Updated: May 10, 2021
The best part of this super yummy and super simple meal is that the chicken, pesto, and sweet potatoes can all be made in advance.
You just simply reheat, stuff, and serve. It's perfect for a light and healthy weeknight dinner or a protein and fiber-packed make-ahead lunch. Yum!
Ahh, pesto. I absolutely adore it. It is the perfect companion for roasted chicken.
With only a few ingredients, it adds a ton of flavor. It can be made in advance and stored away in the fridge or freezer. It comes together in about 5 minutes and contains hardly any items: fresh basil, walnuts or pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, olive oil, water, and salt. What about cheese? You don't need dairy to make pesto! The nutrition yeast takes the place of the traditional parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast is a savory inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. Not to be confused with active yeast for making bread, this powder or flake-form yeast is savory and nutty, and has cheese-like flavors. It is used frequently in vegan recipes to emulate cheese flavor. I promise no one will ever know!
Pesto is so versatile. Now that you know it is delightful on roasted chicken, you can also try it on eggs or pizza, or in pasta, salad dressings, or your favorite soups. Store it in the fridge for one week or freeze it in ice cube trays for up to one month.
Now, let's talk about the chicken. I promise you will use this easy roasted version over and over again for recipes that call for cooked chicken. Once it goes into the oven, it is pretty much hands-off. It is so incredibly easy! I usually roast several pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast at once. Then, I shred or cube it and portion it for the freezer. It works perfectly for these stuffed sweet potatoes, salads, or hearty soups. It is such a time-saver!
To roast the chicken, we will be using a moist heat method. In moist heat cooking methods, liquid or steam is used to cook the food. In this case, we will use water at the bottom of a roasting rack to create steam while the chicken is roasting. This creates moist air inside the oven, keeping the meat from drying out during the cooking process. It will also make it very moist, flavorful, and juicy.
To do this, take a large rimmed baking sheet and place a shallow roasting rack inside (see picture below). Spray the roasting rack with nonstick cooking spray and place the boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the rack. Fill the bottom of the baking sheet with water (about halfway up the sides of the pan). Give the chicken a good sprinkle of Emeril's Original Essence Seasoning (it's gluten-free). Carefully place the rack into a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, then flip the chicken over, refill the water in the bottom of the pan (to be halfway up the sides), and give the second side a sprinkle of Essence. Continue to roast the chicken for another 25 to 30 minutes until it is no longer pink in the center (or a safe 165 degrees). Move the chicken to a platter and cover it with foil. Allow it to rest on the platter for at least 25 to 30 minutes before you cube or shred it. Do not get rid of the cooking liquid that has gathered on the platter while it rested. After you shred or cube the chicken, mix the cooking liquid back into the shredded meat. It keeps the chicken moist and tender, but it also adds tons of flavor. This method will give you perfectly roasted and very juicy chicken every single time.
Finally, to prepare the sweet potatoes, I start by baking 3 large sweet potatoes in the oven. Wash them good! You'll want to scrub the skins lightly to get rid of any dirt. Poke some holes with a fork in each potato and place them on a foil or parchment-lined baking tray. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. Set aside to cool. Wrap them individually with foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To assemble each potato, in a small bowl combine 1/2 cup of shredded, cooked chicken with 2 or 3 tablespoons of pesto. Stir well to combine. I like to add enough pesto to make sure the chicken is moist. Next, place one sweet potato on a microwave-safe plate. Reheat for a minute or two until heated through. Spread with butter if desired. Pile the shredded chicken with pesto inside the prepared sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes, if desired. Repeat for other servings.
For other delicious pesto and sweet potato recipes, check out my posts for Chicken Pesto Bake, Sexy Sweets (aka Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes), and Sweet Potato Oven "Fries" with Chipotle Lime Aioli.
This recipe makes 6 servings.
Let's get cooking!
2 cups packed fresh basil (large stems removed)
3 tablespoons of pine nuts or walnuts (I used walnuts)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3-6 tablespoons of water (plus more as needed)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2-3 tablespoons Emeril's Original Essence Seasoning
3 large sweet potatoes
How to make
Please be sure to visit Minimalist Baker for the source recipe and original instructions.
Add the basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt to a food processor.
Blend/mix on high until a loose paste forms.
Add the olive oil a little at a time (streaming in while the machine is on if possible) and scrape down sides as needed. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the desired consistency is reached. You want a thick but pourable sauce.
Taste and adjust flavor as needed. You can add more nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, more salt for overall flavor, more nuts for nuttiness, garlic for bite/zing, or lemon juice for acidity.
Store leftover pesto covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Take a large rimmed baking sheet and place a roasting rack inside of it.
Spray the roasting rack with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the rack.
Fill the bottom of the baking sheet with water about halfway up the sides of the pan.
Sprinkle the chicken breast with Emeril's Original Essence Seasoning
Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven.
Flip the chicken over, and refill the water in the bottom of the pan
Sprinkle the second side of the chicken with Essence.
Continue to roast the chicken for another 25-30 minutes, until it is no longer pink in the center (or a safe 165 degrees).
Move the chicken to a platter and cover it with foil.
Allow it to rest on the platter or at least 25-30 minutes before you cube or shred it.
Rinse 3 large sweet potatoes under cold water.
Scrub the skins lightly to get rid of any dirt.
Poke some holes with a fork in each potato and place them on a foil or parchment- lined baking tray.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 45-50 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Wrap them individually with foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of shredded, cooked chicken with 2 or 3 tablespoons of pesto.
Stir well to combine.
Place one sweet potato on a microwave-safe plate.
Reheat for a minute or two until heated through.
Spread with butter if desired.
Pile the shredded chicken with pesto inside the prepared sweet potato.
Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes, if desired.
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