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This recipe for Pesto Roasted Chicken uses a homemade pesto rubbed under the skin to give the chicken unbelievable flavor as it cooks. This is a perfect way to enjoy the end of summer’s fresh basil, and get you out of that grocery store rotisserie chicken rut.

We’re all guilty of grabbing a roasted bird at the store—who can resist, really? They’re a tasty, easy, quick fix, especially on crazy weeknights.

Roasting your own chicken, however, is something else altogether; it makes dinner feel special again.

This recipe includes a recipe for making your own pesto, but don’t skip over it if basil isn’t in season! Store-bought pesto is just fine, too. I rub it under the skin so the chicken stays crispy.

You’ll still have roasted chicken for salad, grain bowls, and lunch the next day, but every bite will taste world’s better than your usual go-to chicken. Try it!

Pesto chicken, potatoes and broccoli in an oval dish.

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How to roast chicken in the oven:

Roasting a chicken is actually quite simple; even though there’s a million recipes for it, with a dizzying array of techniques, dry rubs, and spices to try, all you really need is salt, pepper, a little fat, and heat.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Find a casserole, a large cast-iron skillet, or a small roasting pan.
  2. Place the thawed chicken inside the pan, breast up, and sprinkle salt and pepper inside and out of the carcass.
  3. Pour a healthy glug of olive oil, or spread a couple tablespoons of butter on top of the chicken. Put the chicken in the oven and roast 1-½ hours uncovered, basting occasionally if desired.
  4. When the chicken is done, a thermometer inserted near the thigh reaches 165 degrees (the juice of the chicken should no longer be pink when a thigh is pierced). The drumstick should wiggle freely, too.

That’s the basic recipe! This one is a lot more exciting with aromatics stuffed inside the bird and pesto under the skin, but you get the general idea.

Vegetables in a black skillet.

What is roasted chicken cooking time?

Because chickens come in different sizes, it’s no fun to serve underdone chicken and return it back into the oven while the rest of dinner wilts! Generally speaking, here are some basic cooking times for roasted chicken:

  • 2-½ to 3 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees for 1 to 1-¼ hours.
  • 3 to 3-½ pounds: Roast at 375 degrees for 1-¼ to 1-½ hours.
  • 3-½ to 4 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees for 1-¼ to 1-¾ hours.
  • 4-½ to 5 pounds: Roast at 375 degrees F for 1-½ to 2 hours.

When the chicken is done, a thermometer inserted near the thigh reaches 165 degrees (the juice of the chicken should no longer be pink when a thigh is pierced).

A chicken being rubbed with pesto.

What goes with Roasted Chicken?

A fine question, and one with many answers, depending on your mood. Here are some inspiring ideas:

  • Roasted Chicken with potatoes: Tuck some baby new potatoes in with the bird, or go all out with my recipe for Duchess Potatoes.
  • Roasted Chicken with vegetables: Throw some carrots, wedges of fennel, or whole heads of garlic in the roasting pan, for tender veggies that cook with the drippings.
  • Roasted Chicken with root vegetables: Cubed parsnips, turnips, rutabagas are all fabulous winter root vegetables to include in the pan, to cook as the chicken roasts.

As far as side dishes, Lemon Rice Pilaf is a winner with roasted chicken, as is a hunk of steamed broccoli and some cute little new potatoes. But I wouldn’t fault you for making a Baked Mac and Cheese, either.

Pesto covered chicken in a black skillet.

Can you make Pesto without pine nuts?

Depending on the year and growing conditions, pine nuts can be expensive and difficult to find. There are lots of other nuts you can use, though. Pesto can be made with:

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts

Can you make Pesto with dried basil?

You can, but you need to use half as much dried basil in place of fresh. One cup of fresh basil= ½ cup dried basil.

Can you make Pesto without cheese?

For this recipe, you can omit the Parmesan cheese in the pesto. If you’re interested in making dairy-free pesto for other recipes, try substituting nutritional yeast in place of cheese.

You’d need 8 tablespoons nutritional yeast for this recipe in place of the cheese.

Pesto being rubbed on a chicken in a black skillet.

What can you do with extra Pesto?

If you’re left with extra basil pesto? Don’t worry, that’s a good thing; there are lots of delicious ways to enjoy it.

  • Pesto for salmon: Mix extra pesto with some soft butter to make a compound butter. Spoon it over grilled salmon and watch it blissfully melt into a delicious sauce.
  • Pesto for potatoes: Roll some warm baby potatoes around in pesto and olive oil. Your spuds just got fancier!
  • Pesto for pizza: Instead of tomato sauce, slather pesto on the crust.
  • Pesto on pasta: In this copycat recipe, make a pesto cream sauce and toss with cavatappi.
  • Pesto cheese bread

Pesto roasted chicken, potatoes and broccoli on an oval serving platter.

Can pesto be frozen?

You can absolutely freeze leftover pesto. Spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze for individual portions for future cooking.

Pesto roasted chicken in a white serving dish.

Pesto Roasted Chicken

This recipe for Pesto Roasted Chicken uses a homemade pesto rubbed under the skin to give the chicken unbelievable flavor as it cooks. This is a perfect way to enjoy the end of summer’s fresh basil, and get you out of that grocery store rotisserie chicken rut.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Servings 4
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 256


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion chopped
  • 1 celery rib chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives chopped
  • 1 (4 pound) whole broiler-fryer chicken
  • 3/4 cup homemade pesto or store bought (about 6 ounces)


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a roasting rack with nonstick spray and set in roasting pan.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and olives and cook until celery is tender, about 5 minutes. 
  • Starting at the back opening of the chicken, use your fingers to carefully separate the skin from the meat on the chicken breast and thighs. Be careful not to tear skin. Spread about ¼ cup pesto sauce between the skin and meat of the chicken.
  • Fold wings of chicken across back with tips touching. Spoon onion mixture into cavity of chicken, then tie or skewer drumsticks to tail.
  • Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush chicken with half of remaining pesto. Roast uncovered 1 to 1 ½ hours, brushing occasionally with remaining sauce, until a thermometer inserted near the thigh reaches 165 degrees. 
  • Remove from oven. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.


  1. To toast the garlic, toast in their skin in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until brown spots form, about 5 minutes. Remove to a small bowl to cool before peeling.
  2. To toast the pine nuts, toast in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes, shaking frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.


Calories: 256kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 3gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 499mgPotassium: 34mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 958IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 82mgIron: 1mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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