simply need to adjust the cooking time accordingly;
- fresh basil: fresh is best. Any leafy green works here in place of basil, but please note that this will change the flavor of the chicken (see notes below on different types of greens to use in pesto);
- olive oil: use the good stuff as it will be the base of a lot of the flavor in this recipe;
- garlic cloves: fresh is best, you can use pre-prepared in a pinch, but I would not recommend it;
- walnuts: or any other nut of choice, pine nuts, cashews, and almonds all work well in pesto;
- fresh lemon: fresh is best, however, the bottled stuff will work in a pinch;
- cherry tomatoes: these will be used for serving, so choose firm, ripe cherry tomatoes. Alternatively, you could simply dice a regular tomato if preferred;
- avocado: again this is for serving, so a nice ripe avocado will work well.
If you prefer to use a store-bought pesto then simply skip the step of making your own and continue the recipe from step 3.
TIP: We love homemade pesto here, you can always try one of these versions instead: Carrot Top Pesto, 4 Ingredient Homemade Mint Pesto, Fragrant Fennel Fronds Pesto, Quick Kale Walnut Pesto with Sunflower Seeds.
How To Make
This recipe is as easy as it is versatile.
Prepare the pesto by adding all of the relevant ingredients to a food processor and pulsing until the mixture becomes smooth and almost creamy.
You may have to use a spatula to scrape the sides of a food processor bowl halfway through before blitzing again.
Then, simply slice the chicken breasts in half lengthways, and add to a large glass container with a lid, or a Zipol bag with the pesto mixture. Either stir everything together or give it a good squeeze in the Ziploc bag until well combined.
Remove the chicken from the container or bag and cook on a heated and oiled indoor grill pan or skillet for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F or 70C. How long this takes will depend on the thickness of your chicken.
You can discard the excess pesto before cooking, or do what I do and baste the chicken with the excess pesto as it cooks in the first minute or two.
At this point, you want to remove the cooked pesto chicken from the heat and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
I like to tent my cooling chicken with some parchment paper to retain moisture, but you can also do it with aluminum or with nothing at all.
Serve the pesto chicken warm with the cherry tomatoes and avocado, or set it aside and allow it to cool, before slicing and storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days.
Serve warm with cherry tomatoes and avocado for extra creaminess and flavor. Or allow to chill and use in various meals throughout the week.
Storing and Freezing
Grilled basil pesto chicken is perfect for prepping in batches and keeping stored in the fridge or freezer.
Allow the chicken to cool completely before transferring it to an appropriate airtight container.
If stored correctly it will last 3-4 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
TIP: if you plan on using the chicken in wraps and salads etc then it would be wise to cut it into slices before freezing, and freeze in a single row so you can just grab what you need and allow it to defrost.
Allow it to thaw completely before using it cold or reheating either on the grill pan or the microwave. Note that reheating in the grill pan may cause the chicken to lose some of its moisture.
As mentioned above, this grilled pesto chicken is super versatile and lends itself well to being served in a myriad of ways.
Why not try:
- serving as suggested in the recipe card with some cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado;
- alongside a simple salad, or in a more loaded salad like this Avocado Chicken Salad Recipe with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette;
- sliced and stirred through a creamy pasta;
- sliced and used in wraps or sandwiches;
- alongside some veggies such as Lemon and Garlic Air Fryer Broccoli or Honey, Lemon and Sea Salt Air Fryer Asparagus;
- diced and added to this Greek Salad In A Jar for a great take-and-eat lunch.
The options are endless, this really is a great baseline grilled chicken recipe to have on hand as it can be used in so many ways.
Need More Easy Chicken Recipes Like This
We love simple chicken recipes that really pack a punch when it comes to flavor.
Try one of these recipes next:
- Spicy Chipotle Chicken and Butter Bean Stew
- Sheet Pan Greek Chicken and Vegetables
- Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
- Lemon Garlic Chicken With Mixed Vegetables
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Simply cook according to the instructions in the recipe card, remove from heat and allow to cool completely before storing in a freezer-friendly airtight container and storing for up to 3 months.
If you plan on using in wraps etc then I would suggest slicing the chicken into evenly sized slices and freezing in a single row so you can just take what you need.
It should last about 3-4 days.
Allow it to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Simple Basil Pesto Grilled Chicken Breasts
- 1 cup fresh basil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- juice of one lemon
- 4 boneless chicken breasts cut into halves lengthways
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 large avocado
- Prepare the pesto by blending the fresh basil, garlic cloves, olive oil, walnuts,, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. You may need to stop halfway through and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl before continuing.
- Add the halved chicken breasts and the pesto to a large glass dish with a lid or a Ziploc bag, and mix to combine. Allow it to marinade for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Cook the pesto chicken fillets on an oiled and preheated indoor grill pan or skillet until they are nicely golden on both sides and cooked through. This will take about 5-6 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of your fillets (the chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 160F or 70C).
- Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, and tent with aluminum foil or parchment paper for about 10 minutes, before slicing and serving.
- Serve warm with some avocado and cherry tomatoes on the side.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.