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You only need four ingredients and five minutes of prep for this tender, juicy, flavorful Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs recipe! It’s a versatile recipe that can be made in the oven or a Crock Pot. It’s an easy dinner recipe the whole family will love.

An overhead image of pesto chicken thighs served on a blue and white plate along with seasoned rice, sliced cucumbers, and fresh basil leaves as garnish.
Table of Contents
  1. What Is Pesto?
  2. Ingredients for Easy Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs
  3. How to Make Easy Baked Pesto Chicken
  4. What to Serve with Baked Pesto Chicken
  5. Baked Pesto Chicken Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations
  6. More Easy Pesto Recipes to Try
  7. Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs Recipe

If you hate to cook, or if you just don’t have the time to mess around with a complicated meal each night, then you’re in the right place! This baked pesto chicken tastes like a rich dish full of Italian flavors – but it requires almost zero effort!

I’ve been making this healthy pesto chicken recipe since my boys were infants because it’s fast, can be prepped ahead of time, and is one of those magical options that even the kids enjoy.

What Is Pesto?

Pesto is a magical, flavorful sauce made from fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. It’s earthy, garlicky, fresh, and healthy! Because pesto contains olive oil, nuts, and cheese, it’s high in calories and fat but healthy, unsaturated fat. The ingredients in pesto have many health benefits, including antioxidants and heart-healthy nutrients. Not only is pesto a delicious sauce that can be used in countless recipes, but it’s good for you, too!

Ingredients for Easy Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs

You only need a handful of main ingredients for this simple recipe, and it really is a classic dump-and-bake dish! With five minutes of prep, the only “work” is waiting during the cooking time. Below is an overview of the ingredients needed for this simple pesto chicken recipe. Detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the end of the post.

  • Chicken Thighs: I use boneless skinless chicken thighs, but this recipe works with other chicken pieces as well (bone-in thighs, breasts, etc.)
  • Pesto: Use your favorite store-bought pesto or make a homemade pesto sauce!
  • Italian Salad Dressing Mix: this handy seasoning packet has the herbs and spices you need.
  • Chicken Broth: adds moisture to the dish so the chicken thighs stay perfectly tender and juicy.
An overhead image of the 4 ingredients needed to make baked pesto chicken thighs: a jar of pesto, a package of Italian salad dressing seasoning mix, a can of chicken broth, and raw chicken thighs arranged in a baking dish.

What else can I add to baked pesto chicken for flavor?

The ingredients in this dish are easy by design – not only does it make it an extra simple dinner you can make any night of the week, but it also leaves room for you to add your own flavors! If you want to add more to this pesto chicken thighs recipe, here are some ideas:

  • Add Veggies: you can easily toss some chopped vegetables into the baking dish along with the peso chicken thighs. Try grape or cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, small red potatoes, or sliced bell peppers.
  • Top with Cheese: Fresh grated Parmesan cheese is sharp and salty; it’s already in the pesto, but adding more on top when the chicken is fresh from the oven is the perfect finishing touch. You could also top it with mozzarella cheese – either shredded or fresh mozzarella slices.
  • Additional Seasonings: The Italian salad dressing has plenty of seasoning in one convenient package, but you can swap out or add seasonings of your choice. Salt, black pepper, and garlic powder are a must. Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.

How to Make Easy Baked Pesto Chicken

This recipe is perfect for busy weeknights and one of my family’s favorite recipes! I always love to have a simple, minimal-ingredient meal in my back pocket, and baked pesto chicken thighs are our go-to when we want a flavorful, healthy, home-cooked meal with minimal stress.

  • Place chicken thighs in a prepared baking dish.
  • Cover chicken with seasoning mix, pesto, and chicken broth.
  • Bake, covered, in a 375-degree F oven for 40-45 minutes until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.
A closeup image of pesto chicken served on a plate with seasoned rice and sliced cucumbers.

Preparing 4-Ingredient Pesto Chicken

I’m sharing the oven-baked method in this post, but it’s equally as easy to prepare this recipe in the slow cooker. Pick whichever method is most convenient!

For the oven-baked method, I arrange the boneless skinless chicken thighs in a 2-quart baking dish. If your chicken has excess fat around the edges, trim that off. You’ll also want to spray your baking dish with non-stick cooking spray for easy cleanup.

Six raw chicken thighs arranged in an oval blue and white cast iron baking dish.

Basil Pesto & Italian Dressing Seasoning

My favorite store-bought pesto is the Classico Traditional Basil Pesto. It’s rich, creamy, and garlicky – exactly how you want pesto to taste! I’ve also created my own simple homemade basil pesto recipe that’s easily prepared in a food processor.

The Italian dressing seasoning mix is a convenient pouch of seasonings that contains sugar, salt, onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, and other spices. However, if you can’t find the dressing mix or don’t have it on hand, you can whip up your own Italian dressing mix with a combination of common pantry spices.

Simply sprinkle the seasoning over the chicken, spread the pesto, and add the chicken broth – there’s nothing to it!

Pesto sauce, seasoning, and chicken broth spread over raw chicken thighs in a cast iron baking dish.

Baking, Prepping Ahead, & Storing Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs

Did I mention how easy (can you sense a theme with this recipe?!) it is to prep this baked pesto chicken thighs recipe ahead of time? Make it a day ahead by combining all the ingredients in a baking dish or Ziplock bag and storing it in the fridge. The chicken will marinate in that earthy, zesty pesto for so much flavor! You can also freeze prepared pesto chicken for up to three months for a ready-to-bake freezer meal.

When ready to bake, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes (for thighs) or about 1 hour (for larger chicken breasts). The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (an instant-read thermometer is a must-have kitchen tool!)

As an alternative, you can cook the chicken in a Crock Pot on LOW heat for 6-8 hours or on HIGH heat for 3-4 hours.

A serving spoon holds one baked pesto chicken thigh, scooped from a baking dish.

What to Serve with Baked Pesto Chicken

To make it a complete meal, serve the pesto chicken thighs with rice, pasta, a loaf of crusty Italian bread, and vegetables. You also can’t go wrong with green salads. Pesto chicken pairs perfectly with a simple panini sandwich, as a topping on homemade pizza, or in an easy wrap for a quick lunch.

Here are some additional side dishes to serve with dump-and-bake pesto chicken thighs:

Sliced pesto chicken thighs served on a blue and white plate with seasoned rice, sliced cucumbers, and fresh basis garnish.

Baked Pesto Chicken Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations

  • Bake the pesto chicken thighs covered for most of the cooking time to ensure tender, juicy chicken. If you want to add cheese to the top of the chicken, remove it from the oven with about 10 minutes remaining. Top with cheese (fresh sliced mozzarella cheese would be perfect), and put it back in the oven, uncovered, until the cheese is melted.
  • Make chicken pesto pasta by serving the baked chicken thighs with pasta, or add pasta to the baking dish for a simple dump-and-bake chicken pesto pasta recipe.
  • You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you’re cooking the chicken in the Crock Pot, I suggest using chicken thighs — they stay much juicier than the breast meat over the longer cooking time.
  • Prep ahead! You can make this a freezer meal by combining all the raw ingredients in a baking dish or a large Ziploc bag. Wrap tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then bake or dump into the slow cooker and cook according to recipe instructions.
  • Have leftovers? You can freeze this cooked pesto chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Use the cooked, shredded meat on top of pizza, tucked inside panini sandwiches, or on top of a salad.
  • Is pesto chicken healthy? Yes! Pesto is made with heart-healthy olive oil, fresh herbs, and nuts. While the recipe’s nutrition facts include 435 calories per serving, that includes all of the sauce in the dish (which you will likely not consume). If you don’t enjoy all of the pesto sauce from the pan, the nutrition facts will vary greatly.
An overhead image of pesto chicken thighs served on a plate with seasoned rice and sliced cucumbers. The plate sits next to a casserole dish of baked pesto chicken and bunches of fresh basil leaves

More Easy Pesto Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of sliced pesto chicken thigh on a blue and white plate with rice and cucumbers

Baked Pesto Chicken Thighs

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 435.1 kcal
You only need four ingredients and five minutes of prep for this easy dump-and-bake pesto chicken recipe! Perfect for a busy weeknight dinner that's flavorful and healthy!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 cup pesto sauce store-bought or homemade
  • 1 packet Italian dressing and recipe mix just the dry seasoning — NOT prepared
  • ½ cup chicken broth

Instructions

OVEN BAKED METHOD:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place chicken in prepared dish. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, cover with pesto and pour chicken broth over top.
    2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, 1 cup pesto sauce, 1 packet Italian dressing and recipe mix, ½ cup chicken broth
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes for thighs (or about 1 hour for breasts), or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

SLOW COOKER METHOD:

  • Spray insert of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, cover with pesto and pour chicken broth over top.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or on LOW for 6-8 hours. Slice the chicken or use two forks to shred the meat.

Notes

  • Bake the pesto chicken thighs covered for most of the cooking time to ensure tender, juicy chicken. If you want to add cheese to the top of the chicken, remove it from the oven with about 10 minutes remaining. Top with cheese (fresh sliced mozzarella cheese would be perfect), and put it back in the oven, uncovered, until the cheese is melted.
  • Make chicken pesto pasta by serving the baked chicken thighs with pasta, or add pasta to the baking dish for a simple dump-and-bake chicken pesto pasta recipe.
  • You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you’re cooking the chicken in the Crock Pot, I suggest using chicken thighs — they stay much juicier than the breast meat over the longer cooking time.
  • Prep ahead! You can make this a freezer meal by combining all the raw ingredients in a baking dish or a large Ziploc bag. Wrap tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then bake or dump into the slow cooker and cook according to recipe instructions.
  • Have leftovers? You can freeze this cooked pesto chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Use the cooked, shredded meat on top of pizza, tucked inside panini sandwiches, or on top of a salad.
  • Is pesto chicken healthy? Yes! Pesto is made with heart-healthy olive oil, fresh herbs, and nuts. While the recipe’s nutrition facts include 435 calories per serving, that includes all of the sauce in the dish (which you will likely not consume). If you don’t enjoy all of the pesto sauce from the pan, the nutrition facts will vary greatly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 435.1kcalCarbohydrates: 7.3gProtein: 30.2gFat: 30.9gSaturated Fat: 3.3gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 1300.2mgPotassium: 240mgFiber: 2.7gSugar: 1.3g
Keyword: crock pot chicken, pesto chicken, pesto chicken thighs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    5 stars
    We had dump and bake pesto chicken thighs, with mashed potatoes and shaved Brussels sprouts salad for dinner tonight. I made homemade parsley pesto to use in the chicken dish. I baked the chicken but will be happy to try the slow cooker version too. Delicious!!!

    1. Blair says:

      Sounds like the perfect dinner, Nancy! Thank you!!! 🙂

      I bet your homemade parsley pesto was great!

  2. Kim says:

    5 stars
    Tried this recipe tonight with chicken breasts served with rice and broccoli and it came out great. I was worried it might be too salty but it wasn’t at all! Moist and flavorful. Thanks Blair!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Kim! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! 🙂

  3. Rudy says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! Thanks for posting.

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you!

  4. Sandra L. Wendorf says:

    Which style of pesto did you use? There are two kinds that I know of. One is a “creamy” style, the other is labeled as being rustic.
    This will be the first time that I will be cooking with basil. Hope that we will like this. Will follow with a rating soon.
    Sandra W.

  5. Kim says:

    5 stars
    I made this last night and the chicken was so tasty over angel hair pasta and tiny green peas! I used the slow cooker version so I wouldn’t heat up the house using the oven; it gets super hot here in coastal Brunswick County,NC in August. I’m looking forward to having the leftovers tonight!

    1. Blair says:

      Sounds delicious, Kim! Thanks for your kind note. 🙂