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This lemon chicken orzo recipe is creamy, comforting, and made in one pot for fewer dishes! It comes together in just 30 minutes for a cozy meal.
Why you’ll love it
This chicken and orzo recipe is similar to a risotto, but it’s much easier to make. There’s no need to gradually stir in the liquid. It’s simply added in all at the same time. Pair with some cooked chicken, spinach, and parmesan, and the result is tender chicken and a dreamy lemon cream sauce!
My Creamy Garlic Spinach Orzo recipe gave me the idea for this chicken spinach orzo. It’s similar in ingredients and technique, but I wanted something that would work as a main course. Using rotisserie chicken makes for a fast and fuss-free dinner all in one pot.
What you’ll need
- Olive oil and butter – for sautéing
- Onion and garlic – I like to use sweet (Vidalia) ones. For the garlic, it’s easy to mince with a garlic press so your fingers don’t get sticky.
- Italian seasoning – a go-to versatile and fragrant herb blend in a single jar
- Orzo – you’ll find it in the dry pasta aisle
- Chicken broth – for moisture and deeper savory flavor
- Lemon – fresh lemon juice brightens the whole dish and adds a touch of acidity. If you want an even more intense lemon flavor, include the zest of a lemon. Add it along with the lemon juice. I use this lemon zester.
- Heavy cream – it adds a luxurious touch
- Chicken – rotisserie or leftover Cooked Chicken makes this orzo recipe even easier
- Parmesan – for a final cheesy touch. Always grate your own for max flavor and best texture.
- Spinach – we’re using fresh baby spinach
Can I use rice instead?
- Our kitchen hasn’t tested this recipe with rice. Orzo is pasta that happens to be shaped like rice, so I would stick to using it since the liquid ratios and cook time will likely be different. Rice typically takes longer to cook than pasta.
How to make lemon chicken orzo
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Sauté the onion in the butter and oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and orzo. Stirring often, toast the orzo for a couple of minutes.
- Pour in the broth, cream, and lemon juice. Let it bubble gentle, and cook for 10 minutes. Give it a stir every so often to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the liquid is absorbed, stir in the chicken. Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan and spinach, and let it sit for a few more minutes. Season with salt & pepper.
Substitutions and variations
- Don’t like spinach? No problem. Leave it out. You could throw in other chopped and cooked veggies towards the end (like when the chicken is added) if you happen to have some on hand.
- I don’t recommend subbing the cream for something lower fat (e.g. half-and-half or milk). This recipe is cooked over a fairly high heat, plus the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice means there’s a strong chance of curdling.
- Since this is a one pot meal, the liquid ratios really matter, so I would be careful subbing another variety of pasta. Be prepared to add more liquid if needed.
- It may seem like there’s a lot of liquid, but the orzo does a good job of absorbing it! If you find by the end of cooking that there’s still too much, just wait a few minutes and the pasta will soak it up. If you find that it’s too dry, simply add another splash or cream and/or chicken broth.
What to serve with lemon chicken orzo
Leftovers and storage
- You can store leftovers in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container, but definitely be aware that the orzo will soak up the sauce over time.
- When reheating, use a saucepan over a low heat until warmed through. Add a splash of cream or broth if necessary.
- I don’t recommend freezing the leftovers.
Questions about this creamy lemon chicken orzo pasta recipe? Made it? Please leave me a comment below! You can also tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram.
Lemon Chicken Orzo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 2 cups cooked shredded/rotisserie chicken
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the oil, butter, and onion to a pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and orzo. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often (this infuses the orzo with more flavor and toasts it a little).
- Stir in the chicken broth, lemon juice, and cream. Once it starts to bubble, continue cooking for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring fairly often. You will probably need to turn the heat down a bit (to medium or even medium-low). It should gently bubble vs. furiously boil, and you don't want the liquid to reduce too much before the pasta has cooked. See notes below and blog post for troubleshooting tips.
- Stir in the chicken.
- Take the pot off the heat, stir in the parmesan and spinach, and cover the pot for 3-5 minutes or until it has thickened up to your liking. Season with salt & pepper as needed and serve immediately.
- Serves 4-6 depending on how much people eat.
- I don’t recommend subbing the cream. There’s a good chance the sauce will curdle with something lower fat (due to the fairly high heat + citrus).
- If the pasta is soaking up the liquid too fast (like before the orzo is cooked), turn the heat down and/or add a splash more broth or cream. If there’s too much liquid, cover the pot for longer than suggested in the recipe and the orzo will absorb it quickly.
- Orzo is pasta. If you want to make this with rice, you may have to adjust liquid measurements and cooking time (it’s a different recipe that I have not tested).
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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