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Kid-Friendly Pesto Chicken and Rice Recipe | One-Pot Instant Pot Dinner for Weeknights

It’s certainly the time of year to pull out all the easy strategies like this one-pot Instant Pot dinner that you can prep the night before or anytime during the day! Getting a healthy dinner on the table in a hurry has rarely been easier than this. 

one-pot instant pot dinner recipe

Fall is the time of year when parents bring out the family playbook. All of the activities start and it’s “ready, set, go!”

  • Mike needs to be at baseball at four.
  • Lynn needs to be at dance at five.
  • Hannah needs to be at piano at six.
  • Dad has a meeting at seven.
  • Mom is trying to keep the toddler from destroying the house.

And this is on a good day! Sound familiar?

But there is something missing in this scenario…when does everyone eat?!

Sadly, the typical answer is that dinner happens in the car, on the way to or from activities. And it’s most likely fast food or packaged, processed food.

Pesto chicken and rice

Thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way!!

One-Pot Instant Pot Dinner for Back-to-School Season

With a little planning, everyone can eat a nourishing dinner, even on the busiest nights (even if it does have to be in the car). And it doesn’t have to take much of your time!

If you have yet to get an Instant Pot, get one. It can be a lifesaver for getting healthy food on the table when you don’t have much time. But if you don’t have one most recipes can be modified to cook in the crockpot.

The best strategy for easy weeknight meals is to make a one-pot Instant Pot dinner. This is what’s so great about it:

  • Dinner prep is done ahead of time.
  • The timer function makes it possible for dinner to start cooking even if you’re not home or if you’re busy.
  • The food stays warm for as long as you need in case some family members are eating at different times.
Instant Pot cooking dinner

That’s a triple win!

Where to Buy an Instant Pot

This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that!

If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot review and buying guide for features, size, and model.

If you’d like to shop directly at Instant Pot’s website instead of Amazon (or just compare prices), check them out here.

You can even get a carrying case to travel with it! See my review of the Instant Pot carrying case we have.

If you’re still on the fence about adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliance arsenal here are my Instant Pot pros and cons.

Instant Pot Recipe Kids Love

Just because an Instant Pot recipe falls under the easy category does not mean it is healthy or kid-friendly. So choose wisely.

Some factors to consider when looking for Instant Pot recipes kids will love:

  • Flavor – Kids tend to like both salty and sweet. Try to have both elements in the dish. And use caution with spice if your kids aren’t used to it.
  • Color – Consider whether your kids like bright colors (peas, carrots, beets) or something more muted (potatoes, parsnips).
  • Texture – If your child struggles with certain textures (mushy, crunchy, chewy, etc.), keep that in mind.
  • Smell – A strong smell can send kids running from the table. This could be foods like seafood, garlic, or vinegar. Keep it mild unless your kids are used to strong smells.
Instant Pot Pesto Chicken and Rice

Keeping all of these in mind, you can create a kid-friendly, nourishing dinner for busy nights.

One-Pot Instant Pot Pesto Chicken and Rice

Instant Pot pesto chicken and rice is a one-pot dish that checks all the boxes for an easy, kid-friendly meal. And there is hardly any prep!

Rice in an Instant Pot has a bit of chew to it (no mush!!). This is combined with tender chicken and creamy pesto. Plus whatever veggies your family enjoys.

There are no overpowering smells or flavors either.

When I made this pesto chicken and rice my kids fought over who got the most chicken. I had to modify the recipe to change the ratio of rice to chicken! Regardless, it was a huge hit.

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Instant Pot pesto chicken and rice

Instant Pot Pesto Chicken and Rice Recipe

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  • Author: Mary Voogt, NTP (Contributing Writer)
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: serves 6
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Diet: Gluten Free


A simple, prep-ahead, nourishing one-pot Instant Pot dinner for busy weeknights. Kid-approved!


Units Scale


Pesto Chicken & Rice

  • 1 batch pesto
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half or chicken tenders
  • 1 1/2 c. white rice
  • 2 1/2 c. water or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 4 c. fresh or frozen chopped veggies (optional)

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  1. Thaw peas on counter or under running warm water.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add small amounts of water or oil if too thick to blend.
  4. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Pesto Chicken & Rice

  1. In a large Instant Pot, combine the rice, water/broth and 3/4 of the seasoning. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the vegetables if using.
  3. Top with the chicken and remaining seasoning.
  4. Top with 3/4 of the prepared pesto.
  5. Secure lid and cook on poultry setting 25 minutes, allowing to release pressure naturally.
  6. Serve with the remaining pesto for topping/dipping.


  • You may want to make a double batch of pesto to be sure everyone has enough for extra dipping.
  • If not adding vegetables to the dish, serve with a salad or vegetables on the side.
  • The entire dish can be prepared in advance. Simply put the Instant Pot liner with the food in the fridge until ready to cook OR use frozen chicken, leave it on the counter, and set the timer.


  • Calories: 589
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Sodium: 645mg
  • Fat: 21g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 16g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 51g
  • Cholesterol: 135mg

Where to Find High Quality Meat

Having trouble finding good quality meat locally? Would you like to fill your freezer with local and pastured options?

If you’re in the US Midwest, Chicago to Milwaukee to Detroit to New York, and select cities across the country, check out TruLocalUsa.

If you’re west of the Mississippi, check out Wild Pastures

If you live in any of the 48 contiguous states, I recommend US Wellness Meats and Butcher Box! 

I’m grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A subscription from Butcher Box includes grass fed, organic, pastured, and free range = all the labels important to your family’s health! And I’ve got a special deal for you!

They almost always have great deals for new customers. Claim your free gifts, and see what bonus they have going on right now. Don’t miss out!

(free shipping too!)

  • Need a little help getting healthy food on the table every day? Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more! You remain totally in control: use your own recipes, accept theirs, and teach the system what your family likes…Check out how powerful it is here!

healthy pesto Is Pesto Kid-Friendly?

Now, you may be thinking your kid won’t touch pesto – herbs, garlic, pine nuts…no way.

But this is not your traditional pesto!

This pesto is made with peas! We like to call it pea-sto.

The peas add a natural sweetness that kids love. Plus they give a bright green color that is a bit more inviting to kids.

I love how simple it is to make pea-sto. It’s just thawed peas blended with olive oil, salt, and some onion and garlic powder if your kids like (but it’s not necessary).

My kids will eat this pesto on just about anything. We use it as:

Instant Pot chicken and rice

If you want to boost nutrition you can certainly add other greens (we like homemade beet green powder for a huge potassium boost). But in terms of kid-friendly flavor, keeping it simple with just peas is best.

You’re Just *7 Days* Away From Easier Meals with Your Instant Pot

Whether you have a few fav meals in your Instant Pot or still aren’t using it regularly yet, I can show you the secrets to SAVE time (and money) with my favorite appliance!

May I send you my best hacks to maximize my fav appliance so you can spend more time with your family AND nourish them well?

Get IP hacks in short emails and transform the way you serve dinner:

How to Get Kids to Eat More Veggies

If vegetables are a struggle in your house, simply start with the pesto. Don’t add any other vegetables to the dish. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner I take a very gradual approach when modifying a child’s diet.

Be sure to make extra pesto. You might be surprised how much of it your kids eat. And it’s just as healthy as eating a serving of vegetables. Pureeing vegetables to use as a sauce is a great strategy for any veggie-hesitant child.

Save your spot for Katie’s next free picky eating challenge here!

Gradually add vegetables to the rice, using finely diced veggies. This can include peas, carrots, onion, parsnips, rutabaga, squash, broccoli, or cauliflower.

If the veggies are a no-go even after several attempts, consider that your child may have something deeper going on. Learn how to assess your child’s mouth function to figure out if you need more help.

How to asses your child's mouth function

Prep-Ahead Dinner for Busy Weeknights

One of the biggest challenges parents face when it comes to getting healthy food on the table at dinnertime is that the hour before dinner is one of the busiest times of the day!

Some parents are just getting home from work. Kids are either starving (and hangry!), busy with homework or getting ready for practice or lessons. There is a reason it’s called “the witching hour.” Everyone is frazzled and grumpy!

But everyone still needs to eat!!

This kid-friendly Instant Pot dinner can be prepped the night before (while you’re cleaning up dinner and already dealing with a mess), in the morning, during nap time, or just before dinner. Whatever works for your schedule!

If prepping pesto chicken and rice ahead, simply add all of the ingredients to the pot, cover it (a large plate works well), and store it in the refrigerator until it’s time to turn it on.

If you won’t be home an hour before dinner, simply prep the dish in the morning, using frozen chicken and the timer function (set for about one hour before you want to eat).

The pesto can be prepared days in advance if need be. It can even be made in large batches and frozen!

While sitting down to eat is best for digestion, and eating together as a family is ideal, it’s just not always possible. If schedules conflict, keep dinner warm in the Instant Pot so everyone can dish up as needed.

one-pot instant pot dinner

Pesto chicken and rice can even be served up in a to-go container to be eaten at a sporting event or on the way to practice.

Eating In-Season

Instant Pot pesto chicken and rice is a great dish for any time of year! Even in the summer when you don’t want to turn the oven on.

But you can change up the veggies (add-ins or sides) to help eat more seasonally. Here are some options:


  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • squash
  • parsnips


  • peas
  • asparagus
  • spinach
  • kale


  • beans
  • cabbage
  • peppers
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli

Serving a big salad on the side is a great option year-round! (It is possible to make a kid-friendly salad bar!).

This fall, add Instant Pot pesto chicken and rice to your weekly rotation! It may become a year-round family favorite!

What are your go-to easy and healthy recipes?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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