Bruschetta chicken is your favorite Italian appetizer turned into a juicy, fresh and cheesy, low carb main dish!
This Bruschetta Chicken elevates bruschetta to a whole new level. Bright, herb infused pesto chicken is grilled or cooked in a skillet to juicy perfection, blanketed in hot, gooey mozzarella cheese, piled with fresh tomatoes laced with basil and garlic then drizzled with sweet and tangy balsamic glaze. It’s a hypnotic dance of juicy, fresh, cheesy, savory, earthy, sweet and tangy. This bruschetta chicken is easy to make with a sensational marinade, a simple tomato bruschetta and either homemade or store-bought balsamic glaze – all of which can be made ahead of time for a quick, low-carb, delicious dinner that’s perfect for busy weeknights. You can keep the low-carb vibe and serve this chicken bruschetta recipe with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash and a side salad or splurge with pasta or mashed potatoes and garlic bread. Any way you serve this bruschetta chicken will be a fresh, vibrant win!
These hot summer nights are perfect for juicy grilled chicken – all the flavor without turning on the oven! If you love grilling, you’ll love cilantro lime chicken, lemon basil chicken, Greek chicken, Hawaiian chicken, teriyaki chicken, Korean chicken, buffalo chicken, chili lime chicken and honey sriracha chicken
Bruschetta Chicken Recipe
Calling all tomato lovers! Or just delicious-food lovers. We make bruschetta constantly at our house as a snack or as a side with its juicy chopped tomatoes, aromatic basil and punchy garlic piled on crunchy toast. There’s nothing I want more in the summer months than to stuff my face with bruschetta for dinner and only bruschetta – and now we all can – thank you bruschetta chicken!
Bruschetta is simply too good to be served just as an appetizer so I’ve created this tantalizing chicken bruschetta recipe! It’s an easy marinate-and-cook dinner with just a few minutes of chopping to make the bruschetta – the kind of chicken dinner that’s easy to throw together when you don’t feel like cooking (or doing dishes!) but tastes incredible.
MORE REASONS TO LOVE CHICKEN BRUSCHETTA RECIPE:
- Flavor. Bruschetta is typically the star of bruschetta chicken, as it should be, with its fresh, juicy tomatoes and sweet basil, but all too often this is at the peril of the chicken – but not this chicken bruschetta recipe! This chicken isn’t bland, boring, flavorless or dry, instead, it is stand-alone-scrumptious marinated in an easy yet dynamic pesto marinade you will have on repeat. Top it all off with buttery, melting mozzarella and sweet and tangy balsamic glaze (AKA liquid gold) and dinner tastes like it’s from a 5-star restaurant.
- Easy. Marinate the chicken and grill – couldn’t be any simpler! While the chicken is coming to room temperature, make the bruschetta and glaze. Now just cook the chicken on the grill or stove in minutes.
- Pantry friendly. You will need fresh tomatoes and basil for the bruschetta but the rest of the ingredients are pantry friendly so you can make it any day of the week.
- Versatile. This bruschetta chicken can be made more or less cheesy (or omit the cheese all together) and kept low carb with zoodles or served with your favorite pasta or potatoes.
- Make ahead. This one of my favorite aspects of this chicken bruschetta recipe! Marinate the chicken and make your bruschetta in the morning so the flavors have time to blend. Then when you are ready to eat, grill the chicken and dinner is served!
WHAT IS BRUSCHETTA? What does bruschetta mean?
Bruschetta comes from the Roman dialect bruscare meaning “to roast” or “to roast over coals.” In Italy, it refers to sliced bread that is grilled and then rubbed with garlic cloves and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. It can then be topped with a variety of toppings such as tomatoes, cheese, cured meats (such as prosciutto), beans and vegetables – not just tomatoes/basil as we know it!
Purposeful bruschetta originated in Italy in the 15th century as a way to use up bread that was going stale. If you want to get technical, however, coincidental bruschetta can be traced back to ancient Rome when olive grove owners would sample their freshly pressed olive oil on a slice of bread.
In America, bruschetta has become synonymous with “tomato bruschetta” meaning grilled or toasted bread topped with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper that is often drizzled with balsamic glaze.
In this bruschetta chicken recipe, we’ve replaced the bread with pesto marinated chicken to create a scrumptious, low-carb, easy main dish.
BRUSCHETTA CHICKEN INGREDIENTS
This bruschetta chicken recipe has three main components: 1) the chicken, 2) the bruschetta, and 3) the balsamic glaze. Each element is easy to prepare so please don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list! You’re just whisking ingredient together. You will need:
FOR THE CHICKEN
- Chicken breasts: four boneless chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness. You may also use chicken thighs.
- Olive oil: use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Pesto: you can use your favorite store-bought basil pesto or make your own.
- Lemon juice: fresh is best but you may use bottled in a pinch.
- Balsamic vinegar: is my secret ingredient when marinating chicken with lemon juice. It amps up the fruity tang without adding more sour notes.
- Seasonings: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika salt, pepper, and pepper flakes inject the chicken with TONS of flavor.
FOR THE BRUSCHETTA
- Tomatoes: are the star of bruschetta so pick the best! If your tomatoes aren’t great, your bruschetta won’t be either. I prefer firm, ripe, Roma tomatoes for their tangy, garden-fresh flavor but any ripe, seasonal fresh tomatoes will work. To select ripe tomatoes, look tomatoes that feel heavy for their size – unripe tomatoes will feel lighter. The tomatoes should be smooth, free of bruises, blemishes with a strong, sweet, earthy odor.
- Basil: fresh basil is the only way to go when making bruschetta! You can find fresh basil in the produce section of our grocery store in a small package or purchase a fresh basil plant which is around the same price (or cheaper) and keeps on giving! Measure the basil by pressing the leaves into a measuring cup and then chopping.
- Red onions: I prefer red onions as opposed to white or yellow onions, but you may swap them out if that’s all you have on hand.
- Garlic: again, fresh is the only way to go. Use a garlic press or finely mince by hand. Use more or less to taste.
- Salt and pepper: to enhance all of the flavors. Use more or less to taste.
FOR THE TOPPING
- Mozzarella cheese: the cheese is optional but SO good! It really takes the bruschetta chicken to a new level. Use fresh mozzarella sliced to your desired thickness – the thicker the cheesier 😉. You may use pre-shredded mozzarella if that’s all you have on hand, but I don’t recommend it in the future as pre-shredded cheese contain anti-clumping chemicals which prevent the cheese from melting as well.
FOR THE BALSAMIC GLAZE (or use store bought)
- Balsamic vinegar: the best quality balsamic vinegar is made in Modena and the neighboring Reggio Emilia regions in Italy and it will be advertised as such on the bottles. If these vinegars are too pricey, there are many alternatives at the grocery, just pick what works best for you.
- Brown sugar: I like to use brown sugar but you may substitute with honey or maple syrup.
- Store bought: you can also use store-bought balsamic glaze but once you make your own, you’ll never go back! Store bought balsamic glaze is usually sold alongside the balsamic vinegar in a squeeze bottle.
What is Balsamic Glaze? Do I have to add it?
Bruschetta is delightful on its own but simply not the same without the balsamic glaze. The glaze elevates it to extraordinary. Balsamic glaze, also known as “balsamic reduction,” is the reduction of balsamic vinegar and a splash of sweetener (brown sugar, honey or maple syrup) simmered in a sauce pan until it is the consistency of thick syrup, about 10 minutes.
As the balsamic vinegar reduces, it becomes less acidity, increasingly sweet and one of the most concentrated flavors of YUM you will ever taste. As the Pioneer Women puts it “sweet sticky gold.” Its sweet and tangy, caramelized, almost molasses undertones are made for bruschetta – so please don’t skip it!
Chicken Bruschetta Recipe variations
- Italian marinade. You can marinade the chicken in Italian dressing or the Italian marinade I use in my Tuscan chicken recipe if pesto isn’t your thing.
- More or less cheese. You can make this bruschetta chicken more or less cheesy by how thick you slice the mozzarella.
- Add Parmesan. Authentic bruschetta is often topped with thinly shaved Parmesan – yum!
- Omit cheese. You can omit the mozzarella (although I don’t recommend it) if you’re trying to save some calories.
- Dairy free. Swap the pesto marinade for this Italian marinade and omit the cheese.
- Add-ins. You can add virtually anything to bruschetta or make it more like a fresh salsa by adding chopped cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, etc.
How to Make Bruschetta Chicken
I am going to walk you step by step through this chicken bruschetta recipe and then answer all of the questions you didn’t think you had in the Tips and Tricks section below. You are also welcome to use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to skip directly to the recipe card.
- Pound chicken to an even thickness. Place chicken in-between two pieces of plastic wrap or I like to place my chicken in a large freezer size bag. Pound the chicken to an even thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, rolling pin or side of a can.
- Marinate chicken. Whisk the pesto marinade ingredients together in a freezer bag or glass bowl: pesto, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and seasonings. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature while you make the bruschetta or better yet, refrigerate up to 12 hours.
- Make bruschetta. Add chopped tomatoes, red onion, garlic, basil, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper to a medium bowl; stir to combine. Best if let to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Cook chicken. You are welcome to grill the chicken or cook the chicken on the stove:
TO GRILL CHICKEN
- When ready to grill, remove chicken from the refrigerator and let rest 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make bruschetta and balsamic glaze (recipes below) and preheat grill to 400 degrees, clean and grease grates.
- Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)
TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE STOVE
- When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator and let rest 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make bruschetta and balsamic glaze (recipes below).
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes, or until deeply golden on one side. Flip chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F.
- Add cheese. Whether cooking the chicken on the stove or grill, top each chicken breast with a slice of mozzarella the last minute of cooking. Cover until cheese is melted.
- Make Balsamic Glaze. Whisk vinegar and sugar together in a small nonreactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer just until the consistency of syrup, approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Assemble. Scoop bruschetta onto chicken breasts and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CHICKEN IS DONE?
Grilled chicken breasts are done when they register 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer otherwise there is no accurate way to check and see when your chicken is cooked without slicing and loosing valuable juices.
Tips FOR Making Bruschetta Chicken
Bruschetta chicken is very simple to make but there are few tips such as never refrigerating your tomatoes, that transform your chicken bruschetta recipe from ordinary to extraordinary.
- Pound chicken to an even thickness. Pound the thickest part of the chicken so it’s even with the thinnest part to ensure the chicken cooks evenly. You don’t want one side to be cooked perfectly and the other side to be raw or overcooked/dry.
- Tenderize chicken. Pounding the chicken also tenderizes it as well. If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can or rolling pin.
- Marinate Chicken. You can get away with marinating the chicken for as little as 30 minutes if it is pounded thin, but the longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become. I recommend at least 4 hours but closer to 12 hours is ideal.
- Don’t over-marinate chicken. On the other hand, you don’t want to marinate the chicken longer than 12 hours because the acid (lemon juice and balsamic vinegar) can actually constrict the protein fibers and make your chicken tough and chewy.
- Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking. Transfer the marinating chicken to your kitchen counter 30 minutes before grilling. Room temperature chicken cooks more evenly and quickly which translates into juicier chicken because there is less time for moisture to be released while cooking.
- Clean grill. You should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.
- Use a hot grill. Heat up the grill with the lid closed cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes. Once the grill is hot, you can adjust the temperature. Don’t add the chicken until the grill reaches temperature or you won’t get those beautiful grill marks.
- Flip only once using tongs. After you add the chicken breasts to the grill, don’t touch them for a full 5 minutes. You need enough time for the chicken to sear and then they will naturally release from the grill. Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over using tongs.
- Don’t overcook! Cook chicken breasts just to 165 degrees F. Chicken breasts are a lean protein and therefore can dry out if overcooked. Use a meat thermometer to eliminate all of the guess work to achieve succulent, juicy chicken every time.
- Let chicken rest. Let the grilled chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This gives the juices that have pushed to the outside of the meat time to redistribute throughout the chicken. If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
- Use the freshest ingredients possible. The most flavorful bruschetta comes from fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes that are sweet-smelling – so go seasonal! Roma tomatoes are a warm-weather crop at peak ripeness in the summer, so in summer go for Roma tomatoes. In the winter, I tend to use cherry tomatoes as the are more reliable year-round. If using cherry tomatoes, cut them in quarters; you will need two cups.
- Use a variety of tomatoes. You are welcome to mix and match the tomatoes as long as they are ripe.
- Don’t refrigerate the tomatoes you plan to use for bruschetta. Instead, leave them on the counter until ready to use. In simple terms, refrigerated tomatoes are far less flavorful and desirable. Science explains that the genes responsible for aroma compounds in tomatoes are turned off in a process called methylation when a tomato stays in a chilly environment.
- Leave the seeds behind. Halve the tomatoes then remove and discard the majority of the seeds. Chop tomatoes into 1/4-inch chunks then transfer them to a bowl leaving the seeds and extra juice on the cutting board. This will make for less watery bruschetta.
- Drain bruschetta. That being said, the salt in the bruschetta draws out the moisture of the tomatoes, so the mixture can become a little watery. Sometimes mine is watery, sometimes it isn’t, it really depends on your tomatoes. If your bruschetta becomes watery, just drain off any excess liquid before serving.
- Combine bruschetta ahead of time. Mix the bruschetta ingredients together at least 30 minutes before you plan on serving. This lines up perfectly with bringing your chicken to room temperature – so when you remove the chicken from the fridge – make your bruschetta. Letting the bruschetta ingredients sit and marinate together allows the flavors to build and blend and has a huge impact on the final outcome.
- Serve bruschetta at room temperature. Bruschetta should not be refrigerated or served cold. If you have made the bruschetta ahead of time, keep it on the counter.
THE BALSAMIC GLAZE
- Use quality balsamic vinegar. Choose balsamic vinegar marked as made in Modena or the neighboring Reggio Emilia region in Italy. These two areas are famous for quality balsamic vinegar verses watery, less concentrated vinegars.
- Use a non-reactive pan to make the balsamic glaze. A nonreactive pan is one that will not react with acidic ingredients such as stainless steel, enamel or glazed finished pans, and many non-stick pans. Reactive pans should be avoided when cooking with acidic foods such as this balsamic glaze and tomato sauce because the material can react with the food and alter the flavor of the dish. These include aluminum, tin, cast iron and unlined copper.
- Stir often. It will seem like your reduction is taking a while to thicken then out of nowhere it will start to thicken so keep a careful eye on it and continue to stir so it doesn’t burn; once burned, it’s not salvageable.
- Balsamic glaze reduction time will vary. Balsamic vinegar quality varies so the time it takes to reduce your balsamic into a glaze will also vary (also due to other variables such as size of pan, pan material, actual heat, etc.). The more concentrated your vinegar is to begin with, the less time it will take, and vice versa.
- The glaze should be thick enough that it coats the back of a spoon. The glaze should be thick yet pourable, similar to warmed honey. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools, so remove it from the heat a minute or two before it’s done or it will become too thick and harden.
- What if my glaze hardens? If your balsamic glaze is beginning to harden before you use it, then whisk in a little water and gently reheat to loosen.
- How to thicken glaze. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you end up removing the glaze too early and it doesn’t thicken up after cooling, then return it to heat and simmer a little longer.
- Swap brown sugar. Instead of sugar, you may use honey or pure maple syrup (NOT imitation breakfast syrup).
- Omit sugar. You can also omit any sweetener entirely but your glaze won’t be as sweet and will take longer to reduce.
- It will smell. Don’t be alarmed at the strong smell emitted by the reducing vinegar -that’s normal!
WHAT GOES WITH BRUSCHETTA CHICKEN?
There are many ways you can serve this bruschetta chicken. You can keep it low carb and serve with zoodles or go with pasta and sautéed veggies. Here are a few serving ideas:
- LOW CARB: Go low carb and serve bruschetta chicken with cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- PASTA: Serve on a bed of buttered noodles with salt and pepper or alongside Cacio e Pepe – drool.
- GRAINS: serve with brown rice, white rice, quinoa, lentils, etc.
- POTATOES: my favorite way, along with pasta, to serve bruschetta chicken. Serve the chicken over a bed of Mashed Potatoes or Pesto Mashed Potatoes or alongside Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Red Potatoes, Twice Baked Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes or Hashbrown Casserole.
- SALAD: It’s scrumptious with a big green salad, Caesar salad, Wedge Salad, Strawberry Salad, Spinach Berry Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- FRUIT: Every entree is enhanced by mother nature’s candy. Go simple with a side of grapes, melon or apples or enjoy Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette, or Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone.
- Veggies: Roasted, steamed, or sautéed veggies are fantastic with this chicken bruschetta recipe. Some of my favorites include Baked Parmesan Asparagus, Roasted Broccoli, Sautéed Lemon Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Butternut Squash.
- BREAD: Of course, every Italian entrée (unless you’re going low carb) needs a side of bread. You can serve this bruschetta chicken with my favorite Garlic Bread to go with the bruschetta theme or my Dinner Rolls, or Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks are both fabulous.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT LEFTOVERS
- Storage: store the bruschetta and cooked chicken separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Microwave: chop up or slice the chicken so it reheats more evenly then transfer a small portion to a microwave safe dish. Heat for one minute then at 30 second intervals as needed.
- Oven: transfer chicken to an oven-proof dish. Cover with foil and reheat at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or just until warmed through.
How to Make Ahead
- Chicken: can be marinated up to 12 hours before cooking.
- Bruschetta: can be prepped up to several hours before serving – but don’t refrigerate! Store, covered on the counter at room temperature. Drain any excess liquid before using.
- Glaze: prepare the glaze according to directions, taking extra care to not to overcook. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools. Let the glaze cool to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container such as a small glass jar or bowl. Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Can I freeze this recipe?
You can freeze the grilled chicken without the mozzarella but the bruschetta does not freeze well. When tomatoes are frozen and thaw, they become, watery and mushy.
- Freeze chicken in marinade. Add the chicken to the marinade ingredients in a freezer safe bag, squeeze out excess air and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you thaw the chicken in the refrigerator.
- Freeze chicken. You can also freeze cooked bruschetta chicken without the cheese or bruschetta. After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE CHICKEN BRUSCHETTA RECIPE
- Instant-read thermometer: you need an instant-read thermometer for the juiciest chicken, steak and pork AND for perfectly fried everything! It allows you to cook any protein to the perfect temperature every time and allows you to heat oil to the correct temperature for frying.
- Grill brush: is essential for keeping your grill clean! This grill brush with scrapers cleans stubborn stains deeply and efficiently.
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