Pesto, Chicken, Caramelized Onion & Fennel Pizza: Five Pies in Five Days

Pesto, Chicken, Caramelized Onion & Fennel Pizza

Life has a way of teaching us to be flexible. A month ago we began the Five Pies in Five Days series, only to be interrupted by the unexpected, but life has a way of revisiting lessons we forget. One valuable blogging lesson learned: have all the entries done before launching a series. √ Check.

The fifth and final pizza in our Five Pies in Five Days series features caramelized sweet onions and fennel resting like a golden crown atop grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella. If a recipe were a sentence, caramelized onions and fennel are a sweet-savory punctuation of flavor worth every slow-simmered minute. Departing from traditional tomato based pizza sauce we take advantage of peak season basil to create a pesto sauce to form the base for everything else. Roasted red peppers bring a splash of color and mild smoky-sweetness so well paired with the onion and fennel the trio is sure to show up again soon in Focaccia, or as soup garnishes and sandwich toppers.

Any favorite crust would be suitable, but we decided to highlight a second gluten-free option for those seeking a crust experience more like regular pizza crust. As I mentioned in the earlier post, Cauliflower-Mozzarella Pizza Crust is certainly delicious, but it does not have the same bread texture most are used to with pizza. This Gluten-Free Pizza Crust recipe is easy to make and the texture like familiar bread pizza dough.

The recipes include instructions to create the pizza entirely from scratch. However, in the recipe notes I mention how easy it is to cut corners by using jarred basil pesto, roasted red peppers, and pre-made grilled chicken. I have not used store-bought grilled chicken breasts, but often have grilled chicken breast prepared in advance, in bulk, ready in the freezer for a quick meal.

In case you missed any part of the series, here is a summary of the various sauces, toppings, and crusts featured:

BBQ Chicken Pizza—Tomato-BBQ sauce base, grilled chicken, bacon, Jack cheese, fresh red onion and cilantro on a hand-tossed sprouted wheat crust.
Italian Sausage, Prosciutto, Peperoncini, & Smoked Cheddar Pizza—Whole stewed San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand, Italian sausage, prosciutto, peperoncinis, mozzarella, English smoked cheddar, and Romano on sprouted wheat crust.
Fig, Chevre, & Arugula Pizza—Dalmatia® Fig Spread, soft goat cheese, lots of fresh herbs, arugula leaves, and grape tomatoes finished with a drizzle of aged balsamic on an extra thin sprouted wheat crust.
Top to Bottom Vegetable Pizza—Homemade San Marzano pizza sauce, sautéed mushrooms with garlic, zucchini, artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, fresh herbs, mozzarella, and Romano cheese on a Cauliflower-Mozzarella crust.
Pesto, Chicken, Caramelized Onion & Fennel Pizza on Gluten-Free Crust—Shown below.

Did you come away with a favorite?

Pesto, Chicken, Caramelized Onion & Fennel Pizza: Five Pies in Five Days
Serves / Yields: 1 - 12 inch pizza
  • 1 large sweet onion -- sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 large fennel bulb -- sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 cloves garlic -- sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee + more to drizzle on chicken
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast half -- grilled then sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes -- optional
  • 1 medium red bell pepper -- roasted and sliced
  • ½ - ⅔ cup basil pesto sauce
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella -- sliced ¼" thick
  1. Start the onions and fennel: Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until oil covers the pan evenly and is hot. Add the sliced onions and fennel and stir enough to coat with the oil. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions and fennel begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and spread onions and fennel evenly over bottom of skillet, reduce heat to low. Allow to gently caramelize for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they brown evenly. Stir sliced garlic into onions and fennel; continue to cook on low for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Onions and fennel should be golden brown when done. Remove from heat and allow to cool in pan.
While the onions and fennel are caramelizing:
  1. Pound the thickest part of the chicken breast with a mallet or heavy rolling pin to even out the meat. Season with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional), on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat. Grill over medium-low heat on a gas grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, or until the chicken registers 160° on an instant read meat thermometer. Once done, transfer chicken to cutting board, let rest, tented with foil, 5 minutes, then slice. For this application, it is okay to cook the chicken a little under-done since it will be sliced and then baked in the oven on the pizza.
Roasting Peppers:
  1. Cut pepper in half and remove stem and seeds. Lay pepper on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side up. Roast red pepper, skin side up, under a broiler until skin blisters and is blackened in spots. Remove from oven and place pepper in a sealed plastic bag to cool--the steam in the bag will make it easier to remove the skin. Once the pepper has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and slice.
  2. Layer pesto, mozzarella, sliced chicken, caramelized onions and fennel, and red peppers on prepared crust and bake for 10-15 minutes in a 450° oven. Allow to rest for a few minutes after removing from the oven before slicing.
Notes & Suggestions
This pizza can be made entirely from scratch or put together quickly using jarred pesto, roasted red peppers, and pre-made grilled chicken breast. The crust does tend to stick to the pan, so it is ideal to line the pan with parchment paper, which the pizza slides off of beautifully when transferring to a cutting board.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 3-4

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust adapted from Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook, Oxmoor House 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
Serves / Yields: 1 - 12 inch pizza
  • 1 package active dry yeast -- (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined sugar or honey
  • ¾ cup warm whole milk -- (100° to 110°)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + more for pan and brushing on crust
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  1. Arrange oven racks so that one is in the lowest setting and one is in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes.
  3. In a food processor or a large bowl, mix brown rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt until well combined. With the processor running, pour yeast mixture, olive oil, and vinegar through the chute and process until it forms a soft ball of dough, about 30 seconds. If mixing by hand, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the mixture begins to clean the sides of the bowl and forms a soft, yet sticky ball of dough.
  4. Brush a non-stick pizza pan with olive oil or line pan with parchment paper (parchment paper works best). Place dough in the middle of the pan, and with oiled or wet hands, press into shape, crimping edges to form a rimmed edge. Set aside and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Place on the lower rack and bake for 8-10 minutes until dough is set and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and brush edges of crust with olive oil.
  6. Top as desired and return to middle rack of oven and back for 10-15 minutes.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Serves 3

Other gluten-free pizza crust recipes you might like:
Karina’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe
King Arthur Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe

Pesto, Chicken, Caramelized Onion & Fennel Pizza – Sliced to Serve

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
Mom Trends Friday Food
Hearth & Soul Hop


  1. says

    Carmelized onions and fennel is my favorite combination! Every Friday I’ve made a pizza, now just for my son and I but even if he’s not around, I still go ahead and make one just for the levtovers! I don’t think I could pick just one favorite from your listing, they all sound fabulous to me!! Judy, you truly describe these pizzas so perfectly, I could imagine the taste as I was reading along!

    • says

      Ah, leftover pizza! It does inspire making one just for that purpose … a lot like turkey at Thanksgiving, just something about a turkey sandwich that makes the whole mess worth it. 🙂

  2. says

    You make the greatest pizzas and I LOVE your crusts!!! Pesto is actually my favorite pizza base, much better than tomato sauce in my book. Love, love, love the caramelized onion and fennel. This pizza will definitely be gracing our grill very soon! Great series!
    mjskit recently posted..Chunky GazpachoMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you, MJ, it was a fun series to do. I agree, pesto is quite the competition for tomato sauce on pizza, hard to resist!

    • says

      Hi Valerie,
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting — I always enjoy finding new blogs and yours was lovely to browse this morning as I sipped my coffee. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words too, have a blessed week!

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