Pesto Stuffed Chicken with Couscous Salad + Budget Friendly Substitutes!

Putting on a delicious Christmas Day spread doesn’t have to break the bank. You can still have that delicious centrepiece for the big day, just with a few simple substitutes!

Check out our recipe for a summery Pesto Stuffed Chicken with Couscous Salad with our substitute suggestions below!


  • 1.8kg whole chicken
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 50g pancetta, chopped (substitute for ham or bacon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (substitute for dried garlic granules)
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped (substitute for dried thyme)
  • 1 cup sourdough breadcrumbs (substitute for your choice of bread, blitzed in a food processor)
  • 100g halloumi, grated (substitute for your choice of cheese)
  • 2 tbsp store-bought basil pesto
  • Roasted lemon halves, garlic cloves, to serve (optional)

Basil Butter

  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp store-bought basil pesto

Couscous Salad

  • 1 ½ cups Israeli couscous (substitute for spiral pasta)
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • ¼ cup store-bought pesto
  • 300g truss cherry tomatoes (substitute for your choice of tomatoes)
  • Zest of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 160° (Fan Forced) or 180°C (Conventional).
  2. Heat oil in a small frying pan on medium heat. Cook pancetta, stirring for 5 mins or until browned. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 30 secs, until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Add breadcrumbs, halloumi, and pesto and stir to combine.
  3. Make Basil Butter. Mix together butter and pesto until smooth.
  4. Remove chicken from packaging and pat dry inside and out with kitchen paper. Gently ease fingers under the breast skin to separate from chicken. Push Basil Butter under the skin, smoothing down as you go. Fill cavity with halloumi stuffing. Secure legs with twine.
  5. Place chicken in a baking dish. Bake for 30 mins per 500g or until internal temperature reaches 75°C and juices run clear.
  6. Make couscous salad. Place couscous and boiling water in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, partially covered for 5 mins. Remove from heat and stand for 5 mins, covered. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a serving bowl, add pesto and toss to combine.
  7. Place truss tomatoes on a small tray and bake for 10 mins, until just beginning to soften. Add to couscous and serve topped with lemon zest.


Recipe by Lilydale