Picture the sizzle as the chicken thighs are expertly browned, releasing a tantalizing aroma that sets the stage for an unforgettable Chicken Orzo Recipe. The slow simmering of the chicken in a fragrant broth intensifies the flavors, resulting in tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness.
Enter orzo, the versatile pasta that completes this culinary masterpiece. Cooked to perfection in a symphony of homemade and store-bought broth, it becomes a canvas for the rich flavors developed during the chicken's slow dance in the pot. Each bite offers a perfect blend of savory chicken and tender orzo, a duet that will leave you craving an encore.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like large grains of rice. Despite its rice-like appearance, orzo is made from wheat semolina or white flour, making it a form of pasta rather than rice. The word "orzo" itself is Italian, meaning "barley," and this pasta is traditionally used in Italian and Greek cuisines. Orzo is versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and salads to casseroles and pilafs. Its small size and unique shape make it a popular choice for dishes where a smaller pasta is preferred or where a rice-like texture is desired.
What type of orzo to use?
- Traditional Orzo: Made from wheat semolina or white flour, providing a neutral flavor suitable for various recipes.
- Whole Wheat Orzo: Healthier option made from whole wheat flour, offering more fiber and a nuttier flavor.
- Gluten-Free Orzo: Ideal for those with gluten sensitivities, typically made from alternative flours like rice or corn.
- Tri-Color Orzo: Visually appealing option with a mix of traditional, spinach, and tomato-flavored orzos.
- Lemon or Herb-Infused Orzo: Specialty varieties infused with lemon or herbs, adding extra flavor to the dish.
- Pearl Couscous: While not true orzo, it can be a suitable substitute with a similar size and texture.
Why you will love this recipe
- Rich and Flavorful: This Chicken Orzo recipe is a flavor-packed delight, with each element contributing to a rich and savory experience. The slow-cooked chicken infused with garlic and bay leaves creates a depth of flavor that permeates every bite.
- Tender, Juicy Chicken: The use of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs ensures that the chicken remains tender and juicy throughout the cooking process. The slow simmer allows the flavors to penetrate the meat, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- One-Pot Wonder: Simplify your cooking routine with this one-pot wonder. From browning the chicken to cooking the orzo, the entire dish comes together in a single pot, minimizing cleanup and making it an ideal choice for busy weeknights.
- Versatile Orzo: Orzo, the small pasta resembling rice, is a versatile canvas that absorbs the delicious chicken drippings and broth. Its delicate texture complements the robust flavors of the chicken, creating a perfect harmony in every spoonful.
Chicken Orzo Recipe Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Chicken thighs
- Olive oil
- Chicken broth
- Bay leaves
- Chicken broth
- Lime or lemon
- Salt and pepper
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make Chicken Orzo Recipe
- Brown the Chicken:
- In a large pot or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- Brown the chicken thighs in the hot oil for about 8-9 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
- When you flip the chicken, add minced garlic to the pot.
- Add Broth and Bay Leaves:
- After the initial 8-9 minutes, add ¼ cup of chicken broth to deglaze the pot.
- Add bay leaves to the pot.
- Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let it cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
- Cook Orzo: Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the pot and set it on a plate. Pour the remaining chicken drippings into a measuring bowl. Check the volume of the drippings and add store-bought chicken broth to make a total of 2 cups of liquid. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Bring the liquid to a simmer in the pot. Add 1 cup of orzo to the simmering liquid. Cook the orzo uncovered on medium heat for 8-12 minutes or as per the instructions on the orzo package. Stir occasionally until the orzo is soft and the liquid has evaporated.
- Combine and Serve:
- While the orzo is cooking, shred the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones and skin.
- Once the orzo is cooked, return the shredded chicken (and any meat that fell into the pot) to the orzo.
- Mix well to combine, allowing the chicken to warm through.
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Serve the Chicken Orzo hot, garnished with fresh herbs if desired. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice on.
What to serve with Chicken Orzo
- Vegetable Medley: Serve a colorful array of roasted or grilled vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus. The freshness of the vegetables will balance the richness of the Chicken Orzo.
- Green Salad: Prepare a simple green salad with mixed greens, cucumber, and a light vinaigrette. The crispness of the salad provides a refreshing contrast to the warm and savory Chicken Orzo.
- Garlic Bread or Breadsticks: A side of garlic bread or breadsticks is a classic choice. The buttery, garlicky flavors complement the pasta, and you can use them to soak up any remaining delicious broth.
- Greek Salad: Embrace Mediterranean flavors by serving a Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a lemony dressing. The tangy elements will add a bright note to the meal.
- Chicken Thighs: Substitute with chicken drumsticks, bone-in chicken breasts, or a combination.
- Olive Oil: Substitute with vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil.
- Garlic: Substitute with garlic powder or granulated garlic (1 teaspoon per clove).
- Chicken Broth: Substitute with vegetable broth or low-sodium broth.
- Orzo: Substitute with pearl couscous, small shells, or rice (adjust cooking time).
Chicken Orzo Recipe Variations
- Mediterranean Flair: Add Kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese to the orzo. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh oregano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for a taste of the Mediterranean.
- Lemon Herb Infusion: Zest a lemon into the orzo while it cooks for a burst of citrusy flavor. Mix in fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and dill before serving for a vibrant and aromatic twist.
- Spinach and Artichoke Delight: Stir in chopped spinach and canned artichoke hearts to the orzo during the last few minutes of cooking. The combination of these veggies adds freshness and a unique taste to the dish.
- Creamy Parmesan Upgrade: Introduce a creamy element by stirring in grated Parmesan cheese to the orzo. Add a splash of heavy cream or Greek yogurt for a luscious, cheesy variation.
- Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Elegance: Incorporate chopped sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil into the orzo. The sweet-tartness of the tomatoes and the aromatic basil create a sophisticated flavor profile.
Check out my Baked Paprika Chicken Thighs.
- Large Pot or Saucepan: Use a large pot for cooking the chicken, broth, and orzo. Ensure it's large enough to accommodate all the ingredients.
- Measuring Spoons and Cups: For accurate measurement of ingredients, especially for the broth and olive oil.
- Cutting Board and Knife: For chopping garlic and any additional ingredients you might be using, such as vegetables or herbs.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula: For stirring the chicken, garlic, and orzo during the cooking process.
- Plate: To temporarily hold the cooked chicken while preparing the orzo.
- Measuring Bowl: For measuring and holding the leftover chicken drippings before adding them back to the orzo.
- Lid for the Pot or Saucepan: Essential for covering the pot during the simmering process.
- Grater (optional): If you're adding Parmesan cheese to your Chicken Orzo, a grater will be useful for fresh cheese.
- Serving Dish: To present and serve the finished Chicken Orzo.
- Tongs or Forks: For handling the chicken when transferring it to and from the pot.
How to store Chicken Orzo
- Cooling Down: Allow the Chicken Orzo to cool to room temperature before storing it. This helps prevent condensation inside the storage container, which can lead to sogginess.
- Divide into Portions: If you have a large batch, consider dividing it into smaller portions. This makes it easier to reheat only what you need without compromising the quality of the entire batch.
- Airtight Container: Transfer the Chicken Orzo into airtight containers. This helps prevent the absorption of odors from the refrigerator and keeps the dish from drying out.
- Refrigeration: Store the airtight containers in the refrigerator. Chicken and pasta dishes should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. Consume refrigerated Chicken Orzo within 3-4 days for optimal freshness. Frozen Chicken Orzo can last for a few months.
- Labeling and Dating (Optional): Consider labeling the container with the date of preparation. This makes it easier to keep track of freshness and ensures you use it within a safe timeframe.
- Refrigerator Shelf Placement: Place the containers on a refrigerator shelf rather than in the door. The temperature on shelves is more consistent, keeping the Chicken Orzo at a safe and even temperature.
- Reheating: When reheating, add a splash of broth or water to the Chicken Orzo to maintain moisture. You can reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
- Freezing (Optional): If you want to store Chicken Orzo for an extended period, you can freeze it. Portion it into airtight, freezer-safe containers. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
Chicken Orzo Recipe Top tips
- Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality chicken thighs and fresh ingredients for the best flavor. Fresh garlic and good-quality chicken broth can significantly enhance the dish.
- Browning the Chicken: Achieve a flavorful base by properly browning the chicken. Pat the chicken thighs dry before seasoning to encourage a golden crust during browning.
- Garlic Timing: Add minced garlic when you flip the chicken during the browning process. This ensures the garlic cooks and releases its flavor without burning.
- Low and Slow Simmering: Allow the chicken to simmer on low heat for at least 1½ to 2 hours. This slow cooking method ensures tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken and allows the flavors to meld.
- Measuring Chicken Drippings: Measure the leftover chicken drippings before adding them back to the orzo. This step helps you determine the amount of store-bought broth needed to reach the required 2 cups of liquid for cooking the orzo.
- Orzo Cooking Time: Follow the recommended cooking time on the orzo package. Cooking times may vary, so check the package instructions to achieve the desired al dente texture.
- Seasoning Adjustments: Taste the Chicken Orzo before serving and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Depending on the salt content of your broth, you might need to add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove