Try my Caprese chicken when you want a spin on the classic Caprese salad that packs in the protein! I’ve layered pesto, fresh mozzarella, and sliced heirloom tomatoes on top of chicken breasts. After a quick pop in the oven and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, you’ll be ready for dinner! It’s delicious and easy enough for a weeknight meal.
A good Caprese salad is a thing of beauty. This simple yet flavorful dish comes to us from Italy and features the colors of the Italian flag:
- Green (basil)
- White (sliced fresh mozzarella)
- Red (sliced fresh tomatoes)
To serve, these ingredients are commonly arranged artfully on the plate and then drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil. When you use high-quality mozzarella and seasonal tomatoes, this salad is divine. If you think the best food must involve complicated recipes, perhaps you’ve never had the pleasure of a good Caprese salad.
Honestly, I’d happily enjoy a Caprese salad as a light vegetarian main dish. When I want to capture these flavors in something more substantial, this Caprese chicken really hits the spot.
And don’t worry volume eaters, we’re filling our plate with some non-starchy veggie sides for additional volume. I chose side salads and fresh jicama sprinkled with tajin. The salad greens were picked fresh from my garden that day.
Feel free to substitute with any non-starchy veggies that you’d prefer.
By the way, if you ever feel like a serving size I’ve listed doesn’t offer enough volume, try adding more non-starchy veggies! This is one of my key tips if you are struggling with a weight loss goal because you often feel hungry. Non-starchy veggies are high in filling fiber and fluid volume but low in calories, so load up on them!
Anyhoo, back to the Caprese chicken…
How to make Caprese chicken: your new favorite weeknight dinner idea
We’re keeping things as easy as possible with this Caprese chicken recipe. For one, instead of using fresh basil, I’ve slathered the chicken breasts with pesto.
You can use your preferred brand of store-bought pesto. As an alternative, try my recipe for carrot greens pesto. Have you checked it out yet?
You can actually use just about any sort of green you have for pesto if you don’t have some fresh basil kicking around. Some of my radish plants are bolting, and you can bet I’ll be salvaging the radish leaves by using them to make pesto! You might be surprised at how similar basil pesto tastes when you compare it to pesto made with other greens.
Second, you can make life easier on yourself if you use chicken breasts that are about the same in thickness and size. This will help ensure that they will all be done cooking at the same time. If they are not the same thickness, you could pound the larger pieces of chicken so they are thinner.
As you can see, my chicken breasts were not all the same size and I did not bother with the pounding. (Lazy! Hahaha)
I’m going to be honest here; the smaller piece did end up slightly drier than his larger brethren. That said, I think it’s still fine to skip the pounding if you are in a rush. It really wasn’t that much of a difference.
Here’s one more tip for finishing your homemade Caprese chicken.
Finally, instead of taking the time to reduce the balsamic vinegar for drizzling, I recommend using it as-is. (Also, health-wise, reducing the vinegar concentrates the sugars, creating what counts as an added sugar. It’s such a small amount that I don’t think it matters much, but it’s good to know.)
Another alternative to the reduced balsamic vinegar (and another source of added sugar, FYI) is saba. Saba is a reduction of unaged grape must which has not been fermented like balsamic vinegar. It tastes sweet and is a tasty condiment to use on fresh fruit, certain cheeses, or ice cream.
After I came across saba on a trip to Italy, I knew I wanted to obtain a bottle for home use. You can buy it here.
I’ve been finding myself using the saba more on savory dishes (such as this one) versus sweet. It’s a nice little shortcut if you don’t want to be bothered with reducing balsamic vinegar.
As mentioned above though, saba does count as added sugar since it is essentially an unfermented concentration of fruit. It provides 40 calories per tablespoon, quite a bit more than the ~10 calories per tablespoon in regular balsamic vinegar. If you are aiming for fat loss, sticking with regular balsamic vinegar will save you a few carbs and calories.
Since pesto typically contains quite a bit of olive oil, I felt there was no need to drizzle this Caprese chicken with more. The coating of pesto helps to keep the chicken moist while baking as an added benefit.
Even if your vacation plans got canceled this summer, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy Mediterranean flavors at home. I hope that you enjoy this easy recipe and that it makes your family dinner time a little more special!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let’s get cooking!
Caprese Chicken Recipe – So Easy!
- 2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (907 grams; equals 3-4 pieces of chicken)
- 6 tablespoons pesto (I used homemade carrot greens pesto)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced (227 grams)
- 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thin
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or saba (I used saba)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional, for garnish)
- oil spray of choice
- 8 cups salad greens (I used my garden lettuce but arugula would be classic to pair with Caprese ingredients)
- 1 large cucumber, chopped
- 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 6 tablespoons salad dressing of choice (I used one that was low oil and ~40 calories per tablespoon)
- 20-40 ounces jicama, peeled and sliced into sticks 567-1134 grams (I used 10 ounces/283 grams per plate)
- tajin (optional, for sprinkling on jicama)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Mist a glass baking dish (one large enough to fit the chicken in a single layer) with the cooking oil spray.
- If your chicken breasts are not all about the same thickness, you can pound the larger ones so they cook more evenly. Alternatively, you can be like me and skip this step. Haha
- Put the chicken in the prepared baking dish and spread the pesto on the chicken. You should have enough pesto to completely cover the top of the chicken, as shown.
- Put the chicken in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. The exact amount of time it takes will depend on the thickness of your chicken breasts.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and top with the fresh mozzarella. Add a layer of tomato slices on top of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. The cheese should begin to melt over the sides of the chicken and the tomatoes should become very soft.
- Remove the chicken from the oven again and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar or saba. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh basil. Your main course is complete!
- Plate the chicken and add the following to each plate:- A side salad composed of 2 cups salad greens, ¼ chopped cucumber, 3 quartered cherry tomatoes, and 1½ tablespoons salad dressing- 5-10 ounces (142-284 grams) of jicama sticks sprinkled with tajin (if desired)
- Feel free to substitute any non-starchy veggies that you'd prefer. Enjoy!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The calorie count on the recipe includes the Caprese chicken and sides. The Caprese chicken alone provides approximately 550 calories. It’s a big meal that was an extremely satisfying way to end the day after eating a light breakfast and lunch. It might come as a surprise that this meal of mostly lean protein and non-starchy veggies is not a low-calorie meal. However, the olive oil-heavy pesto and generous amount of cheese are ingredients that add a significant amount of calories quickly. In addition, I went with a double serving of the chicken (8 ounces/227 grams versus my usual 4-6 ounces/113-170 grams). I was hungry and wanted a whole piece of chicken to myself! lol If you want a lighter (level 1) meal, here’s how I’d do it:
- Use less mozzarella (slice it thinner, so you still get good coverage of the chicken).
- Cut the portion of Caprese chicken in half (i.e., have this recipe serve 8 instead of 4, so each serving includes 4 ounces/113 grams of chicken).
- Use balsamic vinegar instead of saba.
- Keep the veggie sides I listed! Feel free to add more non-starchy veggies to your plate as desired.
- If you are making your own pesto for this recipe, consider experimenting with using a little less olive oil.
Have you ever tried saba? How about Caprese salad? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
As always, feedback is appreciated if you try my Caprese chicken recipe. You can leave me a comment and a rating below!