Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice Recipe

It’s the perfect time to try a new one-pot meal!  September is like the New Year, in a way.  And I am back into a cooking routine, but I want to ease back into it.  This recipe is a twist on my favorite one-pot meal, Mediterranean Chicken with Rice.  There’s also another variation in my cookbook, Quicker Than Quick, called Weeknight Arroz con Pollo.  Delicious!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • It’s a true one-pot meal; 
  • super flavorful; 
  • holds well for lunch the next day; 
  • freezes beautifully;
  • flexible (see the substitutions suggestions to make it vegan).

Pesto is the flavor booster in the recipe, but it can be ANY kind of pesto.  I photographed it here with my standard basil-parsley pesto, but you can use store-bought, spinach-basil, hempseed, kale, truly any kind at all! 

Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice Ingredients

  • Garlic powder: is a great ingredient to use for seasoning poultry. It may also be labeled granulated garlic. 
  • Paprika: is simply dried bell pepper. It’s one of my go-to spices to use to give color to proteins. 
  • Chicken: I use boneless, skinless chicken pieces in this recipe because it cooks in the same amount of time as the rice. 
  • Onion: is full of antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation. It adds a nice flavor in this recipe and helps lift off the stuck on bits left at the bottom of the pan from browning the chicken. 
  • Garlic: I love adding garlic to rice. I keep a jar of peeled garlic cloves (that I peel myself) in the fridge to use throughout the week. 
  • Tomato: adds a delicious flavor in rice dishes. You can use fresh tomato, cherry tomatoes, or jarred tomatoes. 
  • Rice: I love white basmati rice. Trader Joe’s and Thrive Market organic white basmati are my favorite!
  • Stock: I usually use water, but you can use chicken or vegetable stock for an extra flavor boost. 
  • Olives: provide a nice brininess to this dish. If you don’t like olives, feel free to use capers or omit. 
  • Artichoke hearts: are rich in fiber. I use Melissa’s steamed artichoke hearts, but you can use frozen/defrosted, or jarred. 
  • Pesto: I use homemade pesto in this recipe. Check the notes for the recipe I use. It’s so easy and tastes better than store-bought. The recipe makes more than what you will need in the recipe, but you can serve extra on the side or use it throughout the week. It lasts at least a week in the fridge and freezes great. 
  • Fresh basil: is nice for garnish. I store fresh basil in a glass jar with a little bit of water (like a bouquet of flowers) on the counter. Basil is one of the only herbs that prefers warmer temperature. 

How to Make Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. This can be done a day in advance, if desired.
  2. Make the pesto, if making from scratch. See recipe below. Blend ⅔ cups of pesto with 2 cups of water or stock until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer and brown on two sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. Do not cook through and do not brown too much. Transfer the chicken back to the bowl (it doesn’t matter that this had raw chicken in it since the chicken still has to be cooked again.)
  4. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt (be conservative if using a seasoned stock) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes to the pan and raise the heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze and remove the bits stuck to the bottom. (If using cherry tomatoes, add with the next ingredients.)
  6. Add the rice, pesto water/stock, olives, and artichoke hearts and bring the liquid up to a boil. Arrange the chicken pieces on top. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Most of the liquid should have been absorbed. Test the rice for tenderness. If the water has been absorbed, but the rice is not perfectly done, keep it covered and off the heat for another 10 minutes.
  7. Garnish with herbs (if using) and serve immediately or allow the dish to sit off the heat, covered, for up to 20 minutes. Drizzle with extra pesto and fresh basil, if desired, and mix everything together before serving.

 

Tips for Making Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice

  • If using unsalted stock or water, use 1 teaspoon salt in step 1 and 1 ½ teaspoons salt in step 3.
  • If you need more chicken, multiply chicken and spices x1.5. Same cook time.
  • Do not use a skillet that is too large or the rice will not cook properly. I have found a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan to be perfect!
  • I’ve noticed that some white rice brands take longer to cook – like Whole Foods. You may need to cook for an extra five-ten minutes and allow to sit off the heat COVERED until the tenderness is perfect.

Substitutions for Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice

  • White rice – you can use quinoa, but I would reduce the liquid by a 1/4 cup 
  • Chicken – If you don’t eat chicken, swap a pound (or so) of COOKED chickpeas or white beans. Start the recipe with sautéing the onion and add the spices with the garlic. Add the beans with the rice. Same cook time.
  • Chicken stock – vegetable stock or water
  • Artichoke hearts – zucchini cut into 2-inch pieces

 

 
 
 
 
 
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5.0 from 2 reviews
Skillet Pesto Chicken and Rice
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (breasts and/or thighs), patted dry and cut into 2-inch pieces (thighs can be cut in half or left whole if small)
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined oil of choice – olive or avocado
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large fresh tomato, diced or 1 cup of whole cherry tomatoes, or ¾ cup chopped jarred tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain white rice (Trader Joe's and Thrive Market organic white basmati rice are my favorites)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, vegetable stock or water*
  • ¼ cup Italian green olives, pitted
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts or 2-in pieces of zucchini
  • ⅔ cup pesto, plus more for serving if desired
  • Fresh basil, large leaves torn by hand, for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. This can be done a day in advance, if desired.
  2. Make the pesto, if making from scratch. See recipe below. Blend ⅔ cups of pesto with 2 cups of water or stock until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer and brown on two sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. Do not cook through and do not brown too much. Transfer the chicken back to the bowl (it doesn’t matter that this had raw chicken in it since the chicken still has to be cooked again.)
  4. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt (be conservative if using a seasoned stock) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes to the pan and raise the heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze and remove the bits stuck to the bottom. (If using cherry tomatoes, add with the next ingredients.)
  6. Add the rice, pesto water/stock, olives, and artichoke hearts and bring the liquid up to a boil. Arrange the chicken pieces on top. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Most of the liquid should have been absorbed. Test the rice for tenderness. If the water has been absorbed, but the rice is not perfectly done, keep it covered and off the heat for another 10 minutes.
  7. Garnish with herbs (if using) and serve immediately or allow the dish to sit off the heat, covered, for up to 20 minutes. Drizzle with extra pesto and fresh basil, if desired, and mix everything together before serving.
Notes
*If using unsalted stock or water, use 1 teaspoon salt in step 1 and 1 ½ teaspoons salt in step 3.
If you don't eat chicken, swap a pound (or so) of COOKED chickpeas or white beans. Start the recipe with sautéing the onion and add the spices with the garlic. Add the beans with the rice. Same cook time.
If you need more chicken, multiply chicken and spices times 1.5. Same cook time.
Do not use a skillet that is too large or the rice will not cook properly.
I have found that some white rice brands take longer to cook - like Whole Foods. You may need to cook for an extra five-ten minutes and allow to sit off the heat COVERED until the tenderness is perfect. You can also use quinoa. Reduce water by a little.


BASIL-PARSLEY PESTO
Makes 2 cups

¼ cup raw walnuts
¼ cup raw pine nuts
1 ½ - 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
2 ½ cups basil leaves, lightly packed
2 ½ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
couple of grinds of black pepper
1 cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated pecorino-romano or parmesan cheese**


1. Place the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until finely chopped.
2. Add the basil and parsley leaves, salt and pepper. Start the food processor and slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the parmesan cheese and puree until well blended. Pesto freezes beautifully.

**To make a dairy-free/vegan version, eliminate the salt and cheese and substitute ¼ cup brown rice miso or other hearty miso or swap in your favorite vegan Parmesan OR vegan pesto. Taste for salt.
To make it nut free, use hemp seeds.

 

 

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Comments

4 Comments

  1. Absolutely delicious!

    • Delighted to hear you enjoyed this recipe!

  2. tried this last night and everyone loved it…making it today for my elderly parents

    • So happy to hear this, Lynette! Thanks for trying the recipe and for your feedback. 🙂


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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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