Pesto Chicken Salad is the best chicken salad ever! Rotisserie chicken, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and sliced almonds are tossed with a creamy pesto dressing and loaded up on sandwich bread (or a croissant). These sandwiches come together so fast and easy!
Pesto Chicken Salad
Every time we go to a soup, salad, and sandwich restaurant I get a pesto chicken salad if its on the menu. It’s about time I created my own version, and I don’t think I’ll ever order one again because this is my dream sandwich! Buttery croissants piled high with crisp lettuce, pesto-coated chicken, roasted peppers, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, and crunchy almonds is pure heaven in a meal.
This pesto chicken salad truly is the best. It’s also such a quick recipe to whip up and much better for you than a mayo-filled chicken salad. While there is some mayonnaise in the dressing, we keep it to a minimum so the pesto can truly shine through. So let’s get started by discussing the pesto dressing because it’s my all time favorite.
The dressing makes this pesto chicken salad. Below I’m breaking down the ingredients and sharing the brands I use for this dressing. (None of the below products are sponsoring this post, they are simply what I use in this recipe.)
- Prepared basil pesto: It’s the most important ingredient in this sandwich! You’ll want to get freshly made basil pesto (or make your own), not the preserved/jarred pesto. Freshly made pesto is typically near the fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My two favorites in this specific sandwich are Buitoni’s® Pesto with basil or Rana’s® Basil Pesto.
- Real mayo: Use a good, creamy, full-fat mayonnaise. I recommend Hellman’s/Best Foods®.
- Sour cream: Nothing too specific here; even low fat or fat free sour cream works.
- Dijon mustard: The Dijon adds a really nice tang and balancing flavor. Don’t use regular mustard; the two are very different.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavors, brings everything together, and adds a nice hit of acid.
- Salt and pepper: The addition of salt and pepper really depends on the pesto you use; some pestos are saltier than others. Taste and adjust; if your dressing feels like it’s missing something, it may just need an extra dose of salt.
Pesto Chicken Salad ingredients
There are only four ingredients in the actual salad, outside of the dressing. Below is a quick break down of those ingredients.
- Rotisserie chicken: More on this below.
- Roasted red peppers: While you can roast your own peppers, I use store-bought ones. They’re so flavorful and chop up really quickly to add into this pesto chicken salad.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: Make sure to get the tomatoes packed in oil — those have the most flavor! While they’re generally pretty small as is, a quick coarse chop ensures they’ll make it into every bite of the salad. My brand of choice is California® sun-dried tomatoes that have been julienne cut and have herbs added.
- Sliced almonds: The almonds add a great crunchy texture and flavor. You can toast them for additional flavor, but I rarely do this (this is supposed to be a quick recipe!).
Using rotisserie chicken makes this pesto chicken salad come together so quickly. It also lends an even more flavorful sandwich because the rotisserie chicken is seasoned.
Speaking of a quick prep time, in many grocery stores, you can buy rotisserie chicken meat that has already been pulled from the bones and shredded. I’ve seen it at Costco, Smith’s (Kroger), Trader Joe’s, and Walmart. It’s a little bit more expensive, but if you’re in a hurry, this saves even more time. On the flip side of expense, many grocery stores sell day-old rotisserie chickens for two or three dollars.
You can also make your own rotisserie chicken and then use leftover meat in these sandwiches.
Pesto Chicken Salad serving suggestions
- Our favorite way to enjoy these sandwiches is on a good, buttery croissant with a few pieces of lettuce!
- It’s also great on regular toasted bread (sour dough or ciabatta are two of our favorites).
- For a low-carb option, make lettuce wraps! Pile this pesto chicken salad on some butter lettuce leaves.
- Enjoy as is. This chicken salad is also great straight from the bowl or spooned onto crackers.
- Make a chicken salad pita by stuffing or spooning on toasted pita bread.
- Serve this chicken salad inside an avocado.
Truthfully, Pesto Chicken Salad is best the same day it’s made. With the fresh pesto and crunchy almonds, it’s not a salad that sits well for a long time. While it’s fine to make it a few hours in advance, I wouldn’t recommend making it too far in advance.
Technically you can store it for two or three days in the fridge, but flavors and textures change from when it’s initially made.
More easy sandwich recipes
- Ham and Cheese Sliders
- Meatball Subs
- French Dip Sliders
- Margherita Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Avocado Tuna Salad
Pesto Chicken Salad is the best ever! Rotisserie chicken, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and sliced almonds are tossed with a creamy pesto dressing and loaded up on sandwich bread (or a croissant). These sandwiches come together so fast and easy.
- 3 cups cubed or shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil diced
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto (I highly recommend Rana or Buitoni's fresh basil pesto) Note 1
- 1/4 cup Best Foods/Hellmans real mayo
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt & pepper
- Assembly: bread (we LOVE croissants with this recipe), lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc. (whatever you like on a chicken salad sandwich!)
CHICKEN SALAD: Cube or shred the chicken, measure 3 cups and place in a large bowl. Add the 1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper, 1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes (drain out the oil and give them a quick coarse chop), and sliced almonds. You can toast the almonds if desired.
DRESSING: In a medium-sized bowl, add the 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until smooth.
COMBINE: Pour the dressing over the chicken and salad ingredients. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are combined.
ASSEMBLE: Make your sandwich! Toast bread or slice open a fresh croissant. Top the bread/croissant with lettuce and a few scoops of the pesto chicken salad. If desired, add any other sandwich toppings -- tomato, cheese, or avocado. We usually just do a croissant, the pesto chicken salad, and lettuce.
Note 1: The pesto is the most important ingredient in this salad! You'll want to get freshly made basil pesto (or make your own), not the preserved/jarred pesto. Freshly made pesto is typically near fresh (not dried) pasta or in the produce section of the store. My two favorites in this specific sandwich are Buitoni's Pesto with Basil or Rana's Basil Pesto.