Pesto chicken salad is a light and bright version featuring a yogurt-based spinach and basil pesto. Serve as a sandwich, wrap or with crackers or greens.
Chicken salad is a classic in our family and we use it in so many different ways.
It can be a sandwich, atop a salad, stuffed into a wrap or laid out on a cold platter with other dips, veggies, cheese and bread.
I adore it for lunch and sometimes I even use it as an easy dinner.
Today though, we're going for a pesto twist.
I'm a pesto lover through and through. The stuff is just magic.
So I end up adding it to all kinds of foods and dishes. (See my pesto tuna salad for another yummy lunch.)
And today's recipe features a creamy spinach and basil pesto, made with Greek yogurt instead of oil, that gets mixed with the tender chunks of chicken and the crunchy bits of celery.
You get a beautiful chicken salad mix that's just bursting with flavor!
Bonus, it's healthy too!
OK, let's get cooking.
Now, I’ve got some notes, tips and substitutions coming up below on how to make pesto chicken salad. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
- Chicken: The chicken for this recipe needs to be cooked and cooled, so please plan accordingly. You can roast it, boil it or use a rotisserie chicken from the store.
- Greek yogurt: I use all Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2% are fine) but you could substitute in some mayonnaise if you prefer.
- Nuts: Most pesto calls for pine nuts, but I find walnuts work great as well. Plus they are much cheaper and last longer! Use whichever you prefer.
- Basil: You need a full CUP of fresh basil for this recipe, which is a lot.
I also love that you can enjoy this salad a million ways.
- Scoop and serve on salad greens as an actual salad. Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes are good additions here too.
- Serve with crackers for scooping and eating. I love some sliced cheese to go with it as well.
- Make a pesto chicken salad sandwich with some whole grain bread and extra mayo, or mustard, spread on it. A sandwich is great with baby spinach or fresh greens as well.
- Or make an open-faced sandwich of sorts with some toasted baguette slices and the chicken salad piled on top.
- Use your chicken salad for a wrap with whole wheat, spinach or regular tortillas. Or use a lettuce wrap for a low-carb option.
- Spoon the pesto chicken salad into mini phyllo cups or wonton cups for serving as an appetizer.
It's super versatile. And it travels great if you're packing lunch for the office. 👍
Last thing, let's talk about how to store it.
How to Store:
- Pesto chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- You can store it in a plastic container with a lid or in a bowl with a top or covered in plastic wrap. You can also store it in a ziptop bag.
- I do not recommend freezing chicken salad.
Oh and also, you’ll have some extra pesto from this recipe. You are welcome. Go find some bread and go.to.town.
I hope you try this soon to liven up lunchtime!
For the pesto:
- 1 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat)
- 1 cup packed spinach leaves
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- Juice of one lemon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the chicken salad:
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (about 3 cups worth)
- ½ cup celery, diced small (optional)
- 1 cup pesto (more or less, to your liking)
- Make the pesto by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor. Mix until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Mix with the diced chicken and celery, if using, to get everything well coated. You probably won't need all of the pesto - just add it until you like the mix. Extra pesto is great on bread, as a sandwich spread or on a spoon.
- Enjoy immediately or let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It gets more and more delicious. Enjoy!
Chicken: The chicken for this recipe needs to be cooked and cooled, so please plan accordingly. You can roast it, boil it or use a rotisserie chicken from the store.
Greek yogurt: I use all Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2% are fine) but you could substitute in some mayonnaise if you prefer.
Nuts: Most pesto calls for pine nuts, but I find walnuts work great as well. Plus they are much cheaper and last longer! Use whichever you prefer.
Serving Ideas: Serve as a sandwich, wrap, as a salad, with crackers, with veggies or in mini phyllo or wanton cups.
Storing: Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 342mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 17g