Kalyn's Kitchen

Chicken Pesto Soup

Chicken Pesto Soup has all the comfort food appeal that makes chicken soup such a popular dish, plus extra flavor from pesto and lemon juice!

PIN Chicken Pesto Soup to make it later!

Chicken Pesto Soup close-up of finished soup in serving bowls

My recipe for Easy Baked Pesto Chicken is one of the most popular recipes on my site, and I guess sub-consciously that must have influenced the decision to add some pesto to this tasty Chicken Pesto Soup. But mostly this is just a recipe I came up with when I was experimenting with chicken and rice soup using cauliflower rice, and when I had the inspiration to add some pesto and lemon juice, that really made it a wow. I made it in the Instant Pot, but I’ll give instructions for making it on the stove if you prefer.

It’s a simple recipe, but I want to give you one caution. You need to turn off the heat when you stir the pesto into the hot soup. If you add pesto and let the soup sit with the Instant Pot still turned on, you’ll have melted cheese from the pesto on the bottom of your Instant Pot that will be a pain to scrub off. (I learned that the hard way, although it didn’t stop me from really enjoying the soup!) Another option to keep the Instant Pot as clean as possible is stirring some pesto into each bowl of soup as you serve it.

What ingredients do you need for this recipe?

Chicken Pesto Soup process shots collage

How to make this chicken soup with pesto and lemon:

(Scroll down for complete recipe including stovetop instructions and nutritional information.)

  1. Take cauliflower rice out of the freezer and let it start to thaw.
  2. Trim chicken breasts and cut lengthwise.
  3. Finely chop onion, celery, and carrots. 
  4. Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE, HIGH HEAT, and melt butter; then add onion, carrots, and celery and cook 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add Italian Herb Seasoning, sage, ground thyme, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper and cook a minute more.
  6. Add chicken broth or stock, chicken breast strips, and soup base. 
  7. Lock the lid and set Instant Pot to MANUAL, HIGH, 6 minutes.
  8. Let Instant Pot natural release 10 minutes; then release the rest of the pressure.
  9. Remove cooked chicken pieces to cutting board.
  10. Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE, LOW and add frozen cauliflower rice.
  11. While cauliflower rice cooks, shred chicken apart. 
  12. After cauliflower rice has cooked about 5 minutes, add shredded chicken to the soup and cook about 3 minutes more.
  13. Turn off the Instant Pot and stir in basil pesto and lemon juice.
  14. Serve right away and enjoy! We served this with more Parmesan cheese to add at the table.

Chicken Pesto Soup square image

Chicken Pesto Soup close-up of finished soup in serving bowls

Chicken Pesto Soup

Yield 8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 51 minutes

This Chicken Pesto Soup is a delicious comforting chicken soup that's kicked up a notch with the addition of basil pesto and lemon juice at the end.

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme (see notes)
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 cups chicken broth (see notes)
  • 3 T chicken soup base
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 10.5 oz. package frozen cauliflower rice (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (see notes)
  • 2 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice (see notes)

Instructions

Instant Pot Instructions:

  1. Take cauliflower rice out of the freezer and let it start to thaw on the counter. (I used a 10.5 oz. package which was 2.5 cups of cauliflower rice.)
  2. Trim chicken breasts and cut lengthwise into 2 or 3 strips each.
  3. Finely chop onion, celery, and carrots. (You can use less carrot if you'd like to reduce the carbs even more.)
  4. Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE, HIGH HEAT, and melt the butter. Then add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery and cook a couple of minutes.
  5. Add Italian Herb Seasoning, sage, ground thyme, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper and cook a minute more.
  6. Add chicken broth or stock, chicken breast strips, and soup base.
  7. Lock the lid and set Instant Pot to MANUAL, HIGH, 6 minutes.
  8. When time is up, let the Instant Pot natural release for 10 minutes; then carefully open the valve and release the rest of the pressure.
  9. Remove cooked chicken pieces to a cutting board.
  10. Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE, LOW and add the frozen cauliflower rice.
  11. While cauliflower rice cooks, shred chicken apart.
  12. After cauliflower rice has cooked at least 5 minutes, add shredded chicken to the soup and cook about 3 minutes more.
  13. Turn off the Instant Pot and stir in basil pesto and lemon juice.
  14. Serve right away and enjoy! We served this with more Parmesan cheese to add at the table.

Stovetop Instructions:

  1. Thaw cauliflower rice, prepare vegetables, and prepare chicken same as above.
  2. You will need at least another 1/2 cup chicken broth or stock for stovetop cooking.
  3. Melt butter in a large soup pot and saute onion, carrots, and celery for a few minutes.
  4. Then add Italian Herb Seasoning, sage, thyme, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper and cook a few minutes more.
  5. Add chicken broth or stock, chicken breast strips, and soup base to the soup pot and turn heat to low.
  6. Let soup simmer about 40 minutes on low, or until chicken is firm.
  7. Remove chicken to cutting board and add cauliflower rice. Cook about 15 minutes more on low.
  8. Shred chicken apart and add to soup pot when the cauliflower rice is done. Cook about 5 minutes more to be sure chicken is heated through.
  9. Turn off heat, stir in basil pesto and lemon juice, and serve.

Notes

You can use dried thyme leaves, but they float on the top of the soup when it's done so I prefer to use ground thyme for soup. You can grind the thyme in a Mortar and Pestle (affiliate link) if you have one.

If you have homemade chicken stock that will be delicious in this soup. If you use canned chicken broth, 8 cups is 4.5 cans. If you're cooking on the stove use the whole 5 cans. I use Better than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base (affiliate link), but any chicken soup base you like the flavor of will work.

The 10.5 oz. package of frozen cauliflower rice was 2.5 cups; you could use a bit more if you prefer a thicker soup. Use more or less pesto and lemon juice to taste. If I had some of my Basil Pesto with Lemon in the freezer I'd definitely use that for the soup, but purchased basil pesto will also be delicious. I used my fresh-frozen lemon juice lemon juice.

Recipe created by Kalyn and perfected for the Instant Pot with help from Kara.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 191Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 1188mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 22g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear how it turns out. Leave a star rating or share on social media with the hashtag #KALYNSKITCHEN, thanks!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This soup is a good dinner option for any low-glycemic or low-carb diet, including any phase of the original South Beach Diet.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use the Diet Type Index to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Chicken Pesto Soup Pinterest image

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    6 Comments on “Chicken Pesto Soup”

  1. For the instant pot of you start with frozen chicken breasts do any changes need to be made? Thanks

    • I haven’t cooked frozen chicken in the Instant Pot, but I would definitely think you’d need to add a little more time under pressure, since this recipe has such a short cooking time. I’d guess you would need at least 10 minutes, but that’s only a guess.

      I would google “Instant Pot Chicken Soup frozen chicken” and check a few recipes to see what they recommend for the time under pressure. I’d love to hear how this works if you try it!

  2. Hi Kalyn, on the stovetop directions, do you really only cook the chicken on low for 4 minutes?

  3. I love chicken soup and I love pesto, but together? I guess I’m sort of a purist, lol!