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Pesto Chicken Pasta on white plate
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5 from 1 vote

Pesto Chicken with Dairy-Free Macadamia Pesto

Enjoy this delicious and easy pesto chicken with a smooth homemade macadamia basil pesto sauce, dairy-free and with gluten-free pasta or zoodles!
Course Main Dish, meat
Cuisine American
Keyword basil, chicken dinner, easy recipe, homemade, pesto
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 3 servings
Author Beth Allingham of www.amealinmind.com


For the pesto

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil large stems removed
  • 3 Tbsp macadamias pine nuts or walnuts (if nut-free, try sunflower seeds or hemp)
  • 3 large cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice optional, see note
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the vegetables

  • 1 small chopped sweet onion
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes chopped
  • ½ teaspoon pink sea salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pesto

For the pesto chicken

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • cup fresh pesto
  • ½ teaspoon pink sea salt or to taste
  • 3/4 pound pasta cooked according to package directions (we used Banza)


For the pesto

  • To a food processor, add the basil, nuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, and sea salt and blend/mix on high until a loose paste forms.
  • Add olive oil a little at a time (streaming in while the machine is on if possible) and scrape down sides as needed. I have seen some recipes recently that add water, but water is not traditional in pesto. If you want to cut down on oil, you are welcome to try the water. 

For the vegetables

  • Stir-fry the onion and bell pepper in olive oil until nearly as tender as you like. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are just starting to become tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt.
  • Coat the cooked vegetables with the pesto.

For the chicken

  • Crock pot method: Place about 1 tablespoonful of pesto in the bottom of the crock pot and spread evenly over the bottom. Place the chicken breasts in an even layer on top. Spread the remaining pesto over the chicken pieces. Cook the chicken on the medium setting for 3 hours or until the pieces are no longer pink in the middle (use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 F if need be). The pesto will lose its color a bit with this long cooking, but not its flavor.
  • Stove top method. Coat the chicken breasts with pesto as above. In a skillet on medium heat, cook the chicken pieces uncovered on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they are slightly browned,, then turn the pieces and cook the other side. Cover the skillet and finish cooking, about 5 minutes more. Test the chicken for doneness. 
  • Oven method. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the chicken breasts as above and place in a baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or use a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid) and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, just until chicken is firm and cooked through. Remove the lid during the last five minutes or so if you want the chicken to brown a bit. 
  • Allow the chicken breasts to cool enough to handle, and slice crosswise. 
  • To assemble the dish. Arrange cooked pasta on individual plates. Stir 1-2 tablespoons of pesto into each serving of pasta. Distribute the cooked vegetables over the top. Place one sliced chicken breast on top of each serving.


Lemon juice is an optional ingredient. I usually leave it out, but I include it here because it can keep the pesto from turning brown. My advice is that if you are using it for family and will be using up the pesto soon, you won't need the lemon juice.
Prep time is based on how much time it takes to make the pesto and the vegetables; cook time depends on the cooking method you choose.