Recipe: Chili Chicken with Cilantro Pesto & Banana Sweet Potato Mash

Last week I asked my girls to pick a recipe that they wanted to cook, make a grocery list, shop for their ingredients, and cook dinner one night, so we began. They picked recipes and made their list, grabbed their own baskets and shopped for what they needed during our grocery run, and then… They had school and homework, instrument lessons and martial arts classes, church activities and some family activities. It’s hard to find time to cook, but ingredients don’t last forever, so we compromised and worked together which was even more fun than our original plan.

Luci’s choice – She found these recipes in one of my old Cuisine Magazines. I last made this in February of 2006 and noted, “Very good! Chicken a bit spicy, pesto a hit – make again!”

We worked together in the kitchen tonight. She made the pesto while I got the chicken done, the I started the potatoes while she assembled the banana mixture. It came together beautifully and was so delicious that each part of this meal is a keeper, a recipe that we’ll make again – more frequently than every 10 years.

Chili Chicken with Cilantro Pesto and a Banana Sweet Potato Mash

In the end 4 of 4 liked the chicken. Only two of us tried the pesto (picky eaters), but it is amazing. Two also tried the sweet potatoes because the other two are scared of them, but these may make me a mashed sweet convert. I’ve previously only liked them savory, but this recipe is so good, I think most kids would even like them (if they’re brave enough to try them).

My opinion: I LOVE all three parts to this dish; however, the subtleties of the chili chicken are lost if you add too much pesto (like I did above). The chicken is so good just with the drippings, it doesn’t really need the pesto and certainly not much of it. DO make the pesto though. It’s really good and will work for many things far beyond this chicken dish. The sweet potatoes simply blew me away. I did not expect to like them as much as I did. This may become my go-to Thanksgiving yam recipe. #justsaynotomarshmallows

Chili Chicken with Cilantro Pesto & Banana Sweet Potato Mash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

The Pesto* – You will most likely have leftovers. This is a good thing. Get creative. Try it as a condiment on a sandwich, toss it with your favorite pasta, or… add it to your veggie dish. Scroll to the end for a bonus recipe!  :)

1. Process the following in a food processor or blender until minced.

  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup fresh parsely leaves
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic

2. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and blend until smooth. Season with kosher salt to taste.

3. Set aside and serve with the chili chicken.

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender and VOILA! Quick, easy, and great on lots of things.


The Chili Chicken

1. Combine the following in a large bowl:

  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1/4 t. cayenne

2. Cut 4 boneless, skinless breasts (about 1.5 pounds) into 1 1/2-2″ chunks.

3. Mix the chicken with the brown sugar mixture until the chicken is covered on all sides. (At this point, you can thread the chicken onto pre-soaked wooden skewers and  grill them or use a grill pan instead of a regular pan in the following steps. The skewered presentation is nice, but I didn’t want the hassle.)

4. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned well on all sides, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the chicken to an over-proof dish, cover it with foil, and roast it until cooked through, another 5-10 minutes. (At this point, I just left my chicken in until the potatoes were done – about 15 mintues. Since it was covered in foil the chicken remained moist and very tender.)


The Sweet Potatoes:  I love these potatoes!  They are my new favorite way to eat a sweet potato. I don’t care for the overly sugared kind that people eat at Thanksgiving, but aren’t overly sweet. The banana and orange add a nice fruity flavor to them that may even mask the potato flavor enough to fool picky eaters.

1. Peel 2 pounds of sweet potatoes and cut them into 1″ cubes.

2. Bring the cubed sweet potatoes to a boil in salted water, cooking until very tender, about 15 minutes.

3. While the potatoes are boiling, combine the following in a small bowl:

  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 T. jalapeño, seeded and minced (We didn’t use jalapeño)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

4. When the potatoes are ready, drain them, then stir them lightly in the pan for a couple minutes over medium heat so that they dry out.

5. Remove the potatoes from heat (or place them into a large bowl), add the banana mixture, and mash to the desired consistency.

6. Season with salt and pepper as desired.


*BONUS!  So… leftovers. Meats are usually easy enough, but sauces? Don’t worry. This cilantro pesto is not something you’ll throw away. It adds a crazy amount of flavor to anything you put it on.

So, this afternoon (a couple days after making the chili chicken with Luci), I decided that I needed something “healthy” and grabbed a head of red cabbage. The pairing of red cabbage with the cilantro pesto surprised me. I knew it would be good, but this left me wanting more. It’s going to be my lunch again tomorrow!

Red Cabbage with Cilantro Pesto: Add a nice roasted pork tenderloin to complete this meal.

Ingredients – multiply per persons you’re serving – this serves one

  • 1 t. olive oil (or bacon fat)
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, julienned
  • 1 T. cilantro pesto (recipe above)


  1. Heat the oil or pork fat* in a pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute the cabbage until tender, but not too soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Serve, then top with cilantro pesto.

*Though I like to eat healthy, I also appreciate the flavor of pork fat, so, if I have it, I use it. Tonight I’d made sausage for my girls and used some of those drippings to cook my cabbage. Olive oil would have been just as good, but I like to use what I have.


About Tiffany

I'm eclectic. Sometimes that's a good thing because I can do bits of everything. Sometimes it's aggravating because I get distracted by so many amazing things. Mostly, I love photography and family, travel and writing, cooking, reading, art, and coffee. Sundays are church days to regroup and refocus. God's in charge here.

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