Grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden Copycat

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Our Grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden copycat has all of the classic Italian flavors you know and love in a simple, flavor-packed restaurant style dish! The grilled margherita chicken is moist and tender, coated in a lemon butter sauce with fresh tomatoes and lots of ooey-gooey melted cheese! 

titled: Chicken Margherita Recipe


Grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden

My copycat of the grilled chicken margherita Olive Garden® recipe is way less expensive to make, but just as delicious.

Not to be confused with margarita chicken, which features the classic lime and tequila flavors of the popular cocktail!

With huge dollops of melty mozzarella, tomatoes, and a slathering of pesto, you get all of the colors and flavors of Italy on one plate!

Grill up the poultry in just 30 minutes — and if you don’t feel like grilling outdoors, you can use a grill pan indoors!

You can also enjoy all of the flavors of Olive Garden chicken margherita in pizza form.

My lemon herb margherita pizza is just as quick and easy to make and just as tasty too!

ingredients for copycat chicken margherita

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – The original grilled chicken margherita Olive Garden recipe uses boneless breasts, but you could use cutlets instead if you want!

    Those will actually cook faster and more evenly than thicker breast meat. 

    Using boneless chicken thighs is another option that should work well. Just be sure they aren’t too thick, or you may have problems grilling them completely.
  • Pesto – You can use your favorite store-bought variety, but I always use homemade basil pesto. It’s super quick, super cheap, and super tasty!
  • Italian Seasoning – This is a great staple seasoning to have on hand for any Italian recipe. But, if you have the time, I suggest using fresh herbs instead!

    Oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil are easy to dice and can be found in most grocery stores all year round.
  • Tomatoes – These are chopped up and sprinkled right on top as the grand finale for the grilled chicken margherita!

    Use regular-sized tomatoes if you have them. Otherwise, cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half are perfect. 

    Check out my quick kitchen hack for slicing small tomatoes — it’s a huge time saver!
grilled chicken in skillet

Margherita Chicken Recipe Variations

  • Make it cheesier! 

Once you lay the mozzarella on the margherita chicken, cover the skillet with a lid.

You can also slide your skillet under an oven broiler to get the cheese nice and brown on the surface as it melts into ooey gooey perfection.

  • Sauce it up! 

For a saucier version of Olive Garden chicken margherita, add about 1 tablespoon of flour to the pan after frying the garlic. 

Then, when you add the lemon zest and juice, include ½ cup of water or chicken broth/stock as well.

Let it simmer, reduce, and thicken into dreamy, creamy lemon butter sauce!

  • Include more veggies.

There isn’t a veggie on the planet that wouldn’t taste divine with chicken margherita!

In fact, the grilled chicken breast is just begging for some diced eggplant, squash, mushrooms, or a handful of spinach.

  • Cook inside instead.

Sometimes the weather just won’t allow for outdoor grilling. Feel free to use an electric or stovetop grill pan instead!

No matter the cooking method, use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that the internal temp of your grilled chicken margherita reaches 165°F.

chicken topped with mozzarella and pesto in cast iron skillet

Serving Suggestions

There are plenty of sides that go well with chicken margherita! Something simple like a loaf of rosemary bread would be fabulous!

Some roasted potatoes will soak the yummy lemon sauce right up, making them extra tasty, or you could try your hand at making homemade pasta

If you want to lighten the meal with a fresh salad, you already have the ingredients for a nice tomato basil salad.

Just whip up some Olive Garden Italian dressing and you’re good to go!

slice grape tomatoes over mozzarella pesto chicken in skillet

Storing and Reheating Leftover

You should store leftover Olive Garden chicken margherita without all of the toppings, to keep the texture and flavor just right.

Reheat in a skillet with the sauce once again. Then, add the pesto and mozzarella as written in the recipe instructions below.

Store your leftover grilled chicken margherita in a covered container in the fridge — it will keep for 4-5 days.

Grilled Chicken Margherita FAQ

How do you know when grilled chicken is done cooking?

As with all chicken, my answer is that you can’t tell just by looking! It’s best to use a digital thermometer to tell you when the internal temperature has reached 165°F

You’re actually only grilling until 162°F, because the meat keeps cooking while it rests.

So keep an eye out for that number – that’s your sign that it’s time to remove the chicken from the heat.

What is in chicken margherita sauce?

Roasted garlic, melted butter, lemon sauce, and lemon zest. So simple, yet so good!

It’s a relatively thin sauce, meant to cover the meat without coating it, but you can always thicken it with a bit of flour or cornstarch.

Is the Grilled Chicken Margherita at Olive Garden gluten-free?

While it isn’t listed on their gluten-sensitive menu, you can rest assured that our copycat Olive Garden chicken margherita is gluten-free!The only ingredients in this recipe are chicken, cheese, veggies, citrus, and herbs.

close up: grilled chicken with mozzarella, pesto, and tomatoes

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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chicken margherita dish in cast iron pan

chicken margherita in cast iron skillet

Grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden Copycat

Donna Elick
Our Grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden copycat has all the flavors you know and love in a simple, flavor-packed restaurant style dish!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Grill, Stovetop
Servings 4


  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally to create cutlets (See Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, (1 small lemon)
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed (from zested lemon)
  • 6 slices fresh mozzarella
  • 6 tablespoons basil pesto, homemade or store bought
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, (we use a combination of halved grape tomatoes and quartered Campari tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


  • Remove chicken breasts from packaging and use a paper towel to pat them dry. Rub all sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat grill to medium high heat. Cook prepared chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until internal temperature reaches 162°F. (Time will vary depending on thickness of chicken breast. If some chicken pieces are larger than others, remove chicken as it is done cooking and set aside while larger/thicker pieces finish cooking.)
  • In a cast iron skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until very fragrant.
  • Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the skillet, whisking to combine; simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Place the grilled chicken into the pan, flipping it once to coat both sides in the lemon butter sauce.
  • Top each piece of chicken with 1-2 slices of fresh mozzarella. Cover the pan and simmer on low for another minute or two, until cheese has melted. *See Notes
  • Spoon a tablespoon of pesto (more or less to your liking) over each piece of chicken and top with fresh tomatoes and chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Donna’s Notes

After topping the chicken with the mozzarella, rather than covering the pan with a lid, you can place the pan under a broiler for a couple of minutes to melt/brown the cheese.
The lemon sauce is thick enough to lightly coat the chicken, but we do not add a thickening agent (such as flour or cornstarch). So, it isn’t thick like a gravy.
If you want extra sauce, add 1 tablespoon of flour just after toasting the garlic, then whisk in ½ cup water along with the lemon zest and juice, then simmer until it thickens.
Using thin-sliced chicken breasts (aka, chicken cutlets) works really well and keeps the grill time short. Also, cutlets are typically more uniform in thickness, which means they cook evenly.
Do not overcook the chicken or it will dry out. A digital instant-read thermometer is the best tool to use to determine doneness.
Chicken is properly cooked when the internal temperature taken at the thickest portion of the breast reaches 162°F. During a 10-minute rest time, the chicken continues cooking, so the internal temp will reach a food-safe final temperature of 165°F.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 586cal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 1202mg | Sugar: 2g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 286mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): chicken margherita recipe

Originally published August 2022, updated and republished July 2023

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  1. amazing! this recipe is so easy and delicious, just like all of Donna and Chad’s recipes from The Slow Roasted Italian. 5 stars!

  2. 5 stars
    I can’t believe how close this grilled chicken margherita is to the restaurant version. It’s even better! 5 stars!

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