Chicken Pesto Pizza

5 from 7 votes
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Homemade chicken pesto pizza topped with fresh Italian ingredients. Shredded chicken breast, ripe tomatoes, basil pesto, and melty mozzarella baked on a crispy crust.

Try my Hawaiian pizza or meat lover’s pizza for more delicious pizza recipes.

Chicken pesto pizza cut into slices.

Recipe Science

  • The high heat of baking a chicken pesto pizza ensures the crust becomes crispy while the toppings cook evenly, enhancing the overall texture and flavor.
  • Spreading pesto sauce on the pizza provides a rich, herbaceous base, where the oil in the pesto helps to distribute flavors evenly across the pizza.
  • Cooking the chicken beforehand ensures it is fully cooked and tender and allows it to release juices that enhance the flavor of the pesto and other toppings during baking.

Why It Works

Try something new on your next family pizza night. Instead of using traditional marinara sauce, try a fresh basil pesto. The aromatic herbs, garlic, cheese, and nuts add a gourmet flavor. Super sweet and juicy tomatoes add that missing tomato sauce element and complement the garden-inspired ingredients.

If you have leftover roasted chicken, this is a great way to use it on a new meal. Freshly grated mozzarella cheese locks all the ingredients together when melted. I sprinkle a little parmesan before serving to add a pleasant saltiness.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this chicken pesto pizza recipe.
  • Dough: Making homemade pizza dough is easy with just 5 ingredients. If you have bread flour, instant yeast, olive oil, salt, and water, you can turn them into a stretchy pizza crust in just a few hours. Make it the day before to grab and use the next day. Of course, store-bought dough works too. You’ll need 1 pound of dough per pizza.
  • Pesto: I use my homemade pesto sauce or basil pesto. Fresh basil leaves are the base of the sauce, giving a slightly peppery, anise, and mint flavor. Parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and pecorino romano add a rich, spicy taste to the herb sauce. The recipe makes a ½ cup.
  • Mozzarella: A grateable cheese, like mozzarella, has enough moisture to melt and liquefy at around 130ºF (54ºC). It’s soft due to the high levels of water locked in between the casein protein network. It has a mild flavor to let the pesto sauce shine through.
  • Parmesan: Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top right before serving to add a sharp, nutty taste. It’s a hard, dry cheese that doesn’t melt well.
  • Chicken: Any leftover shredded chicken, breast, or thigh works.
  • Tomatoes: Even though we don’t have a traditional red sauce, I still use fresh tomatoes as a topping. Use small, ripe cherry tomatoes. The sweet and natural savory glutamate flavor compounds concentrate for a robust taste as they cook down.
  • Garnish: Toasted pine nuts and fresh basil elevate the pesto chicken pizza flavor.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make this chicken pesto pizza recipe, there are various ways to customize the pie!

  • Dough: For convenience, you can pick up 1-pound raw pizza dough from the refrigerated section at most grocery stores. Pre-baked crusts are another quick alternative. Just follow the package directions for the bake temperature and time.
  • Pesto: Purchase store-bought pesto. I prefer the refrigerated options for the brightest flavor. The cooked jarred products have a muddled, dull taste that’s not as vibrant. If you have time, make it from scratch, and you’ll taste the difference. 
  • Chicken: Use leftover chicken that is shredded or diced. If you need to cook it from scratch, no problem! Try my stovetop method or bake it to make a big batch. Cooked ground chicken or slices of chicken sausage can be added to the pizza.
  • Tomatoes: If desired, you can use other types of tomatoes like Cocktail or Roma. Slice big pieces thin and into smaller wedges. They contain a lot of water, so you don’t want the top of the pizza to get too wet. Alternatively, pieces of sun-dried tomatoes also make a delicious option.
  • Cheese: Try white cheddar or fresh mozzarella slices. Pecorino romano or Parmigiano Reggiano adds a savory nutty flavor.

How to Make Chicken Pesto Pizza

Step 1: Prepare the Dough

Let the chilled pizza dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to make it easier to work with. It will stretch more freely.

Step 2: Preheat the Oven

The oven should be nice and hot before adding the pizza. Set the own rack to the lowest position, and heat to 500ºF.

Step 3: Prepare the Pan

Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. The fat and granules add texture for a delightful contrast between toppings and crust. The cornmeal also prevents the dough from sticking to the pan.

Jessica using her fingertips to shape the dough into a circle.

Step 4: Shape the Dough

On a floured work surface, use your hands to stretch and shape the dough into a 10-inch circle. You can use more flour if it’s sticky, but don’t add too much, or it will become tough. Transfer the dough to the oiled baking sheet. Form it into a 12-inch circle.

Olive oil being brushed on the edge of a pizza crust with pesto sauce.

Step 5: Add the Sauce

Spread the pesto sauce evenly on the dough first. I like to brush the edges with olive oil so it bakes up golden brown and crispy.

Sliced tomatoes being added to the chicken pesto pizza.

Step 6: Layer the Toppings

Layer the mozzarella cheese on top, followed by the chicken and tomatoes, to help bind the ingredients when the cheese melts. Before baking, I sprinkle salt and pepper to season the fruit and help bring the juices to the surface for quick evaporation.

Chicken pesto pizza on a baking sheet hot out the oven.

Step 6: Bake the Pizza

Bake at a high 500ºF (260ºC) on the lowest rack in the oven. The crust should be golden brown on the bottom and edges, and the cheese should be bubbling.

Chicken pesto pizza cut into slices on a wooden cutting board.

Step 7: Garnish and Serve

Before serving, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, and fresh basil. Slice it up and take a bite of the delicious pie.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pesto sauce healthier than tomato sauce?

Pesto sauce is made with fresh herbs and quality extra-virgin olive oil. There are many health benefits from the monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants in the oil. Compared to tomato sauce, there is more fat and sodium due to adding oil and cheese. However, some tomato sauces contain added sugars. Make sure to read product labels if not made from scratch.

What’s the difference between pesto and pasta sauce?

Pesto is a thick paste to toss with pasta or spread on bread like focaccia or pizza dough. It can be used as a pasta sauce but needs to be mixed well. Other pasta sauces can be cream-based, like alfredo, or tomato-based, like marinara. They are much more pourable.

Can I use a ready-made pizza crust?

Yes, par-baked or frozen crusts can be used. Make sure to follow the package directions. Frozen crusts may need to be defrosted first.

How do you prevent fresh pesto sauce from browning?

When making homemade pesto, note that the bright green leaves turn brown once cut due to an enzyme released. To prevent this, blanch and shock the basil for 20 seconds before making the sauce. If used right away, you can skip the blanching, as it will be covered in cheese. However, if you plan to store the pesto for several days, don’t skip this step.

Serve This With

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Chicken Pesto Pizza

A delicious homemade chicken pesto pizza topped with Italian-inspired ingredients and baked on a flavorful crispy crust.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal, optional
  • ½ cup pesto sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon sliced basil

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Dough – Allow the prepared pizza dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the lowest position and set the temperature to 500ºF (260ºC).
  • Prepare the Pan – Lightly brush a large baking sheet with olive oil. Evenly sprinkle cornmeal on the pan, if desired.
  • Shape the Dough – On a lightly floured surface, stretch and shape the dough into a 10-inch circle—transfer to the baking sheet. Use your fingers to press into a 12-inch circle. Leave the edges slightly thicker, about ½-inch tall and wide.
  • Add the Sauce – Brush olive oil on the edges to make the crust crispier when baked. Spread the pesto on the dough.
  • Add the Toppings – Layer the dough with mozzarella cheese, chicken, and tomatoes. Evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake – Cook until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Serve – Garnish with parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and basil. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve immediately while still hot.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Using my Pizza Dough Recipe: It makes enough for two pizzas. Double the topping ingredients, or use 1 crust and save the other for later.
  • Storing: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Place on a sheet pan and broil on the lowest rack until cheese is hot and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, microwave in 30-second intervals until the cheese melts.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 325kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 30g (10%)Protein 16g (32%)Fat 16g (25%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 36mg (12%)Sodium 746mg (31%)Potassium 111mg (3%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 601IU (12%)Vitamin C 4mg (5%)Calcium 171mg (17%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Jay Alhadeff says

    Let’s say we didn’t want to add tomatoes as some members of my family don’t do tomatoes, could I add Eggplant?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you can add eggplant to the pizza. I would cut them into thin slices. It may have a slightly bitter flavor if you don’t salt them first.