This creamy chicken orzo recipe with peas and spinach is what I make when I can’t decide between chicken soup and risotto. With a few freezer staples, leftover cooked chicken, a cup or two of orzo pasta (aka risoni), plus a touch of cream and umami-boosting Parmesan, you have the most comforting yet nutritious meal in 30 minutes.
My Creamy Chicken Orzo
I only recently started cooking with orzo pasta and I am obsessed. I can make dishes similar to a risotto but with orzo, which I find much lighter and less starchy than Arborio rice. I love that orzo retains that lovely al dente texture and gives the dish a little more structure.
If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s short-cut pasta, also known as risoni, that looks like longer, flatter rice grains. Orzo is made typically made from flour, but it can also be made of whole grain or with semolina. You can also find gluten-free orzo on the market these days.
You can cook orzo like any other type of pasta – in boiling water – and use it in saucy dishes, salads, bakes, casseroles and so on. It’s a great pasta for cooking in one-pot dishes like this creamy chicken orzo with peas and spinach, where the risoni is cooked directly in the sauce, giving it plenty of flavour and enriching the liquid with the pasta starch.
Make It Your Own
This chicken orzo recipe is a bit of a template that you can adapt to using whatever leftover veggies or protein you have in the fridge. I almost always have rotisserie chicken, which I use in chicken soups, salads and so on. It works superbly as the protein in a creamy orzo dish.
I didn’t have many fresh vegetables besides the usual onions, carrots, and celery, so for this recipe, I threw in some frozen peas and spinach. On other occasions, have made variations of this dish with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, shrimp, asparagus and other ingredients.
The whole meal comes together in around 30 minutes and has been on request by family on many occasions since the first time I made it. It’s a cooked and loved kind of recipe!
What You Need For Creamy Orzo
Orzo – I used Barilla brand of orzo (risoni #61) but you can use almost any orzo in this recipe; do note that some of them might be slightly larger/longer, so the cooking time might vary by a minute or two. You have to taste it to see how long to cook it for.
Chicken – I used leftover rotisserie chicken meat (about 1 breast worth or 1.5 cups of diced/shredded meat); you can use any pre-cooked chicken. If you want to use raw chicken, dice it into small pieces and throw it with the sauteed onions, carrots and celery for a minute or two, before adding the liquids and the pasta. It should cook through by the time the orzo is ready.
Vegetables – the usual trio of onions, celery and carrots makes the flavour base of the dish, as well as garlic. I used frozen peas and spinach as that’s what I had but you can throw in diced zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, red bell peppers and more.
For flavour – a lot of the flavour will come from the chicken stock, in which you cook the whole thing; lemon juice, zest and a little white wine will add the required acidity and give it that lovely, citrusy aroma that works so well with chicken. I also throw in a little thyme but you can try rosemary, basil or parsley.
Make it creamy – if dairy is not an issue, do use a little cream and Parmesan cheese at the end of cooking as these foods will give you the most delicious, creamy orzo with lots of umami flavour. If you can’t have dairy, you can finish this dish without and it will be a little more soupy, stew-like but still very tasty. You may need to add a little more salt.
How To Make This Chicken Orzo Recipe
The full recipe card with ingredients and a nutritional breakdown is below. Here are some step-by-step photos and a video to guide you along.
Step 1. Add peas to a bowl and cover with boiling water to thaw out. Repeat the same with the frozen spinach. Set aside.
Step 2. Add butter and olive oil to a large, deep frying pan or skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and add onions, carrots and celery. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, to soften, stirring a few times.
Step 3. Add the garlic, diced cooked chicken, lemon zest, thyme, and pepper, stir through and add the white wine. Stir for 10-15 seconds.
Step 4. Add the orzo and chicken stock, stir through and once it comes to a simmer, turn the heat down to medium. Cook for a total of 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Step 5. In the meantime, strain the spinach and squeeze the liquid out of it. Roughly chop it. Strain the peas.
Step 6. After about 10 minutes of cooking orzo, add the spinach and baby peas to the orzo. Stir through and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. If the liquid starts to reduce too much, add another ¼-½ cup of stock or water and continue to cook and stir a few times.
Step 7. In the meantime, grate the Parmesan cheese.
Step 8. In the last two minutes of cooking, add the grated Parmesan and the cream (if using). Stir through a few times to melt and incorporate.
Finish by garnishing with chopped basil or parsley.
More Comforting Recipes
Find the full list of ingredients, instructions, and a nutritional breakdown below. If you have questions or cook this recipe, please let me know in the comments, and make sure to rate this recipe so it’s easy for others to find.Print
Creamy Chicken Orzo With Peas & Spinach
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Braised
- Cuisine: Italian
Comforting, nutritious and super tasty creamy chicken orzo recipe the whole family will love. Made with peas and spinach for extra veggies, this one-pot orzo dish is like a fusion or risotto and chicken soup.
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas
- 1/2 cup frozen spinach (1 frozen ball or equivalent amount)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, finely diced (1/2 cup chopped)
- 1 small carrot, finely diced (1/2 cup diced)
- 1 celery rib, finely diced (1/2 cup diced)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large cloves of garlic, finely diced or minced
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 breast of cooked chicken (rotisserie or roast thicken), diced (about 1.5 cups of meat)
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried thyme)
- 1/3 cup of white wine
- 1.5 cups uncooked orzo/ risoni
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 + 1/4 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (loosely packed)
- 1/4 cup thickened/heavy cream (optional, I used it but can be without)
- Basil or parsley to garnish
- Add peas to a bowl and cover with boiling water to thaw out. Repeat the same with the frozen spinach. Set aside.
- Add butter and olive oil to a large, deep frying pan or skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and add onions, carrots and celery. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, to soften, stirring a few times.
- Add the garlic, diced cooked chicken, lemon zest, thyme, and pepper, stir through and add the white wine. Stir for 10-15 seconds.
- Add the orzo and chicken stock, stir through and once it comes to a simmer, turn the heat down to medium. Cook for a total of 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- In the meantime, strain the spinach and squeeze the liquid out of it. Roughly chop it. Strain the peas.
- After about 10 minutes of cooking orzo, add the spinach and baby peas to the orzo. Stir through and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. If the liquid starts to reduce too much, add another ¼-½ cup of stock or water and continue to cook and stir a few times.
- In the meantime, grate the Parmesan cheese.
- In the last two minutes of cooking, add the grated Parmesan and the cream (if using). Stir through a few times to melt and incorporate.
- Finish by garnishing with chopped basil or parsley.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 513
- Sugar: 7 g
- Sodium: 889 mg
- Fat: 20.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 44.1 g
- Fiber: 2.8 g
- Protein: 32.5 g
- Cholesterol: 76.9 mg
Keywords: Orzo recipe, orzo pasta, risoni, risoni recipe, chicken orzo, one-pot pasta, one-pot recipes, dinner, healthy, comfort food, risotto
Hi, the ingredients list includes lemon juice, black pepper and thyme but the directions do not state when to add them.
Hey Julie, sorry, it’s at the same time as adding chicken and lemon zest (step 3). I’ve added it in the instructions.
Hi Irena, Can this dish be frozen?
Hey Judy, I don’t usually recommend freezing dishes with pasta, even if it’s really small one, I think the defrosted texture will be too mushy.