This pesto chicken salad recipe was derived from a recipe from my neighbor and friend, Renee! This chicken salad evolved from one of her delicious pasta salad recipes, so I have to give credit where credit is due! We love chicken salad in our house, so I adjusted this recipe. If you love chicken salad as much as we do, give this pesto chicken salad recipe a try.
Let’s start by talking about the chicken, as you can do this a few different ways. For this recipe, I slow cooked four large chicken breasts for 2-3 hours. It will depend on your slow cooker, but I cooked them on high just long enough for the chicken to be easily shredded with two forks. I did this a day ahead, so the chicken could cool in the refrigerator before throwing the salad all together.
You can also use rotisserie chickens for this. The flavor is amazing with rotisserie chickens, and it’s pretty easy to pick the meat off of the bones to make the salad. I would use 2 small chickens for this.
This recipe makes a lot of chicken salad, so make it for a crowd! Or you can do what we do, and freeze half of it. It freezes so well, and it’s awesome to have extras on hand. When you try this recipe, you will love it so much that you will definitely want to have extra around.
For this recipe, I use store-bought pesto. My favorite is Buitoni, which can be found in the cooler section of your grocery store. I think it’s better than any of the shelf-stable types. You can also make your own pesto! I would prefer to do this in the summer when basil is plentiful, but in the cooler months, it’s easier to buy pesto.
To toast your pine nuts, lay them out on a baking sheet and pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Bake for about 5 minutes, and remove them from the oven. Let cool, and add them to your salad.
The Salad Itself
Once you decide what type of chicken you are going to use, this recipe is super simple. Take your shredded chicken and add it to a bowl. To that, add your pesto, dried cranberries, ranch dressing, Parmesan, and toasted pine nuts and mix together until combined.
Serve your pesto chicken salad on a bed of greens, on a roll, in a wrap, or just eat it by the spoonful! You can cut this recipe in half, but I would recommend making the whole thing and freezing half. Your will crave it once you’ve had it!
Pesto Chicken Salad
- 1 slow cooker
- 2 forks to shred chicken
- 1 small sheet pan
- 1 Large Bowl
- Measuring Cups
- Large Spoon
- 4 Large chicken breasts
- 22 Ounces basil pesto 2, 11 oz tubs Buitoni Pesto
- 1/2 Cup ranch dressing
- 1/2 Cup dried cranberries
- 4 Ounces pine nuts toasted
- 1 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Slow cook your chicken breasts in a crockpot for about 2 hours on high, or until they are done enough to shred with a fork. Shred them up and put them in the fridge to cool. You can do this the day prior to save time. You can also use rotisserie chickens for this, and pick the chicken off the bones.Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Place your pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes. This can also be done in a frying pan on your stove top.To a bowl, add your chicken, pesto, ranch, Parmesan, dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts. Stir until well combined.Eat this cold chicken salad on a bed of greens, in a wrap, on a bun.. or just by the spoonful!