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20-Minute Baked Pesto Chicken Meatballs

5 from 8 community reviews

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The best easy and quick meal! These delicious chicken meatballs are combined with Parmesan cheese, basil pesto, and panko breadcrumbs and bake in just 20 minutes in the oven. Serve over cheesy orzo for a complete dinner, or with your favorite marinara sauce.

Chicken meatballs and orzo on a platter, with a spoon on the side.
Juicy chicken meatballs cook in 20 minutes. Serve with buttered Parmesan orzo for a quick family meal!

Baked chicken meatballs! This is one of the easiest, hands-off dinner recipes you can make — it’s an all-around family pleaser. These bite-size babies taste amazing served along with buttery, cheesy Parmesan orzo with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Or, combine the meatballs with your favorite homemade marinara sauce or just simply serve them on their own as an appetizer or light meal.

Instead of frying meatballs on the stove (which let’s be honest, takes some babysitting), it’s so much easier to put them on a sheet pan, pop them right in the oven and bake until they become browned and ready to eat.

When I worked as a personal chef, I cooked food for more than a few fancy dinner parties, but nine times out of ten most families wanted comfort food — just like these meatballs. And I even wrote my cookbook with more of my favorite recipes for easy family dining!

About the ingredients

Bowls of ingredients to make meatballs, including ground chicken, egg, pesto, panko crumbs, grated cheese and seasonings.

The simple Italian-style flavor of these chicken meatballs is unmatched. While classic Italian meatball recipes are made with beef and pork, the neutral flavor of chicken means all the seasonings come to the forefront, which you can taste in chicken and ricotta meatballs, too!

Here’s what you need to make them:

  • Ground chicken: For the juiciest, tender meatballs, I highly recommend using ground chicken thigh. Chicken breast meat doesn’t have as much fat — which translates to juicy flavor — and tends to have a drier texture when cooked. You can also use ground turkey to make tasty turkey meatballs instead of chicken.
  • Pesto: Look for fresh basil pesto in your grocery store (it’s usually stocked near the refrigerated fresh pastas) or make the classic basil pesto recipe from scratch.
  • Parmesan cheese: Use fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic tastes the best. Use one clove grated on a microplane or finely chop it. In a pinch, substitute with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Egg: Use one large or extra-large whole egg to help bind the meatballs.
  • Panko: Panko breadcrumbs are light and fluffy in texture. Use plain or seasoned panko, whichever you have on hand. If you want to use regular fine dry breadcrumbs, use half the amount listed in the recipe as they are a bit denser.
  • Spices and Seasonings: Black pepper, kosher salt, red pepper flakes and fresh herbs (parsley or basil).
  • Olive oil

How to make chicken meatballs, step by step

You need minimal equipment to make baked chicken meatballs:

  • A bowl to mix up the meatballs (with pesto, Parmesan cheese and seasonings).
  • A sheet pan with rimmed sides.

Storing chicken meatballs

  • Chicken meatballs are freezer friendly. To freeze, arrange them in one layer on a tray and freeze until solid. Transfer to a ziplock bag or other airtight container and freeze 1-2 months.
  • Store fresh meatballs in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Reheat in a low oven or in the microwave so they don’t dry out, or warm them up in meat or chicken broth.

Meatball dinner ideas

  • To serve a larger group, this recipe easily makes a double batch for more servings.
  • Serve the meatballs with marinara sauce, pesto sauce, or garlic butter.
  • Pile the meatballs on a platter with some toothpicks and serve as a hearty appetizer.
  • Add them to warm chicken broth or soup for a nourishing one-bowl meal.
Chicken meatballs and orzo on a platter, with a spoon on the side.

20-Minute Baked Pesto Chicken Meatballs (Family Favorite!)

Karen Tedesco
Tasty baked chicken meatballs seasoned with basil pesto and Parmesan cheese are ready to eat in 30-minutes! Serve this family-favorite with cheesy orzo for an easy dinner, or your favorite marinara sauce.
Print Pin
5 from 8 community reviews
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Chicken, Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 16 meatballs


Chicken meatballs

  • Olive oil, for the sheet pan
  • 1 pound (450 g) ground chicken, preferably dark meat
  • 1 egg
  • cup (35 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) basil pesto sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Parmesan Orzo

  • ½ cup (75 g) dried orzo pasta
  • ¼ cup (28 g) sun-dried tomatoes, diced or sliced into thick slivers
  • ¼ cup (25 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


Prepare the meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 425 (220 C) degrees. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or line with parchment paper for easy clean up.
  • Put all ingredients for the meatballs (except the olive oil) in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon until blended. Form the mixture into approximately 16 meatballs approximately 2-inches in diameter (a cookie scoop is perfect for this), arranging them on the baking sheet. To smooth out their shape, moisten your hands and lightly roll into balls.
  • Bake 10 minutes. Turn the meatballs over with a spatula or tongs and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with orzo or add to marinara sauce.

Make the orzo

  • While the meatballs are baking, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Cook the orzo until al dente, according to the package directions.
  • Put the tomatoes in a colander. Drain the orzo into the colander over the tomatoes (this will instantly soften them). Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the cheese, butter and parsley.

To serve

  • Put the meatballs on top of the orzo. Sprinkle with the parsley additional cheese and serve.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • Chicken meatballs are freezer friendly. To freeze, arrange them in one layer on a tray and freeze until solid. Transfer to a ziplock bag or other airtight container and freeze 1-2 months.
  • Store fresh meatballs in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Reheat in a low oven or in the microwave so they don’t dry out, or warm them up in chicken soup or meat broth.


Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 271mg | Potassium: 235mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 173IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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One Comment

  1. Kristy Wendt says:

    5 stars
    Yum! I ended up doubling the orzo recipe later. So good.