This pesto chicken salad is absolutely delicious, chock-full of healthy fats and protein, and extremely versatile and meal prep-friendly. Enjoy it over greens, between two slices of your favorite bread, with crackers, or as is – it’s a game-changer lunch no matter how you eat it!

Pesto chicken salad topped with toasted pine nuts in a clear glass container next to basil leaves and a small bowl of pesto.


You can’t beat chicken salad for an easy, healthy, delicious lunch. This chicken salad is uber flavorful thanks to the homemade dairy free pesto (I promise you won’t miss the cheese!). If you’re looking for more easy lunch recipes, I suggest the BLT egg salad, chicken salad with grapes and pecans, and the classic tuna salad.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

The ingredient list is pretty darn simple here! Any substitutions are listed below, and you can find the exact ingredient amounts in the recipe card.

All of the ingredients for pesto chicken salad (chicken breasts, pine nuts, pesto, and salt) on a marble surface.
  • Chicken breasts – you’ll start with good ole chicken breasts here. If you have leftover chicken of any sort (cubed, shredded, rotisserie, etc), feel free to use that instead of baking chicken just for this recipe.
  • Salt – if you’re following the recipe as written (baking chicken vs. using leftover), you’ll need salt to sprinkle over the raw chicken before it heads into the oven.
  • Pesto – this recipe was written specifically with our dairy-free roasted garlic pesto in mind. It’s top-notch and will be the most flavorful pesto option for your chicken salad, but if you don’t have the time to make it, feel free to grab a couple of jars (you’ll need about 2 cups total) from the store.
  • Pine nuts – garnish your chicken salad with lightly toasted pine nuts, if you wish!

How to Make

Talk about a high return on investment here – this pesto chicken salad takes very little effort to put together but the finished product will leave you totally WOWed. Here’s a step-by-step how-to:

A person sprinkling sea salt over raw chicken breasts on a sheet pan.
A person using a large knife to chop a chicken breast into cubes on a wooden cutting board.
A person using a rubber spatula to stir together cubed chicken and homemade dairy free pesto.
Top view of 4 salted raw chicken breasts on a sheet pan.
A large glass bowl filled with cubed chicken breast.
Cubed chicken breast completely mixed together with homemade dairy free pesto in a large glass bowl.
Top view of 4 cooked chicken breasts on a sheet pan.
A person pouring a bowl of homemade dairy-free pesto into a bowl of cubed chicken breasts.
Pesto chicken salad topped with toasted pine nuts in a clear glass container next to basil leaves, a small bowl of pesto, and a small bowl of pine nuts.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Bake the chicken breasts – lay the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, sprinkle both sides with salt, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until white flesh and the juices are running clear.
  3. Let cool and cube – let the chicken cool to handling temperature, then cut it into ½-inch cubes.
  4. Toss with pesto – add the chicken to a large bowl, then toss it with the pesto.
  5. Serve and enjoy – serve the pesto chicken salad warm with more toasted pine nuts or chilled in a large leafy green.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Need a tip or two? We’ve got you. Below, you’ll find all of our best tips and tricks for this YUMMY recipe.

  • Use leftover/rotisserie chicken – if you have leftover chicken in the fridge, USE it! Any leftover chicken will work great here, so if you have it, there’s no reason to bake chicken breasts just for this recipe. In that same vein, buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it if you need to save time!
  • Make the homemade pesto – I know jarred pesto is 100x easier, but trust me on this: if you’ve got the time to make your own roasted garlic pesto, it is SO worth it. The flavor and freshness is unbeatable.
  • Meal prep it – to keep things as easy on you as possible, make enough of this chicken salad to last you the entire week!

How to Enjoy Pesto Chicken Salad

The sky’s the limit when it comes to enjoying this pesto chicken salad. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Sandwich-style between two slices of your favorite bread
  • Wrap-style in your favorite tortilla
  • As-is, garnished with pine nuts and enjoyed with a fork
  • Alongside crackers or plantain chips
  • Over your favorite greens for an extra veggie boost

How to Store

Store any leftover pesto chicken salad (or any meal-prepped containers of chicken salad) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

A large class container of pesto chicken salad topped with pine nuts with a spoon sticking out of it.

What does pesto taste like?

Pesto is wonderfully herby, nutty, garlicky, salty, and delicious. If you’ve never had it (or have only had store-bought pestos), I highly recommend jumping in with roasted garlic pesto recipe.

How to make bland chicken salad taste better?

Our answer to this question? Add pesto to it! Though some chicken salad variations may feel bland and boring, rest assured that this pesto chicken salad does not.

Is pesto chicken salad healthy?

Healthy is really dependent on how your body tolerates different foods, so if the ingredients in this recipe work well for your unique body, then it’s a really GREAT option for you.

More Favorite Lunch Recipes

Delicious Chicken Pesto Salad Recipe

4.50 — Votes 2 votes
By Cassy Joy Garcia
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
This pesto chicken salad is absolutely delicious, chock-full of healthy fats and protein, and extremely versatile and meal prep-friendly.

Ingredients  

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 batches Roasted Garlic Pesto
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts lightly toasted, for garnish (optional)

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Lay the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, sprinkle both sides with salt, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
  • Let the chicken cool, then cut it into ½-inch cubes. Toss the chicken with the pesto and serve either warm with more toasted pine nuts or chilled in a large leafy green.
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

How to Enjoy:
  • Sandwich-style between two slices of your favorite bread
  • Wrap-style in your favorite tortilla
  • As-is, garnished with pine nuts and enjoyed with a fork
  • Alongside crackers or plantain chips
  • Over your favorite greens for an extra veggie boost

Nutrition

Calories: 619kcal | Carbohydrates: 23.9g | Protein: 55.8g | Fat: 34.4g | Saturated Fat: 5.3g | Cholesterol: 165.5mg | Sodium: 1509.2mg | Fiber: 1.7g | Sugar: 1.1g

Additional Info

Course: Lunch
Cuisine: American, Italian-Inspired
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 619
Keyword: chicken salad, pesto

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About the Author

Cassy Joy Garcia, NC

Cassy Joy Garcia, a New York Times best-selling author, of Cook Once Dinner Fix, Cook Once Eat All Week, and Fed and Fit as well as the creative force behind the popular food blog Fed & Fit.


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13 Comments

  1. This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. I have a silly question – I see it yields four cups. Is that four servings or is it all for one person?

  2. Can’t wait to try out this recipe tonight. All the ingredients sound delicious. As a passionate home cook, your recipes inspire me. Thank you.

  3. I found this recipe in Best Paleo Recipes of 2014, made it for the first time last night and had it for lunch today. It is very good! Easy to make and tasty. What’s not to love. I had it with broccoli (roasted with garlic, lemon and olive oil) and avocado slices. Yum.

    Thanks for a tasty dish!

    1. Thank you for trying it Wendy! So glad you enjoyed it and your lunch sounds so good!

  4. This sounds delicious! I am wondering how long this would stay good in the Fridge?

    Thanks!

  5. I’ve been trying to think of something to make for a St. Paddy’s Day/green themed potluck at work, and then I come across this beautiful dish! Perfect! Thank you!! 🙂

  6. This recipe is delicious and simple to make! I added spiraled zucchini that I blanched for a couple of minutes. It was like chicken and pasta with yummy pesto. I’m definitely making this again!

  7. Made this tonight – delicious! Added a little more Basil to the recipe – I maybe needed to pack it more densely. Thank you!