Mouthwatering Pesto Chicken Salad: A Keto & Low Carb Recipe for Healthy Living

Pesto Chicken Salad: A Keto Delight

Are you on the lookout for a delicious keto-friendly meal that’s both satisfying and easy to prepare? Look no further than this Pesto Chicken Salad, a perfect blend of flavors that fits right into your low-carb, high-fat lifestyle. This dish is not only quick to whip up but also packed with nutrients that will keep you feeling full and energized throughout your day.

With its rich, herbaceous dressing and tender chicken, this salad is a surefire way to please your palate without compromising your dietary goals. Whether you’re in need of a light lunch or a hearty dinner, this Pesto Chicken Salad is versatile and can be customized to suit your taste. Let’s dive into what makes this dish a fantastic addition to your keto recipe collection!

Keto Pesto Chicken Salad

The Roots of Our Pesto Chicken Salad

Originating from a love for classic Italian flavors and a need for keto-friendly meal options, this Pesto Chicken Salad was born out of innovation and a desire for variety in the keto diet. The main ingredient, basil pesto, is a staple in Italian cuisine, known for its bold flavors and versatility. When paired with high-quality chicken, it creates a satisfying meal that’s both nutritious and low in carbohydrates.

Pesto, traditionally made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, is a powerhouse of healthy fats, essential for anyone following a ketogenic diet. The fats from the olive oil and pine nuts are particularly beneficial, providing a source of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to support heart health and reduce inflammation.

The combination of shredded chicken and pesto not only offers a delightful texture and flavor but also ensures that you’re getting a good dose of protein to help maintain muscle mass while on a low-carb diet. This Pesto Chicken Salad is more than just a meal; it’s a carefully crafted blend of nutrients that cater to your keto lifestyle without sacrificing taste.

Preparing Pesto Chicken Salad

Perfecting the Method

Creating the perfect Pesto Chicken Salad is all about the technique. Start by ensuring your chicken is cooked to perfection—juicy and tender, not dry or overdone. Whether you choose to grill, bake, or sauté your chicken, let it rest before shredding to retain those precious juices. Shredding by hand rather than chopping allows the pesto and mayonnaise to cling to every strand, creating a more flavorful bite.

When toasting your pine nuts, stay vigilant. These little seeds can go from perfectly golden to burnt in a matter of seconds. Toasting them releases their natural oils, which enhances their flavor and adds a crunchy texture to the salad. Be sure to let them cool before adding them to the mix to prevent the greens from wilting.

As for the pesto, if you’re making it from scratch, use fresh basil leaves and high-quality extra virgin olive oil for the best taste. When mixing the salad, do so gently to avoid crushing the delicate greens or the feta cheese, which should offer a salty tang with every forkful. Remember, the key to an exceptional Pesto Chicken Salad is in the details!

Keto Pesto Chicken Salad Served

Variations to Spice Up Your Salad

Avocado Pesto Chicken Salad

For an extra dose of healthy fats and creaminess, add diced avocado to your Pesto Chicken Salad. The buttery texture of avocado complements the pesto beautifully, and it’s a great way to boost your intake of potassium and fiber.

Spicy Pesto Chicken Salad

If you enjoy a bit of heat, incorporate some red pepper flakes or diced jalapeños into your pesto mixture. This will give your salad a spicy kick that can rev up your metabolism and add an exciting twist to the classic recipe.

Italian Antipasto Pesto Chicken Salad

Turn your Pesto Chicken Salad into an Italian antipasto by adding sliced olives, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. This variation is perfect for those who love bold, Mediterranean flavors and want to add more diversity to their salad.

Substitutions for Dietary Needs

For those with dietary restrictions or preferences, there are several substitutions you can make to ensure this Pesto Chicken Salad fits your needs while staying low carb and keto-friendly.

If you’re dairy-free, replace the feta cheese with a dairy-free cheese alternative or simply omit it. You can also make a dairy-free pesto by using nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan cheese for a similar cheesy flavor.

For those avoiding nuts, swap out the pine nuts for seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds to maintain the crunch without the allergens. And if you’re not a fan of mayonnaise or looking for a lighter option, try substituting with Greek yogurt or a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Lastly, if chicken isn’t your protein of choice, this salad is equally delicious with shredded turkey, canned tuna, or even grilled tofu for a vegetarian option. The key is to maintain the balance of flavors and textures that make this dish so enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prepare this salad ahead of time?
Yes, you can assemble the salad without the greens and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Add the greens just before serving to keep them fresh and crisp.

Is this salad suitable for meal prep?
Absolutely! Divide the salad into portions and store them in separate containers for a grab-and-go lunch option throughout the week.

Can I use a different type of pesto?
Certainly! While basil pesto is traditional, feel free to experiment with other pesto varieties such as sun-dried tomato or kale pesto for a different flavor profile.

How can I make this salad more filling?
To make the salad more substantial, consider adding more protein like hard-boiled eggs or increasing the amount of chicken. You can also add more healthy fats with avocado or extra pine nuts.

What can I serve with this Pesto Chicken Salad?
This salad is quite filling on its own, but if you’re looking for a side, consider serving it with keto-friendly garlic bread or a simple vegetable soup.

Pesto Chicken Salad (Keto & Low Carb)

A refreshing and satisfying meal, this Pesto Chicken Salad combines the rich flavors of basil pesto with tender chicken and a mix of crunchy veggies. Perfect for a keto-friendly lunch or a light dinner, it's packed with protein and healthy fats, keeping you full and energized without the carbs.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine Italian-Inspired
Servings 4 servings
Calories 450 kcal


  • Mixing bowl
  • Skillet
  • Cooking utensils


  • 1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • ½ cup basil pesto homemade or store-bought
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise preferably avocado oil-based
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Begin by cooking the chicken breasts. You can either grill, bake, or sauté them until fully cooked. Once done, allow them to cool slightly before shredding into bite-sized pieces.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken with the basil pesto and mayonnaise. Stir until all the chicken is evenly coated with the pesto mixture.
  • Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until they're golden brown and fragrant. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and toasted pine nuts to the chicken mixture. Gently toss to combine.
  • Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Lay a bed of mixed salad greens on each serving plate. Top with the pesto chicken mixture.
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat. Enjoy your flavorful, keto-friendly Pesto Chicken Salad!


To store, keep the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For a dairy-free version, omit the feta cheese or replace it with a dairy-free alternative.
You can use leftover rotisserie chicken to save time on cooking and shredding the chicken breasts.
If you're watching your sodium intake, be mindful of the salt content in store-bought pesto and mayonnaise.


Calories: 450kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 30gFat: 35gFiber: 2gNet Carbs: 3g
Keyword Keto Dinner, Keto Lunch, keto salad, Low Carb Chicken Salad, Pesto Chicken Salad
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