Make this tasty Grilled Chicken Margherita in less than 20 minutes start to finish! Tender grilled chicken topped with basil pesto, melted mozzarella cheese, and fresh cherry tomatoes. So good and so easy!
This chicken is everything you want in a bright and fresh summer meal. It starts with herb grilled chicken that's cooked on the grill. Then the chicken gets coated in flavor-packed pesto, melted mozzarella cheese, and a simple cherry tomato and balsamic salad. Yum! It's ready in just 20 minutes, is healthy, and is a family favorite.
In fact, whenever I need a quick meal, I tend to reach for this recipe. When it's really hot, I serve it with a big green salad and grilled veggies. For cooler nights, I grab some angel hair pasta, quinoa, spaghetti squash, or rice.
Why You'll Love Grilled Chicken Margherita
- Just 7 ingredients (not counting oil, salt, and pepper).
- Ready in 20 minutes.
- It's light, healthy, and low carb.
- Tastes just like the Olive Garden version!
- Family favorite! Swap in marinara for the tomatoes for picky eaters.
- Chicken breast: This versatile protein is perfect for this light and healthy grilled dish. Make sure to pound out the chicken with a meat mallet to an even thickness or start with chicken cutlets so that the chicken cooks evenly on the grill.
- Spices: Since the chicken is coated with pesto, it doesn't need a ton of extra spices. A simple combination of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper creates the perfect amount of flavor. If you don't have Italian seasoning, you could swap in dried oregano or dried basil.
- Mozzarella cheese: Although the recipe calls for sliced mozzarella cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese works as well. Fresh mozzarella is also really good! Feel free to add or swap in Parmesan cheese if you prefer.
- Cherry tomatoes: With their sweet flavor and firm texture, cherry or grape tomatoes are perfect for the tomato salsa served on top. If you don't have cherry tomatoes, any fresh tomatoes will work.
- Balsamic vinegar: To kick up the flavor of the tomatoes and add some acid to the dish, balsamic vinegar is a great choice. For even more balsamic flavor, swap in balsamic glaze. The classic flavors also inspire the combination of balsamic, tomatoes, and mozzarella like you would find in Caprese salad and Caprese pasta dishes.
- Pesto: To add tons of flavor without needing lots of ingredients, basil pesto is a perfect choice. Make this homemade pesto or use your favorite store-bought brand,
Recipe Tips and Ideas
- For a dairy-free, Whole30, or Paleo option, just leave off the cheese! It still comes out packed with flavor.
- For even more flavor, marinate the chicken in the pesto the night before, like in this grilled pesto chicken recipe.
- Add some crunch and extra flavor by finishing the dish with pine nuts or thinly sliced almonds. You can also add some herbs, like fresh basil, right on top before serving.
- If you don't love pesto, you can make this dish with your favorite pasta sauce or simply marinate the chicken in Italian dressing before grilling. It will still turn out delicious.
- Add brightness to the dish with a squeeze of lemon before serving. Lemon juice can also be used in place of balsamic vinegar.
- If you prefer to cook this in a pan or skillet, simply heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes per side until it is nicely browned. Add the cheese and cover until it melts. Then add the pesto sauce and tomatoes. It can also be baked in the oven.
- If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, make sure to pack the chicken separately from the pesto, cheese, and tomato salad. Then assemble when it is time to eat. You can use leftovers to make pizza, salads, sandwiches, paninis, wraps, and more.
Side Dishes for Grilled Margherita Chicken
Whenever I am cooking on the grill, I like to stick to simple sides that I cook on the grill alongside the meal. That way I am not cooking inside and outside. No cook sides like salads are also a great option.
- Make your veggie side dish right on the grill. Try this Garlic Grilled Broccoli, some Grilled Zucchini, or perfect Grilled Corn.
- Want to feel like you are at the Olive Garden? Pair this dish with Two-Ingredient Breadsticks and this delicious Spring Mix Salad.
- Try serving this with a hearty salad like this Meditteranean Chickpea Salad or Easy Lentil Salad.
- For a simple crowd pleaser, serve this with some cooked pasta, rice, or zucchini noodles.
What is Margherita Chicken? Is it an Olive Garden Copycat?
Margherita chicken gets its name from the popular Margherita pizza, which is simply pizza with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. This is basically a grilled chicken version of the classic pizza.
Grilled Margherita Chicken gained popularity when Olive Garden began serving its own version. This dish is inspired by that Olive Garden favorite but lightened up! The Olive Garden dish is also covered with melted butter and a lemon garlic sauce to add richness.
If you would like to make a similar sauce, simply melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Then add 3 tablespoons of flour to create a roux. Whisk until the flour fully dissolves and lightly browns. Add about 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste and season as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about making this dish.
The exact length of time it takes to grill chicken breast depends on the thickness of the breast. For thinner breasts that have been pounded or cut thin, they will take 3-4 minutes per side. For thicker breasts, they can take closet to 5-6 minutes per side.
The chicken is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. It should also easily release from the grill when you flip it and the juices should run clear.
This dish will work with boneless skinless chicken thighs as well but the flavor will be slightly different since chicken thighs have a stronger flavor. Make sure to trim the thighs before cooking. They will take 4-5 minutes per side on the grill.
There are two main reasons that chicken sticks to the grill. The first is that the grill grates are dirty or coated with residue. Make sure to always clean the grill grates and then you can oil them if needed using a paper towel or grill brush.
Another reason that chicken breast sticks to the grill is that you are trying to flip it too early. Many times if the chicken is sticking, it means it needs a couple more minutes on the grill. It should naturally release when it is ready to be flipped.
Grilled Chicken Margherita
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- 24 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 6-oz filets)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 4 slices mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp pesto
- Salt and pepper to taste
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* 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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