Creamy Basil Chicken

This basil chicken is a 30-minute, one pot wonder the whole family will love!

This basil chicken recipe is an astonishingly easy, creamy, cheesy comforting dream laced with aromatic Italian herbs and cheeses.  It’s made by simmering the basil chicken in ONE POT with orzo, sun-dried tomatoes, and veggies spiked with nutty Parmesan and creamy mozzarella.  This basil chicken is wonderful as is, or you can swap the veggies for your favorites. Serve this basil chicken recipe with garlic bread and tomato cucumber salad for an easy chicken dinner win!

30-minute chicken dinners are weeknight life saver we all need more of!  You’ll love these easy one pot favorites: Thai Basil Chicken, Green Chili Chicken, Chicken Florentine, Chicken Parmesan Pasta, Thai Peanut Butter Chicken and Honey Lime Coconut Chicken.

top view of basil chicken in a black Dutch oven

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basil Chicken RECIPE

This basil chicken recipe transforms the humble chicken breast into an exquisitely delicious dish packed with flavor from the seasonings and fresh basil, and packed with texture from the orzo and veggies – but it’s so easy to throw together!  

I chose a creamy orzo bath as the vehicle to infuse the entire dish with basil because it reminds me of a creamy risotto without any of the fuss – it is fabulous.  The sun-dried tomatoes add a hint of tanginess, the broccoli melds with the sauce for a subtle earthy flavor and the corn adds bright pops of sweetness.  It’s a hypnotic dance you won’t be able to get enough of!  Of course, you can swap the veggies for your favs or whatever you have on hand because this is YOUR basil chicken!

Best of all, this basil chicken recipe is on your table in less than 30 minutes with only one dish to clean.  With this easy one pot dinner, you don’t have to wait for the pasta water boil, drain the pasta or dirty another dish for the sauce.  Instead, after you sauté the chicken with the onions and sun-dried tomatoes, you add orzo, evaporated milk and chicken broth. The orzo simmers in the herb laced sauce and in just 8-12 minutes, you are left with a creamy basil chicken finished off with Parmesan and mozzarella.  And soon you will be finishing off your plates!

Now, I’m going to break down this basil chicken recipe and try and answer all your questions as well as offer some tips, tricks and variations.  You can read on or use my “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to skip straight to the recipe.

basil chicken in a an bowl with a spoon scooping up chicken

Ingredients for Basil Chicken Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy basil chicken recipe: 

  • Fresh basil: The star of the dish! Basil has a slight licorice flavor to it and its fresh flavor contrasts nicely with the creamy, cheesy orzo. Stir the fresh basil in last so it doesn’t lose its flavor! 
  • Chicken breasts: I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts but you are welcome to use chicken thighs, leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. 
  • Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. 
  • Butter: I like to sauté the veggies in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Butter adds lots of flavor but is prone to burning — the oil prevents it from doing so. 
  • Orzo: Looks like rice, but it’s actually pasta! Orzo can be found in the pasta aisle of any grocery store and has a lovely, al dente bite to it.
  • Garlic: I used four cloves of garlic for maximum flavor; use more or less depending on your garlic love.
  • Onion: Just one small onion adds flavor and some sweetness to the sauce. You may also use shallots.  
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: You want to buy the sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in oil. Rinse them, then pat them dry before chopping into bite-sized pieces. 
  • Broccoli: I prefer using fresh broccoli in this recipe but frozen broccoli will also work. You’ll want to chop the broccoli into small bite size pieces so it softens in the allotted cooking time. Of course, if you want more crisp-tender broccoli, you can leave the florets larger.
  • Corn: Canned or frozen corn works. If using canned corn, drain and rinse it thoroughly before adding to the pasta. If using frozen corn, no need to defrost first,  
  • Chicken broth: I recommend using reduced sodium chicken broth so you can control the amount of salt in this dish. If you don’t have reduced sodium broth, omit the salt and bouillon in the sauce then add to taste at the end.
  • Chicken bouillon: Infuses the sauce with intense flavor, just as if it had been simmering and reducing all day.  You may use granulated bouillon, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.  If using bouillon cubes, you’ll need just one cube, crush it up before stirring directly into the pot (don’t dissolve in water first).
  • Evaporated milk: NOT to be confused with sweetened condensed milk! Evaporated milk is the secret to making an ultra-creamy orzo pasta and allows you to cook the orzo directly in the sauce without it curdling. 
  • Cornstarch: Helps to thicken the sauce. Make sure to whisk the cornstarch into the chicken broth before adding it to the pot, otherwise you’ll wind up with lumps of it in your basil chicken that will never dissolve.
  • Spices: I flavored this basil chicken with dried oregano, parsley, paprika, and red pepper flakes. The red pepper flakes add a small kick of heat, which cuts through the creamy pasta beautifully. 
  • Cheese: Mozzarella and Parmesan are stirred into the basil chicken just before it’s served. Parmesan infuses the pasta with alluring salty, nutty flavor, while the mozzarella is super creamy and melts like a dream. 
top view of basil chicken recipe in a bowl garnished with fresh basil and Parmesan

How to Make Basil Chicken

This basil chicken recipe comes together in about 30 minutes. Perfect for weeknight dinners and family gatherings! Here’s an overview of how this recipe is made: 

  • Step 1: Prep the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into larger bite-sized pieces. While the chicken is on the cutting board, pat it dry using a paper towel and season it generously with salt and pepper.
showing how to make basil chicken recipe by tossing chopped raw chicken with salt, pepper and paprika on a white cutting board
  • Step 2: Sauté the onion. Dice the onion, then add it to a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. The onion gets sautéed in the butter and olive oil until translucent. 
  • Step 3: Cook the chicken. Add the seasoned diced chicken to the Dutch oven along with the broccoli. Cook until the chicken is opaque, but not yet cooked through. Add the orzo pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook for another minute or so, or until fragrant. 
a collage showing how to make basil chicken by 1) cooking chicken with broccoli, 2) adding sun-dried tomatoes and orzo, 3) adding basil, parsley, oregano, 4) stirring in corn and chicken broth, 5) stirring in Parmesan, 6) adding fresh basil to chicken
  • Step 4: Let simmer. Whisk together the broth and cornstarch, then add to the Dutch oven. Add the evaporated milk, corn, bouillon and remaining spices. Pop the lid onto the Dutch oven, bring it to a simmer, then let cook for about 10 minutes until the pasta is tender. 
  • Step 5: Add the cheese and basil. Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the cheeses and fresh basil. Don’t add the basil any earlier, otherwise it could lose its flavor. 
showing how to make basil chicken recipe by stirring basil into chicken

Tips for Making Basil chicken

  • Parmesan: Please don’t use the powdered or pre-shredded cheese. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese tastes far superior and melts much better. 
  • Mozzarella: Please use freshly grated mozzarella as if it melts far better than pre-shredded mozzarella, which is coated in anti-clumping chemicals. 
  • Chicken: Error on the side of chopping the chicken larger so it remains juicy and doesn’t overcook.
  • Sear chicken, don’t cook:  Remember we are just searing the chicken, it will finish cooking with the orzo.  You don’t want it cooked all the way through initially or it won’t be as juicy.
  • Don’t overcook the orzo! There are several factors when it comes to the orzo doneness, such as the material of the pot, size of the pot, actual temperature, etc. Start checking the orzo early. It should be al dente, meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it. 
  • Stir the orzo: Stir the orzo occasionally as it cooks so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns. 
top view of basil chicken in Dutch oven surrounded by fresh basil

Recipe Variations to Try 

  • Swap protein: Swap the chicken for ground chicken, chicken sausage, lean ground beef or Italian sausage. You can even use sliced sausage, shredded rotisserie chicken, roasted or sautéed shrimp!  This dish would also be great to stir in leftover chicken, pork, or steak.
  • Add veggies: Add mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, peas, or spinach to the orzo.  You will want to stir the peas and spinach into the basil chicken after simmering.
  • Add artichokes: Artichokes are tender, slightly sweet and nutty. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste. Chop and add to the simmering sauce. 
  • Make a crunchy topping: Add panko toasted in butter and olive oil to the top of the pasta. 
  • Swap cheese:  Instantly change the flavor profile by changing one or both of the cheeses.  You can try feta, gouda, cheddar, pepper Jack, etc.

Can I Prep This Recipe in Advance? 

This basil chicken can be made completely in advance (it reheats really well!) or you can prepare the individual ingredients ahead of time: 

  • Chicken: Can be chopped up to three days ahead of time and stored in the fridge. 
  • Aromatics and Veggies: Can be chopped and stored up to three days ahead of time in separate containers in the fridge. 
  • Cheeses: Can be shredded and stored in the same container in the fridge.
up close of basil chicken showing how creamy it is

How to Store and Reheat Basil Chicken 

  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Microwave:  Microwave small portions for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through.
  • Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a splash of milk for to make it ultra creamy again. 

Can You Freeze Basil Chicken Recipe?

Basil chicken is best fresh, but can still be frozen, just take care that the orzo is al dente. Note that the fresh basil and cheesy sauce may change texture once frozen. 

  • Let basil chicken cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to a freezer-safe container.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat per instructions.

What to Serve with Basil Chicken

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a spoon scooping up basil chicken with fresh basil

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Creamy Basil Chicken and Orzo

This basil chicken recipe is an astonishingly easy, creamy, cheesy comforting dream laced with aromatic Italian herbs and cheeses. It’s made by simmering the basil chicken in ONE POT with orzo, sun-dried tomatoes, and veggies spiked with nutty Parmesan and creamy mozzarella. This basil chicken is wonderful as is, or you can swap the veggies for your favorites. Serve this basil chicken recipe with garlic bread and tomato cucumber salad for an easy chicken dinner win!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH paprika, salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts chopped into large bite size pieces
  • 3 cups broccoli chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes rinsed, chopped, patted dry
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 15 oz. can corn drained and rinsed (may sub frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

ADD LATER

  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves roughly chopped*

Instructions

  • While chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and season with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon paprika and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.
  • Melt butter in olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until hot. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add chicken and broccoli and cook until most off the chicken is opaque (chicken will not be cooked through). Add orzo, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook an additional 1 ½ minutes.
  • Whisk 1 cup chicken broth with the cornstarch and add to the pot. Add remaining chicken broth and all remaining ingredients up to the “Add Later”/ cheeses.
  • Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until orzo is tender, stirring every couple minutes so the orzo doesn’t burn on the bottom, and replacing the lid. Add additional broth if the orzo isn't done and most of the liquid is evaporated.
  • Stir in Parmesan cheese until melted followed by mozzarella until melted. Stir in fresh basil. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper (I add ¼ teaspoon more of each). If desired, you can make the dish "saucier" by stirring in additional broth, milk or cream.

Notes

Tips for Making Basil chicken

  • *Basil:  measure before chopping.
  • Broccoli: I prefer using fresh broccoli in this recipe but frozen broccoli will also work. You’ll want to chop the broccoli into small bite size pieces so it softens in the allotted cooking time. If you want more crisp-tender broccoli, you can leave the florets larger.  
  • Chicken bouillon: You may use granulated bouillon, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.  If using bouillon cubes, you’ll need just one cube, crush it up before stirring directly into the pot (don’t dissolve in water first).
  • Parmesan: Please don’t use the powdered or pre-shredded cheese. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese tastes far superior and melts much better. 
  • Mozzarella: Please use freshly grated mozzarella as if it melts far better than pre-shredded mozzarella, which is coated in anti-clumping chemicals. 
  • Chicken: Error on the side of chopping the chicken larger so it remains juicy and doesn’t overcook.
  • Don’t overcook the orzo! There are several factors when it comes to the orzo doneness, such as the material of the pot, size of the pot, actual temperature, etc. Start checking the orzo early. It should be al dente, meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it.
  • Recipe variations:  See post for all sorts of recipe ideas!

How to Store and Reheat 

  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Freeze:  Let basil chicken cool to room temperature. Transfer to a freezer-safe container, label and freeze for up to 3 months.  Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before reheating per instructions.
  • Microwave:  Microwave small portions for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through.
  • Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a splash of milk for to make it ultra creamy again. 
 
  •  

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16 Comments

  1. Bonnie says

    I made this tonight, as written, and it was so delicious. Thank you for another amazing recipe! I tried to give it 5 stars but the stars did not work for me.

    • Jen says

      Thanks for being the first to review this recipe Bonnie, I’m so please it was a winner! (Working on fixing the rating system 😉 )

  2. Marianne Mitchell says

    Made this today . It was so good. Could not find fresh basil so I used the basil that comes in a tube. Will definitely try again when I plant my own basil. Such an easy dish and I appreciated the comment about not over cooking the chicken. Thank you !

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Marianne, I’m so pleased it was a winner!

  3. Kevin says

    This dish is delicious! The addition of the red pepper flakes is a big bonus. How would I go about swapping the orzo for either cauliflower rice or quinoa to reduce the carbs?

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Kevin! You can swap the orzo for quinoa and keep the liquid ratio the same. Quinoa should require just a little longer simmering, so you may need to add additional broth. I would just babysit it your first time so you can figure out the exact cook time. Good luck!

  4. chefsweety says

    Since I had to use what was on hand, I substituted peas for the corn and used boneless chicken thighs. Wonderful unique dish I will make again for company.
    5 stars!

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy you loved it, thank you so much for the 5 star review!

  5. Deanna Heck says

    Can we substitute rice for orzo? Trying to make it gluten free. What would you recommend?

    • Jen says

      Yes, you can definitely swap the orzo for rice! I would use long grain rice (preferable basmati, less likely to get mushy), and just watch the simmer time – it will probably need just a couple longer than the orzo. Good luck!

  6. Paddy says

    Winner winner chicken dinner!
    Hi Jen,
    Another huge hit! This was awesome!!! Everyone went bonkers for this and wants me to make it again and again
    It is incredibly flavorful!
    Thanks again for all the great recipes!!!

    • Jen says

      I’m thrilled this basil chicken was a huge hit and new favorite, thank so much Paddy! Thank for making my recipes and for your awesome comments!

  7. Cheryl says

    Finally got around to fixing this tonight. It is definitely a keeper. Thanks for the great recipes!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Cheryl, I love hearing that! Thank you!

  8. Kate says

    What are the nutritional facts?

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