Gourmet Air Fryer Pesto Chicken Made Easy & Irresistible!

When it comes to cooking on weeknights, I value dishes that are easy to throw together, quick to cook, but still taste great. That’s why I love this air fryer pesto chicken! Chicken cutlets cook up fast and juicy, with a flavor explosion from the pesto for a winner winner chicken dinner.

air fryer pesto chicken recipe dinners done quick

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Pair lean chicken breast with pesto, which is bursting with herbs, garlic, parmesan, and more bold flavors. While it might sound crazy, those two ingredients are all it takes to make an amazing dinner!

Of course, you can make things as simple or complex as you want. Add in other toppings like fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, or pepperoni to put your own spin on this simple dish.

Your air fryer does a great job of cooking the chicken quickly, keeping the meat juicy and delicious. In fact, if you use chicken breast cutlets like I do, your cook time is under 10 minutes!

piece of air fryer pesto chicken on a fork

This dish is the perfect marriage of convenient and flavorful, and one of my favorite picks to fit a busy lifestyle.

If you’re not a fan of chicken (or looking to change things up), make sure to check out my Pesto Mahi Mahi recipe as well!

Gathering the Key Ingredients for the Dish

ingredients to make air fryer pesto chicken
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (approximately ½” thick)
  • 2-3 Tbsp prepared pesto (jarred or homemade)

Ingredient Tips and Substitutions

  • I use chicken breast cutlets because they’re quick cooking and stay moist in the air fryer. However, you can use other cuts as well! For full chicken breasts or thighs, increase cooking time to 15-18 minutes, and chicken tenders should take 12-14 minutes
  • While basil pesto is most traditional, this recipe is equally delicious with tomato pesto if you’d like a change of pace!
  • Typically, prepared pesto contains enough salt that you don’t need to add more. However, you may always add additional salt and/or pepper to taste, if desired

Variations For Chicken Pesto

  • Mozzarella. Add 2 slices of fresh or marinated mozzarella to the top of the chicken during the last 5 minutes of cooking so it melts
  • Tomato. Add 2 slices of tomato on top of the chicken when you flip the chicken over halfway through cooking
  • Meat. Add sliced prosciutto or pepperoni (under any cheese or tomato) and on top of the chicken during the last 5 minutes
  • Stuffed. Use regular (not thin sliced) chicken breasts, slice a pocket, and stuff with cheese, meats, and tomatoes as desired. Cook for 20-25 minutes to account for the thicker center

How to Cook Pesto Chicken in the Air Fryer

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (or the closest setting your air fryer has)
  2. Trim any fat from the chicken, then coat both sides of each chicken breast cutlet with pesto. You can place them in a bowl or bag and toss them if you find that easier
mix chicken cutlets in a bowl with pesto sauce
  1. Arrange the pesto chicken in the preheated air fryer basket in a single layer
place pesto chicken in air fryer basket
  1. Cook on the air fry setting for 6-8 minutes at 375°F, pausing halfway through to flip, until an internal temperature of 165°F is achieved
  2. Serve with your favorite sides!
overhead view of air fryer pesto chicken on a plate with sides and a side salad

What to Serve With Pesto Chicken

Side Dishes

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Gnocchi
  • Risotto
  • Couscous
  • Rice pilaf
  • Zoodles
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Glazed carrots
  • Stuffed tomatoes
  • Green salad
  • Caprese salad
  • Chickpea salad
  • Caesar salad
  • Panzanella salad
  • Garlic bread

Wine and Beverage Pairings

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Chablis
  • Herbal iced tea
  • Citrus sparkling water
  • Lemonade
  • Basil infused cocktails
  • Margaritas
  • Mojitos

There are a number of great side dishes and beverage pairings to round out your meal!

Try my air fryer pesto chicken with my Air Fryer Stuffed Tomatoes, glazed Air Fryer Brown Sugar Carrots, quick Air Fryer Frozen Green Beans, or some Frozen Garlic Knots in the Air Fryer.

For drinks, my Strawberry Basil Mojito is the perfect compliment!

Recipe FAQs

Can I Use Frozen Chicken For This Recipe?

Yes, you can use frozen chicken for this recipe. Simply cook the frozen chicken for 2-3 minutes to defrost, then add the pesto and proceed with the recipe as indicated.

Alternatively, thaw the chicken beforehand and pat dry.

How Do I Prevent the Pesto From Burning in the Air Fryer?

You typically don’t need to prevent the pesto from burning in the air fryer, as it doesn’t contain sugar or other foods that easily char.

That said, it’s important to cook at a slightly reduced temperature and to not overcook the chicken.

Can I Use a Different Type of Pesto Such as Sun Dried Tomato or Spinach?

Yes, you can absolutely use a different type of pesto, and both sun dried tomato and spinach pesto are great alternatives.

You can even make your own fresh pesto if preferred and use that.

What Temperature and Time Settings Should I Use For Bone-In Chicken?

For bone in chicken, still air fry at 375°F, but up the cooking time to between 25 and 30 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of your chicken, as well as your specific air fryer.

Make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165°F directly next to the bone, but not touching it.

How Can I Ensure the Chicken Stays Juicy and Doesn’t Dry Out?

The best way to ensure the chicken stays juicy and doesn’t dry out is to not overcook it. Start with the lowest cooking time indicated, then add additional time in small increments until you get to the target temperature.

Using a sauce or marinade like pesto adds oils or fats to the chicken, which can also assist it in not drying out as much.

Can I Use Skin On Chicken For This Recipe?

Yes, you can use skin on chicken for this recipe. Make sure to get pesto both under and over top of the skin for the best flavoring. Start with the skin side down, then flip upright halfway through cooking.

After you flip the chicken, bump the temperature to 400°F to achieve a crispy skin during the latter half of the cooking process.

Does Air Frying Chicken Make It Dry?

Typically, air frying chicken does not make it dry. In fact, air frying is a lot more forgiving than baking in an oven or grilling chicken.

That said, it is still possible to overcook it and make it dry. I’ve certainly done it myself when I lose track of time or take the temperature incorrectly.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • The more even your chicken breast slices are, the more evenly they’ll cook. If you have thin and thick pieces, the small parts will be rubbery and overcooked by the time the thick pieces are done
  • Use an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to check for doneness. If you don’t have a thermometer, cut a piece and make sure the meat is white and the juices run clear
closeup of air fryer pesto chicken dinner on a plate

Storage and Reheating Tips

  • Store leftover pesto chicken covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
  • To reheat, air fry leftover pesto chicken for 2-3 minutes at 350°F. For full breasts or thighs, you need 5-6 minutes generally

More Flavorful Chicken Recipes For the Air Fryer

Final Thoughts

Air fryer pesto chicken is the perfect combination of flavor and convenience! With just two ingredients, it doesn’t get much simpler than that for an easy dinner option.

If you use breast cutlets like me, you’ll have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes, making it perfect for even the busiest weeknights. This recipe is also low carb, so it fits a variety of diets easily.

Of course, if you want to get more creative, you can make your own homemade pesto or swap in other varieties to change things up. I like to pair my chicken with some tomato pesto gnocchi and a side salad, but there are lots of great options out there!

If you do make your own pesto and have some leftovers, make sure to check out my amazing Air Fryer Pesto Salmon recipe as well for an easy way to use it up!

air fryer pesto chicken recipe dinners done quick

Air Fryer Pesto Chicken (Breast Cutlets)

This delicious air fryer chicken pesto recipe uses just 2 ingredients and is ready in under 15 minutes. It’s low carb, flavorful, and perfect for busy weeknight dinners.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 360 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Pound chicken breast cutlets (approximately ½" thick)
  • 2-3 Tbsp prepared pesto (jarred or homemade)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (or the closest setting your air fryer has)
  • Trim any fat from the chicken, then coat both sides of each chicken breast cutlet with pesto. You can place them in a bowl or bag and toss them if you find that easier
    1 Pound chicken breast cutlets, 2-3 Tbsp prepared pesto
  • Arrange the pesto chicken in the preheated air fryer basket in a single layer
  • Cook on the air fry setting for 6-8 minutes at 375°F, pausing halfway through to flip, until an internal temperature of 165°F is achieved
  • Serve with your favorite sides!

Notes

  • I use chicken breast cutlets because they’re quick cooking and stay moist in the air fryer. However, you can use other cuts as well! For full chicken breasts or thighs, increase cooking time to 15-18 minutes, and chicken tenders should take 12-14 minutes
  • While basil pesto is most traditional, this recipe is equally delicious with tomato or spinach pesto if you’d like a change of pace!
  • Typically, prepared pesto contains enough salt that you don’t need to add more. However, you may always add additional salt and/or pepper to taste, if desired
  • The more even your chicken breast slices are, the more evenly they’ll cook. If you have thin and thick pieces, the small parts will be rubbery and overcooked by the time the thick pieces are done
  • Store leftover pesto chicken covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
  • To reheat, air fry leftover pesto chicken for 2-3 minutes at 350°F. For full breasts or thighs, you need 5-6 minutes generally
  • Exact nutritional values will vary based on brand of ingredients, any seasonings or sides added, and actual quantity consumed, so please consider this a guideline only

Nutrition

Serving: 251gCalories: 360kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 47gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2.3gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 2149mgPotassium: 48mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 4.6gVitamin A: 72.8IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 50mgIron: 3.7mg
Keyword air fryer chicken recipes, air fryer pesto chicken, air fryer pesto chicken breast, pesto chicken breast, pesto chicken ideas, quick and easy dinner ideas
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Katie Vine