Pesto, and chicken, and sun dried tomatoes, oh my! This is a bit of comfort food wrapped up and baked in a golden brown crust and I think you’re gonna love it.
Did you know that morning is my favorite time of day? I am generally chipper like a little morning bird. It’s when I am most productive – either because my family is usually sleeping or because I am high energy in the a.m., or maybe a bit of both. Today is no exception, but the problem is that I was hoping to sleep about an hour longer than I did last night. But you want to know the upside of this? I am able to get this recipe out the door and onto your screen. You’re welcome to my inability to sleep past 5:30 am.
This recipe has been bubbling around for a while. We know from the Pesto & Goat Cheese Chicken that we can get tons of flavor from pesto without going crazy on the sodium. So I used that concept and created this cheesy, flavorful chicken filling wrapped up in a pizza crust braid. My belly is growling right now thinking about it.
There are two important things to know about making this okay for a low sodium diet. First, the pesto that you use makes a big difference. I’ve used DeLallo Simply Pesto in the past (and it is still a great option), but this time around I am using Buitoni Pesto with Basil. The Buitoni pesto (which you find in the refrigerated section of the store) is slightly lower than the DeLallo and still tastes great.
The second important thing is to check, check, check the label on your sun dried tomatoes. We had a jar of Trader Joe’s Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil on hand, which have only 10 mg sodium per serving (130 mg in the entire jar!). If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby and can’t find a low sodium alternative, don’t fret! I have made this recipe both with and without the tomatoes and it is delicious both ways.
Pesto Chicken Braid
- 1 ½ tsp quick rise yeast (you can use active dry yeast, it’ll just take a bit longer to rise)
- ¼ tsp brown sugar
- 1 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
- 2 Tbsp powdered milk
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 to 2 ¼ cup flour
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (trimmed)
- 3 Tbsp pesto (using Buitoni Pesto, this totals 300 mg sodium)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 4 slices Swiss cheese* (cut into small pieces)
- 1 ½ Tbsp minced sun-dried tomatoes (optional**)
Combine the yeast, brown sugar, and warm water in a medium bowl. Stir in the powdered milk and olive oil. Whisk in about 1 cup flour. Continue adding flour about half a cup at a time until a stiff dough forms. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth or elastic. (You can use a stand mixer to knead the dough.)
Place the dough in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let rest while you prepare the baking sheet. Spray a large sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray (alternately, you can line the pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat if you have one). Using olive oil to coat your hands, spread the dough evenly across the pan. (I use a rolling pin, but it is optional). Set aside until while you mix up the filling (directions below).
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and cook in a skillet until cooked through. If you cut the slices thin and sear the meat on medium-high heat, the searing adds lots of yummy flavor.
When the chicken has cooked through, place it in a medium bowl. Stir in the pesto, Italian seasoning, Swiss cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Spread the chicken mixture down the center of the dough. Cut strips along either side of the filling, about 1-2” wide. Fold the strips across the filling, alternating a strip from the left side and then the right (sort of like you are braiding the dough).
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION – Yield: 4 servings
Sodium: 191.8 mg, Calories: 564.0, Total Fat: 17.8 g, Saturated Fat: 6.0 g, Cholesterol: 88.6 mg, Carbohydrates: 54.1 g, Fiber: 2.3 g, Sugar: 3.9 g, Protein: 42.3 g.
* The Swiss cheese that we use has 15 mg per slice. We use the IGA store brand, and Whole Foods carries Swiss that is 15 mg per slice. If you cannot find Swiss this low, try it with 2 slices of Sargento Swiss, which will increase the sodium by about 2.5 mg per serving.
** Check the label! Trader Joe’s sells sun dried tomatoes that are only 10 mg per serving. Trader Joe’s brand is used for the nutritional information.