One Pan Chicken and Orzo with Spinach is tender chicken baked over creamy orzo pasta with goat cheese and spinach in a one-pan meal that the whole family will love!
99.9% of my recipes are inspired by the flavors and foods I’m craving. But not this recipe. This recipe was inspired by a pan. This pan.
My kitchen is small but hardworking. I keep things pretty streamlined, and it looks almost exactly like it did when I wrote this post two years ago. You’d probably still find all the same things inside each drawer if you were to stop by today and open them. But for years I’ve had my eye on the Staub pan you see throughout this post. A New Year’s sale finally made me decide to snag one and immediately start dreaming up one-pan meals to cook in it.
The good news is that you absolutely do NOT need an expensive Staub pan to make this dish. This chicken and orzo can easily be made in any oven-safe pan or you can even transfer it to a casserole dish to let it finish baking in the oven.
The recipe starts with searing chicken on the stovetop and then making a super creamy base featuring orzo pasta. The orzo is started using a similar method to Italian risotto but with pasta instead of rice. The seared chicken gets nestled into the orzo and the entire thing finishes in the oven where the orzo turns tender and creamy as the chicken flavors it.
A few key things emerged as I was testing this recipe – see below for a few tips. But at the end of the day, this is a beautiful, relatively simple meal that would be as great for serving guests as it is on a cozy weeknight at home with the family.
- Chicken Thighs – Boneless, skinless chicken thighs stay very tender during cooking, but I also tested this recipe with chicken breast and it was great as well. If you’re using chicken breasts and they are quite large, slice them in half to thin before cooking so that they finish cooking at the same time as the orzo.
- Marinade – The key to keeping these chicken thighs flavorful and tender is a very quick marinade. Just pantry staples of olive oil, vinegar, dried herbs, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper.
- Orzo – Orzo is a small rice-shaped pasta.
- Cooking Oil and Olive Oil – I like to use olive oil in the marinade for flavor and a high heat-approved cooking oil like avocado or grapeseed to sear the chicken, but feel free to use one type of oil throughout the recipe if you prefer.
- Diced Onion – White or yellow onion add savory flavor to the orzo. If diced very finely, they will practically melt into the orzo as it cooks.
- Butter – To give the orzo a creamy start, saute onions in melted butter.
- Heavy Cream – The creaminess this adds to the orzo is absolutely worth the trouble of picking up some heavy / whipping cream, but half and half would be fine (with a less creamy result).
- Chicken Stock – Vegetable stock would work just fine too. If using low-sodium stock, be sure to taste and add some more salt if needed.
- Baby Spinach – Adds some color and a vegetable element to this one pan dish. I like to chop it before adding it, but if you’re okay with some larger leaves of spinach, feel free to add the leaves whole.
- Goat Cheese – The tanginess of goat cheese helps to bring all the flavors in the dish together.
- Lemon Juice – Don’t skip the lemon juice. It adds brightness to the finished dish.
Tips for Making One Pan Chicken and Orzo
- Simple marinade = big flavor. It only takes a few minutes (though you can maximize flavor by marinating for a day) to give the chicken a quick marinade of vinegar, olive oil, and some herbs and spices.
- Sear but don’t cook the chicken. The chicken in this dish should finish cooking in the oven, so sear it quickly on the stove over high heat, but don’t let it cook all the way through.
- Use those brown bits. Searing the chicken in the pan first will result in lots of golden brown bits stuck the bottom of the pan. Those are packed with flavor. While you saute the onions in melted butter, be sure that you’re scraping up all of those browned bits. (You can add a splash of water to the onions as they cook which will lift the brown bits off the pan and incorporate them in the dish.)
- Bake uncovered. While I tested this recipe by baking it covered to trap in moisture, it resulted in chicken that seemed bland and waterlogged. Baking the dish uncovered will allow the chicken to retain its golden crust and the orzo to get slightly golden around the edges.
To Stir or Not to Stir
I had one dilemma in the creation of this recipe. To stir the orzo after the entire dish is finished cooking or not. I was so torn that I’m leaving the choice in your hands. If you serve the dish straight from the oven, the components all stay a bit separate – the orzo holds its shape and there are fresh, tender leaves of spinach and creamy cheese in each bite. Alternatively, you can remove the chicken from the top of the dish and give the orzo a good stir. The result is an orzo that is beyond rich and creamy. See below. (You can slice the chicken and add it back on top if you still want to serve everything together.) The choice is yours!
More One Pan Dinner Recipes
- One-Pan Italian Turkey Meatballs with Marinara
- Sheet Pan Steak and Potatoes
- Sheet Pan Tacos
- Thai Coconut Chicken Curry
- Honey Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
- Foil-Roasted Salmon with Chickpeas and Greens
- Creamy Dijon Chicken
- Lemony Garlic Butter Shrimp
- Chicken Enchilada Pasta
- Pad See Ew
- Sesame Garlic Ramen Stir-Fry
- Caprese Chicken with Pesto
One Pan Chicken and Orzo with Spinach
- Oven Safe Dutch Oven or Skillet
For the Chicken:
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Red or White Wine Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Dried Herbs (use a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, and basil or just use Italian seasoning blend)
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 20 oz Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I like avocado, grapeseed, or vegetable oil)
For the Orzo:
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 1 cup finely diced White or Yellow Onion
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 1/2 cups Orzo Pasta, uncooked
- 5 oz Baby Spinach (if you want the spinach in smaller pieces, roughly chop it first)
- 4 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled (optional; feel free to skip this or use feta)
- Lemon juice, for topping
- Preheat oven 400°F / 204°C,
- In a shallow baking dish, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, dried herbs, 1 tsp salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Add chicken to dish and turn to coat in herb seasoning. Set aside for a few minutes (or transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for up to a day).
- Heat an oven-safe skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cooking oil.
- When oil is shimmering, sear chicken on both sides until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (Don’t cook the chicken all the way through at this point - it will finish cooking with the pasta.)
- Set chicken on a plate near the stove, leaving pan over heat.
- To heated pan, add butter. When butter melts, stir in onion with a pinch of salt. Saute until onions are soft, 7 to 8 minutes, scraping up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. (If the pan looks dry at any point, add a splash of water.)
- Add cream, stock, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer.
- When liquids are simmering, stir in orzo and spinach, scraping down the sides so that all of the orzo is in liquid. Crumble goat cheese over pasta (you can leave it on top or fold some of it in to make an even more creamy pasta. Turn off heat under pan.
- Nestle chicken into the orzo.
- Transfer pasta and chicken to the oven and bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked and orzo is tender, 18 to 24 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon juice over the finished dish.
- You can remove the chicken breast and give the pasta a good stir before serving or just serve the dish straight from the oven to the table. (Stirring all of the orzo ingredients before serving will make it very saucy and creamy.)
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