If you're looking for a show-stopping dinner that doubles as a lunch, and takes less than 30 minutes to make, this dish is meant for you! This creamy pesto orzo recipe with chicken couldn't be any easier than five ingredients, including jarred pesto. Take the guess work out of this delicious meal each and every time!
I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it, pesto is my favorite sauce. It's so versatile and can be used in so many different ways. From sandwiches to pasta, like my cheesy pesto tortellini bake or this delicious pesto shrimp pasta, there's a lot of reasons why pesto is amazing and different uses for it. This pesto orzo with chicken is no exception. It's easy to make, prep, and have for the week! Let's dig in.
What do I need to make this orzo dish?
Pesto is traditionally made with basil, oil, pine nuts (or pignoli), parmesan cheese, and garlic. There are so many versions out there that differ slightly from the classic, including my nut-free homemade pesto, but with this particular recipe, we use straight up jarred pesto, because sometimes we need recipes that come together in a snap.
When I say this recipe is easy, it is truly very easy. You only need five, mayyyyybe six, ingredients and you're eating in no time.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breast is what I used for this dish.
- Pesto: Jarred works great! If you're looking for nut free, you can make my recipe
- Orzo: I love using Delallo or Barilla orzo, but you can easily find a favorite at any grocery store!
- Adobo seasoning: I seasoned the chicken with adobo as it gives a great depth of flavor.
- Olive Oil: We need the olive oil to cook the chicken.
See the recipe card below for specific information about quantities.
What are the steps for making this recipe?
The directions for this pesto orzo with chicken could not get any simpler. This will be on rotation every week because of how approachable this recipe is for a busy week, especially when you've got kiddos or a jam packed week full of meetings and events!
In a medium sized pot, boil water and cook the orzo as per package instructions. Meanwhile, take the cubed chicken and toss with the adobo. Add the chicken a skillet on a medium flame with olive oil. Let the chicken cook until there is no more pink. Season with a touch of salt and pepper.
Once the orzo is finished cooking, drain and add the orzo directly to the pan with chicken. Dollop a few spoonfuls of the pesto into the pan then stir to coat the pasta and the chicken, adding more if you desire a stronger pesto flavor. Option to grate fresh parmesan cheese on top, and serve.
HINT: Cook the pasta on the al dente side rather than fully through. When mixing the pasta with the pesto sauce and the chicken, sometimes the orzo will fall apart if it's not al dente, this is what I found to be true when I tested this recipe. Plus, in my opinion, al dente pasta is way better.
Swaps and Substitutions
I don't really like chicken, can I use something else?
If you're not a big poultry fan, swap for some seafood such as shrimp, salmon, or even scallops!
I'm not into meat or seafood (or cheese), can I make this vegan?
You sure can. Toss some finely chopped peppers, onion, some corn, and peas into a large pan with olive oil and sauté until fragrant. Toss together with the orzo and the pesto (you can make my recipe but substitute the cheese with nutritional yeast), and you've got a veggie-packed, nutritious dinner.
Make this recipe your own but considering the below variations.
- Veggies - add more veggies to this dish like sautéed spinach or zucchini.
- Go Vegan - completely omit the chicken and throw in a bunch of veggies like mushrooms, peppers, peas, and more.
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
For this recipe, you only need a few hand items from start to finish.
- Medium pot: This is for the orzo, you'll boil it as per the directions on the bag
- Large pan: I use my always pan by Our Place a lot, so this worked great for cooking the chicken.
- Cutting board: To cut the chicken into cubes. If you desire, you can cut the chicken into thin strips.
- Sharp slicing knife: This helps when cutting the chicken into the cubes
- Mesh Strainer: You'll drain the orzo and add the orzo directly to the kitchen in the pan. I like using a handheld strainer for the orzo so none of the pasta falls through the large holes.
How would I store this recipe?
You can easily store this pesto orzo dish in a sturdy tupperware. You can also reheat in the microwave easily for a grab-and-go lunch or leftovers for dinner. I do not recommend freezing this dish.
Dollop a little ricotta cheese on top for an extra creamy taste to pair with the pesto and chicken. It's heaven!
Hungry for more?
Love pasta? Try out these yummy pasta dishes:
Pesto Orzo with Chicken
- 1 pot large enough to cook the orzo
- 1 frying pan
- 1 cutting board
- 1 slicing knife
- mesh strainer I like using a mesh strainer to catch orzo so that we don't lose any pasta in the holes of a regular pasta strainer.
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced into cubes
- 3 tablespoon adobo seasoning
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 jar pesto or you can make your own!
- 1 ½ cups dry orzo
- parmesan cheese optional, for garnish
- In a medium sized pot, boil water and cook the orzo as per package instructions
- Meanwhile, take the cubed chicken and toss with the adobo. Add the chicken a skillet on a medium flame with olive oil.
- Let the chicken cook until there is no more pink. Season with a touch of salt and pepper.
- Once the orzo is finished cooking, drain and add the orzo directly to the pan with chicken.
- Dollop a few spoonfuls of the pesto into the pan then stir to coat the pasta and the chicken, adding more if you desire a stronger pesto flavor.
- Option to grate fresh parmesan cheese on top, and serve.