Chicken and rice is a dish that’s beloved around the world in its various forms, but this recipe takes that traditional formula and mixes it up a bit. Instead of rice, these chicken pesto bowls have a base of quinoa. This dry good is often called a grain, but it’s actually a seed. The plant is native to South America, but has been gaining popularity over the past decade since it’s a change of pace from rice and offers more nutrients than rice does.
Quinoa has protein, fiber, and minerals and vitamins that rice simply doesn’t have. For this recipe the addition of plenty of vegetables and pesto creates a fresh chicken bowl with tons of flavor.
To make this recipe you’ll need to prepare your quinoa to the package directions. If you’ve never made it before don’t be worried by the “seed” part. They plump up just like rice or couscous in the pan and have a nice flavor. You can buy different colors of quinoa as well. For this recipe we used rainbow quinoa that has different shades in it.
Then you chop up and bake a head of broccoli, making sure to coat the pieces with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. I love roasted veggies and there’s something about broccoli that’s been browned in the oven that just ups the ante for me personally.
Then you’ll fry up your chicken breasts until golden, then add thawed, frozen peas to the pan to heat them up. Once the chicken and the broccoli are done toss the quinoa with peas, oregano, butter, and pesto. The savory, salty pesto is the perfect compliment here to the rest of the ingredients and makes this dish a comforting take on health food.
I make sure to always have a tub of pre-made pesto (from the fresh pasta section in the grocery) on hand and it keeps really well in the fridge for a long time. However, if you don’t think you’ll use that much pesto on a regular basis you can also buy shelf stable pesto in a tube or a jar, but in my opinion it doesn’t taste as good as the freshly-made stuff.
Next cut the chicken into cubes or strips (whichever you like better). In individual bowls put a layer of the seasoned quinoa, then the chicken and broccoli, then the tomato wedges. You can sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese on top if you’d like as well. Between the pesto and the Parmesan you probably won’t need to add any more salt to the recipe.
This is the kind of food that makes your body feel good, but is incredibly filling as well. If you’ve never tried making quinoa at home before this is a wonderful inaugural recipe that’s bursting with both fresh flavor and nutrients.
Chicken Pesto Bowls
25m prep time
46m cook time
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup pesto
- 5-6 plum tomatoes, quartered
- Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Prepare quinoa to package directions. Set aside when finished.
- Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil on baking sheet followed by the broccoli pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through.
- While broccoli is baking heat remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Cook chicken breasts for 6-8 minutes on each side until edges begin to brown. Season with salt and pepper and add peas to pan and cook until heated through. Remove from heat.
- Remove chicken from pan and cut into strips or cubes, whichever you prefer. Toss quinoa and with peas, oregano, butter, and pesto. Add quinoa mix to individual bowls followed by broccoli, chicken, and then tomatoes. Garnish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Recipe adapted from Our Balanced Bowl.