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Pistachio Pesto Crusted Chicken – Gluten Free and Dairy Free

Gluten Free Dairy Free Pesto Chicken

This post is linked to Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays , The Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten Free Wednesdays and The W.H.O.L.E. Gang’s Friday Foodie Fix.

We have all been saying it lately.  The basil runneth over right now.  I have it coming out of my ears and am adding it to everything – chopped in salads, sprinkled on chicken, added to pastas, and, of course, PESTO, PESTO, PESTO!! My boys (who are normally great lovers of all things basil) have officially informed me that they are tired of anything with “green sauce or green flecks”.

I promised them I would go on a little basil hiatus if they humored me with one more meal involving it.  I decided to change up my pesto recipe a bit and added pistachios (which are a favorite with my boys) and a quick squeeze of lemon.  I spread it under the skin of some chicken, spooned a little more on top, and tossed in the oven for a bit and, viola! Dinner. Done. Even better, was that the boys thought it was great!  The pistachios lent a very rich and luxurious taste to this dish.  I even pulled off making it again when Heidi (of The Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom) and her family stopped over on their way to California.

So although I am officially on a basil break, I wanted to share this recipe with you in case you have not quite maxed out on your basil intake!  And for the record, I did just freeze a dozen mason jars filled with this pesto recipe so that I will have some on hand when the basil is not so plentiful and my kids are again itching for some “green sauce”.

Pistachio Pesto Crusted Chicken – Gluten Free and Dairy Free

(Note: this recipe is NOT Nut Free but see notes next to the Pistachio ingredient for a Nut-Free option)


1/3 cup shelled roasted pistachios –  unsalted are best so that you can add your own salt for seasoning (Note: for a Nut-Free version use equal amounts sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds)

3 cloves garlic – I roughly chopped mine first before putting in in the food processor, but I love Amy’s idea (of  Simply Sugar and Gluten Free) of grating it with a microplane instead

4 cups basil leaves, tightly packed

1/2 teaspoon celtic se salt, or more to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 pounds organic bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces – I used thighs here


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  While oven is heating, place shelled pistachios in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse until they are coarsely ground.  Then add chopped garlic and pulse again a couple more times.

3. Add basil leaves and salt and turn the processor back on. While it is running, remove the food chute and pour the olive oil in a steady stream.  Add the lemon juice and run the processor until your pesto has reached your desired consistency.  Note: I like mine really smooth, so sometimes I have to add some additional olive oil.

4. Place chicken pieces in a large baking dish.  Season it with some addition sea salt.

5. Loosen skin away from the meat of each of the chicken pieces.  Place about a teaspoon of the pesto under the skin of each piece of chicken, taking care to not tear the skin.  You can kind of squish the pesto under the skin from the outside using your fingers so that it is evenly under the skin, if you want (although not my favorite thing to do since I have had an aversion to feeling raw chicken in my hands ever since I was pregnant – will leave out details). You can spread a little bit more of the pesto on top of each piece of chicken, if you want.

5. Place pan in the oven and bake for twenty (20) minutes.  Then, place the cherry tomatoes in the pan around the chicken, and bake for twenty (20) minutes more, or until the chicken is cooked through.  If you like your skin extra crispy, you can crack the oven open at the very end and turn the broiler on for about 2-3 minutes. Watch this carefully though since the chicken will brown FAST!

6. Serve with some additional pesto sauce, if desired, and enjoy!

Do you make a variation to the traditional pesto sauce? What are some of the unique ingredients that you have added to your pestos in the past?

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