Mint Pesto Chicken with a Watermelon Avocado Salad

Mariel here. You can file this recipe under “I have a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Costco and I’m already bored to tears.” Born from a previous night’s leftovers – in this case Watermelon Bites with Cilantro-Mint Pesto – this snappy little dish is deceptively easy given its vibrant presentation and its perky, sweet-and-salty flavor. The recipe requires minimal prep work, especially if you’re using yesterday’s pesto, and the biggest hassle will undoubtedly be remembering to marinate the chicken for a few hours prior to roasting, but I know you can handle it.

PS: I spruced up my Watermelon Salad with a tangy Balsamic Vinaigrette (below), but if you’re looking for another option, I’d imagine Smitten Kitchen‘s Carrot Ginger Dressing would make a very suitable sub-in.

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Mint Pesto Chicken with a Watermelon Avocado Salad
Serves 4

Note: Leftover pesto can be stored in the freezer for up to a month in an airtight container. My mom likes to stow her pesto in saran-covered ice-cube trays so she can defrost portion-size servings. Genius.

Ingredients for the Pesto Chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – $6.00
1 cup fresh cilantro, packed (if you hate cilantro, parsley might sub-in nicely) – $0.99
1 cup fresh mint leaves, packed – $1.49
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted – stock
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan -$4.00
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime) – $0.50
1/3 cup olive oil – stock
3 garlic cloves – stock
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper – stock
1/2 teaspoon salt – stock

Ingredients for the Watermelon Avocado Salad:
2 lbs of watermelon, sliced then cut into bite-sized chunks – $2.99
2 ripe avocados, pitted and sliced – $1.99
3 oz of feta (I used reduced fat) – $3.99

Ingredients for the Salad Dressing:
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar – stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard – stock
1 teaspoon honey – stock
Sprinkle of freshly-ground black pepper – stock
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $21.95
Cost per serving: $5.49

Directions for Cilantro-Mint Pesto:
1. In a cuisinart, blend the walnuts, garlic, pepper and salt until you create a thick paste.

2. Add the cilantro, mint and lime juice until finely chopped.

3. While the cuisinart is running, slowly add the olive oil until everything is smooth and creamy.

Directions for Pesto Chicken:
1. Marinate chicken in the pesto for about two hours (cover and refrigerate). Use approximately 2 tablespoons of pesto for each chicken breast (or adjust according to your preference).

2. Preheat oven to 400°F.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the marinated chicken breasts on the sheet and roast for approximately 25 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Watch closely to avoid burning since cooking time will vary by oven and thickness of the chicken breasts. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Directions for Salad and Dressing:
1. Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small glass (or non-metal) bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine the watermelon, avocado and feta in whatever arrangement you fancy (you can see I went a little Iron Chef with mine). Dress the salad right before serving alongside the Pesto Chicken.


  1. says

    What a brilliant “taste-explosion” sounding recipe. Sadly both watermelon and avocado are like hens-teeth here in Mauritius :-( I love the simplicity of this recipe with maximum impact on flavour – yummy!

  2. says

    I recently made a garlic scape pesto chicken by marinating the chicken in leftover garlic scape pesto and olive oil. It was so flavorful! The watermelon salad looks perfect for summer!

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