Grilled Chicken Margherita

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This copycat restaurant quality Grilled Chicken Margherita recipe is better and healthier than take-out. Grilled chicken breast topped with fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella and lemon butter drizzle. It is simple to make at home. You won’t believe how delicious it is.

A few years ago my favorite dish to get at a restaurant was Olive Garden chicken margherita. I loved that it was light, low carb and healthy. It left me with more room to fit breadsticks, ya know?

Olive Garden takes this dish on and off their menu. You can currently get it, but with this recipe, you’ll realize how easy it is to make at home. And at a fraction of the cost. It has all the flavors of a margherita pizza, but on thin grilled or pan seared chicken.

overhead view of a skillet of grilled margherita chicken with rolls

About Grilled Chicken Margherita:

  • Flavor: The chicken itself has a mild flavor, mostly coming from the pesto. But the lemon garlic sauce you’ll drizzle on top gives it a rich & tangy pop of flavor. It’s amazing.
  • Texture: It’s important to pound the chicken thin so that it cooks evenly and quickly. This will help the chicken be tender rather than tough and chewy. The creaminess of the cheese pairs well with the juicy tomatoes.

What cut of chicken is best for chicken margherita?

I recommend thin boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. If the chicken breasts you have are small, use those. If they are large like many are in the stores, slice them in width wise or pound them to about 3/4″ thickness.

You could also use boneless skinless chicken thighs as well.

chicken with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in a skillet

Grilled vs Pan Seared Chicken

For this recipe, you can choose to grill the chicken or pan sear the chicken. Since the weather was cool the day I made this, I chose to cook the chicken inside in a cast iron skillet.

For grilling the chicken, make the recipe the same way, just make it on the grill instead. Or combine the two ideas and use a cast iron grill pan.

Ingredients Needed

  • Chicken breast. This would work with other meats as well (think pork chops, salmon, etc), but I prefer the mild flavor of chicken. Or, for vegetarian, use zucchini slices.
  • Olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is best.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • Basil pesto sauce. Use a brand that you love or make your own. My current favorite brand is Classico.
  • Fresh mozzarella. Sliced mozzarella sticks on the chicken best.
  • Tomatoes. Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
  • Butter. If you only have unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt.
  • Garlic.
  • Lemon. Use the lemon juice from one lemon for the drizzle.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Margherita

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken, then sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
pan seared chicken breasts
  • Cook the chicken for about 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook 3 minutes on the other side. (The exact timing will depend on how thick the chicken breasts are.)
  • After cooking 3 minutes, top the chicken with the pesto, spreading to cover as much as you can of the top.
pan seared chicken with pesto on top
  • Then place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top so it can start melting while the chicken gets to internal temperature of 165ºF. This will take an additional 3-5 minutes. Put a lid on the pan if needed to promote the cheese melting.
chicken with pesto and fresh mozzarella on top
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, garlic and juice of 1 lemon. Drizzle the lemon sauce over the chicken.
  • To serve, top the chicken with fresh tomatoes and garnish with fresh basil.
chicken margherita in a pan
about tastes of lizzy t

Make it a meal.

Try serving this chicken with:

Storage Instructions

Store any leftovers in an airtight container container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

overhead view of chicken margherita in a cast iron pan
overhead view of chicken margherita in a cast iron pan

Grilled Chicken Margherita

5 from 2 votes
An easy copycat restaurant quality Grilled Chicken Margherita recipe. Grilled chicken breast topped with fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella and lemon butter drizzle.
Servings 4
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4-6 teaspoons basil pesto Classico brand
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese sliced
  • Fresh heirloom tomatoes

For the lemon garlic drizzle:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add the chicken, then sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the chicken for about 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook 3 minutes on the other side. (The exact timing will depend on how thick the chicken breasts are.)
  • After cooking 3 minutes, top the chicken with the pesto, spreading to cover as much as you can of the top.
  • Then place the fresh mozzarella on top so it can start melting while the chicken gets to internal temperature of 165ºF. This will take an additional 3-5 minutes. Put a lid on the pan if needed to promote the cheese melting.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, garlic and juice of 1 lemon.
  • Drizzle the lemon sauce over the chicken.
  • To serve, top the chicken with fresh tomato and garnish with fresh basil.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 4, with 1 serving being ¼ of the chicken and toppings. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**

Nutrition

Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 147mg | Sodium: 762mg | Potassium: 740mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 702IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 168mg | Iron: 1mg
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Calories 419
Keyword 30 minute dinner, chicken recipe, easy dinner idea

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About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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