One Pot Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

Who doesn’t love a One Pot or One Sheet Pan recipe? You’re going to go crazy for this Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf for at least five reasons:

1) It’s so easy to prepare and clean-up is a snap, 2) SO yummy, 3) it’s an odds-and-ends recipe that will help you clear out your fridge and pantry, 4) there’s spinach in it, so it’s got to be healthy too, right? and 5) did I mention how delicious it is?!

Without the chicken it makes a nice, light lunch. With chicken, it’s a lovely dinner. (There are variations below, too, if you’re vegetarian or dairy-free.)

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

In This Meal, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Work Best

It starts butter and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Chicken thighs have way more flavor, but need longer cooking. And this is a fast recipe. Here chicken breasts work because they are quickly cooked in butter and there’s loads more flavor from all the add-ins. That means the chicken stays juicy. The flavor builds upon the fond – forms on the bottom of the pan that equals loads of flavor.

Orzo toasting in butter is a scent not to be missed. Well, melted butter in general, right? That lovely smell will waft through your house and your family will be begging to know what’s for dinner.

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

Then we come to more butter, the onions and garlic, the toasted orzo, and chicken broth. If you’re not cooking your rice in broth of some kind, you’re really missing out. It’s great for this pasta dish too.

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

Don’t Forget the Spinach — Fresh or Frozen Works

So we’ve got cooked chicken, sautéed onion and garlic, toasted orzo, chicken broth, and then we just let things simmer away just until the pasta is cooked. Then, we stir in loads of chopped baby spinach.

In case you’re wondering, yes, you could use a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach instead of the fresh. It’s actually more spinach by weight, but it doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. And you’ll be hungry anyway!

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

Then comes the fun part: toss all those delectable sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives into the pot and give it another stir.

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

The last thing is a smattering of feta, fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If you count the minimal slicing and chopping, and simmering time, dinner can be done in like 30 minutes. You can’t beat that!

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |
One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

One Pot Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf

4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces dry orzo pasta
3 to 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned or chopped
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
6 ounce bag baby spinach, roughly chopped (see notes)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram, chopped, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus more for serving
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, for garnish (optional)
Crushed red pepper flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Heat a wide, 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter. After foaming subsides, add the cubed chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, turning chicken over frequently, until chicken is just cooked through and slightly browned. Remove chicken from pan, transfer to a bowl, cover, and keep warm.
2. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the skillet and allow to melt. When foaming subsides, add the onion to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the chicken. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
3. Add the orzo to the pan. Stir well and cook, allowing the pasta to toast and become a light to medium golden brown.
4. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up any more of the fond from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat. Stir occasionally, especially if the orzo is sticking to the bottom. As the chicken broth is absorbed, add more chicken broth 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. (The remaining 1/2 cup may not be needed.) When the pasta is almost cooked, just a step before al dente, turn off heat. Add the chicken back to the pan, stir well.
5. Add the baby spinach and gently stir so the spinach starts to wilt with the heat of the pilaf. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives. Let the pilaf stand for 5-6 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
6. Add the feta, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Taste and add sea salt and black pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, more herbs, and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings

-To make this gluten-free, substitute arborio (risotto) rice. The amount of chicken broth needed may vary.
-To make dairy-free, use olive oil instead of butter and omit feta cheese.
-To make vegetarian, omit the chicken step. Follow recipe for sautéing the onion, garlic, and eventually the orzo. Add the broth as directed. Add the spinach and add one 15-ounce can (drained) Great Northern beans or chickpeas along with the sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives. Proceed with recipe as written.
-A 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach can be used in place of the fresh spinach.

One Pot Chicken Pilaf |

P.S. — The most popular one sheet pan dinner.

Credits: Recipe and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

16 thoughts on “One Pot Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Pilaf”

  1. Alexandra Cracraft

    Yes! My kids’ favorite quick dinner is orecchiette pasta (“little ears”, Barilla has it) with broccoli and little pancetta pieces (Italian bacon, I love the Trader Joe’s variety). We boil the pasta and cut the broccoli in little pieces. While pasta boils, the bacon cooks crispy in a big pan, then I throw the pasta and the broccoli in the pan and mix with the bacon. In the end a bit of pepper and fresh parmesan (or lemon juice) on top and a salad with it, voila! Dinner in less than 30 minutes.

      1. You are very welcome. Oh, and thank you for the simple and delish recipes. It’s so helpful to have some staples that one can make; I am a great believer in the one pot/one pan concept, and my family is as well. When stuff is cooking, there is also time to cut up some fruit for dessert, which otherwise tends to just get skipped around here. I am sure I will try the recipe above (olives only for me though).

  2. I have made three of the one sheet pan dinners, and they were all a huge hit, so I can’t wait to try this!

  3. This looks amazing. Any ideas for substitutes for grain free? Spaghetti squash is my go to for most pasta dishes, but I don’t think it will work well here. Maybe cubed sweet potatoes.

    1. Debby, that is a GREAT question! Typically I would say some kind of squash, but it dawned on me the more I thought about it, that riced cauliflower would be amazing here! In fact, I may have to try it tonight and see if I’m right. :)

      I would use one large head. You can grate it or pulse it in a food processor or finely chop it with a chef’s knife. It wouldn’t need as much cooking as the pasta. I would say brown the chicken in the butter, remove from the pan, add more butter and the onions + garlic, saute, then add the cauliflower rice with maybe a little broth if you need it. Saute for a few minutes, then add all of the other ingredients like the recipe says. I think it would really, really good.

  4. When do you add the chicken back in? I made it last night (delicious) and added it withe the tomatoes, olives and artichokes.

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