This lemon chicken orzo skillet is the perfect combination of comfort food and fresh, bright flavor thanks to the creamy orzo, zesty lemon juice, and tender chicken. Make a complete meal in one pot for a quick weeknight dinner and easy cleanup.
Love lemon chicken recipes? Try this Instant Pot Greek Lemon Chicken Soup or One Pot Lemon Chicken Asparagus Pasta.
It's no secret I have a spot in my heart for one pot meals. Especially when those meals are easy, healthy, and delicious. Recipes like One Pot Hawaiian Chicken and One Pan Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi are always on the dinner rotation. They make for a simple dinner and often make enough for leftovers the next day.
Why You'll Love this Lemon Chicken Orzo
- Bursting with bright lemon flavor.
- Flavorful, tender chicken with a golden-brown crust.
- Easy to customize to make gluten-free and dairy-free.
- It's a complete meal the whole family will love thanks to the chicken, grains, and veggies.
- It looks just as delicious as it tastes.
Ingredients You Need
Here are the simple ingredients for this lemon orzo chicken. It calls for so many of the same ingredients as our greek lemon chicken soup. Most are pantry staples and easy (and affordable) to find in your local grocery store. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Chicken: We're using boneless skinless chicken thighs for added flavor from the dark meat. You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you have them on hand.
- Orzo pasta: Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta often used in soups and savory dishes. Although it looks like a large grain of rice, it cooks up like pasta. We also tested this with gluten-free orzo and it turned out delicious.
- Chicken broth: this is the main cooking liquid for the orzo pasta. Use homemade chicken stock, or store-bought. Here's how to tell if the chicken broth is bad if you have extra in your fridge.
- Lemon juice and zest: Fresh lemon juice adds a signature bright, tangy, fresh flavor to the recipe.
- Aromatics: Garlic and shallots add a savory and slightly pungent flavor.
- Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a nutty and salty flavor to the dish. We also tested this with nutritional yeast and it resulted in the same creamy, salty dish.
- Cream: Heavy cream or coconut cream, for a dairy-free option, give the creamy lemon sauce a rich and velvety texture.
- Olive oil and butter: Sear the chicken in oil and add butter to the orzo for richness. Vegan butter is a great dairy-free option (Myokos is our favorite brand).
- Seasoning: we're using a mixture of kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes to season the chicken.
- Asparagus: we love the combination of lemon, chicken, and asparagus, especially as spring weather rolls around. It steams quickly and adds veggies and fiber to the meal. You could swap this for fresh baby spinach.
How to Make Lemon Chicken Orzo
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. This is such a simple recipe, but these step-by-step instructions will make sure it turns out every time.
Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel then drizzle them with olive oil and toss them in the seasoning.
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat and sear the chicken thighs for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board when it n reaches just below 165°F to allow for carryover cooking while it rests.
Turn the heat down to medium heat and add the butter and stir to melt. Add the shallot and saute softened for 2-3 minutes then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
Pour in the uncooked orzo and stir around to toast for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, cream, and nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, and use the spatula to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil then turn it down to low and simmer, covered, for 13-14 minutes. Quickly open the lid two or three times to gently stir to avoid the bottom of the orzo browning.
Success tip: cooking times for orzo may vary, so double check the package directions for exact cook times and add the asparagus 3-4 minutes before the total cook time is up.
Three to four minutes before the orzo is done (around the 10-minute mark), open the lid and add the chopped asparagus, without stirring, place the lid back on and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the orzo is al dente and the asparagus is steamed.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Place the chicken thighs back on top and sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving.
- Use Rotisserie chicken: use up leftover cooked chicken or purchase and shred a rotisserie chicken for an even quicker option. Follow the instructions to make the orzo then stir in the shredded chicken when it's cooked.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to determine when the chicken is done. There's nothing worse than dry, rubbery chicken.
- Toast the orzo in the skillet before adding the cooking liquid to give it a toasty, nutty flavor.
- The ratios of liquid to pasta are especially important because this is a one-pot meal. I don't recommend swapping in a different variety of pasta or rice.
- For added flavor, sear a few lemon wedges in the pan right before cooking the chicken.
- Double-check the package directions on the orzo for exact cook times and add the asparagus 3-4 minutes before it's done.
- Open the lid and stir the orzo two or three times while it's cooking so it doesn't burn.
Leftovers and Storage
If you have any leftover lemon chicken orzo, you can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Let the dish cool completely to prevent condensation inside the container then place it in an airtight container and store it for up to 4 days.
To reheat the leftover lemon chicken orzo, add a splash of chicken broth or water to loosen the pasta and prevent it from drying out then warm all the way through in the microwave or on the stovetop.
You can freeze leftovers for up to 3 months, but it's better to freeze the chicken and orzo separately, as the pasta can become mushy and lose its texture when thawed.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More One Pot Chicken Recipes
Lemon Chicken Orzo
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (Note 1)
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
- 1 medium shallot sliced into rings (Note 2)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 1/4 cup dry orzo pasta gluten-free if needed
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream coconut cream for dairy-free
- 1 lb asparagus tough ends trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch strips
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese nutritional yeast for dairy-free
- 3 Tablsepoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 1/2 a lemon)
- Fresh parsley, fresh dill, or, fresh oregano for topping
- Large, deep skillet or Dutch oven
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Add them to a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil then sprinkle them with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Toss quickly to coat.
- Heat the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil in a deep, large skillet, like a cast-iron skillet, over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmering, add the chicken thighs, flat side down, and sear for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through until the chicken reaches just below 165°F to allow for carryover cooking while it rests. Remove the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board.
- Turn the heat down to medium heat and add the butter to the bottom of the pot and stir to melt. Add the shallot and saute until soft, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
- Pour in the uncooked orzo and stir around to toast the orzo for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, coconut cream or heavy cream, and nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, and use the spatula to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan from cooking the chicken and onion.
- Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil then turn it down to low heat and simmer, covered, for 13-14 minutes, opening the lid every 3 or so minutes to gently stir to avoid the bottom browning. Double-check the orzo package instructions and adjust cook time as needed to reach al dente.
- About 4 minutes before the cooking time is up, open the lid and stir the orzo then place the chopped asparagus on top, without stirring, place the lid back on and cook to steam for the remaining 3-4 minutes, until the orzo is al dente and the asparagus is tender.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest, mixing the asparagus into the orzo as you do. Place the chicken thighs back on top and sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving.
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