Cilantro Pesto Chicken Skewers

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Make these delicious Cilantro Pesto Chicken Skewers for your next barbecue! They are easy to make, healthy, and come out perfectly juicy every time.

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Over the past week, the sun is finally beginning to shine in many parts of the country. Although I am lucky to have sunshine most of the year in Southern California, I distinctly remember busting out my shorts and flip-flops as soon as it reached 50 degrees growing up in New England.

It also always meant it was finally time to break out the grill, get outside, and try to soak in as much good weather as we could before the inevitable late-season snowstorm hit. Today's recipe for Cilantro Pesto Chicken Skewers is perfect for those first days of warm weather when you are ready to head out and start grilling.

The secret to this recipe is in the yogurt that is used in the cilantro pesto. Not only does it significantly lower the calories and fat by replacing most of the olive oil, but it also ensures a tender and moist chicken breast. If you haven't tried it before, yogurt is a great way to tenderize meats. We also use it in this Greek Yogurt Parmesan Chicken

After some time marinating, the chicken pesto skewers can be baked or grilled. If you want to add veggies, I recommend cutting the chicken in chunks instead of strips. Cherry tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers, zucchini, or summer squash would all be a delicious addition. Serve these chicken skewers with a big green salad, brown rice, or grilled vegetables

What You'll Need

Here is everything you need to make these tasty Cilantro Pesto Skewers. 

  • Chicken breast: Boneless skinless chicken breast works great for this recipe, but you could also use boneless skinless thighs.
  • Greek yogurt: Any plain yogurt will work in the cilantro pesto marinade. The acid in the yogurt helps to tenderize the chicken and helps it soak up all the yummy pesto flavor.
  • Cilantro: This pesto marinade uses cilantro instead of the more traditional basil. However, it will also work with fresh basil, parsley, or a combination of fresh herbs.
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice adds flavor and also helps to tenderize the chicken. Make sure to use freshly squeezed lemon juice and add the zest for even more lemon flavor.
  • Garlic: Pesto should always have some garlic. Fresh garlic is best but you can swap in minced garlic or garlic powder if that's what you have.
  • Parmesan cheese: The cheese adds a salty, nutty flavor to the marinade. Nutritional yeast could also be used. If you skip the cheese, make sure to add some extra salt.
  • Almonds: Traditional pesto has pine nuts, but they can be very expensive so many times I use almonds. This adds another layer of flavor to the dish but can be omitted if needed. 

Side Dish Ideas

There are so many options for side dishes for this pesto chicken. Consider serving these skewers with:

How to Make a Chicken Skewer

There are a few different ways to make chicken skewers depending on what type of chicken you are using. 

For chicken breast, cut the chicken into cubes or long strands and gently thread on soaked wooden skewers. 

For chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks and push them together on the skewer. Make sure the meat is the same thickness on the skewer so it cooks evenly.

For ground chicken, form the chicken into small patties and then wrap them around the skewer, like a Middle Eastern kofta kabob. Make sure the mixture isn't loose or the meat will fall off the skewer.

When adding vegetables to any skewer, make sure they will cook in the same amount of time as the chicken. Otherwise, cook them separately so that the chicken doesn't overcook. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions about making cilantro pesto chicken skewers.

The exact cooking time for chicken skewers or kabobs will depend on the thickness of the chicken. Generally speaking, chicken skewers take 3-5 minutes per side. They should be cooked to 165 degrees. 

Absolutely! This recipe works great with basil instead of cilantro for a more traditional pesto flavor. You can also combine more than one herb for a delicious pesto.

This recipe works great whether the chicken is cooked on skewers or without. Just leave the chicken in larger pieces. Cook on the grill for 4-5 minutes per side, as you would normal grilled chicken.

The Recipe
Cilantro pesto chicken skewers served on wooden skewers on a plate.

Cilantro Pesto Chicken Skewers

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  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. almonds
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.33 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast

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Pulse everything except the chicken in a food processor to create the pesto. Cut the chicken into 1 inch strips. If you plan on adding veggies, cut the chicken into squares. Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least 30 minutes or overnight.


Thread the chicken onto skewers. Make sure to soak wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes before using to prevent burning.


To grill: Grill on a medium to medium hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side or until chicken is fully cooked.


To bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the skewers on a baking sheet covered in foil. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is fully cooked.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2 skewers
Amount Per Serving
Calories 230
Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 77mg
Sodium 125mg
Total Carbohydrate 3g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 2g
Protein 35g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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