Grilled Chicken with Cashew Cilantro Pesto

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Grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto is a flavorful and aromatic dish, where the smoky tenderness of the chicken pairs beautifully with the rich, nutty, and herbaceous notes of the homemade pesto.

grilled chicken with pesto and cheese
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Easy Grilled Chicken with Cashew Pesto

Grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto is a culinary delight that merges the smoky and savory flavors of grilled chicken with the creamy, herbaceous burst of homemade pesto. The chicken, ideally marinated for tenderness and depth of flavor, achieves a perfect char and juiciness on the grill, making it both appetizing and succulent. The star of the dish, however, is the cashew cilantro pesto, a twist on traditional pesto that incorporates the unique combination of rich, buttery cashews and the bright, fresh taste of cilantro. This pesto, often blended with garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice, offers a creamy texture and a complex flavor profile. The lemon juice not only adds a zesty tang but also helps in preserving the vibrant green color of the cilantro, making the dish as visually appealing as it is delicious.

This dish stands out for its versatility and ease of preparation, making it a favorite for both weeknight dinners and special occasions. The grilled chicken serves as a hearty and protein-rich base, while the cashew cilantro pesto brings in a luxurious and gourmet element, elevating the entire meal. This pesto variant is particularly appealing for those looking to experiment beyond the traditional basil pine nut pesto, offering a new layer of flavor that complements the chicken beautifully. Additionally, this dish can be easily adapted to suit various dietary preferences, such as using a vegan Parmesan alternative or adjusting the amount of garlic and lemon to taste. The combination of textures – the slight crunch of the cashews in the pesto and the tender grilled chicken – ensures each bite is a delightful experience. Grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto is not just a meal but a celebration of flavors, textures, and the joy of cooking with fresh ingredients.

grilled chicken with pesto and cheese

How to Make Chicken with Pesto

Frist assemble the following ingredients:

  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup cotija cheese
  • ¼ cups cashews, unsalted raw
  • 1 cilantro leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • ½ tsp serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
grilled chicken with pesto and cheese

Tips and tricks to Perfect Grilled Pesto Chicken

Creating a delicious grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto involves a blend of techniques and flavors. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure your dish turns out perfectly:

Marinate the Chicken: For extra flavor and tenderness, marinate the chicken for at least an hour before grilling. A simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper works well.

Grill Temperature: Preheat your grill to a medium-high temperature. A hot grill ensures the chicken gets a good sear, locking in juices and creating a nice char.

Avoid Overcooking: Chicken breast can dry out quickly, so use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches the safe internal temperature of 165°F (75°C) without overcooking.

Rest the Chicken: Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after grilling. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavorful result.

Quality Ingredients for Pesto: Use fresh cilantro and high-quality cashews for the pesto. Fresh ingredients make a significant difference in flavor.

Toasting Cashews: Lightly toast the cashews before blending them into the pesto. This enhances their nutty flavor and adds depth to the pesto.

Balanced Pesto Texture: When making the pesto, aim for a smooth yet slightly chunky texture. Over-blending can make it too pasty.

Adjust Pesto Consistency: If the pesto is too thick, thin it out with a little extra olive oil or lemon juice.

Seasoning the Pesto: Don’t forget to season your pesto. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as needed.

Serving the Pesto: Serve the pesto on the side or spoon it over the grilled chicken just before serving to maintain its vibrant color and fresh flavor.

Experiment with Add-Ins: Feel free to add other ingredients to your pesto, like Parmesan cheese, garlic, or a pinch of chili flakes for added flavor.

Storage of Leftover Pesto: Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the fridge. A layer of olive oil on top can help preserve its color.


How can I prevent the chicken from drying out on the grill?

Marinate the chicken beforehand to add moisture and flavor. Also, ensure your grill is at medium-high heat and avoid overcooking by using a meat thermometer to check for a safe internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).

Can I use chicken thighs instead of breasts?

Absolutely! Chicken thighs can be more flavorful and juicier than breasts. Just adjust cooking times accordingly, as thighs may take longer to cook through.

What’s the best way to achieve a smooth yet chunky pesto?

Pulse the ingredients in a food processor or blender until they reach the desired consistency. It’s best to blend in short bursts and check frequently.

How do I store leftover pesto, and how long will it last?

Store leftover pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Drizzle a layer of olive oil on top to help preserve its color and freshness.

Can I make this dish with a different nut or herb?

Certainly! Almonds or pine nuts can replace cashews, and basil or parsley can be used in place of cilantro for a different flavor profile.

How can I make the pesto creamier?

Add a bit more olive oil or a small amount of water to adjust the consistency. Some people also like to add a bit of Parmesan cheese for creaminess and flavor.

Can I make this recipe dairy-free or vegan?

Yes, you can omit any cheese in the pesto for a dairy-free version. For a vegan option, use a plant-based substitute for the chicken.

How do I know when the chicken is properly grilled?

The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C) and its juices run clear. A meat thermometer is the best way to check for doneness.

grilled chicken with pesto and cheese

What to Enjoy with Your Chicken

Grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto pairs well with a variety of sides and accompaniments. Here’s a list of items that complement it well:

Steamed Rice or Quinoa: Serve with steamed white, brown rice, or quinoa as a simple yet perfect base to soak up the flavors.

Roasted Vegetables: Pair with roasted vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or asparagus for a healthy and colorful side.

Pasta or Noodles: Toss some pasta or noodles with a bit of the pesto for an easy and flavorful side dish.

Salad Greens: A fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette can balance the richness of the pesto.

Grilled Corn on the Cob: Complement the meal with some grilled corn on the cob, brushed with butter and sprinkled with herbs.

Garlic Bread: Serve with warm garlic bread to mop up the delicious pesto.

Couscous or Farro: A side of couscous or farro can add a nice texture contrast and soak up the pesto flavors.

Sweet Potato Fries: Oven-baked sweet potato fries can be a delightful and slightly sweet accompaniment.

Lemon Wedges: A squeeze of fresh lemon adds brightness and complements the cilantro in the pesto.

Avocado Slices: Creamy avocado slices can add richness and complement the nutty flavors of the cashew pesto.

A Glass of White Wine: A crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio pairs beautifully with the dish.

Grilled Pineapple: For a touch of sweetness, grilled pineapple makes a great accompaniment.

Try these other chicken recipes next:

Grilled Chicken with Cashew Cilantro Pesto Recipe

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Grilled chicken topped with cashew cilantro pesto served on a blue plate.

Grilled Chicken Cashew Cilantro Pesto

Grilled chicken with cashew cilantro pesto is a savory and aromatic dish, featuring succulent grilled chicken topped with a rich, nutty pesto made from fresh cilantro and crunchy cashews, offering a delightful fusion of flavors and textures.
Course Chicken
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, gluten free, keto, keto chicken, main dish, paleo, poultry
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 313kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell


  • 6 chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup cotija cheese

For Cashew Cilantro Pesto

  • ¼ cups cashews unsalted raw
  • 1 cilantro leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • ½ tsp serrano chile seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  • Add cashews to food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  • Add other pesto ingredients and blend until slightly runny and spreadable.
  • Taste and add sea salt if needed.
  • Preheat your grill to medium high.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper, grill about 8 minutes on each side until 165F degrees internally.
  • Top with cashew pesto, cheese, and enjoy.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 313kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 328mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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