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Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto

Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto

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  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1–1 ½ pounds total)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ cup store-bought or homemade pesto

Special Equipment

  • A sous vide machine; a 1-gallon vacuum-sealable or resealable plastic bag

Recipe Preparation

  • Clip (or stand) sous vide machine to a tall, large pot. Fill pot with warm water to height according to manufacturer’s instructions (keep in mind that chicken when added will cause water to rise).

  • Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Place chicken in bag and add pesto; turn to coat.

  • Vacuum-seal or partially close resealable bag, getting as much air out as possible to keep bag from floating, and place in water bath. If using a resealable plastic bag, push down into water to submerge (this will push more air out of the bag) and fully close. To ensure proper cooking, contents of the bag need to be completely submerged in water. Turn on machine and heat water to 145°.

  • Using a small clip, secure top edge of resealable bag to rim of pot, positioning it opposite of the machine’s water outlet; as the water circulates, it will help keep the bag submerged. If using a vacuum-sealed bag, you may need to set a small plate on top to prevent floating. Cook chicken, maintaining water bath at 145°, 2½ hours. Remove bag from water bath and let chicken rest in bag 10 minutes (this lets the chicken absorb some of the juices).

  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and slice. Serve with pesto cooking liquid (it makes for a great sauce to go with chicken, especially tossed with some pasta).

  • Do Ahead: Chicken can be cooked in water bath 4 days ahead. Keep sealed in bag and chill, or freeze up to 1 month. Enjoy cold or reheat with sous vide machine at 100° until warmed through, about 1 hour, before serving.

Related Video

Brad Shows Off His Sous Vide

Reviews SectionThis is not a good recipe. The chicken releases a ton of liquid when it cooks which waters down the pesto to nothing. Much better off applying pesto after cookingSuper easy with great taste. juicy.

Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto - Recipes

I think chicken is the most transformed dish with sous vide. The texture is virtually indescribable! It is buttery, moist and cuttable with a fork. For this dish, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I seasoned with sea salt and pepper on both sides, popped them in a bag and added some rough chopped thyme and basil. You can also use rosemary, savory and even oregano. Don't use a lot since the bag magnifies the aromatics versus normal cooking techniques. I cooked the chicken breasts at 140F for 1-2 hours. While most literature recommends you "sear" the chicken breasts before serving, I actually like the "non-seared" look and texture so I don't sear, but feel free to fire up the grill and sear them to your liking!

I typically cook up to 6 breasts in separate bags and then quick chill them (in ice bath water or I just pop them in the freezer). Then I can use them as I want and it makes a quick healthy meal. I typically make different sauces (pesto, mushroom, etc..) which is fast and easy and creates a variety. The texture of the chicken is like eating fillet minion! The picture below is with pesto sauce (Click here for that recipe) and rough chopped basil (from my garden).

Cook's Notes:

Feel free to use your favorite seasonings the method stays the same.

If you don't own a vacuum sealer, you may use zip-top plastic bags. To seal your bags, slowly lower the zip-top bag into the water, letting the water pressure force the air out of the bag, then seal closed.

For further information on safe chicken temperature, you can search online for "sous vide cooking chicken pasteurization." You can leave the chicken in for longer than 1.5 hours. It will not overcook, as it will not go above the set water temperature. Do not go longer than 4 hours, as the meat texture and flavor starts to change at that point.

Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto

We were curious. Very very curious.

We’d heard amazing, almost fantastically amazing things about sous-vide chicken. All over the internet, people raved about its unique, velvety, almost “melt-in-your-mouth” tenderness. They said it was nothing like normal chicken. “You’ll never be able to eat normal chicken again.”

This miraculous chicken was supposed to be juicy, succulent, flavorful, and moist.

Really? We were skeptical, yet intrigued at the same time.

But chicken breast? Which is inherently bland, tasteless, and boring?

Just a tiny bit of background – cooking food sous vide is essentially cooking food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag in a precisely temperature-controlled water bath. If you want gory details (e.g., some history & science), visit this post, where I cook a multi-course meal, complete with Thomas Keller (French Laundry) and David Chang (Momofuku) recipes, completely using the sous vide technique.

Although the official instruction manual tells you to cook the sous-vide chicken at 146 ° F, I was pretty convinced (after poking around the internet a bit) that 140 ° F was the way to go if I wanted a juicier, softer result.

140 ° F is right on the edge of the danger zone (between 40 ° F and 140 ° F). Typically, if you cook at temperatures below 140 ° F, you run the risk of bacteria growth. This is why any meat cooked in that “danger zone” should not be cooked for more than 4 hours.

Making this chicken was really really simple. I basically vacuum sealed the chicken (after seasoning with a bit of salt & pepper), and dropped it in the machine for one hour. After it’s done, remove from the bag, slice, and serve with your favorite sauce.

Sous vide chicken is definitely different from traditionally cooked chicken. It’s much more plump, soft, and juicy. Because the water bath is held at a constant temperature, you can’t really overcook the meat that easily.

However, I would hardly call it a transcendent experience.

“It’s good, but not as amazing as people make it seem.”

“Just tastes like really good poached chicken.”

True. At the end of the day, it’s still tastes like chicken. Sure, it’s much juicier, and much more evenly cooked. It’s definitely got better texture than traditionally grilled chicken, though some (like Bryan!) would argue that a good poached chicken tastes equally juicy and soft.

With the sous vide technique, however, there are some advantages. I do like how you don’t have to worry about it while it’s cooking. If you leave the meat in the water bath for a little longer, it won’t really overcook. It’s best for dinner parties where you don’t know exactly when the guests you will arrive, but you want the food to be perfectly cooked right after they arrive. Furthermore, unlike poached chicken, all of that chicken-y goodness stays right in the bag. The flavors won’t dissolve into the water bath during the cooking process.

Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto
1 boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper
homemade basil pesto

Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Seal in a foodsaver bag and cook sous vide at 140 ° F for at least an hour. If using skinless breast, just slice and serve or brown the breast briefly (mostly for color). If there is skin, brown the skin in a hot pan with a little bit of oil for about 1-2 minutes until browned.

For more general background of sous-vide as a cooking technique, please refer to this post.

Sous Vide Tomato Pesto Chicken

Now, I know most of you are here for the recipe, so let’s have some chicken chat.

What is sous vide cooking?

This is using an immersion circulator to cook food that is vacuum sealed in a bag. Bottom line: you get some moving water real warm, vacuum seal some food, but the vacuum sealed food in the water, and let it stay there until it’s cooked. I explained sous vide cooking more in my Sous Vide Greek Chicken post.

Sous vide cooking lets you cook meat to an exact temperature ensuring that it’s tender and your version of perfection.

Sauce Ingredients

The sauce for this chicken is divine. And best part, it couldn’t be simpler to make. You stir together the following ingredients:

  • Pesto
    • I use premade, jarred pesto, but you could certainly make your own.
    • The ones packed in oil, not the dry ones.

    After that, you stir in the chicken and divide the chicken/sauce among bags to be sealed.


    Using an immersion circulator, heat water to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the bags of chicken and sauce. Let them cook for two hours.

    Remove the bags from the water. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-heat.

    Step 3

    Open each of the bags of chicken. Pull each piece of chicken out of the bag and place it in the skillet. Pour the extra sauce from the bags into a bowl. Make sure you don’t throw it away.

    Cook the chicken until browned on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

    Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour the reserved sauce from the bags into the skillet. Whisk in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Simmer until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.

    Return the chicken, along with any juices from the plate, to the skillet. Cover the chicken breasts with the sauce.


    This chicken is excellent served just on it’s own, but also tastes wonderful over pasta or alongside vegetables. In my house we usually have it with asparagus, but you can certainly change things up as you see fit!

    This Sous Vide Tomato Pesto Chicken will have your family asking for seconds and thirds!

    Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto - Recipes

    Prepare the sous vide bath: Fill a stockpot or other food-safe container with water and insert an immersion circulator into the water bath. Set the temperature to 149ºF.

    Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, walnuts, olive oil and salt. Process in 1-second pulses until it forms a smooth pesto, scraping down the sides of the container with a spatula as needed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

    Butterfly and tenderize the chicken breasts: With a sharp knife angled parallel to the cutting board, slice into 1 side of the chicken breast until you are about ½ inch from the other side. Fan out the chicken breast on a piece of plastic wrap, and cover it with another piece of plastic wrap. Use a mallet or the back of a small skillet to flatten the chicken breast to an even thickness of about ⅓-inch. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.

    Roll the roulades: Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place three slices of prosciutto flat on the plastic wrap, slightly overlapping each other. The prosciutto should be a wide enough layer so that the chicken breast can be placed in the middle, with about an inch border all the way around. Spread a ¼-inch-thick layer of pesto over the chicken breast, then roll it just as you would a cinnamon roll, using the plastic wrap to tighten the roll as you go.

    When the roulade is fully rolled, close it up entirely in the plastic wrap, using enough to go around the roll at least 3 times (you can use another sheet if necessary). Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and tie them into knots as close to the roulade as possible, or use kitchen twine to secure the ends.

    Drop the roulades into the water bath and let cook for 1 hour. When done, remove the roulades from the water bath, cut away the plastic and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the roulades into 1½-inch slices and serve.

    Sous Vide Chicken with Pesto - Recipes

    2:09 PM SiliconValleySousVide
    • 2 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    • 2 Skinless, boneless chicken thighs
    • 8 Sprigs of thyme
    • 8 Sprigs of rosemary
    • 8 Sprigs of sage
    • Crust:
      • 3 C Flour
      • 1 t Salt
      • 1 t Baking Powder
      • 1 C Unsalted butter (2 sticks) cut into cubes
      • 1/4 C Vegetable shortening
      • 1 1/2 C Your favorite mushrooms (chanterelle, oyster, shitake)
      • 1 C Peeled sliced carrots (you can use baby carrots)
      • 1 C Peas (Frozen or fresh)
      • 1 C Red pearl onions
      • 1 C Chopped celery
      • 1/2 C Unsalted butter (1 stick)
      • 3/4 C Flour
      • 16 Oz Chicken Stock
      • 6 Fresh sage leaves
      • 4 Sprigs of Thyme
      • 2 Sprigs of Rosemary
      • 1 C Sliced fingerling potatoes
      • 1 Egg beaten
      • Salt and pepper to taste

      Using a slotted spoon, fill an 11" x 8" x 2" baking dish with the filling. Place the dough topping over the filling and trim 1/2" larger than the dish edge. Fold under and crimp onto the edge of the dish. Slice a 1" slot into the crust in the middle of the dish for venting. Brush the crust with the beaten egg mixture and lightly salt and pepper. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow) and place in middle of oven and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is a golden brown. Remove and let cool. Then dig into the best chicken pot pie around!

      Cook's Notes:

      There may be pink or red areas near the bone, which is perfectly fine. For further information on safe chicken temperature, you can search online for "chicken pasteurization sous vide cooking." You can leave the chicken in for longer than 2 hours. It will not overcook, as it will not go above the set water temperature. Do not go longer than 4 hours, as the meat texture and flavor starts to change at that point.

      For a softer chicken texture, cook at 145 degrees F. For a firmer, stringy texture, cook at 155 degrees F.

      If you don't have a vacuum sealer you may use zip-top plastic bags. To seal your bags, slowly lower the zip-top bag into the water, letting the water pressure force the air out of the bag, then seal closed.

      Time and Temperature

      The time and temperature guide below is the product of years of extensive testing, and will take the guesswork out of cooking sous vide. Simply select a temperature based on your desired doneness, then determine the length of the cook based on the thickness of the protein.

      Sous Vide Chicken Thigh Temperature

      Sous Vide Chicken Thighs Cooking Time

      Our personal favorite is cooking chicken thighs at 74C/165F for 1 1/2 hours. Cooking the meat for this duration results in a tender, juicy bird that Thomas Keller would be proud of. Furthermore, cooking them at a temperature of 165F ensures that the chicken is fully cooked to the bone.

      Just make sure you have a reliable sous vide that accurately regulates the temperature of the bath or your results may vary (check out the Anova or Joule).

      Although this combination of time and temperature is our favorite, we recommend you explore different combinations to find your personal favorite. Our cooking guide can always help you find your perfect time and temperature.


      Many flavor variations are possible with this recipe. Changing up the seasoning is a great way to make the recipe more frequently without it getting boring!

      • Spicy thighs – If you are using the chicken for tacos then sprinkle them with a little bit of chili powder.
      • Italian thighs – Use Italian seasoning instead of cumin and add a lemon to the bag for a deliciously flavored lemon chicken.
      • BBQ thighs – Use your favorite barbecue dry rub to season the chicken. Then sear them on the grill for that outdoor flavor.