Chicken Orzo (One Pot!)

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This Chicken Orzo is prepared in ONE POT — that’s right — the chicken, orzo pasta, and veggies all cook together to become a luxuriously creamy and flavor-packed meal the whole family will love! This risotto-reminiscent meal is filled with bites of seasoned chicken, juicy sun-dried tomatoes, tender cooked spinach, and perfectly al dente pasta. 

Overhead image of Chicken Orzo in the pot

Chicken Orzo

It’s no secret we love the combo of chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. (Hello to some of our faves: Chicken PastaMediterranean Pasta Salad, and Pesto Chicken Tortellini!) This combo is pretty unbeatable in our book, so we decided to take these three ingredients and channel them into a creamy pasta dish. And did we mention — this magic is happening in only one pot?!

This creamy Chicken Orzo is ridiculously creamy and tastes restaurant-quality indulgent but without loads of butter or heavy cream. We actually keep the butter to a minimum (only 2 tablespoons) and use milk (not cream) to thicken — score!

As a whole, Chicken Orzo is reminiscent of risotto. If you haven’t had risotto, it’s a rich and creamy dish with a consistency almost like porridge, yet each grain of rice still has a distinct bite. While we aren’t using rice, it’s the same idea here — an ultra-creamy dish, but with distinct bites of perfectly al dente pasta instead!

Process shots-- images of the onion being sautéed in sun-dried tomato oil, then garlic, chicken, and seasonings being added and cooked

Let’s Chat About Orzo

As mentioned, we use orzo pasta in this recipe. If you aren’t familiar, orzo is a type of short-cut pasta that looks like large grains of rice. It also goes by the names risoni and risiand they’re all the same thing: small pasta made from durum and semolina wheat.

Although orzo looks a bit like rice, it’s not a grain. (It’s a common misconception that rice and orzo can be interchanged, but they are different and won’t cook the same in this recipe.)

You can find orzo on the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. And we don’t use the entire box in this recipe, so you the leftovers in one of these tasty recipes: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup or this one-pot Creamy Orzo!

QUICK TIP

I would not recommend any substitutes for orzo pasta in this Chicken Orzo recipe. The orzo takes on a risotto-type creamy consistency that is not well duplicated with different (larger) pasta.

Process shots of the chicken stock-- images of butter, flour, Italian seasoning, chicken stock, milk, and uncooked pasta being added

SHORTCUTS

Chicken Orzo Shortcut Ideas

  • Use room-temperature milk. Cold milk takes longer to heat. Before starting, measure out the milk and then set it aside to come to room temperature.
  • Use pre-minced garlic (or fresh garlic and a garlic press).
  • Grab these sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs. The herbs in the tomatoes add lots of flavor (so we don’t need lots of additional seasonings).
  • Pick up a bag of pre-washed baby spinach. This is a huge time saver as opposed to washing, drying, removing stems, and cutting down a bundle of regular spinach.

Process shots-- images of the sun-dried tomatoes and cooked chicken being added and mixed together

Chicken Orzo Tips

  • Prep everything before you start cooking. This is a recipe where the cooking goes pretty quickly once you get started, so we recommend getting everything cut up and set out.
  • Use whole milk. This is a creamy recipe, and the lower-fat milk choices won’t achieve the right texture. Unfortunately, skim milk or a dairy milk alternative doesn’t work the same way as whole milk in this recipe.
  • Thoroughly sauté the onion. The onion is sautéed at the start, but won’t get much more tender throughout the rest of the cooking, so take the time in the beginning to ensure it’s nice and soft!
  • Use high-quality stock or broth. The better the stock, the richer the Chicken Orzo will taste. We love Swanson Chicken Stock® best (not sponsored).
  • Grate Parmesan on the small holes of the grater: For the perfect melt and to ensure the measurement is accurate, grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater.

What pot to use

Use a large (5.5 to 6 quart), nonstick pot for best results.

We did test this recipe in a cast iron pot and it cooked fine — the cooking time is just faster (cast iron retains more heat) and requires more frequent stirring to ensure the pasta doesn’t clump or catch and stick to the bottom of the pot.  

Process shots of the Chicken Orzo-- images of the spinach, Parmesan, Dijon, and lemon being added and mixed together

Chicken Orzo Toppings

Chicken Orzo is great right out of the pot, but if you’re looking to jazz it up a bit, below are some topping suggestions we’ve loved:

  • Fresh basil pesto: A scoop of pesto is divine — it complements the other flavors beautifully. I’d recommend getting a refrigerated, freshly-made basil pesto, which you can find near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheeses. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is my personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce (not sponsored).
  • Additional Parmesan cheese: Another sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan is the perfect finishing touch — it adds a nice final seasoning (Parmesan is salty!) and melts nicely into the pasta. For the perfect super-fine texture, we like to use a microplane and grate it right over plates.
  • Fresh herbs: This Chicken Orzo is rich and hearty, so it benefits from fresh herbs to cut through the richness. We love flat-leaf Italian parsley and/or fresh thyme best.

Up-close overhead image of Chicken Orzo

Trouble-shooting

  • The longer the orzo cooks or stands, the thicker it gets — the orzo will continue to absorb the surrounding liquid. 
  • So when do we take it off the heat? We are looking for a consistency to be similar to risotto — remove from heat when pasta is tender, but everything is still a little soupy. The dish thickens quickly so you may want to remove it from heat a little sooner than you may think to avoid mushy pasta. It’s always an easy fix to put it back on the stovetop and heat for another minute or two!
  • If the dish does end up too thick, add an extra splash of milk in to thin it.
  • This dish doesn’t have a whole lot of seasoning because it’s relying on the chicken stock (which has plenty of seasonings already), the sun-dried tomatoes, the Parmesan cheese, and the salt and pepper. That said, you still might need a pinch extra at the end — don’t be afraid to add more salt and pepper until the flavors are vibrant.

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Chicken Orzo

5 from 2 votes
Chicken Orzo is prepared in ONE POT -- that's right -- the chicken, orzo pasta, and veggies all cook together to become a luxuriously creamy and flavor-packed meal the whole family will love! This risotto-reminiscent meal is filled with bites of seasoned chicken, juicy sun-dried tomatoes, tender cooked spinach, and perfectly al dente pasta. 
Print Recipe

Chicken Orzo

5 from 2 votes
Chicken Orzo is prepared in ONE POT -- that's right -- the chicken, orzo pasta, and veggies all cook together to become a luxuriously creamy and flavor-packed meal the whole family will love! This risotto-reminiscent meal is filled with bites of seasoned chicken, juicy sun-dried tomatoes, tender cooked spinach, and perfectly al dente pasta. 
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Chicken Orzo
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 599kcal
Cost $8.41

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (79g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil Note 1
  • 1 cup (130g) finely diced yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 large (~12 oz.) chicken breast, diced into small (1/2-inch) pieces
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons white flour
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups (450g) chicken stock (we love Swanson)
  • 2-1/4 cups (548g) whole milk Note 2
  • 1-1/2 cups (286g) uncooked orzo pasta Note 3
  • 1 cup (56g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, separated Note 4
  • 3 cups (76g) packed coarsely chopped baby spinach
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, fresh basil pesto Note 5

Instructions

  • PREP: Measure milk and set aside so it can come to room temperature. Cut veggies and chicken before starting to cook; the cooking goes quickly! Finely chop the onion and mince garlic, cut the chicken breast into small, 1/2-inch pieces. Coarsely chop sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces and give the spinach a quick coarse chop. Set out the rest of the ingredients.
  • COOK: Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons oil from the sun-dried tomato container (or just use olive oil) in a large 5.5 or 6-quart (nonstick) pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes or until becoming golden. Add in garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the chopped chicken, season with salt and pepper (I add 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper); cook until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes (juices run clear, chicken is white throughout). Transfer this entire mixture to a bowl or plate and cover with foil. Set aside for now.
  • COOK, CONT.: Return the pot to the burner. Melt the butter. Once melted, add in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the Italian seasoning and then, while whisking constantly and briskly, gradually add in the chicken stock. Once the mixture is smooth, add in the milk and the uncooked orzo. Stir.
  • FINISH COOKING: Increase heat to high, bring mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat until it is just barely and gently bubbling. Cook for 7-10 minutes without a lid, stirring occasionally and making sure to scrape the bottom so the orzo does not stick. Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes after 5 minutes. After about 7-10 minutes the pasta should be almost tender (mixture will still be slightly soupy). Add in the reserved chicken, spinach, 3/4 cup Parmesan, Dijon (if using), and lemon juice (If using). Gently stir to melt cheese and wilt spinach. Taste and season if needed with additional salt and pepper. Don't be afraid to add a bit more-- the salt and pepper really pull all the flavors together; I typically add another 1/4 teaspoon of each.
  • SERVE: Consistency should be similar to risotto and very creamy. (Add a splash of milk if needed to thin consistency a bit.) Serve immediately and top plates with the additional 1/4 cup Parmesan if desired and some freshly chopped parsley. Add a spoonful of fresh basil to plates if desired to stir through the orzo. Enjoy while hot.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Sun-dried tomatoes: Pick julienne-cut tomatoes packed with oil and herbs for the best flavor. The herbs in the tomatoes add lots of flavor (so we don’t need lots of additional seasonings) and we use the oil in the jar to cook the onion and chicken in!
Note 2: Whole milk: Remove from the fridge, measure, and set aside before starting to cook. Room-temperature milk will heat quicker! This is intended to be a creamy recipe, and the lower-fat milk choices won't achieve the right texture. Unfortunately, skim milk or a dairy milk alternative doesn't work the same way as whole milk in this recipe.
Note 3: Orzo: Although orzo looks a bit like rice, it’s not a grain. (It's a common misconception that rice and orzo can be interchanged, but they won't cook the same in this recipe.) You can find orzo on the pasta aisle of most grocery stores. Don't add the entire box; only use 1-1/2 cups. I would not recommend any substitutes for orzo pasta -- it takes on a risotto-type creamy consistency that is not well duplicated with different (larger) pasta.
Note 4: Toppings: This dish is great right out of the pot, but if you're looking to jazz it up a bit, below are some topping suggestions we've loved:
  • Fresh basil pesto: A scoop of pesto is divine -- it compliments the other flavors beautifully. I’d recommend getting a refrigerated, freshly-made basil pesto, which you can find near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheeses. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is my personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce (not sponsored).
  • Additional Parmesan cheese: Another sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan is the perfect finishing touch -- it adds a nice final seasoning (Parmesan is salty!) and melts smoothly into the pasta. For the perfect super-fine texture, we like to use a microplane and grate it right over plates.
  • Fresh herbs: Chicken Orzo is rich and hearty, so it benefits from fresh herbs to cut through the richness. We love flat-leaf Italian parsley and/or fresh thyme best.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 599kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 1354mg | Potassium: 1848mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 17726IU | Vitamin C: 85mg | Calcium: 968mg | Iron: 7mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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