There are never too many easy keto meal recipes! This 5-ingredient Chicken Pesto Salad will satisfy even the pickiest eater with its tastiness and simplicity.
Warm chicken gets enormously tasty when completely covered with flavorful pesto sauce. Other carefully selected ingredients complete the salad to make a delightful and mouthwatering meal.
How to make this Chicken Pesto Salad
This is an easy meal to make – and I’ll give you a couple of tips to make it even easier. First, you’ll cook chicken breast halves in a little amount of water, then cube them, mix with pesto, and finally arrange the salad ingredients on a plate. That’s it!
For this salad, you need chicken, pesto, lettuce (or mixed salad greens), cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.
Let’s talk first about the chicken. Naturally, nothing prevents you from using other parts of chicken than chicken breast halves. I often use fattier parts if available. As always, I recommend using a pastured chicken to get all the health benefits, natural fat composition and to avoid the harmful chemicals that the industrially farmed chicken are fed.
Yes, the quality of chicken plays an important role – but so does the quality of pesto, as it’s the most flavorful ingredient in this salad. Therefore, choose high-quality commercial pesto that uses only olive oil (NO sunflower oil or other seed oils), real Parmesan, and no thickeners or food additives.
Indeed, high-quality pesto can be challenging to find. Often, the best (and even faster!) option is to make your own pesto. I have a wonderful recipe for a keto pesto recipe with macadamias instead of pine nuts. It’s my carefully developed recipe and thus my favorite pesto.
For lettuce, I prefer gem lettuce as it’s my all-time favorite lettuce variety. I grow it in my garden every year. However, feel free to use another lettuce variety or mixed salad greens.
In addition, you’ll need cherry tomatoes for this salad. I’m an avid fan of cherry tomatoes and simply require them in my salads. Tomatoes are especially good in this salad as they accompany pesto and Parmesan in a perfect way.
Talking about Parmesan: I recommend choosing the real stuff (as it’s one ingredient in pesto, too), however, any good-quality sharp hard cheese works.
That’s it, let’s take a look at how to prepare this superb salad:
Take two skinless, boneless chicken breast halves and cook them in a little amount of water until done and the juices run clear. This takes about 15 minutes.
Here we go. Let the chicken cool a bit until you can handle it.
Take the still warm chicken and cut into cubes.
Place the cubes into a heatproof bowl.
Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) pesto.
Mix until well combined.
Take some cleaned lettuce. I use about 7-8 oz (200-230 g) lettuce for this salad.
Remove the outer leaves and discard them.
Tear the lettuce into pieces and place on a serving plate.
Add the chicken with pesto.
Decorate with 10 cherry tomatoes.
Top with 1/4 cup (60 ml) Parmesan shavings.
How I came up with this easy keto meal recipe
Long story short, I got the idea for this recipe from my hairdresser. I was getting my hair colored a few weeks ago when we started talking about all things food. My hairdresser said she had prepared a very delicious chicken salad with pesto. I actually didn’t ask for further details, but I understand her salad also contained some pasta as she is not a ketoer or even a low-carber.
After that, I was so intrigued with the idea of a Chicken Pesto Salad that I wrote it down to my idea list. I was playing with the recipe idea somewhere at the back of my mind and finally decided to create the actual recipe this week.
My original plan was to add keto pasta, i.e., shirataki noodles, to the salad, but I gave up the idea. As you know, shirataki is not very nutritious – it just fills your stomach – and as I’m a proponent of real food, I avoid ingredients that are void of nutrients. Don’t get me wrong, shirataki noodles or rice are still good ingredients for keto, especially if you want to eat low-calorie food.
So, for my keto Chicken Pesto Salad, I naturally needed chicken and pesto, but what else? Lettuce, maybe. On the other hand, cabbage or another crunchy vegetable might lend a fabulous texture, I thought.
Well, I decided to opt for the lettuce anyway and picked some gem lettuce from the supermarket shelf.
I originally wanted to add pine nuts to the salad but thought that they wouldn’t provide enough value, and on the other hand, pesto contains some pine nuts as well.
As I almost always add cherry tomatoes to my salads, I decided to add also cherry tomatoes to my Chicken Pesto Salad. They would be a great fit with pesto, chicken, and lettuce, I concluded.
I still had room for one ingredient. I was pondering between crushed nuts and Parmesan and decided finally to add Parmesan to provide sharp flavor and even more taste. True, pesto already has some Parmesan but not that much, so I presumed some additional Parmesan would undoubtedly be welcomed.
Let’s admit chicken is a pretty bland ingredient. That’s why I wanted to marinate the chicken first with pesto. My initial idea was to add pesto to ready-cooked chicken, but I suddenly came with the idea to cook the chicken and mix the warm chicken with pesto so that the chicken is absorbing the pesto maximally.
I marinated the pesto-covered chicken for a few hours and was already about to post that version – I even took photos and videos for that! However, I noticed that warm chicken covered with pesto would make an even tastier result.
The idea of cold chicken (and now I have to think of the idiom about cold turkey…) didn’t sound very appetizing, anyway, and the weather is chilly, so warm chicken with pesto in a salad sounded ultimately appetizing.
After pondering over the amounts of the ingredients, I came up with the final recipe. I have to admit it turned out really tasty! Also, my Ketokamu colleague Markus enjoyed this salad when I served it for him during our sauce and dressing workshop.
Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy:
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 cup = 120 ml pesto
- 1 pack (7-8 oz = 200-230 g) gem lettuce or mixed salad greens
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup = 60 ml Parmesan shavings
- Cook the chicken in a little amount of water until done and the juices run clear. This takes about 15 minutes.
- Let the chicken cool just until you can handle it. Cut the still warm chicken into cubes.
- Place the warm chicken cubes into a heatproof bowl. Pour in the pesto and toss well until the chicken is completely covered with the pesto. Set aside for a while.
- Wash the lettuce, pat dry, and discard the outer leaves. Tear the lettuce into pieces and place onto a serving plate.
- Top with the chicken and pesto mixture, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan shavings.
- Serve immediately.
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|Per serving if 2 servings in total
Tips for variations
For a really quick meal, you can use cooked chicken and mix it with pesto. This salad is super quick to make when you don’t have to cook the chicken! However, I recommend warming the chicken a bit to make it tastier and absorb the pesto better.
Feel free to use turkey meat (especially if you have some leftovers after Thanksgiving) for this salad. Well, if you have some more turkey leftovers, you might want to try out my Sweet and Tangy Turkey Leftover Salad recipe.
As for other variations, there are naturally numerous ways to tweak this recipe to appeal to your taste buds and to jazz up the salad to entirely different levels. Below are some suggestions:
- Omit the tomatoes for an even lower carb count
- You can replace the tomatoes – or use in addition – olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, or artichoke hearts
- Replace the Parmesan with crumbled feta
- Add some crunch, texture, and nutrients to the salad by topping the salad with pine nuts, crushed macadamias, walnuts, almonds, or pecans
- If you want even more flavor, drizzle apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar on top of the salad right before serving
- For keto pasta salad, use shirataki noodles (aka miracle noodles) and mix them with the chicken and the pesto
- Top the salad with chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, basil, or oregano
- To make the salad even richer, mix 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to the pesto before adding it to the chicken
- One sliced or cubed avocado makes this salad super satisfying
- As everything tastes good with bacon, add some fried and crumbled bacon on top of the salad before serving. Yum!
I’m used to busy weeks, but this week was exceptionally busy. First of all, I created some bonus material and the shopping list for my online video course “Keto Desserts: Learn to Make Beyond-Belief Delicious Keto Desserts with Elviira Krebber,” which was launched in collaboration with Nordic Wisdom publisher house during this week.
If you are on my mailing list, you got an email about the course and the huge offer to get a 50% discount through 30th November 2021. This is my first ever cooking course, and making it was super fun (who wouldn’t love desserts, anyway?), so I hope people find the course beneficial.
As a fun fact: some years ago, I created five online courses about Facebook marketing as it was my special area, but nowadays, I’m more concentrated on cooking and nutrition, so I’m happy to provide information related to those and help people with their diet. I love to create books and other content – also more video courses in the future – about those topics.
I was also creating material for our Ketokamu Black Friday offers (or we actually named these White Weekend offers). I took photos and wrote newsletter texts and also text to our webpage. We actually had to modify our offers as we are running out of our baking mix. It’s sold out as people were buying it like hotcakes.
On Thursday, we had a keto sauce and dressing workshop with my Ketokamu colleague Markus. I also offered this Chicken Pesto Salad for Markus, and he was super happy with it. Here are some of the sauce experiments we made:
The week also included some more experiments – naturally, as I’m a researcher by nature. For example, I used our Ketokamu baking mix and Fathead dough to create pretzels:
I also tried out how our sweetener works in meringues. I have wanted to try this out for a very long time, but as one of our customers asked this in our keto baking group on Facebook, I hurried to try out if I could make successful meringues with the sweetener.
The sweetener worked really well. I actually should have used lower oven temperature, but I was so impatient to know how the meringues turned out that I used a bit too high temperature and the meringues turned a bit brownish on top. Luckily, this didn’t matter, and I got the confirmation sooner that the sweetener also works with meringues – as long as the egg whites are beaten first and the sweetener added after that as the egg whites won’t form stiff peaks if beaten together with this particular sweetener.