Pesto Veggie Stuffed Chicken
Do you love the idea of eating chicken breast, but when it comes down to it, you’re often disappointed in the results? I’m going to guess you’ve all had to force yourself through a chicken breast meal that was less than spectacular at some point. I know I have, but don’t worry, I have a chicken breast recipe I’m sure you’re going to love! It’s Pesto Veggie Stuffed Chicken, and it will be something you will want to eat ““ trust me!
Chicken breast can be tricky to get right. So often it ends up on the dry side, and because it’s so low in fat, it can most definitely lack flavor. I don’t know about you, but even though I do my best to eat healthy, I just can’t eat something if it doesn’t taste great, even if it’s a healthy choice.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve nailed down a method for cooking chicken breast that adds delicious browning, keeps the chicken tender and juicy, and results in a naturally flavored concentrated pan sauce to serve over the chicken. The method is quick and easy and works wonders on skinless, boneless chicken breast. It’s braising, and while that may sound like a complicated, sophisticated term, it’s really easy to do.
But first, before you can braise the chicken in this Pesto Veggie Stuffed Chicken recipe, you will make a super simple sautéed vegetable mixture, mix that with pesto (try my Classic Basil Pesto or used purchased), and stuff it into a pocket you will cut in the chicken breast.
Then it’s on to the braising”¦which, as I mentioned, is the key to keeping the chicken tender and juicy. You simply brown the chicken well in a skillet, then carefully add a little water and cook the chicken covered on the stove top to finish the cooking. Braising isn’t a stove top only method. You can also braise in the oven, as long as your food is in a covered pan and there is a bit of liquid in the pan.
You can use the cooking method in this recipe even if you don’t stuff the chicken. It’s a very good way to cook chicken breast any time you need it.
Braising the chicken also results in a ridiculously easy and delicious pan sauce. Besides what’s already been added to the pan (the stuffed chicken, coconut oil, and water), you add just one simple ingredient”¦ONE! How’s that for a super short ingredient list? The ingredient is white wine (oh, no wonder the sauce is so good, right?!?), but if you don’t have any or want a non-alcoholic version, you can very easily substitute reduced-sodium chicken broth with a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. It’s equally as good, although I never seem to have a problem having wine on hand…
The last thing I love about this recipe (as if I need to love it any more than I already do!), is how the chicken comes built in with a small side of vegetables that taste so good! I’m sure you won’t have a problem eating your veggies when they come packaged like this!
Enjoy the recipe, and if you give it a try, please leave a comment below to let me know what you think”¦
Ingredients you’ll need to make the Pesto Veggie Stuffed Chicken happen!
Cook sweet pepper, onion, mushrooms, kale and garlic.
Remove vegetables from the skillet and add pesto.
Stuff the vegetable mixture in chicken breast halves and seal the openings with toothpicks (this photo shows the bottom of my chicken pieces. As you can see, I cut through the bottom. 🙂
Brown the chicken well in the skillet – don’t worry if your skillet looks dark and hard to clean. After you make the sauce, the pan will look much better, I promise.
Once the chicken is browned, carefully add water (see my tips below the recipe for avoiding a steam burn!), cover and cook the chicken until it’s done.
The water will cook off some as the chicken cooks. Make sure to check occasionally and add water if the skillet looks dry.
The pan sauce adds so much flavor to the chicken and only uses 1 ingredient besides what’s already been added to the pan. So simple!
You get a small built in side of veggies with your chicken.
- ¼ cup chopped red sweet pepper
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup torn, trimmed fresh kale
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons basil pesto
- 2 large skinless boneless chicken breast halves (1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds total)*
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
- ½ cup water
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- In a large skillet cook red pepper, onion, and mushrooms in hot olive oil over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale and garlic. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Transfer vegetable mixture to a small bowl.** Add pesto to the vegetable mixture; stir until well combined. Set aside.
- Place chicken breast halves on a cutting board. Use a small sharp knife to cut a horizontal pocket in the side of the thickest spot of each chicken breast. Cut as large of a pocket as you can without cutting through the other side of the chicken breast.
- Use a small spoon to spoon vegetable mixture evenly into the pockets. Use toothpicks to seal the pockets shut. Flip the chicken breasts over to see if you cut through the bottoms by accident (don’t worry, it happens to me all the time!). If so, seal up those spots with toothpicks so the stuffing is fully enclosed in the chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
- Add the coconut oil to the same skillet used to cook the vegetables. Heat over medium heat. Add chicken to hot pan. Cook chicken over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until bottom is well browned. Flip the chicken.*** Cook 4 to 5 minutes more or until bottom is well browned.
- Remove skillet from the heat. Carefully add the water. The water will steam a lot; add a little water quickly to the side of the skillet and pull your hand back. Once the initial steam goes away, you can add the rest of the water without as much steam happening.
- Return skillet to the heat. Bring water to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 14 to 16 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165°F). Check pan occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t cooked off completely. If the water is almost gone, add more, ¼ cup at a time, so there is always a little water in the pan.
- When chicken is done, transfer chicken to a serving platter, reserving cooking juices in pan; cover chicken with foil to keep warm. Make sure there is roughly ¼ cup of cooking juices in the skillet; if not, add a little water. Add the wine. Bring just to boiling, stirring constantly to lift up any browned bits in the skillet****; reduce heat. Simmer sauce, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce is reduced slightly (you should end up with about 1/3 cup sauce), stirring occasionally. Taste sauce and add salt and pepper if desired. Serve over chicken.
- *If you like, you can use 4 small chicken breast halves (1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds total) instead of 2 large; use the same amount of vegetable filling (the pockets will be smaller and will hold less). Cook, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes instead of 14 to 16 minutes.
- **If you’re using a pan that’s not nonstick, the bottom may look dark, but that’s okay, just leave it alone. We’ll take care of that later and the pan won’t be tough to clean.
- ***When browning chicken in a skillet, it’s tempting to flip the chicken too early, which can cause the chicken to stick and get all mangled looking. The key is to wait until the chicken is well browned before flipping or moving it at all. If the chicken doesn’t lift off the pan easily when you go to flip it, it may mean it’s not ready; simply let it brown 1 to 2 minutes more and try again.
- ****If your pan was dark or there were stuck bits of veggies in the pan after cooking the vegetables and browning the chicken, the pan should look much better and will be easier to clean after cooking the sauce.
- 4 servings
- 285 cals, 33 g pro, 4 g carb, 13 g fat, 104 mg cholesterol, 5 g sat fat, 1 g fiber, 235 mg sodium