This superfast Chicken Pesto Pizza comes together in less than 30 minutes thanks to store-bought pizza dough, leftover chicken and ready-made pesto. The combination of the vibrant pesto and creamy cheeses is kid tested and approved! This easy pizza dinner is a great meal for a weeknight.

the pizza cut into 8 wedges

Why We Love This Recipe For Chicken Pesto Pizza

Dinner is made in an instant with Chicken Pesto Pizza! You can use store-bought pesto or pesto made straight from the garden. Make it even more convenient by using leftover cooked chicken or frozen chicken, so all you have to do is throw the ingredients on your pizza.

The combination of the vibrant pesto and creamy cheeses are sure to make this pizza a family favorite! 

Recipe Highlights

  • Fast and easy for a weeknight meal
  • Can prep the chicken and grate the cheese ahead of time
  • Great way to use leftover chicken or pesto
  • Can be customized with additional toppings or different cheeses

Key Ingredients For This Recipe

fontina cheese, cooked chicken, pizza dough, AP flour, pesto, fresh garlic, basil, parmesan, and red pepper flakes all laid out ready to make chicken pesto pizza
  • Pizza Dough: We used store-bought raw pizza dough that was refrigerated for ease. You can also use whole-grain dough too if desired. If you’re using frozen dough, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and keep in mind that dough is easiest to work with at room temperature. You can also make your own homemade whole-wheat dough.
  • Cheese: We used shredded fontina cheese for ease of melting and creaminess. It’s sweet and a bit more neutral to allow the pesto to be the star of this dish. You can also substitute low-skim shredded mozzarella, grated by hand. It’s better and faster to grate your own cheese because pre-grated contains additives like potato starch and natamycin to prevent the strands from clumping in the bag.
  • Basil Pesto: You can use store-bought or homemade fresh basil pesto. Of course it only takes five minutes to make pesto from scratch if you have a food processor, but for a busy weeknight we love this recipe with purchased pesto, use the refrigerated options instead of jarred. Refrigerated will give the most vibrant color and flavor. You can also use other types of pesto such as kale pesto or one made from another herb.
  • Chicken: This recipe is the perfect way to use up leftover cooked chicken or you can use a rotisserie chicken. You can either shred or chop up the cooked chicken. If yours is not cooked you can grill the chicken which will add a nice smoky charred flavor to the pizza. Here’s how to grill the chicken.
  • Optional Extras: To amp up the flavor of the pesto you can add in a sliced clove of garlic if you like. We also like a bit of heat so I added in a little red pepper flake or crushed red pepper. I also added on some freshly chopped basil at the end, but this is also entirely optional, so if you are short on time, skip it! Additionally, I like to add a little grated Parmesan cheese for a little added saltiness, but this is also an added step and not necessary if you are trying to streamline this pizza as much as possible.
  • Flour: Note that you’ll also want a little all-purpose flour for dusting the work surface and to keep you hands and the rolling pin from sticking to the pizza dough.

Tip: Allowing the dough out to come to room temperature allows the gluten to relax and makes it easier to work with. If you roll it out or stretch it and it bounces back, just cover it and let it relax for 10 minutes before working with it again. 

The gluten is what makes the dough stay together and gives it a chewy texture. When cold, it is tighter like a rubber band, but when warmed it will stretch out and loosen. You can take it from the bag and put it in an oiled bowl in a warm place for 30 minutes right before using it. [Or just leave it in the bag, but it may stick to it a bit. Use a little flour if it sticks as you try to get it out of the bag.]

How To Make Pesto Chicken Pizza

preheat the oven and roll out dough

Step 1: Prepare Oven

Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and begin preheating to 500 degrees F. This post from Serious Eats explains the importance of rack placement!

If you’d like to use a pizza stone or pizza steel or prefer a pan pizza refer to these pizza cooking methods here. Note: if you’re using a pizza stone, place it on the rack while the oven is preheating for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Step 2: Roll Dough

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin or similar shape. With lightly floured hands, shape it into a 12-inch circle. Don’t use too much excess flour on the surface/your hands or you’ll risk drying out the dough.

make a one inch lip around the dough and spread the pesto on

Step 3: Transfer Dough

Transfer the circular dough to a large piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel, a cutting board, or a flat cookie sheet. Adjust to make sure the dough remains in an even circle. Create a lip/edge around the outer edge of the dough by pressing outward with your fingers on one hand, while pressing inward with the fingers on your other hand. Create a 1-inch edge.

Tip: The parchment creates ease in transferring the dough from the peel/pan to the oven rack. It also allows you to move it out of the oven in the same way. We think it is the cleanest and easiest method with similar results.

Step 4: Add Pesto

Spread the pesto evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Use an offset metal spatula to best spread the pesto.

add chicken, herbs, and cheese to the pizza and then bake

Step 5: Add Cheese Chicken and Seasonings

Sprinkle the pizza evenly with Fontina cheese and parmesan. Sprinkle the chopped chicken, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using.)

Step 6: Bake The Pizza On The Oven Rack

Bake your pizza in the preheated oven, until the edge of the pizza is golden and the cheese is melted. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Tip: The size of your dough will determine your bake time. If you stretch the dough more than 12 inches, you may have a lower bake time. If using a pre-made crust like Pillsbury pizza crust, the bake time would be about 6 to 10 minutes.

overhead of the pizza cut into 8 wedges on parchment with a bowl of pesto

Step 7: Slice and Serve Pizza

Once the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, remove the pizza from the oven. Slide the pizza peel or baking sheet under the parchment to remove it from the oven. Use tongs as necessary. Cut the pizza into slices and sprinkle with chopped basil, if you’re using it.

FAQs and Expert tips

Can pesto pizza be made ahead?

In short, yes, but there are a few components to this.
-If you are making your own pizza dough, it can be made 1 to 2 days before and stored in the refrigerator. Then it has to sit out for at least 30 min to 3 hours to rise outside the fridge before using.
-You could also shred the cheese the day before to get a jump start on putting together the ingredients.
-If you’re not using leftover chicken, cook and chop that the day before.

How to store leftovers

Store leftover pizza in ziplock bags, on baking sheets (covered with foil or plastic wrap) or in resealable containers. Keep refrigerated up to 3 days. Make sure to reheat leftovers until steaming hot.

How do I reheat leftovers?

Bake leftover chicken pesto pizza at 350 degrees F (on a baking sheet) for 10 minutes.

Does the pizza cook directly on parchment paper?

The pizza bakes directly on the parchment on the oven rack, or you can use a pizza stone or steel.  The parchment will not burn but it may darken.  Another alternative is to bake on a large-rimmed baking sheet that is oiled and sprinkled with parchment. This pizza was baked in the middle rack for the most even cooking, but if you like a crispier crust, bake it on the lower rack. 

What determines the meltability of a cheese?

The moisture, fat content, and acidity all determine the meltability of the cheese. In this case, Fontina works perfectly with our recipe, and low-skim mozzarella is an easy second choice. You could also do a mixture of cheese if you’d like.

Pizza Cooking Methods:

  • Pizza stone: Place the pizza stone in your oven while it’s cold. Then, preheat it to 500F for at least 30 minutes. Slide the pizza in on a peel, back of the baking sheet, and cook it for the same amount of time as the parchment method.  
  • Pizza Steel: The new alternative to a stone is a pizza steel. The pizza cooks faster on the steel by about 3 to 5 minutes because it conducts a large amount of heat for a longer period of time and gives the crispiest of crusts.
  • Baking Sheet: You can use a baking sheet that has 2 tablespoons of oil, sprinkled with cornmeal.  Just prepare that sheet pan after you turn on the oven.

How To Grill Chicken

  • Preheat the grill to 400F, and clean the grill + oil grates.
  • With the lid closed, grill the chicken breast for 6-8 minutes per side, flipping with tongs.
  • Cook to an internal temperature of 165F.
  • Transfer to a plate to rest for 5-10 minutes before chopping.
two slices of pizza on a white plate garnished with fresh basil

Variations To Try

  • You could get more veggies in your diet by adding other fresh vegetables like red bell pepper, fresh tomatoes, broccoli, or mushrooms.
  • Add on canned or jarred veggies like artichoke hearts or sundried tomatoes
  • Adding some freshly zested lemon with a microplane after the pizza comes out of the oven gives a freshness and acidity that balances well with the pesto.
  • Top with crumbled goat cheese or goats milk feta cheese before baking. Or shave Parmesan on top of the pizza once it comes out of the oven.
  • Make mini pesto chicken pizzas on whole wheat pita breads (my kids’ favorite!)
  • If you are on a lower calorie diet, skip the fontina, and use mozzarella made with skim milk instead. You’ll save about 30 calories per slice.
  • If your family is not totally convinced about pesto pizza, blend 50% pizza sauce with half the amount of pesto.

Additional Pizza Recipes To Try

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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the pizza cut into 8 wedges

Chicken Pesto Pizza


  • Author: Laura Kanya
  • Total Time: 27 mins
  • Yield: 8 slices 1x

Description

This super fast Chicken Pesto Pizza comes together in less than 30 minutes thanks to store-bought pizza dough, leftover chicken and ready-made pesto. The combination of the vibrant pesto and creamy cheeses is kid tested and approved! This easy pizza dinner is a great meal for a weeknight.


Ingredients

Scale
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 pound pizza dough, whole grain if desired, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 6 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 1 cup chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced, optional
  • Pinch red pepper flake, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, optional

Instructions

  1. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. If using a pizza stone, place on the rack, while preheating for a minimum of 30 minutes. Preheat oven 500 degrees F.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll with a rolling pin or shape, with lightly floured hands, the dough into a 12-inch circle.
  3. Transfer to a large piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel, cutting board or flat cookie sheet, adjusting to make sure it remains evenly in the circle. Create a raised edge around the outside crust by pressing outward with fingers on one hand and at the same time, using the fingers on the other hand pressing inward to create the 1 inch edge. 
  4. Spread pesto evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.
  5. Sprinkle evenly with fontina cheese and Parmesan. Sprinkle chicken, garlic and red pepper flake, if using. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven, until edge of the pizza is golden and cheese is melted, 10 to 12 minutes. 
  7. Remove pizza from the oven. Cut into slices and sprinkle with chopped basil, if using.

Notes

If the dough is frozen, pull from the freezer and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  Dough is easiest to work with at room temperature.  Depending on your ambient temperature of the room pull the dough out ahead of time.

The pizza bakes directly on the parchment on the oven rack, or you can use a pizza stone or steel.  The parchment will not burn but it may darken.  Another alternative is to bake on a large rimmed baking sheet that is oiled and sprinkled with parchment.  Find and know your oven. This pizza was baked in the middle rack for the most even cooking.  But if you like a crispier crust, bake it on the lower rack.  If you like your dough with the best oven proof, bake it on the top crust. Keep an eye on it in the last few minutes and get to know your oven.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Active Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 12 mins
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 286
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 25 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 14 g

Keywords: Chicken Pesto Pizza, Pesto Chicken Pizza, Pesto Pizza with Chicken, Pizza with Chicken and Pesto, Pizza with Pesto and Chicken, Chicken Pizza with Pesto