A flavorful meal, Creamy Basil Pesto Chicken, is made up of lightly seared chicken smothered in a creamy basil pesto sauce filled with sundried tomatoes and orzo. This one-pot meal is a weeknight favorite.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken
Chicken for dinner is a weeknight mainstay and one we often eat in our home. It can get boring and many times, unless seasoned properly, can be quite bland.
When there is a sauce filled with large amounts of seasoning and sundried tomatoes surrounding your chicken it becomes very exciting. Also mixed into the sauce is orzo pasta, which blends with the creamy flavor and adds depth and bulk to the recipe.
This is one of those dinners I love so much I prepare it even when we have company. The simplicity with which it can be prepared makes it extremely appealing for entertaining, yet it’s also beautiful.
The ingredients below, minus the sun-dried tomatoes and orzo, come together in the form of a marinade, which is brushed on the chicken.
If you’re short on time or just prefer not to marinate your chicken ahead of time you can brush the mixture on the chicken just before cooking it in the skillet.
- Chicken Breast
- Pesto Sauce
- Olive Oil
- Sun-dried Tomatoes
What You’ll Need for the Sauce
This creamy sauce is full of flavor and brings the entire recipe together. It’s poured into the skillet just as the pasta is cooked and then thickens just before you nestle the chicken back in.
- Pesto Sauce
- Heavy Cream
- Salt and Pepper
How to Make Pesto Chicken
- Cook the chicken. Melt the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise so they are thin. Brush both sides of the chicken with pesto and cook on each side for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Mix the sauce. In a single measuring cup whisk the pesto, garlic cloves, flour, heavy cream, and salt and pepper together.
- Cook the pasta. Scrape the skillet to remove the browned bits and if the skillet is completely dry add a dash of olive oil. Place the orzo pasta into the skillet and toast for about 30 seconds. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until it becomes al dente and the water is mostly absorbed about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cook the sauce. Pour the sauce mixture along with the sun-dried tomatoes into the skillet and toss with the orzo to mix. Return the chicken to the skillet and allow it to heat through for an additional 2 minutes.
Can this be made gluten-free?
Yes. In order to make this recipe gluten-free, you’ll need to swap the flour for cornstarch and choose a gluten-free orzo pasta. Before adding the cornstarch to the mixture dissolve it in 1 tablespoon of warm water then mix it in. I always recommend double-checking your labels to make sure there isn’t any hidden gluten.
Can this be made dairy-free?
Yes. To make this recipe dairy-free change the heavy cream for canned coconut milk or use a creamy dairy-free milk alternative like oat milk.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- Initially, you are just going to sear the chicken in the pan, remove it, and then return it to finish cooking. I recommend using a meat thermometer to check the internal temp, which you want to reach 165ºF.
- As with just about any recipe the timing can vary, which is why I recommend checking the meat for temperature as well as checking the sauce and orzo for doneness.
- If your sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like then allow it to continue cooking so it thickens a bit more.
- Use thin cut or sliced chicken breasts or choose large boneless, skinless chicken breast and slice them in half.
Creamy Basil Pesto Chicken
- 1 lb Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breast
- 2 tablespoons Basil Pesto
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 3 ounces Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 1 cup Orzo Pasta
- 1½ cups Water
- 1 tablespoon Basil Pesto
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon Flour
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Pepper
- Heat the olive oil and melt the butter in a large skillet (that has a lid, which you'll need later) over medium-high heat.
- Slice the chicken in half to create thin slices (or use thin-cut breasts) and brush both sides with the basil pesto. Add to the skillet and cook on each side for 4 to 5 minutes and remove and set on a plate for later.
- Scrape the browned bits off the sides and bottom of the skillet using a wooden spatula. If the skillet looks dry add another 2 teaspoons of olive oil and pour the orzo pasta in. Let the pasta brown for about 30 seconds.
- Pour the water into the skillet and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the pasta, stirring frequently, for an additional 15 minutes or until the pasta becomes al dente and the water is mostly absorbed.
- Whisk 1 tablespoon of basil pesto, garlic cloves, flour, heavy cream, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Add the sauce mixture and sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet and toss to combine with the pasta. Return chicken and allow it to heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
- If the sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like it to be allow it to cook for a little longer before adding the chicken back to the skillet.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken so it doesn’t overcook. It should have an internal temperature of 165ºF.