Chicken With Sicilian Inspired Pistachio Herb Sauce

chicken with Sicilian inspired pistachio herb sauce

Perk up sautéed chicken by topping it with a Sicilian inspired savory pistachio herb sauce. Perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal, the olive oil based sauce, similar to pesto or salsa verde, also makes a delicious, healthy topping for fish or grilled summer vegetables.

Italy is well known for its flavor packed, fresh herb sauces that are used as accompaniments to perk up dishes such boiled meats, grilled fish, vegetables and pastas. One of the most famous is Genovese pesto made by pounding basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle.

The island of Sicily also has several well known herb sauces. Salmorglio is a traditional sauce made with a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and oregano. Sarsa virdi, also known as salsa verde or green sauce, is a semi liquid sauce made from anchovies, vinegar, garlic, onions, parsley and capers. Pesto alla Trapanese is made with basil, almonds, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Another pesto from Sicily is Pesto di pistacchio made with roasted pistachios, basil, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and grated cheese, mixed until it is the consistency of a thick cream.

Chicken Topped With Pistachio Herb Sauce
Chicken Topped With Sicilian Inspired Pistachio Herb Sauce

For a quick weeknight meal, I like to serve a simple sautéed boneless breast of chicken topped with a sauce made from fresh herbs for added flavor and moisture. Recently I decided to make an herb sauce similar to the Sicilian pesto di pistacchio but without cheese and with a thinner consistency similar to the island’s salsa verde. In the recipe that I am sharing with you, I used a combination of high quality extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, red pepper flakes and chopped toasted pistachios. If you wish, you can change the flavor profile and make it your own by adjusting the amount and combination of fresh herbs you use. I loved the richness that the pistachios added to the herb sauce but you can also use pine nuts, almonds or hazel nuts, if you prefer.

Pistachio Herb Sauce
Sicilian Inspired Pistachio Herb Sauce

Chicken With Pistachio Herb Sauce

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

Pistachio Herb Sauce

  • 1/4 c. pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste

Toast the pistachios in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until just golden brown. Watch carefully as they can easily burn. Once brown, remove from the pan and let cool. When cool, chop the nuts by hand into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over very low heat. Add the garlic and simmer for 1 minute to soften. Add the pistachio nuts and let simmer for 1 minute. Remove oil for heat and add the herbs and seasonings. Let the mixture rest so that the herbs infuse the olive oil with their flavors. Just before serving, add in the lemon juice and taste for additional seasoning.

This is a very simple sauce so it is important to choose quality ingredients,

I suggest hand chopping the herbs and pistachios to have control over the final texture of the sauce.

Add the lemon juice to the sauce just before serving to keep the bright colors of the sauce.

If you are using this sauce on fish or grilled vegetables, you might want to add a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest to the sauce.

Notes From The Kitchen

Sautéed Boneless Breast of Chicken

  • 2 (4 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place the chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound just enough to even out the thickness. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil then season well with salt and pepper. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat. Place the chicken, smooth side down, in the skillet and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown. (If you have a cooking weight, it will help with even browning). Turn the chicken breast over and cook until done, depending on the thickness about another 3 minutes. Plate the chicken and top with some of the pistachio herb sauce.


My husband and I have yet to visit Sicily where pistachios have been part its culinary traditions for hundred of years. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that part of Italy someday. In the meantime, I will continue to make this pistachio herb sauce and other recipes that include pistachios. Not only is the sauce delicious but pistachios are considered a very healthy nut. Did you know that two ounces of pistachios have more potassium than a banana and as much fiber as a cup of cooked Broccoli? They are high in minerals, and unsaturated fat that can help keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check. Pistachios contain the highest levels of zeaxanthin and lutein among nuts, which protect your eyes from damage caused by blue light as well as age related macular degeneration. They also have antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds and one compound has shown some promise in studies for treatments with Parkinson’s disease. For those reasons alone, I’ll be snacking on and using tasty pistachios in more recipes.

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45 thoughts on “Chicken With Sicilian Inspired Pistachio Herb Sauce

  1. All those sauces sound deicious and yours looks fantastic with that chicken! I haven’t had lunch yet and you’ve made me very hungry.

  2. Karen, the pistachio herb sauce with sautéed chicken looks delicious. It would be a perfect summer dinner with little fuss. Thank you for sharing. I hope you are doing well.

  3. Mmmm! Mmmm! What a delicious and simple summertime meal. What we all need because of our summer activities.
    Happy Summer my friend!

  4. This is delicious, Karen. What a great accompaniment to the chicken. I like pistachios a lot and am interested to read of all their health benefits, so thank you. The owner of a local gelateria, which is much lauded here, is from Sicily and he says he always makes pesto with pistachios! And he gets his pistachios from Sicily for their wonderful pistachio gelato.

  5. I love your pistachio herb sauce! Herbs and olive oil enhance the flavor of any dish. And pistachios are the perfect crunch to add to the sauce. Great recipe Karen!

  6. This pistachio sauce sounds amazing! I knew pistachios were one of the healthier nuts, but did not know all the benefits, wow, I am putting them on my shopping list! Thanks Karen!

  7. This sounds wonderful. I have been pounding chicken breasts lately! Unfortunately, my fresh thyme just succumbed to the heat. Sicily sounds like an intriguing place to visit and eat with all the different culinary influences.

  8. That sauce sounds wonderful! I plan on making it for a topping of salmon! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Your Pesto di pistacchio is perfect! I replace the pistachios as they are very expensive here. Sicily is beautiful and you will love it. If you ever go, drop me a note so I can give you some ‘inside’ information 🙂

  10. That sauce is to die for… I didn’t know Sicily itself had so many. I have made trapanese before, a Nigella recipe, and it’s incredible.

  11. Interesting tips about the health benefits of pistachios! I do love pistachios, and I really should cook with them more often. This pistachio herb sauce sounds fantastic – it would be a great way to elevate chicken for sure!

  12. What a glorious sauce! I adore pistachios but tend to use them only on rare occasions due to the cost. This seems like an affordable luxury though. I’d slather everything in it given half the change.

  13. This is a truly delicious recipe, Karen. For those of us who prepare a lot of chicken, it’s delightful to consider adding flavor in a sauce that is slightly unexpected. I love the idea of pistachios and herbs. I’m delighted to anticipate making this very soon!

  14. A few fresh ingredients, olive oil and you have an amazing accompaniment or marinade for meats, vegetables almost everything!!! The pistachio herb sauce is delightful.


  15. I love sauces like this that are so zingy and loaded with herbs. I think it would taste good on just about anything. A perfect use for my home-grown oregano, too.

  16. My husband and I love pistachios and I will make this sauce soon. Thank you Karen. I was thinking of you when I was in Munich and all the good tips you gave me some years ago.

  17. One of my favorite things about your blog is how you introduce me to new flavor combinations, Karen. I love pistachios so I’m super excited to try this recipe. The sauce loaded with herbs feels like the perfect way to celebrate the summer season. Hugs, CoCo

  18. What a fabulous riff on a traditional pesto, I often make pestos of different nuts, the flavours are fantastic. And now with my fresh herb garden in full swing I have everything I need at my fingertips. Great idea to leave out the cheese, makes a lighter sauce.

  19. Wow, this sauce sounds absolutely amazing. So interesting and such a great flavor combination. I can think of so many things I’d love it on. 🙂 ~Valentina

  20. This recipe sounds amazing Karen! But I can only make it for my Sicilian husband and me when we are alone. We have family members who are allergic to all nuts, which is why I can only make it for the two of us…. but it will be worth it! Thanks for another recipe to add to my list!
    Have a great week!

  21. I use any nut in my pesto now. Right now I’ve got pecans frozen that need to be used up so that’s what it’s been. But your chicken looks great–so much extra flavor!

  22. I love the combo of the nut coating and the SAUCE! This recipe certainly gives new life to the ordinary chicken dinner! Many thanks for sharing it!

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