Kale, Pesto & Chicken Couscous Bowl
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
I first made this delicious weeknight dinner when it came as a recipe in a meal kit. I immediately fell in love with idea of this meal, and I love anything that ends up all in one bowl together. The recipe you see below I have altered from the original meal kit and it cuts out several unnecessary steps, a few unnecessary ingredients (in my opinion), but also amps up the flavor with more of the ingredients that were already included. I also have swapped Israeli couscous for the pasta that was used in the original recipe.
This meal is SO satisfying on two fronts: You feel full and happy because it's delicious and a bit cheesy, but you also feel good because you got all of the benefits of kale (vitamins A, C, and K plus calcium, magnesium and potassium) and lots of tomatoes and protein from grilled or pan-seared chicken. Plus, who doesn't love a good helping of pesto?
I make this dish at least once a month now and my husband actually gets really excited when he hears this is what is for dinner (and we're talking about the crunch wrap-loving king!) If you make a little too much, it is excellent leftover and it actually would be a good make-ahead lunch for the week. Kale, unlike your traditional lettuces, actually gets better the more it sits in a dressing (and for this reason, don't skip the "marinating" step for the kale in the recipe).
I think this could become a new staple in your house -- for those nights where you want to eat something you feel good about, but also when you still need something that will leave you feeling full and satisfied (let's be honest, salad night sometimes leaves you wanting for more).
Also, if you have a garden (or maybe just love your local farmer's market), this recipe screams fresh from the garden! I can't wait until my garden is flourishing a bit more so I can use my home-grown kale, basil (for pesto), and tomatoes!
I hope you like this recipe as much as we do!
Kale, Pesto & Chicken Couscous Bowls (Makes ~2 Servings) Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes
2 smaller chicken breasts (or 1 larger one)
6-8 oz. (1 bunch) lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale)*
1 C. Israeli couscous
3/4 pint cherry/grape tomatoes
1/4 C. parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
3 TB pesto (homemade or jarred)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 TB olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp. of each or so)
Remove the kale from the stems and cut the leaves into 1/2"wide strips, discarding the stems.
Add the kale to the bowl with the lemon juice and using clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Really rub the dressing into the leaves here and make sure everything is amply coated. This step helps breakdown the kale to soften it. You don't (shouldn't) need to be delicate here! Once everything is coated, set the bowl aside.**
In a medium saucepan, cook the couscous according to its package's instructions. In the last 7 minutes of cooking***, add the tomatoes (whole). Once the water is absorbed into the couscous and it is finished cooking, turn off the heat and let sit covered.
Meanwhile, heat a large pan on the stove or heat your grill to medium heat. Coat chicken breasts in a light layer of oil**** (grapeseed, olive, canola are all fine). Season all sides with salt and pepper.
Cook chicken 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the size of the breast, until cooked through. Remove from heat source and place on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes.
While chicken rests, use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the tomatoes in the couscous to release their juices. Add the pesto and parmesan cheese to the pan and stir to combine everything. Check for seasoning.
Divide the couscous into 2 wide, low-sided pasta bowls or a dinner plate. Then divide the kale between the bowls.
Slice the chicken into strips or chunks (however you prefer) then top the kale with the chicken. Grab a fork and dig in!
*Recipe notes + Variations*
*If you can't find lacinato kale, regular curly kale works just fine. I do find that curly kale can take a little long to break down in the marinade, so make sure you're massaging it really well and maybe do it again throughout the cooking process.
**You can do this step well in advance. The longer it sits in the lemon juice/oil, the better and more tender it will be. I have done this hours in advance before.
***Depending on the couscous you get, cooking times can vary. The tomatoes will need about 7 minutes in the hot liquid to burst and breakdown.
****I like to use a pastry brush to spread the small amount of oil over the chicken. You don't want it doused, just enough to keep it from sticking to your pan or grill.