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Complete with potatoes, cauliflower, chicken thighs, and bacon, this chicken pesto bake is one of the easiest, most delicious, complete meals to come out of our kitchen!
Chicken Pesto Recipe
Pesto is my love language. Really, truly, it is. If there’s a pesto sandwich on a restaurant menu, it’s what I’m ordering. Pesto pizza, pesto pasta — the list could go on and on. The flavors in a really good pesto are, in my opinion, just too good to pass up. SO, coming from a pesto-lover herself, trust me when I say that this pesto bake is SO DELICIOUS. I’ve made it for dinner several times since Cassy created the recipe, and I have no plans of stopping any time soon! It’s a family-favorite and so, so easy to make.
If you’re looking for another REALLY delicious recipe featuring chicken thighs, this Chicken Noodle Soup is a great one to try. For instructions on how to make these two recipes work together Cook Once Dinner Fix-style, click HERE.
Ingredients for Basil Pesto Chicken Thighs
If you choose to make your own pesto, you’ll need several ingredients for that in addition to the actual chicken thigh pesto bake ingredients. Here’s everything you’ll need:
To Make Your Own Pesto
- Fresh Basil – to start, you’ll need 8 ounces of fresh basil (leaves and small stems).
- Olive Oil – in addition to the basil, you’ll also need a ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Lemon Juice – a ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice (the juice from 2 lemons) will add brightness and a touch of acidity to the pesto.
- Garlic – 2 cloves of garlic head into the food processor too.
- Parmesan Cheese – a ¼ cup of parmesan cheese adds a really great salty flavor to the pesto.
- Pine Nuts – a ¼ cup of pine nuts adds incredible flavor and structure to the finished pesto.
- Salt + Pepper – to finish it off, you’ll need a ½ teaspoon of sea salt and a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.
For the Bake
- Yukon Gold Potatoes – the first thing you’ll need for the bake itself is a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes that have been cut into 2-inch chunks.
- Cauliflower – ½ of a large head of cauliflower cut into florets goes into the dish for a nice veggie component.
- Chicken Thighs – the protein star of the show here is chicken thighs! You’ll need 1½ pounds.
- Bacon – 8 ounces of bacon cut into 1-inch strips adds a ton of really delicious flavor to the bake (as bacon usually does!).
- Basil Pesto – the bold flavor in this dish comes from the pesto! You’ll need 1½ cups of basil pesto here — either homemade (see recipe above!) or store-bought.
- Parmesan Cheese – to garnish the bake, you’ll need shaved parmesan cheese. A little or a lot — the choice is yours!
- Pine Nuts – sprinkle pine nuts over top of the dish as garnish also.
- Lemon Juice – to brighten the dish, you’ll finish it off with a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.
- Lemon Wedges – if you choose, serve the pesto bake alongside extra lemon wedges so that those enjoying the bake can squeeze extra lemon over top their meal if they’d like.
- Fresh Basil – keep some fresh basil leaves out for garnish!
What is the best type of pesto for this recipe?
There’s two routes you can go here: homemade or store-bought. The homemade option is, of course, always going to be the best and tastiest way to go, but if you’re short on time, store-bought pesto can be really great too. There are a lot of pesto brands that make and sell REALLY delicious options that are pretty darn close to homemade — browse the pesto options at your grocery store and look for jars with simple, as-close-to-homemade ingredients as possible.
Tips, tricks, and substitutions to make the ultimate creamy pesto chicken:
- Use store-bought pesto – as mentioned above, you DO NOT have to make your own pesto! You can absolutely use store-bought pesto if that’s easier and more doable for you.
- Swap the thighs for chicken breasts – though I highly recommend using the thighs (they’re just so much tastier and juicier than chicken breasts), chicken breasts are definitely an option if that’s what you love/have on hand. Know that they’ll end up being slightly drier than the chicken thighs, but it’ll be really delicious either way.
- Swap the cauliflower – feel free to swap the cauliflower for broccoli or another veggie you love (green beans would be yummy) to switch things up. The cooking temperature and time will stay the same!
- Make it dairy-free – there are several store-bought dairy-free pesto options, but if you want to go homemade, THIS roasted garlic pesto is a really, really delicious dairy-free option.
How to make Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs
The process is so easy (hello, one-pan bake!) — here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Make the pesto (optional) – if you’re making your own pesto, you’ll need to start by adding all of the pesto ingredients to a food processor. Turn the food processor on and pulse 5-10 times until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Add all ingredients to a casserole dish – add the potatoes, cauliflower, chicken thighs, and bacon to the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish or a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the pesto over top and toss to coat the chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower.
- Bake – place the pesto bake on the upper oven rack and bake for 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is slightly browned on top.
- Garnish, serve, and enjoy – remove the pesto chicken bake from the oven and squeeze the lemon juice over top, then garnish with toasted pine nuts, lemon wedges, and shaved parmesan. Serve and enjoy!
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Baked Pesto Chicken Frequently Asked Questions
With ingredients like potatoes and cauliflower present in this chicken thigh bake, it’s already a complete meal. If you’d like to serve it alongside something else, though, a really simple side salad would be a great choice!
Any leftovers you have should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Stored properly (in an airtight container in the fridge), your pesto chicken thigh bake will stay good for 4-5 days.
Reheat your leftovers either in the microwave or in an oven-safe dish in a 350°F oven until heated all the way through.
To Make Your Own Pesto:
- 8 ounces fresh basil leaves and small stems
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the Bake:
- 1 pound yukon gold potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks
- ½ large head of cauliflower or 1 small head, cut into florets
- 1½ pounds chicken thighs
- 8 ounces bacon cut into 1-inch strips
- 1½ cups basil pesto or about 2 (6-ounce jars if using store-bought)
- Shaved parmesan cheese for garnish
- Pine nuts for garnish
- Lemon juice for garnish
- Lemon wedges for garnish
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Add all of the pesto ingredients to a food processor. Turn the food processor on and pulse 5-10 times until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Add the potatoes, cauliflower, chicken thighs, and bacon to the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish, or a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the pesto over top and toss to coat the chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower.
- Place the pesto bake in the oven and bake for 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is slightly browned on top.
- Remove from the oven and squeeze the lemon juice over top, then garnish with toasted pine nuts, lemon wedges, and shaved parmesan.