This Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken is an easy and delicious dinner recipe that uses just 4 main ingredients. It is gluten free, low carb and can be made paleo.
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Ever since spaghetti squash were part of my first CSA box years ago they have been a favorite of mine. What's not to love about a vegetable that allows you to enjoy your favorite pasta sauces but without the carb load of regular pasta.
And I am not demonizing all pasta - we still regularly enjoy everything from whole wheat spaghetti, rice noodles and chickpea pasta in this house. But there is also something really nice about enjoying a spaghetti squash boat filled with your favorite sauce and protein.
It was about time I made a version of it with spaghetti squash noodles.
How To Cook Spaghetti Squash
Depending on how much time I have and what size of spaghetti squash I have on hand determines how I cook it.
There are different ways to prepare Instant Pot spaghetti squash. Some like to leave it whole for pressure cooking, others cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.
I like to cut it along the width as this usually allows me to fit a larger squash into the pressure cooker. Be sure to remove all seeds (and ice cream scoop works well for that).
Pour 1 cup of water into the inner pot and place a trivet inside. Arrange the squash halves on top of the trivet, then pressure cook for 8 minutes (10 minutes at high altitude).
Quick release the pressure. Let the squash cool down until comfortable to handle, then scrape out the spaghetti strands.
When I have more time I prefer to roast spaghetti squash in the oven. Roasting produces a slightly better flavor and texture I find.
I love this method the best when I have smaller squashes, where 1 half makes one perfect serving. That is when I like to serve spaghetti squash as a half boat.
For roasting I cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove all seeds. I brush the inside with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place the cut side down on a lined baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes (longer for large squashes). Then loosen the strands a little and fill with the sauce.
Which Pesto to use for this recipe
I don't think I've yet encountered a pesto that I didn't like. Although I usually make it at home, I also enjoy store-bought pesto from time to time.
Any pesto will work for this spaghetti squash and pesto recipe. Choose one that suits your dietary restrictions.
If you need this recipe to be dairy free or paleo, omit the parmesan cheese sprinkle on top and use this simple vegan pesto. That's the one I used here.
One of these days I will make a separate post just that pesto, but for now you can find it within that other recipe post.
Items I used to make this Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Recipe
When I am not roasting the spaghetti squash I like to pressure cook them in my Instant Pot.
A small knife with a thin flexible blade like this boning knife works much better than a large knife to cut open spaghetti squash.
An ice cream scoop makes removing all the seeds and inner strands of the spaghetti squash a breeze
More delicious Squash Recipes you'll love
- Thai Spaghetti Squash Peanut Noodles
- Spaghetti Squash Summer Rolls
- Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
- Stuffed Acorn Squash
VIDEO: How to Make Pesto Spaghetti Squash
Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken
- 2 small or 1 large spaghetti squash
- olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts ~ 1-1.5 pounds/450g, sliced or diced
- 1 tablespoon oil
- salt & pepper
- ¼ - ½ cup broth or water
- ½ - ¾ cup pesto homemade* or store-bought
- For serving: chopped parsley, parmesan
Spaghetti Squash Oven Method:
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Half the squash and scoop out the seeds.
- Drizzle inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.
- When spaghetti squash is done roasting, take it out from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Then, using a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash strands. If your squash is very moist, you might have to place the strands in a colander and pat with paper towel.
- If using small squashes, where ½ serves about one you can also serve it as a spaghetti squash bowl. Just loosen up the strands with a fork and add the sauce straight into the spaghetti squash half.
Spaghetti Squash Instant Pot Method:
- With a small sharp knife cut the spaghetti squash in half widthwise. Use a spoon or small knife to remove the seeds.
- Pour 1 cup of water into your Instant Pot. Add a trivet and place the 2 spaghetti squash halves on the trivet. Orientation doesn't matter too much, but I always do cut side up.
- Close the lid and turn the valve to sealing. Select the 'Manual' setting and adjust to 8-10 minutes.
- Once the pressure cook cycle has finished, turn the valve to venting to quick release the pressure.
- Open the lid and pour out any liquid that may have collected inside the spaghetti squash halves. Test a few strands for doneness. You can always add a few more minutes for softer texture.
- Let the squash cool until comfortable to handle. Use a fork to loosen and scrape out the spaghetti squash noodles, or serve straight in spaghetti squash bowl.
Pesto Chicken Sauce:
- Heat a skillet to medium-high heat then add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot add the chicken pieces.
- Turn heat to medium. Cook the chicken until done, then season with salt & pepper.
- Deglaze the pan with broth/water and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Add the pesto and stir to incorporate it into the sauce.
- Serve the chicken pesto sauce into over cooked spaghetti sauce either in a squash half boat or on a plate.
- *I used the vegan pesto from this recipe
- Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal of the spaghetti squash seeds
- Cook Instant Pot spaghetti squash for about 8 minutes or 10 minutes at high altitude
Pesto can be used as a marinade for chicken or fish, as a spread on sandwiches, or as a topping for pizza.
Pesto typically contains fresh herbs, nuts, and olive oil, making it a healthier option compared to some traditional spaghetti sauces.
Bitterness in pesto can result from using too much olive oil, overprocessing the basil, or using the wrong type of cheese.
Yes, pesto can be used directly from the jar without heating it. It can be added to hot or cold pasta, salads, or as a topping for various dishes.