Baking boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be tricky! This fast and easy Baked Pesto Chicken Breasts recipe is topped with pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Learn how to bake chicken breasts wrapped inside parchment paper along with a few herbs and vegetables for a foolproof method to bake chicken that is moist and tender with a lot of flavor.
I have had mixed success baking boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are not dry. But, when wrapped inside parchment paper, a French cooking method known as en papillote, along with pesto, tomatoes, and grated cheeses, the chicken becomes moist and tender. The parchment paper seals in the moisture, so the chicken steams in its own juices and retains a lot of flavor.
Because each is prepared in an individual parchment pouch you can bake the right amount of chicken breasts when there are two sharing the meal. One for each or split a single breast.
This baked pesto chicken is perfect to use in sandwiches, pesto chicken cobb salad, pesto chicken salad or serve the breast over a bed ravioli using the juices collected from the parchment pouch as the sauce for the ravioli.
What you'll need
Say goodbye to dry, oven-baked chicken breasts! This recipe needs only a few ingredients and is ready in under 30 minutes – a keeper in my book.
Let’s quickly chat about some of the key ingredients and tools you will need.
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- kosher salt and fresh pepper
- pesto – homemade pesto is so easy and quick to make and the taste is so fresh and bright compared to store-bought. Learn how to make pesto using Our Table 4 2's classic basil pesto. But, if you are short on time look for a good quality jarred pesto – this works just fine in this recipe.
- Sliced tomatoes
- mozzarella cheese – if you can, splurge on fresh mozzarella. Breaking up the mozzarella balls with your fingers over each breast – you will not be disappointed.
- Parmesan cheese – for best flavor grate it yourself.
- lemon zest (optional) – garnishing the breasts with lemon zest after they have baked adds a delightful bright citrus flavor.
Note: See recipe card below for ingredient measurements.
- Parchment Paper – I like to use the unbleached and chlorine free parchment paper. Look on the box to make sure your parchment paper can be placed in a 400 degree oven.
- Kitchen Shears – We are going to cut the parchment into a heart shape to make it easier to wrap the chicken breasts and keep the juices inside the parchment pouch. These Shun multi-purpose shears are one of those tools I’ve come to rely on in the kitchen.
- Baking sheet - You can make as many pouches as you like and bake them at the same time. Make sure they are in a single layer on a baking sheet and that there is 1 inch of space surrounding each bundle. The Nordicware Naturals® Quarter sheet is the baking sheet I use when cooking chicken breasts for two.
- Instant read meat thermometer – To achieve a tender juicy interior, we don’t want to overcook the chicken. An instant read thermometer will help you gauge when the breasts are done.
How to bake chicken breasts
Alright, got your ingredients and tools ready? Here’s how to make moist, tender, juicy baked pesto chicken breasts every time.
Place a 12 x 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Fold it in half and cut it into a half-heart shape.
Unfold the paper and place the chicken breast in the center of one side.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and spoon pesto over the top of the breast. Now layer with sliced tomatoes mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bring the edges of the paper together then fold and crimp them closed. Be sure to leave some room inside the bundle for heat expansion, which will happen as the chicken bakes.
Now, bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken registers 165 F on an instant-read meat thermometer. I jab the thermometer through the parchment paper to check the temperature.
Remove the bundle from the oven and slit open the parchment paper, being careful that the steam doesn't burn you.
Place on a plate and peel the parchment paper back a bit. Pair with your favorite sides or slice and use in sandwiches or salads. Enjoy!
What to serve with baked pesto chicken breasts
Now that your pouches of baked pesto chicken goodness are ready to eat. I like to serve the chicken over a bed of ravioli or quinoa using the juices from inside the parchment pouch as the sauce.
To keep the dish gluten free, you could serve over gluten-free pasta or zucchini noodles.
You may want to switch up the ingredients inside the parchment packets. Always season your chicken breast with salt and pepper before laying ingredients over the chicken. When including vegetables, you should add a fat (oil or butter) or liquid (white wine or vinaigrette) to the packet.
- Place vegetables, such as sliced zucchini, green beans, or asparagus, underneath the chicken.
- Top the chicken with chopped cherry tomatoes or mushrooms along with some fresh herbs.
- For a Mediterranean twist layer Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese over the top of the chicken.
- How about a French flair? Add fresh tarragon, sliced citrus like lemon or orange, butter along with thinly sliced potatoes to the parchment packets.
- A simple baked lemon chicken breast will include slices of lemon, thyme and don’t forget to add either butter or olive oil to the packet.
Note: For the baked pesto chicken the oil or fat is in the pesto, no need to add extra.
Tips to make baked pesto chicken breasts
Want to know the secret to making the moist and full of flavor baked chicken breasts? Here are some of my best tips that I’ve learned making this recipe again and again.
- Have a timer and instant read thermometer! All ovens are different, and chicken breasts can vary in size, so the baking time might be longer or shorter. I always check the internal temperature, using a instant read thermometer at around 15 minutes. I poke a hole through the side of the pouch to take the temperature. Make a note of how long the chicken takes so you know how long to bake the chicken to perfection every time.
- You can make as many bundles as you like and bake them at the same time. Place them in a single layer and make sure there is 1 inch of space surrounding each bundle.
- If making extra chicken to use later, let it cool completely then chop, shred, or leave it whole. Pack in airtight containers or wrap well and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Love this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the comments below! And don't forget to subscribe to Our Table 4 2 for even more cooking for two recipes and tips.
You've got questions... I've got answers! If you have a question about this recipe that isn't answered below, feel free to leave it in the comments, and I'll jump in there to help you out.
Serve over pasta like ravioli or choose a gluten free option like zucchini noodles. A simple mixed green salad tossed in a simple lemon-olive oil dressing or a balsamic vinaigrette also pairs nicely.
15 to 20 minutes. All ovens are different, and chicken breasts can vary in size, so the baking time might be longer or shorter. Check the internal temperature, using an instant read thermometer in the middle of the thickest part of the breast at around 15 minutes. Take note of how long the chicken takes so you know how long to bake the chicken to perfection every time.
Wrap the breasts inside parchment paper along with pesto, tomatoes, and cheese, the chicken becomes moist, tender, and juicy; the parchment paper seals in the moisture, so the chicken steams in its own juices and retains a lot of flavor.
Looking for other chicken dishes to make when there are two sharing the meal? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with baked pesto chicken breasts from starters to dessert:
Baked pesto chicken breasts + how to bake chicken breasts tips
Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box
You can access your saved recipes on this device and generate a shopping list for recipes in your collections.
- 1 16 ounce boneless skinless chicken breast ,split
- kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons pesto, Our Table 4 2’s homemade pesto or jarred pesto
- ½ medium tomato, sliced thin
- 3 Tablespoons mozzarella cheese 1.5 oz, shredded use fresh mozzarella if you feel like splurging.
- 1 teaspoons Parmesan cheese grated freshly grated for the best flavor
- 1 teaspoons lemon zest about 1 lemon
- Gather your ingredients and tools and preheat the oven to 400° F . Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. We will make one bundle at a time. Start by placing a 12 x 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Fold it in half and cut it into a half-heart shape.
- Unfold the paper and place the chicken breast in the center of one side . Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and spoon 1 teaspoon pesto over the top of each breast. Layer half of the sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Bring the edges of the paper together and fold together to crimp closed. Be sure to leave some room inside the bundle for heat expansion, which will happen as the chicken bakes. Repeat steps 2 – 4 to make another parchment bundle.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken registers 165 F on an instant-read meat thermometer.Remove the bundle(s) from the oven and slit open the parchment paper; be careful that the steam doesn't burn you.Place on a plate and peel the parchment paper back a bit. Sprinkle lemon zest over the top. Pair with your favorite sides or slice and use in sandwiches, salads or soups. Enjoy.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.