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Try this chicken pesto sandwich for a mouthwatering meal! It stars grilled chicken with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil pesto.

Chicken Pesto Sandwich
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Looking for the chicken recipe of your dreams? Try this Chicken Pesto Sandwich! It starts with juicy grilled chicken, seasoned to perfection with a savory mix of spices. Throw it onto grilled ciabatta bread, then top with baby arugula, soft fresh mozzarella cheese and juicy tomato slices. The crowning glory is a mound of bright green herbaceous basil pesto. Take one bite and you’ll see what makes this one of our favorite sandwich recipes to date.

Ingredients for this chicken pesto sandwich

A chicken pesto sandwich can be made in many ways: simply combine basil pesto with chicken on bread in any number of combinations! But we like it best as a variation on a Caprese sandwich: with fresh mozzarella and tomato to optimize the color, texture and flavor contrasts. It’s best if you can make this sandwich with homemade basil pesto, but purchased works in a pinch. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts, organic if possible
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Ciabatta bread
  • Baby arugula
  • Tomato slices
  • Basil pesto
Grilled Chicken

Tips for cooking the chicken

For the best chicken pesto sandwich, make it with grilled chicken! This infuses irresistible smoky notes for the best overall flavor. But if you don’t have a grill, you can also pan fry the chicken! Here are a few notes on the cooking method:

  • Butterfly the chicken first. Butterflying chicken is simply cutting it in half horizontally, which helps it to cook more evenly and results in a more juicy, well-seasoned breast. Go to the instructions below!
  • For best results, grill the chicken. Make our Grilled Chicken recipe for the best flavor. This involves a 30 minute marinade time and just 2 to 4 minutes per side on a grill preheated to high heat.
  • Or, pan sear the chicken! You can do the same recipe in a skillet! Cook the butterflied, seasoned chicken in olive oil over medium high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side. You can skip the marinading time, so it makes the recipe quicker too.
Pesto chicken sandwich

For the pesto: homemade vs storebought

The other important element of a chicken pesto sandwich is the quality of the pesto. This recipe looks and tastes best with homemade basil pesto. Of course, this isn’t always possible. We recommend using a refrigerated fresh pesto if you can find it. Here are a few notes on pesto:

  • Homemade pesto has the best flavor and bright green color. Make a batch of Basil Pesto if you can. Or try Arugula Pesto or Kale Pesto, which have a slightly spicier flavor, or even Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.
  • The best purchased option is refrigerated fresh pesto, found in the produce section. This type of pesto tends to have better flavor than pesto in jars; you can often find it sold in tubes.
  • Jarred pesto brands vary greatly in flavor (a spritz of lemon juice can help). Each different brand has a different salt and acid level, and some taste very bitter and acidic, which can overwhelm a dish. Adding a spritz of fresh lemon juice can help to improve the flavor.

Other ingredient notes

Here are a few additional notes about the ingredients in this chicken pesto sandwich:

  • Ciabatta bread is a type of Italian bread that is soft and perfect for sandwiches! Steer clear of a French baguette, which can be tough to bite through. Any other type of artisan bread works: focaccia is especially good (you can also make it homemade!).
  • Arugula adds a bit of texture and flavor variation. Make sure to buy baby arugula in a box or bag, which has a feathery texture and milder flavor. Avoid mature arugula that’s sold in bunches: the flavor is too strong.
Chicken Pesto Sandwich

Pesto chicken sandwich make ahead info

A chicken pesto sandwich is great for anytime, from cookouts to picnics to easy dinners. But does it hold up over time? This one does work well over time, but keep the following in mind:

  • Tomato and mozzarella can make the bread soggy. Layering the arugula under the mozzarella helps so it doesn’t come in contact with the bread. You may even want to add the sliced tomato just before serving if possible, or place the tomato under the chicken.
  • If serving within 2 hours, refrigeration is not needed. Cooked chicken can sit up to 2 hours at room temperature.
  • Otherwise, wrap and refrigerate or keep in a cooler until serving. The bread does become tougher when refrigerated, so allow the sandwich to come to room temperature before serving if possible.

Buy organic chicken if possible

How to find the best meat for this pesto chicken sandwich recipe? The best chicken to buy is organic. Buying organic makes sure that it is the highest quality meat that was raised sustainably. It is also free of chemicals and additives so it’s the healthiest option for eating (and it just tastes better!).

Per the USDA, organic chicken must be raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not given antibiotics or hormones.

More sandwich recipes

Love a great sammie? This chicken pesto sandwich works for either lunch or dinner, making it super versatile for meals throughout the week. Here are a few more sandwich recipes you might enjoy:

This chicken pesto sandwich is…

Gluten-free with gluten-free bread. For dairy free, use vegan pesto and omit the cheese.

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Chicken Pesto Sandwich

Chicken Pesto Sandwich

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Marinating Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 to 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 4 1x


Try this chicken pesto sandwich for a mouthwatering meal! It stars grilled chicken with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil pesto.


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound, organic if possible), butterflied or cutlets
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices ciabatta bread (or focaccia bread, or another artisan style bread)
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 2 tomato slices
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil pesto
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


  1. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. If not already butterflied, place your hand over the top of each chicken breast. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice the breast horizontally, leaving the edge intact so it can open up like a book (or butterfly!). Unfold the breast like a book, then cut along the fold to separate the two halves.
  2. Add the chicken to a container and add the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix with your hands until evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  3. Preheat a grill to high heat (450 to 550°F)*. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the ciabatta bread.
  4. Grill the chicken breasts until grill marks appear and it releases from the grates, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until no longer pink in the center and the internal temperature is 165°F, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove to a platter and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes for maximum juiciness.
  5. Grill the ciabatta until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  6. Place the arugula in a bowl and mix with a small drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. To make the sandwich, on one slice of bread layer arugula, fresh mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, pesto, and sliced tomato (seasoned with 2 pinches of salt). Top with the remaining bread slice and enjoy.


*You can also pan fry the chicken by cooking it in a skillet with olive oil over medium high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side (skip the marinading time).

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Chicken

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!