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Chicken Orzo

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 518kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $8.41

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil Note 1
  • 1 cup 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 chicken stock (we love Swanson)
  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk Note 2
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta Note 3
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, separated Note 4
  • 3 cups 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

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 1: Parmesan Cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won't melt into the sauce nicely.
Note 5: 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

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 518kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.3g | Protein: 40.6g | Fat: 18.4g | Cholesterol: 106.4mg | Sodium: 637.9mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 12.3g