Olive Garden Chicken Margherita

There’s no need to head to Olive Garden when you’re looking for a fresh, savory taste of Italy with Chicken Margherita. Tender, juicy chicken breasts combine with Italian favorites like tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella cheese, and garlic to create an incredible dish that’s still simple enough for any weeknight dinner.

copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita in a skillet.

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Olive Garden Margherita Chicken

For those craving a delicious Italian meal out, Olive Garden is one of the most common and reliable choices all across the country. Whether you’re chowing down on a big bowl of pasta dressed in mouthwatering sauces or snacking on those addictive fresh-made breadsticks, there’s a massive selection of dishes to keep diners coming back again and again. 

One of the most popular is Olive Garden’s Chicken Margherita. It’s like a lighter spin on chicken parmesan with a few other delicious tweaks, inspired by the traditional margherita pizza from which it takes its name. 

What makes Chicken Margherita so good?

All of Italian cuisine’s best flavors shine in this hearty meal. It features creamy mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and herby pesto, enhanced with a vibrant, buttery lemon garlic sauce.

Juicy chicken breasts serve as the perfect canvas for this masterpiece, adding healthy protein and a subtle flavor that complements the bolder fresh ingredients. 

Why You’ll Love This Olive Garden Copycat Recipe

It might taste like it’s been developing flavors all day, but this Olive Garden Chicken Margherita recipe is as quick to prepare as it is appetizing. Just ten minutes of prep time allows you to get this meal on the table in only half an hour.

It also makes the most of premade ingredients, like Italian salad dressing and pesto sauce, to provide big flavor without extensive work. On a practical level, it’s also easy to scale up or down, limited only by your appetite and the size of your oven-safe skillet or baking dish. 

overhead view of copycat Olive Garden Margherita Chicken in a skillet.

Ingredients You Will Need for Grilled Chicken With Mozzarella

Olive Garden’s Chicken Margherita is based on a mix of easy-to-find fresh ingredients with everyday pantry staples:

Olive Garden’s Chicken Margherita is based on a mix of easy-to-find fresh ingredients with everyday pantry staples:

  • Chicken breast
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Italian salad dressing
  • Lemon juice

You’ll also need basil pesto sauce, which can be homemade or store-bought pesto. Those looking to take the homemade route will need:

  • Fresh basil
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Grated romano cheese
  • Salt
Olive Garden Chicken Margherita ingredients on a tray.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Skinless and boneless chicken breasts are the best choice for this recipe.
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese is also ideal, but prepackaged sliced mozzarella will also work.
  • Grape tomatoes provide the best combination of sweet, tangy flavor, but any small tomato or diced large one is suitable, too.

How To Make Chicken Margherita

This simple combination of grilled chicken with tomatoes and cheese is easy to whip up for any home cook:

  1. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness. A good trick for doing this without making a mess is to place one chicken breast at a time inside a sealed bag and pound it with a meat tenderizer. 
  2. Place all the breasts inside a bag, add the Italian dressing, and then shake to coat. Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes. You can do this step up to a day ahead of time. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and let it get hot before adding the olive oil.
  5. Pat the chicken breasts dry and add to the pan. Saute until lightly browned, about seven or eight minutes per side. 
  6. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and place it in the oven.

While the chicken cooks, you can make your sauce:

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. 
  2. Add the minced garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. 
  3. Stir in the lemon juice.
collage of preparation of chicken and sauce for chicken margherita.

Finally, finish your dish by marrying your ingredients together:

  1. Remove the chicken from the oven and return to the cast-iron skillet
  2. Add the lemon garlic sauce and tomatoes. 
  3. Top the chicken with slices of mozzarella cheese.
  4. Return the chicken to the oven for a few minutes, until the cheese melts and takes on some color. 
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven and cover with pesto.
collage of recipe steps for Olive Garden Chicken Margherita.

Garnish the dish with thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, and dig in!

This recipe calls for a cast-iron pan, which is ideal for both stove and oven use. However, you can substitute any oven-safe pan or skillet if one isn’t available. 

copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita in a skillet.

How to Make Basil Pesto

If you’d like to put a true homemade spin on your copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita, making your own pesto is simple. The only equipment you’ll need is a food processor:

  1. Add fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and romano cheeses, and salt to the food processor bowl. 
  2. Process until a smooth paste develops. This should only take about a minute.

Store any unused pesto sauce for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge with a thin layer of oil on top to prevent oxidation and loss of flavor.

collage of recipe steps for making basil pesto in a food processor.

What to Serve with Chicken Margherita 

This dish is wonderfully versatile, pairing with a wide variety of sides and accompaniments. For an authentic Olive Garden Chicken Margherita experience, serve it with parmesan garlic broccoli, just like in the restaurant.

But you can also combine it with roasted veggies like asparagus or green beans, a simple salad, or soft Olive Garden-style breadsticks. Finally, serve a chicken breast or two on top of cooked pasta for an extra hearty meal, letting the Margherita sauce dress the noodles underneath. 

How to Store Leftover Grilled Chicken Margherita

To preserve leftover Chicken Margherita for another time, start by removing the basil garnish, which will blacken and become unappealing over time.

Then, remove each chicken breast and wrap it in plastic.

Store the tomatoes and sauce in a separate airtight container.

They’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. The vibrant flavors of this dish are best while relatively fresh, so freezing isn’t recommended.  

How to Reheat Grilled Chicken With Mozzarella 

The best way to reheat Olive Garden grilled chicken dishes is in the oven. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken on a baking tray. Sprinkle water around the edges, which will turn to steam in the oven and help keep the chicken moist.
  3. Cover the tray with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 10 minutes.
  4. Garnish with tomatoes (fresh or reheated) and fresh basil. 
copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita on a plate.

More Olive Garden Chicken Dishes

As well as this wonderful Chicken Margherita, the recipe for which is given below, you can also make the following Olive Garden chicken dishes at home.

I don’t want you ever to run out of Olive Garden chicken recipes that will delight your family.

Favorite Italian Recipes with Chicken

Check out more of my easy Italian recipes and the best Olive Garden recipes here on CopyKat!

copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita in a skillet.

Copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita

Chicken breasts, mozzarella cheese, pesto, and tomatoes make for a great weeknight dinner.
4.87 from 22 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Chicken Margherita, Olive Garden Recipes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 870kcal


  • 2 pounds chicken breasts 4 portions
  • 1 cup Italian salad dressing or your favorite marinade
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ pound sliced mozzarella 1 slice for each piece of chicken
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves sliced thin

Basil Pesto

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup grated romano cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  • Pound chicken out between two sheets of plastic wrap. This will even out the thickness of the chicken, and it will make the chicken cook more evenly.
  • Place the chicken breasts into a gallon-sized ziptop bag. Add Italian dressing marinade, and allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Wash the grape tomatoes and set them aside.
  • Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the chicken and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is almost done (it will continue to cook in the oven), remove the chicken from the skillet and place it on a plate or baking dish.
  • Add butter, minced garlic, and lemon juice to the skillet. Cook until the butter has melted. 
  • Add the chicken back to the skillet with the lemon butter sauce.
  • Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the chicken.
  • Add the tomatoes to the skillet.
  • Place the chicken in the oven, and bake until the cheese begins to melt and brown. This should take 7 to 10 minutes.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of pesto on top of the mozzarella cheese.
  • Serve garnished with fresh basil if desired.

Basil Pesto

  • Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor.
  • Process until the mixture is smooth.



Calories: 870kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 66g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 237mg | Sodium: 2177mg | Potassium: 1003mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 1990IU | Vitamin C: 10.7mg | Calcium: 362mg | Iron: 1.4mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Frank Mosher

    3 stars
    A couple of problems with this recipe which I did not try? Firstly, I was stymied by the Lee and Perrins Chicken marinade which is not available in Canada, Secondly, “or your favourite chicken marinade”, which in my cooking world covers Chinese/Thai/Italian/Greek/Filipino/Indonesian, etc.? All would make a big difference in taste? Finally, I dispute your carbohydrate count as being very high unless the Lee & Perrins marinade is loaded with same? Even so, it is a marinade. I have tried a liked several of your other offerings,and found them very good. This one needs a rewrite. Cheers!

    • Stephanie

      I really appreciate your comment. I didn’t realize I should get ingredients that are common to the Canadian as well as the US market. I appreciate your comment about the marinade, I will revise the recipe.

  2. Migel Valadez

    Olivetto’s has a Chicken Caliente that I would love to know how to make. Does Olive Garden have something similar? I try other dishes at Olivetto’s but I keep coming back to the Chicken Caliente.

  3. Sue Ricker

    Thank you for this recipe. I am looking forward to trying it. I was wondering the nutritional values you have for this recipe, are they for the whole recipe or just one serving? Thanks again!

  4. Drew

    5 stars
    I had this at the Olive Garden recently, and I am so glad to find this here. I have to say, while I thought the recipe was close to the Olive Garden, this was much better.

  5. Liz

    Hi Stephanie i love all your recipes by the way…. but i will like to know how you can make a homemade presto for this recipe tnx

  6. happy wheels

    5 stars
    I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not that good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading. I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!

  7. Betty

    Stephanie, do you have recipe for the zucchini also? i;m trying the chicken this week and would love to try the parmesan crusted zuchini to go with it. Thank you so much.
    New reader, first request today. so I’ a little hesitant.

4.87 from 22 votes (12 ratings without comment)

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