Chicken · dinner · entree

Pesto Chicken with Corn & White Bean Salsa

It never hurts to be adventurous.

When you go to your favorite restaurant, do you stick with your normal order? If you do, I dare you to branch out and order something new the next time you go.

Look, I know what it’s like to be a creature of habit. I adhere to a strict daily schedule and like structure in my life.

I also have my go-to orders at certain restaurants. If I’m going to the Mexican joint down the street, I’ll always get the enchiladas rancheras (cheese enchiladas topped with carnitas in red sauce). My Indian order almost always includes paneer and samosas. I also have a go-to order for my favorite poke, Chinese, and fast-casual Greek spot.

The thing is, though, being consistent and dependable is boring. People come to expect the same thing from you as time goes by. That’s great when it comes to your job (‘oh, she’s dependable because she’s always on time, always prepared, always answers the phone when needed’) but when it comes to every other part of life it gets mundane.

I’m here to tell you to throw life a curveball. Shake up your routine. Grab that Wednesday special at your usual lunch spot. Stir some hot sauce into your margarita. Get adventurous.

My adventure this week: red pesto. I really, REALLY like pesto, but most of the pesto I use is green. That’s because the BASIC ingredient of pesto is basil (green). Red pesto turns the definition on its head. The first ingredient is typically sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes there’s basil in it, sometimes not; it all depends on the recipe.

The red pesto I used for this recipe isn’t homemade. It came from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find a red pesto in your grocery store, I recommend making one yourself with a recipe you find online (NYT Cooking has a great spicy red pesto recipe). If you’re running low on time just use regular pesto (even if it’s less adventurous, it’s still delicious).


Pesto Chicken with Corn and Bean Salsa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Red pesto quinoa with grilled chicken and a corn and white bean salsa.


  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted corn, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 TBS. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped + 2 tsp. oil from the jar
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 small jar red pesto (about 3 TBS. total)
  • Fresh basil and parsley, for topping
  • Directions

    1. In a medium bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, oil and Italian seasoning. Add chicken and marinate for at least an hour (or overnight).
    2. Heat a grill over medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per side. Internal temp should be 155 degrees. Let sit until internal temp raises to 165 degrees.
    3. Meanwhile, make the salsa: in a bowl, str together corn, beans, sun-dried tomatoes and oil from the tomatoes, feta, basil, and juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
    4. In another bowl, stir together quinoa and all but 1 tablespoon of the red pesto.
    5. Make the plate: serve chicken on top of red pesto quinoa with the corn and bean salsa on the side. Top with remaining pesto, basil and parsley.

    5 thoughts on “Pesto Chicken with Corn & White Bean Salsa

    1. I consider myself a foodie but hadn’t heard of red pesto, so thank you! I will give it a try. I totally agree with you about stepping out of your comfort zone. I just re-embraced watermelon after years of loathing it, because, well, watermelon salad. Gail was right about corn taking center stage in summer, but it seems to share the bill with watermelon. Maybe a corn and watermelon salsa?? 😊😊😊

      1. I hope you try out red pesto! It’s really good if you can find it. And I agree with watermelon in the summer—it’s such a huge centerpiece right now. Maybe I will try out a corn and watermelon salsa…I think you’re on to something!

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