I love cooking from scratch, especially on weekends when I have a little extra time. But most nights, I’m scrambling to come up with a healthy, tasty dinner, and it feels like a real challenge. That’s why I’ve developed a few easy dinner recipes I call “Costco hacks,” which means they’re put together quickly with basic ingredients from my favorite warehouse store. This pesto rice is one of our favorite easy dinner recipes. It also works well for meal-prep lunches.
This dish has been a big hit at our house with adults and kids alike. The brown rice absorbs huge flavor from the pesto and lemon juice, grape tomatoes add freshness, pine nuts add richness and crunch, and cooked chicken turns the whole thing into a substantial entree. The recipe requires only 6 basic ingredients and 30 minutes to make, if you have chicken and rice that are already cooked.
Start the recipe with 4 cups of cooked brown rice. I often make a big batch of rice in my Aroma rice cooker, divide it into whatever size portions I want, and put it in bags to keep in the freezer. You can also buy cooked brown rice frozen in bags at Trader Joe’s and many chain supermarkets, but I haven’t seen it at Costco recently.
Costco’s Kirkland pesto is some of the least expensive pesto you can buy, and it’s super tasty. Pesto is one of my favorite ingredients, and we eat the stuff from Costco all the time. I will usually divide the big jar into smaller portions and keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh.
Add 1/2 cup of pesto to the brown rice, along with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. The lemons from Costco are a real bargain, and they keep a long time, so I don’t usually worry about buying a big bag.
You can use any kind of diced cooked chicken for this recipe. I like the cooked chicken breast Costco sells in the deli section, but you could also use meat pulled from a rotisserie chicken, or chicken breasts you have precooked in the oven or crock-pot. If you want to keep this dish vegetarian, you could substitute a can of garbanzo beans or any white bean for the chicken.
The grape tomatoes from Costco are a go-to for me almost every week, except in the summer when I can get farm stand tomatoes. I use grape tomatoes from Costco for salads, snacking, or to add freshness to casseroles and curries. Tomato and pesto are a magically delicious flavor combination.
I like to top my pesto rice with whole pine nuts. The Huffington Post recently named nuts as one of the top ten best deals at Costco. Pine nuts from Costco cost about $1 per ounce in a 24-oz. bag, compared to about $1.50 per ounce at other grocery stores. They will stay fresh in the freezer for 6 months or so. I don’t always want to shell out (pun intended) for a huge bag of pine nuts, so sometimes I will buy a smaller bag at another store.
After topping the pesto rice with pine nuts, bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes until everything is heated through. By the time 15 minutes are up, everyone in the house will probably be poking their heads into the kitchen to find out what smells so good! If you really want to take this dish over the top, drizzle on some honey balsamic glaze at the table.
Pesto Rice with Chicken, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup prepared pesto
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooked chicken breast diced
- 20 grape tomatoes cut in half
- 2 tablespoons honey balsamic glaze optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. When they are fragrant and beginning to brown, remove them from the heat and set aside.
- Put the rice, pesto, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken and grape tomatoes, and stir gently to combine.
- Pour rice mixture in a casserole dish, and sprinkle with pine nuts.
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through.
- Drizzle on balsamic glaze at the table, if desired.