Strawberry Basil Chicken with Spinach (Paleo, AIP, GF, DF)
This flavorful AIP strawberry basil chicken recipe is a perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors with strawberry, basil, carrots, coconut milk, and other ingredients coming together to make the perfect creamy, hearty sauce. When poured over grilled chicken thighs, it makes for a very satisfying rich, but not too rich meal. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, AIP compliant and the sauce can be made in advance making a pretty quick meal.
The sauce for this recipe came about after several failed attempts to make some sort of "nomato" nightshade-free bbq sauce. AIP "nomato" sauces like pasta sauces, bbq sauces, and salsa are usually made with stone fruits like peaches, cherries, strawberries, etc.
I was originally trying to make bbq sauce with the strawberries and carrots....it did not go well. In fact, it was sort of disastrous. I was attempting to achieve a smoky flavor which involved including bacon in some way- I added bacon to the blender which just feels wrong on several levels. In hindsight, I probably should have just added bacon grease. It turned out more like a weird soup rather than a bbq sauce.
My second sauce attempt included strawberries and basil which looked more like salsa at first..better but still not bbq sauce. After several attempts at some sort of “nomato” sauce, I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to make anymore.
The "salsa" was pretty good though so I abandoned the bbq sauce for the time being and developed the strawberry basil sauce into what it is now. It turned so much better than I expected- it’s completely delicious. I would say it's more savory than sweet. My husband and kids loved it- they were pretty much silent at dinner (which is rare) because they were eating so contently. We had some leftovers so I took it to work the next day. It was even better the second day if that's possible.
About this recipe
The sauce comes together with most of the ingredients being blended together in a high-speed blender. If you want to save time and prepare the sauce ahead of time- maybe the day before, this will save you 15-20 minutes of prep time. The majority of the prep time is in the sauce so if you have this part done, the meal is a breeze.
The main step to prepping the sauce is blending several ingredients in the blender. Later, after you’ve cooked the chicken, the chicken will come out of the pan while you heat the sauce along with some onions and garlic. You’ll then add the chicken back to the pan with the sauce at the end.
You would think a strawberry basil sauce would be red but it’s definitely not. It looks more like a curry than anything strawberry but don’t let that throw you off. It’s amazing.
The sauce pairs perfectly with chicken but would probably also be delicious with other meats as well.
This recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs but chicken breasts are fine too. If you’re not using a non-stick pan, be sure to use enough oil that the chicken doesn’t stick. You’ll want to move it around frequently to keep it from sticking. It takes about 6-7 minutes on each side over medium heat to cook through. Every stovetop is a little different though, so make sure your chicken is fully cooked through and has a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll add fresh spinach to the pan at the very end. It wilts quickly so you want to make sure you wait until the sauce has reduced by half and is pretty thick. That way all you have to do is add the spinach and chicken, heat for a few minutes, and serve.
Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over the top and garnished with basil and strawberry slices.
Leftovers from this meal will keep fresh in the fridge in an airtight container for about 4 days. It can be frozen as well and will stay good for at least a month.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. If you tried it, leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought!
This recipe is shared on the AIP Paleo Recipe Roundtable.
Strawberry Basil Sauce, Part 1 (to be blended in food processor)
- 1-2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
- 1-1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (sprinkled over the chicken before cooking)
Strawberry Basil Sauce, Part 2
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced red onions
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp water
- Strawberry Basil Sauce made in Part 1
- 1 cup raw spinach leaves
- fresh basil chopped
- fresh sliced strawberries
- Combine Part 1 sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, season each side with a sprinkle of salt. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat for about 30 seconds then place the chicken top-side down in the skillet. Slide the chicken around frequently to prevent sticking. Add a tad more oil if you're having sticking issues. Cook for about 6-7 minutes then flip over and do the other side for about the same amount of time. They should be lightly browned, no longer pink in the middle, and internal temp should be at least 165 degrees Fahenheit. Remove chicken from the skillet and place on a plate. Note- some pieces will be smaller than others and will cook faster. You can remove them from the pan as they reach the correct temperature to prevent overcooking.
- In the same pan, using grease from the chicken drippings, continue with medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. If there is not enough grease still in the pan, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes until transluscent. Add about 1 tbsp water to scrape the pan and deglaze it.
- Add the sauce from the blender to the pan with the garlic and onions. Bring to a simmer and stir. Continue cooking over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook another 5 minutes until sauce is thickened and reduced by half. Add fresh spinach and allow to wilt slightly (about 30 seconds).
- Add the chicken back to the pan. Increase heat back to medium in order to reheat the chicken and incorporate it with the sauce. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Serve with sauce spooned over the chicken. Gainish with chopped fresh basil and sliced strawberries.