Chicken Orzo is a quick, flavorful, healthy weeknight meal. Loaded with veggies and ready in about 35 minutes. I call it a comfort food meal in one pot.
This one pot meal is really tasty. Even though the cooking time is very short, the flavors from the broth, mushrooms, onions and BBQ sauce blend beautifully and make the orzo delicious.
It’s nothing fancy. And it’s very forgiving. Leave out a few things, add in something else – no problem. Perfect for a simple weeknight meal for the family or you and your other half.
You can, of course, use a homemade BBQ sauce, but I just grab what I have in the fridge and doctor it up a bit. You can also use frozen spinach. Just run about 2 cups under water in a strainer to defrost it then squeeze it out well.
The important part of this chicken orzo dish is the ratio of liquid to orzo. Much of this will depend on the cooking temperature. I find a slow simmer is good, but it’s easy to adjust – for example, if your orzo is cooking too fast (not yet tender and water almost absorbed), add a bit of water and lower the heat. Of course, you also want to make sure the chicken is cooked. With boneless chicken, this will be no problem. With bone-in, cook it a little longer while sauteing in the first step. And check the temperature with an instant read thermometer. It should be 160F.
- The chicken will be more flavorful if you have time to marinate it, but if you don’t, no worries. You can always pass some extra sauce at the table.
- You can skip the mushrooms and spinach (I personally wouldn’t skip the onions) and serve the dish with a side salad or vegetable if you prefer.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Use a different marinade/sauce such as Italian or Greek dressing
- Kick up the spice with sriracha or other hot sauce to your taste
- Add a teaspoon of curry for a different flavor
Make Ahead Chicken Orzo
- Heated up leftovers are are delicious (if you like leftovers which I do – a lot).
- 2 lbs bone-in skin-on thighs; or boneless, skinless breasts or thighs
- 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, divided (add if desired: 1/2 teaspoon regular mustard, worcestershire sauce, minced garlic and/or sriracha hot sauce)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
- 1 cup dried orzo
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (or slightly less if you like your orzo drier)
- 4 -5 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- MARINATE THE CHICKEN: Put half the BBQ sauce (and optional ingredients if using) in a large ziploc plastic bag. Add chicken. Seal and massage the bag to distribute sauce evenly. Place in fridge for several hours or overnight. SHORTCUT: If you have no time, skip the marinating and just coat chicken with BBQ sauce.
- SAUTE THE CHICKEN: Heat 2-3 teaspoons oil to medium in a large skillet. If chicken is marinated, dry chicken with a paper towel. Saute bone-in chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side until browned. Or about 2-3 minutes per side if using boneless chicken, depending on the thickness. Remove chicken to a plate.
- SAUTE ORZO, ONION, MUSHROOMS, GARLIC: In the same skillet, add a bit more oil if needed (or pour off some oil if skin was fatty). Increase heat to medium-high. Add orzo and stir for 2 minutes. Add onion, mushroom and garlic. Stir for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.
- FINISH DISH: Add broth, the remainder of BBQ sauce, thyme and spinach. Stir until spinach wilts and mixture comes to a boil. Place chicken on top. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until orzo is tender and most of the broth has absorbed. Stir the orzo (keeping the chicken on top) half way through to prevent sticking. Toward the end, check to see if you need to add a bit of water or finish cooking uncovered if it appears too liquid-y. Stir and let sit for a few minutes to further absorb liquid if necessary. Chicken should read 160F on an instant read thermometer. Serve.