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Slow Cooker Ranch Pesto Chicken

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Easy, economical, and flavorful, this slow cooker ranch pesto chicken recipe is a must-have for busy days! With just 3 ingredients, you can prepare a delicious main dish in minutes using your slow cooker. Tips for using a pressure cooker also included in the post!

angled view of the slow cooker ranch pesto chicken in a large blue bowl ready to serve - this time made with boneless skinless chicken thighs, not shredded

Darlings, normally we are blogging the beautiful foods. Desserts and colorful dishes that are easy to plate. But today’s recipe is a little different. This slow cooker chicken dish is beautiful for other reasons.

It’s beautiful because it first made its way into our home through a friend that brought us a meal after our second child was born. Beautiful because it uses pantry staples for seasoning and takes literally 5 minutes to prepare. And it’s beautiful because my entire family loves it and they eat the leftovers.

Slow Cooker Ranch Pesto Chicken Ingredients

You need just 3 ingredients for this easy slow cooker recipe:

  • Chicken – use skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast. Thighs have a little more flavor and when cooked low and slow are moist and easy to shred. Chicken breast is lower in fat, so great for those looking to cut a few calories while enjoying a flavorful and high protein recipe.
  • Ranch dressing mix – this is the seasoning powder found near the dressings in most grocery stores. Use this instead of prepared ranch dressing because the prepared dressing will curdle in the slow cooker or pressure cooker.
  • Jarred pesto sauce – If you have homemade, that works too! I’ve used both homemade and store-bought pesto sauce. It just depends on what I have on hand.

Technically, you’ll also need a little water or broth, but not always. I’ll explain in the recipe notes in the next section.

Recipe notes…

This slow cooker chicken recipe is a “dump and go” dish in terms of preparation. All you have to do is pour everything in the slow cooker (or Instant Pot, pressure cooker) and go about your day!

Pros for using the slow cooker:

I think the low and slow cooking style works really well for this dish in terms of flavor development. When I have thawed chicken and plan ahead, this is how I’ll make the recipe.

Using the slow cooker, I give the bowl a quick spray with olive oil or nonstick spray, or use a liner bag. Then I place the chicken in the bottom of the cooker. I sprinkle a packet of dry ranch seasoning over the chicken, then top with a jar of pesto sauce. Set the slow cooker on low for 8 hours and that’s it!

If my pesto sauce is liquid enough to cover the chicken, I don’t usually add water or broth. This usually happens with homemade pesto, especially if I microwaved cubes of frozen pesto to use. With the jarred sauce, I almost always add a 1/4 cup of broth or water.

When I say broth, unless I happen to have a fresh batch on hand that hasn’t been frozen, I mean I dissolve a little chicken base in water and use that. Real cooking for real people, darlings.

Pros for using the Instant Pot:

Please know that when I say Instant Pot (IP), I am referring to any pressure cooker. I just have an IP and it’s what most people I know use. Use what you have.

The IP is my go-to when my chicken is still frozen! There are also those days when things just get too busy and I need dinner ready in under an hour with little prep on my part.

You can’t put frozen chicken in a slow cooker because it doesn’t thaw fast enough to maintain a safe food temperature throughout the cooking process. So if you’re looking for a last-minute chicken dinner recipe, use the pressure cooker!

top view of the serving bowl of ranch pesto chicken. The bowl is at the top right of the frame and there's a fork upside down over the chicken

If using frozen chicken, I don’t add extra liquid. The water from the thawing chicken is enough to dissolve the ranch seasoning and cook the chicken. This isn’t the ideal way of doing things, but life happens.

Whether using thawed or frozen chicken, the pesto ranch chicken is done in an hour or less, start to finish. It just depends on how long it takes your IP to come to pressure.

What do I serve with the ranch pesto chicken?

We serve this with a starch of some sort, usually rice. This is in part because we just eat a lot of rice and partially because it requires no use of the oven.

In the summer, I love setting the chicken to cook and then the rice cooker closer to dinner time. No oven or stove needed! Add a salad for some veggies and you have a beautifully balanced, nutritious meal.

We also serve this with roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, or over pasta. Leftovers are really good in sandwiches or wraps and pair well with mild cheese.

close up of the chicken shredded with a fork to show how moist it is

I hope you like this easy chicken dinner recipe, darlings! Enjoy!

angled view of the slow cooker ranch pesto chicken in a large blue bowl ready to serve - this time made with boneless skinless chicken thighs, not shredded

Slow Cooker Ranch Pesto Chicken

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 5 minutes

Easy, economical, and flavorful, this slow cooker ranch pesto chicken recipe is a must-have for busy days! With just 3 ingredients, you can prepare a delicious main dish in minutes using your slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or a mix
  • 1 jar pesto sauce (see notes)
  • 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup water or broth (see notes)

Instructions

  1. Place a liner in your slow cooker or lightly spray with olive oil or nonstick spray.
  2. Put the chicken in the slow cooker in an even layer.
  3. Pour the entire jar of pesto sauce over the chicken. Top with the contents of the seasoning packet.
  4. Pour the broth or water over the entire mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. If using the slow cooker: Cook the chicken on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours until the meat shreds easily and is cooked through.
  6. If using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot: Follow the directions above for preparation then cook for 30 minutes on high pressure, use the quick release 5 minutes after the cooking time has completed.

Notes

  • Store-bought pesto comes in jars ranging in size from 6 to 8 ounces. Whatever brand you like will work, use the whole jar. The larger jar will give you a little more pesto flavor, the smaller jar a little less. In my experience, my family doesn't really notice a difference.
  • If you have homemade pesto sauce, use it! Measure out 6-8 ounces by weight or between 2/3-1 cup.
  • The packets are typically 1 ounce each. If you prefer to use a homemade ranch dressing mix or have a jar of the mix instead of the packets, use 2 tablespoons of dry mix.
  • A little water or broth helps the ranch and pesto get to all the chicken as well as keep your chicken moist. If you don't have broth ready to pour, you may use a bouillon cube or a chicken base paste to make broth.
  • If you like to prepare crockpot meals in advance, you can freeze the chicken with the pesto, ranch mix, and some water. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking in the crockpot.

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