These Chicken Pesto Meatballs are juicy, flavorful, and super easy to make. Serve them with pasta and sauce for a classic family dinner, or add them to a big bowl of greens and veggies for a nutritious, protein-packed lunch.

Close up of chicken pesto meatballs served over pasta with Parmesan and fresh basil.

After making these cozy chicken meatballs with orzo and peppers on repeat all through the winter, I decided we needed to expand the use of this perfect meatball base to incorporate some new flavors. And, with spring in full swing and the basil blooming, what better route than an herbaceous pesto meatball?

These are packed with the classic flavors of zippy basil pesto, tangy Parmesan and finely-minced shallot, with a little kick of dried Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Panko breadcrumbs keep them light on the inside but help them crisp up on the edges, as all the best meatballs should.

And these reheat beautifully, so go ahead and make a double batch, because you’ll definitely be happy to pull them out for meals throughout the week. Let’s make some meatballs!

Ingredient & Substitution Notes

Labeled overhead image of ground chicken, basil pesto, panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan, shallot, egg, Italian seasoning, red pepper, kosher salt and black pepper, all in prep bowls and ready to mix into meatballs.

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need. Find full amounts in the print-friendly recipe card below.

  • Ground chicken. You can use ground white meat, ground thigh meat, or a mix. It’s also fine to substitute ground turkey with no other changes.
  • Basil pesto. Homemade or your favorite store-bought brand.
  • Parmesan cheese. Grated Parmesan adds flavor and subtle tang.
  • Shallot. The perfect mild flavor and texture.
  • Panko. A Japanese-style breadcrumb that is essentially very light flakes of dried bread, Panko is perfect for binding the meatball mixture together without weighing it down.
  • One large egg.
  • Italian seasoning, kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

When using pesto, the top choice is always homemade, but it’s possible to buy a store-bought version that’s also delicious. Seek out a good-quality fresh, refrigerated pesto in a well-stocked deli department. This is likely to outperform jarred pesto any day of the week.

Pro Tip

Blitz extra veggies straight into your pesto! Zucchini basil pesto tastes just like the classic version but has a hearty dose of zucchini and baby spinach mixed right in.

How To Make Pesto Chicken Meatballs

Simple is as simple does. Begin by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well with a fork to blend it together without smashing it down.

Chicken pesto meatball ingredients combined in a large bowl.

Once the meatball mixture is formed, it’s a simple matter of scooping it out into even portions — a cookie dough scoop makes quick work of this — then rolling each into a smooth meatball.

Keeping your hands slightly damp while you roll meatballs helps them develop the smoothest shape, and also prevents your hands from getting too mucky.

Now it’s just a matter of cooking them up! You can pan fry all the way, or transfer to finish in the oven. This really just depends on your preferred timing — it can be nice to not have to baby-sit them in the skillet all the way if you don’t mind turning on the oven.

Pro Tip

You can also bake the meatballs for a super low-stress option! Just place the shaped meatballs on a large rimmed baking sheet, or oven-safe skillet, and bake at 375 degrees F until they read 165 degrees F in the middle. Expect this to take around 20 minutes. They will not develop the same crisp exterior but will still be delicious.

Chicken pesto meatballs served over rotini with Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.

Serving Suggestions

Of course you can serve up these meatballs with your favorite sauce and pasta — a great marinara always goes well, as does the same creamy pesto sauce used with these tortellini — for a simple but totally cozy family dinner. Add a salad or roasted veggie and call it a meal.

I also love to use chicken pesto meatballs as the protein in a greens and grains bowl, sort of like you might order at Cava. Some ideas to include with that:

  • Greens: arugula, baby spinach, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce.
  • Grains: couscous, pearl couscous, rice, quinoa, farro, bulgar wheat.
  • More veggies: tomatoes, cucumber, shredded carrot, peas, etc.
  • Something crunchy: pita chips, tortilla strips, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.
  • Something tangy: olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts.
  • Something creamy: more pesto, hummus, sun-dried tomato dip, etc.

Storage, Freezing, Reheating

I am always elated to have extra pesto meatballs! They freeze really well, too, if you care to make a double batch.

  • To store leftovers: Place cooked, fully cooled meatballs in an airtight container. Keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • To reheat: Cooked meatballs can be reheated quickly in a skillet, in the oven at 350 degrees, or in the microwave in bursts of 50% power. Using half power helps to prevent chicken from overcooking and drying out.
  • To freeze: If you want to freeze the meatballs prior to cooking, roll the mixture then space out the meatballs on a sheet pan or plate lined with parchment paper. Pop that in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to flash freeze, then combine the partially frozen meatballs in a freezer-safe container and store for up to 3 months. Fully cooked meatballs can also be stashed in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Cook straight from frozen: You can cook these meatballs directly from frozen! Place them in an oven-safe skillet or baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 425 degrees F until fully cooked — plan on it taking around 35 minutes. Meatballs can alternatively thaw in the fridge overnight, then either cook or reheat as directed.
Ceramic bowl full of chicken pesto meatballs served over pasta.

Related Recipes

In a pesto kind of mood? Try my favorite creamy pesto tortellini, pesto flatbreads, pesto artichoke chicken, or chicken pesto pasta salad to get more of the fix!

Craving more meatballs? They are a great dinner go-to, and usually popular with little ones, too! Try these Za’atar-spiced lamb meatballs, Greek chicken meatballs, or baked turkey meatballs with hidden veggies. Alternatively, keep dinner super simple and serve up these short-cut 3-ingredient Crockpot BBQ meatballs — so delicious and such a time-saver for the family cook.

If you try this Chicken Pesto Meatball recipe, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

You can also FOLLOW me on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and TWITTER for more great recipes and ideas!

No ratings yet

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Fresh, quick, and flavorful, these chicken pesto meatballs are a regular favorite here. Serve them up with pasta and sauce for a classic family dinner, or add them to a big bowl of greens and veggies for a nutritious, protein-packed lunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken see note
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  • Combine the chicken, shallot, panko, pesto, Parmesan, egg, Italian seasoning, red pepper, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Mix with a fork until evenly blended, then portion out and use damp hands to roll into smooth meatballs.
  • Warm olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add meatballs and cook until they are browned on most sides. (A great tip for browning meatballs is to let them cook on each side until they release easily when prodded with a spatula or with tongs. If they stick, let them cook a bit longer before turning.) Work in two batches if needed.
  • To finish frying the meatballs, continue to turn until the meatballs reach 165 degrees F on the inside, then remove from the heat. Alternatively, you can transfer the browned meatballs to finish cooking in the oven. This usually takes 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • Serve the cooked meatballs with pasta and sauce, extra pesto, veggies, Parmesan, etc. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Chicken: You can swap in ground turkey with no other changes. I’ve yet to test this with ground beef but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work well.
  • Bake the Meatballs: Place shaped meatballs on a large rimmed baking sheet, or oven-safe skillet, and bake at 375 degrees F until they read 165 degrees F in the middle. Expect this to take around 20 minutes. They will not develop the same crisp exterior but will still be delicious.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 329 kcal, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Protein: 25 g, Fat: 22 g, Saturated Fat: 6 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0.1 g, Cholesterol: 144 mg, Sodium: 677 mg, Potassium: 655 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Vitamin A: 463 IU, Vitamin C: 1 mg, Calcium: 133 mg, Iron: 2 mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!