Welcome to Fearless Meals, a column where we help you get through your busy week with speedy, easy, low-stress dinner recipes that call for 5 ingredients or less from our favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s.
There are a few things I simply can’t get enough of in the warm summer months: cherries, corn, and fresh pesto. While I’m not lucky enough to possess a green thumb, my mother-in-law is an avid gardener who generously shares the bushels of basil that overflow her backyard. In summers past, I’d blitz the leaves into a homemade pesto. But between house hunting and ramping up as a freelance writer and editor this year, my food processor has sat untouched.
When I don’t have time to make my own, there’s only one store-bought option I turn to again and again: Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto. I stumbled across it years ago when picking up ingredients for pizza and tossed one in my shopping cart as my new try of the week. I was skeptical that this vegan version—it’s cheese-free and swaps pine nuts for cashew butter—could hold up against the homemade kind, but it’s been a staple in my household ever since. It’s delicious.
I’ve used the pesto in many ways, and my favorite by far is this 3-ingredient baked chicken that calls for TJ’s pesto, panko breadcrumbs, and chicken thighs. It takes less than 10 minutes to prep and only 20 minutes to cook, making it a true 30-minute weeknight dinner.
Most importantly, it’s a hit with my four-year-old, who tends to reject any foods with a hint of green. The combination of juicy chicken thighs with pesto and crunchy panko breadcrumbs seemed to be an exception—yes, even with the kale in the pesto.
How To Make 3-Ingredient Trader Joe’s Baked Pesto Chicken
For four servings, you’ll need the following. I’m counting salt and pepper as freebie ingredients:
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds)
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. If needed, trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and lay each piece flat in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon and spread 1 teaspoon of the pesto over each chicken thigh, adding more if needed to completely cover the surface. Sprinkle on the panko breadcrumbs and press down gently with a spoon or your hands to adhere.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
What I Serve With Baked Pesto Chicken
Since the oven is already on, I usually toss some veggies on a sheet pan and pop it onto the second rack. Roasted green beans and broccoli are always a hit; an ear of sweet corn is currently my favorite summer companion to this pesto chicken. A salad is great, too.
If your kids (like mine) love carbs, I’ve found the 10-minute farro at Trader Joe’s to be a nice whole-grain substitute for rice that cooks up quickly.
More Delicious Ways to Use Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto
You’ll have leftover pesto to use up, but getting through it is quite easy. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy it:
- The same pesto and panko combo is wonderful on salmon.
- Spread it on TJ’s Indian Style Flatbreads and top with sliced mozzarella to make individual “pizzas.”
- Cook your favorite pasta, combine it with some pesto, and top with dollops of ricotta for a vibrant vegetarian dinner.
- Use it in place of regular pesto in pasta salad.
- Spoon on top of a grain bowl.
- Spread on bread to amp up summer BLTs and grilled chicken sandwiches.
- Swirl with mayo to make a pesto aioli for wraps or a dip for crudités.