This Pesto Chicken marinade is so simple to make, that you’ll wonder why you ever made chicken another way.
This is one of the most flavorful ways to enjoy chicken, and I’m going to show you step-by-step how to marinate the chicken and the best ways to cook it up for maximum enjoyment!
The best part about marinating your chicken in this flavorful sauce is that you’ll achieve deliciously seasoned chicken with minimal effort. Here is what you’ll need for this marinade:
- Pesto: whether you make the pesto with basil, garlic, pine nuts (or without), parmesan cheese, and olive oil or decide to use store-bought, this sauce has all the flavors you need!
- Chicken: this marinade can be used with any cut of chicken bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks.
You’ll find a printable recipe card with measurements and directions below.
How to Marinate Pesto Chicken
Making the pesto is the only part of this recipe that requires measuring and using any type of appliance -more on this below. If you purchased pesto… you’re ready to go!
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Make the pesto -or buy it
Place the ingredients to make the pesto sauce in the blender or food processor and blend until semi-smooth. If you buy it, scoop out the sauce into a zip bag.
- Combine it
Place the pesto sauce and chicken in a large zip bag and seal to close.
- Refrigerate to marinate
Place the zip bag in the refrigerator for one hour up to overnight. When ready to cook, remove the zip bag from the refrigerator and bake or pan-sear the chicken. Discard any excess pesto left in the bag.
How Long to Marinate
Chicken can marinate with the pesto sauce in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator in as little as 20 to 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours.
It’s the perfect make-ahead marinade to have ready for dinner time.
Can You Freeze Pesto Marinated Chicken
You can place the chicken pieces and the pesto marinade in a freezer bag and freeze the chicken with the marinade for up to 3 months. Remove the bag from the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
Remember to throw out the thawing juices and any sauce left in the bag.
Related: How to Marinate Frozen Chicken
How to Cook Pesto Marinated Chicken
Pesto-marinated chicken can be cooked in the oven, in the air fryer, in a pan, in the slow cooker, and even grilled on the bbq! It all depends on the cut of chicken you’re using and your preferred cooking method.
Here are some of my favorite ways to cook this delicious recipe:
Pan Seared: quick and easy -and a bit messy- seared chicken breasts are my favorite. Pan-seared chicken thighs are also a great way to keeping all the pesto flavors intact. For ultra-fast cooking, dice up the chicken breasts and cook the chicken pieces in a pan.
Air Fryer: preheat the air fryer at 400F for 5 minutes. Once hot, cook the chicken breasts at 375F for 6 minutes, flip, and then an additional 6 minutes, adding 2 minutes more at a time, until the internal temperature reaches 165F. For thighs, cook them skin-side-down for 15 minutes, flip, and then an additional 10 minutes, adding 2 minutes at a time until the internal temperature has reached 175F.
Watch this video to see the pesto chicken marinade magic happen before your eyes.
What to Serve with Pesto Chicken
Pesto chicken makes the perfect main dish for roasted vegetables, salads, inside a sandwich, and more. Here are some of my favorite things to serve with pesto chicken:
Pesto Chicken Marinade Recipe
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts*
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 1 ½ lbs chicken, thighs or breasts
- Place the ingredients to make the pesto sauce in the blender or food processor and blend until semi-smooth. If you buy it, scoop out the sauce into a zip bag.
- Place the pesto sauce and chicken in a large zip bag and seal to close.
- Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for one hour up to overnight.
- When ready to cook, remove the zip bag from the fridge and cook the chicken in your preferred method.
- Discard any excess pesto left in the bag.