Crispy chicken loaded with basil pesto and melty cheese – this is what dinners are all about!
This is quickly becoming one of my favourite dinners, not only for its deliciousness but also for its ease! Follow me…
Panko breadcrumbs are a staple in my kitchen. They’re big and airy, meaning they turn things super crispy.
Where can I find Panko Breadcrumbs?
You’ll find Panko breadcrumbs in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Toasting the Breadcrumbs
To get the chicken extra crispy, we’re going to toast the breadcrumbs before we coat the chicken in them. Think of this step as giving the breadcrumbs a head start. That way they’ll crisp up at the perfect rate that the chicken cooks.
To toast the breadcrumbs I simply spread them out on a baking tray, spray them with oil and bake until lightly golden.
Process shots: add breadcrumbs to tray (photo 1), spray then bake (photo 2).
Crispy Pesto Chicken
Sure, you could coat regular chicken in pesto and bake it, but crispy chicken is just so much better! For this recipe, we’re going to be using boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Slicing the Chicken
I highly recommend slicing each chicken breast right through the centre to double the quantity. This will ensure the chicken cooks through much more evenly.
Coating the Chicken
When it comes to coating the chicken in the breadcrumbs, you’ll want to first coat the chicken in flour and egg, just to build up a crust and give the breadcrumbs something to cling to. I also like to season both the flour and breadcrumbs with a simple mix of garlic powder, salt & black pepper.
Process shots: add chicken to chopping board (photo 1), slice (photo 2), coat in flour (photo 3), coat in egg (photo 4), coat in breadcrumbs (photo 5).
Baked Pesto Chicken
Now strictly speaking, you could fry the chicken, and it would come out ever-so-slightly more crisp, but since we’ve already got a baking tray out and the oven on, we’re going to bake it.
Once you’ve baked the chicken we’re going to slather it in pesto. You can use store-bought or Homemade Pesto. If you’re using store-bought try and find one that’s not too oily. Same if you’re doing it homemade, don’t go crazy with the oil. Just because you’ve got the cheese, which will already release oil as it melts.
Cheesy Pesto Chicken
Please for heaven’s sake don’t make this without the cheese 😛. You’ll want a combination of mozzarella (for a gorgeous gooey cheesy pull) and parmesan (for a golden crisp finish and a punch of flavour).
Process shots: add chicken to baking tray and spray with oil (photo 1), bake, flip, then bake again (photo 2), coat in pesto (photo 3), top with cheese then place under the grill (photo 4).
Serving Pesto Chicken
Here I’ve served with a simple side salad consisting of rocket/arugula, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts, which is usually what I’ve got lurking about in the cupboards/fridge! I also added some Sweet Potato Fries (check out my Sides for more inspo). This chicken also works so well in a toasted sandwich!
For another cheesy pesto chicken recipe check out my Chicken Pesto Grilled Cheese!
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this baked pesto chicken shall we?!
How to make Pesto Chicken (Full Recipe & Video)
Baked Pesto Chicken (Crispy & Cheesy!)
- Large Greaseproof Baking Tray & Tongs (for baking chicken)
- 3 Large Shallow Dishes (for dredging chicken)
- Small Pot (for seasoning)
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
Ingredients (check list):
- 2x 9oz/250g Chicken Breasts
- 1 cup / 65g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup / 35g Flour
- 2 Eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup / 120g Pesto (see notes)
- 5oz / 150g fresh Mozzarella, sliced into wedges (see notes)
- 1/3 cup / 30g freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp EACH: Salt, Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- Oil Spray, as needed
Side Dish (optional)
- 3.5oz / 100g Rocket/Arugula
- 10 - 12 Sun Dried Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp Pine Nuts
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Honey
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Pour breadcrumbs onto a large baking tray and give it a shake until they're evenly distributed. Coat with oil spray then place in the oven at 180C/350F for around 5mins, or until light golden (be vigilant as they turn perfect to burnt quite quickly!). Pour into a bowl to cool and increase oven temp to 220C/430F.
- Horizontally slice the chicken breasts right through the centre to make 4 even-sized chicken breasts. In a small pot, combine 1 tsp salt & garlic powder with 1/2 tsp black pepper.
- Line up 3 large shallow dishes: the first with flour and half of the seasoning mix, the second with beaten eggs and the third with breadcrumbs and the rest of the seasoning. One by one dredge the chicken breasts through the flour, into the egg, then finish in the breadcrumbs, making sure you thoroughly coat at each stage (namely the breadcrumbs). Shake off excess breadcrumbs then place on a large baking tray.
- Liberally spray with oil, then place in the oven for 10mins. Take them out, carefully flip them over and spray them again with oil. Place back in the oven for another 8-10mins, or until deep golden and visibly crispy, with the meat white right through the centre. Switch oven to grill.
- Spread pesto over the chicken, then top with mozzarella and finish with parmesan. Place them under the grill and broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Optional Side Dish: In a large bowl whisk together extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and salt & pepper to taste. Add rocket/arugula, sun dried tomatoes & pine nuts and toss to combine.