Pesto Chicken Pots

Pesto Chicken Pots are seriously yummy and just one variation of “pots” that I make on a regular basis. They’re fantastic for portion-control and, hey, it’s fun to eat out of a little cup!

The “pots” in question are actually ramekins, and We have a variety of 4-oz, 6-oz and 8-oz oven-safe ramekins; for this recipe I use the 6-oz size, and we each eat 2 pots per meal. It’s fine to use smaller or larger pots, though – just make sure the proportions are roughly the same so they cook evenly.

(Don’t own any ramekins? No worries – just use a casserole dish. It tastes great that way too.)

This is a recipe I totally made up and I pretty much wing it every time, so you’ll probably want to experiment to find your own perfect proportions – it all starts with how much chicken you’re trying to cook. I’m basing the below on 2 quite large skinless boneless chicken breasts, maybe 6-8 oz each.  (This is what I typically get when buying in bulk at Costco.) The goal is perfectly moist, delicious pots, so adjust the wet ingredients as you see fit if you have more or less chicken.

What I suggest below makes about 8-10 ramekins worth of 6-oz pots.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Greek Yogurt.  I use non-fat Fage.
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise.
  • 1/2 cup Pesto. I get this at Costco – it’s fresh and inexpensive for how much you get.
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, shredded. See Shredded Chicken recipe. (NOTE- that recipe takes about 45 minutes to make, so factor that in time-wise if needed.)
  • About 1 cup chopped up tomatoes. A heaping handful of grape tomatoes usually makes enough.
  • 1/4 cup shaved almonds; I get these in a big bag at Costco and keep them in my freezer until I need them. The almonds provide the pots’ only ‘crunch’ factor, so if you choose to omit them, think about adding something crunchy in their place.
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded jack cheese + more for topping. I use jalapeno jack because I love heat, but it’s also nice to use shaved parmesan, either in addition or just instead of the jack. I’ve also used sharp cheddar and all of the above in combination and it’s all great. OR, leave the cheese out altogether! Cheesy pots are delicious, but the moisture from the yogurt + mayo + pesto will probably be enough to keep the pots from drying out.
  • 3-4 heaping handfuls of fresh spinach.  I’ve tried using defrosted / squeezed frozen spinach and it’s never been very good – better to just leave the spinach out altogether if you don’t have fresh.
  • Salt, pepper, cayenne, and red pepper flakes to taste. It’s probably going to need more salt than you’d think, because the spinach will dilute the flavors. I always use sea salt.

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Cover a cookie tray with aluminum foil and place the ramekins on it evenly (start with 8 ramekins, you can add more later if needed). Spray interior of ramekins with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In the largest mixing bowl you own, mix together the yogurt, mayo, pesto, salt, and pepper(s). Stir and taste to see if you get enough pesto flavor at this point. It won’t get stronger when you cook it, so add more now if you want. It’s okay for this to be fairly salty – you’re flavoring not only some pretty bland chicken, but a bunch of spinach, too.

Once the liquid stuff is mixed, add in the shredded chicken and combine to coat.

Now add in the tomatoes, almonds, and cheese. Stir.

Now for the spinach!  Remember when I said your largest bowl? – this is why. Once you add in the spinach you will be going crazy trying to stir it in without throwing it all over the counter.

Once that’s all thoroughly mixed, spoon evenly into the ramekins. It will cook down a bit, so it’s okay to heap the mixture. If you want to get anal, weigh each ramekin to ensure even distribution; or just eyeball it.  If you have too much mixture, fill additional ramekins.

Sprinkle the ramekins with some more cheese and red pepper flakes.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and sides are bubbly.  Let rest a few minutes, and serve in the pots!

Variations

Mexican – Omit the mayo, pesto, and almonds. Add in 1/2 jar of the Hatch Green salsa from Trader Joe’s. Tomatoes optional.

Mustard – Omit the pesto. To the Fage/mayo add several tbsp of Dijon (I use a combo of regular dijon and the mustard-seed dijon from TJs). Taste that, then add balsamic vinegar and powdered mustard to taste. This version can dry out very easily so be sure not to skimp on the liquid-y stuff. Maybe even add some oil or broth.

I’ve tried a few other variations with different herbs and stuff but nothing that’s stuck so far. Let me know if you think of anything new to try!!

Shredded Chicken

Not sure where I found this recipe originally but it makes a great, very trouble-free shredded chicken that’s moist and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 large chicken breasts (we get those huge packages of paired breasts from Costco, freeze them, and defrost a pack at a time)
  • Optional: Salt-free Spike seasoning.
  1. Put a pair of skinless/boneless chicken breasts in a saucepan, cover with water or broth to a 1/2 inch at least over the breasts, & uncovered, bring to a boil. This takes about 10 minutes if you want to set a timer and walk away. Optional: add some salt-free Spike seasoning before boiling. Spike adds a negligible bit of flavor to the chicken, but it does wonders for the broth.  (I save the broth in the fridge after making shredded chicken and re-use it over and over – after a few times it’s super concentrated and delicious on its own or in another recipe.)
  2. Once you reach a boil, turn the burner down to its lowest setting and cover. Leave for 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the breasts and if you have other stuff you want to do while this stage is happening).   Overcooking isn’t really an issue here, so unless you’re in a hurry, err on the longer side.
  3. When you’re ready, take the chicken out of the broth (keep the broth!) and shred with a couple of forks. If it shreds, it’s done; congrats! If you can’t shred it and it looks pink in the middle, you might need to keep simmering for a bit.

 

Taco Seasoning

This is the homemade, MSG- and gluten-free version of taco seasoning I grew up with that came in packets.

Original recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together.