Chicken Risotto is an easy weeknight dinner that features flavorful skinless boneless chicken thighs (seasoned with smoked paprika, Cayenne pepper, and Italian seasoning). You can also use leftover chicken, grilled chicken, or cooked rotisserie chicken. This risotto is pure comfort food made with Arborio rice and is elevated with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. Impress your family and friends by making this restaurant-quality dish!
Homemade chicken risotto
This is one of the best and tastiest dinner meals I've made lately for my family. Risotto might be a fancy name that implies complex cooking, but it's not really complicated and the ingredients are simple! In a nutshell, this recipe features classic Italian-inspired homemade creamy risotto made with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, served with super flavorful chicken thighs. It's the perfect cozy comfort food to make during colder months. This recipe is also gluten-free. If you want more chicken and rice dinner ideas (that are also gluten-free!), don't miss this creamy chicken and wild rice and one-pan chicken thighs with mushroom rice.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Well-balanced meal. This quick and easy dinner has everything you need to have a complete meal: protein (chicken), carbs (risotto), and veggies (sun-dried tomatoes and fresh spinach).
- Comfort food. Risotto is one of my favorite ways to cook rice. It turns rice into something super flavorful, creamy, and delicious. And, as a bonus, this recipe is gluten-free!
- Beautiful presentation. I love this recipe because you have an impressive dinner that looks like the main course from a fine dining restaurant with a small effort. It's great for entertaining family and friends - yet simple enough to make on a regular weeknight.
What is risotto?
The classic Italian risotto is made with high-starch white rice with round short grains such as Arborio rice. The rice is cooked gradually, with regular stirring, until it reaches a creamy consistency. In the end, the rice is made even creamier by adding a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese. Risotto is a classic Northern Italian rice dish that is usually served as a first course before the main course.
What kind of rice should you use?
- High-starch white rice with round short grains is the best rice for making risotto. The most popular variety is Arborio. Other popular varieties of rice that work well in making risotto are Carnaroli, Maratelli, and Vialone Nano.
- Do not use Basmati or Jasmine rice. Do not use long-grain rice. Their starch content is not high enough to produce the proper creamy consistency. The size of their grains will also not work well for risotto.
- Chicken. I used skinless boneless chicken thighs. You can also use skinless boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins. Or, use leftover cooked chicken, grilled chicken, or rotisserie chicken if you like!
- Arborio rice is high-starch white rice with round short grains. It's the best rice for making risotto which results in a creamy consistency. Do not use jasmine rice or basmati rice.
- Garlic adds pungency and flavor to the risotto.
- White wine. Use a dry white wine variety. Or, use chicken stock instead.
- Chicken broth. You can use chicken stock, beef stock, or vegetable stock. The more flavorful, the better for risotto! You can also use broth (even though the stock is preferred). Make sure it's very warm or hot before adding it to the rice.
- Butter is folded into the risotto at the very end for creaminess.
- Parmesan cheese adds creaminess and salty flavor to the final dish. Make sure to use a block of cheese and shred/grate it yourself. Also, make sure the cheese is at room temperature.
- Sun-dried tomatoes. I used sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil which I drained and then used some of the oil in the cooking of the minced garlic and rice.
- Spinach is added at the very end. Risotto works well with veggies, but make sure to add them at the very end.
- Spices and seasoning. You will need smoked paprika, chili powder, Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
Quick overview of how to make chicken risotto from scratch
More detailed instructions are provided in the recipe card below. But, in a nutshell, here is how you make it:
- The rice is gradually cooked in white wine and chicken stock until it reaches a creamy consistency. I provide detailed instructions on how to make the most creamy risotto using appropriate rice (Arborio).
- I elevated a simple risotto with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and spinach.
- Then it's made even creamier by adding butter and freshly shredded (or grated) Parmesan cheese.
- While you gradually cook the risotto, you will also sear the most delicious skinless boneless chicken thighs (seasoned with smoked paprika, chili powder, Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning).
- Make it a complete meal by serving the chicken over the risotto! That's it! Easy and impressive dinner!
Variations, substitutions, and cooking tips
- Use a heavy-bottomed pan such as a cast-iron skillet to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
- Do not wash and do not drain rice before making the risotto as that would get rid of a lot of starch that you actually need to achieve a creamy texture.
- When is risotto done? Risotto should have a rich and creamy consistency and should not be overly thick (mushy).
- What if risotto gets too thick? Add a small amount of chicken stock or broth to thin it out on low-medium heat. If you run out of stock, just use hot water.
- Serve it right away as risotto tends to get mushy and dry really fast.
- Can you use rotisserie chicken? While I cooked skinless boneless chicken thighs for this recipe, you can skip this step and just make the risotto and top it with cooked rotisserie chicken to make it even more simple! Or, use leftover cooked chicken or grilled chicken.
- Can you use frozen spinach? I used fresh spinach but you can use frozen kind - thawed and drained really well from all liquid.
- Use other veggies in addition or instead of spinach. You can use/add kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, or artichoke hearts.
- Cheese. I used Parmesan, but you can also use Asiago cheese or Pecorino Romano.
What to serve with it
Because chicken risotto is a rich and creamy dish, serve it with a slice of good quality bread and a side salad:
- Bread. This is a great recipe for using flavorful kinds of bread, such as olive bread, garlic bread, Italian bread, baguette, or breadsticks.
- Salad. Make a simple salad, such as Simple Spinach Salad with Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese, or Cranberry Spinach Salad with Cashews and Goat Cheese and Lemon-Honey Poppy Seed Dressing.
More chicken and rice recipes you might enjoy
All these recipes are gluten-free:
- One-Pan Chicken Thighs with Mushroom Rice
- One-Pan Chicken Thighs with Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Rice
- One-Pan Chicken Thighs with Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Rice
- Creamy Chicken Pot Pie Wild Rice
- Chicken and Wild Rice in a Creamy Parmesan Sauce
Seasoning for chicken
- Use a heavy-bottomed pan such as a cast-iron skillet to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Note: while you cook the risotto, you can also cook the chicken as directed in the recipe card below.
- Heat chicken stock in a separate saucepan until hot and keep it hot.
- Drain oil from sun-dried tomatoes, leaving just enough (about 1 tablespoon) for sauteeing garlic. Sautee minced garlic with chopped sun-dried tomatoes for about 1 or 2 minutes in a cast-iron skillet (or another heavy-bottomed pan).
- Add rice and stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula to coat it with olive oil. Saute the rice in olive oil for about 1 minute on medium heat, stirring. Make sure the rice doesn't burn.
- Add white wine and cook on medium heat, occasionally stirring, until the wine is completely absorbed by the rice.
- Add ½ cup of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir occasionally on medium-low heat until the stock is almost absorbed. You don't have to stir constantly, just once every minute or two.
- When the stock is almost absorbed, add another ½ cup of chicken stock to the rice and repeat the process. Continue to add chicken stock in ½ cup increments until the texture of the rice is soft but not too soft. You might not have to use all of the chicken stock. Or, you might have to use more. The rice should have an "al dente" texture (a bit hard to bite but in no way crunchy) and the grains should be visibly separate (not mushy).
- Reduce heat to low and add butter and grated parmesan. Stir everything well until the parmesan is melted.
- On low heat, add spinach and stir it in. Remove from heat, cover the pan with the lid and allow the spinach to wilt for a couple of minutes. Stir again to incorporate wilted spinach into the risotto.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Note: you can cook the chicken at the same time as you make the risotto.
- Combine seasonings for chicken in a small bowl. Slice chicken thighs into smaller pieces (but not too small). Generously season the chicken thighs with the seasonings on both sides. You don't have to use the whole amount.
- Heat an empty large, high-sided, heavy-bottomed skillet (such as stainless steel or cast iron) over medium heat for 3 minutes. This allows the skillet to heat through.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chicken thighs. Cook the chicken on one side on medium heat for 5 minutes, without moving it. This allows the chicken to sear.
- Flip the chicken thighs over, reduce heat to low-medium, and cook for about 5 more minutes or longer until it's cooked through. The meat thermometer should register 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the chicken. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from the skillet.
- Add cooked chicken on top of the risotto and serve. Top with chopped fresh parsley, if you like.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.