Creamy Chicken and Rice all made in one pot in just over 30 minutes!
Creamy Chicken and Rice is comfort food at its most addicting – and just also happens to be made in one pot with minimal prep without any canned soups or heavy cream! This Chicken and Rice recipe is easy, warm, comforting, fool proof and oh so satisfying. It’s basically a chicken risotto (which means never mushy, just creamy) infused with juicy chicken, tender veggies, fire roasted, tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella but is BAKED so it’s SO easy but every bit as decadently creamy! Once you make this Chicken and Rice recipe once, you will be amazed at just how simple the technique is – and so versatile you’ll and find yourself going rogue with all sorts of veggies and flavor combos. And of course, your entire family will want you to make it again and again! And bonus, this Creamy Chicken and Rice reheats beautifully (unlike traditional rice), so it’s the meal that keeps on giving.
CHICKEN AND RICE RECIPE
I am obsessed with chicken and rice. The textures together are a match made in heaven. Some of my favorite chicken and rice recipes include Greek Chicken Risotto, Mexican Chicken and Rice, Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple Rice, Arroz con Pollo and Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Bake. Now take chicken and rice and transform it into creamy chicken and rice and just hand me the whole pot.
My goal with this Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe was to create a quick, one-pot dinner without any canned soups – mission accomplished! This chicken and rice recipe is easy, budget-friendly and made with pantry friendly ingredients such as chicken, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and rice – not to mention it’s SO satisfying, SO comforting, and SO outrageously delicious.
In perfecting this Chicken and Rice recipe, I wanted to stay far away from the fine line between creamy rice and mushy rice. So, to achieve the most divinely Creamy Chicken and Rice without teetering on the abhorrent mushy, I turned to the obviously creamiest rice – risotto! Risotto is unbelievably creamy, velvety, buttery, savory, salty – without any heavy cream AND it is extremely forgiving. Essentially, it is creamy rice but NEVER mushy rice.
Please don’t let the “r” word intimidate you. Risotto has a reputation of being temperamental and time consuming, or is associated with gourmet restaurants, but it is actually the epitome of Italian home cooking and very simple to make. And that is what I am bringing you today – easy, home cooking Creamy Chicken and Rice that also just happens to be a complete meal-in-one.
The only prerequisites for this Chicken and Rice recipe is that use the correct rice, you can stir rice and have 30 minutes – that’s it! The traditional technique for making risotto calls for stirring small amounts of warmed broth into a large pot of rice a little at a time, BUT my baked chicken and rice eliminates the tedious stirring and emerges every bit as heavenly without all the babysitting. Prepare to fall in love!
WHAT Rice Is Best for Creamy CHICKEN AND RICE?
This Creamy Chicken and Rice is 100% foolproof IF and only IF you use the correct rice. You will want to use arborio rice which should be easy to find at your grocery store located next to the other grains. Arborio rice is a short-grained, starchy rice that when cooked, becomes creamy and chewy due to the high starch content without becoming gluey or mushy. It’s a rice phenomenon that boils down to science, but I just call it culinary magic.
CAN I USE A DIFFERENT RICE?
Arborio rice is the most common and most reliable rice for any risotto recipe and what I recommend for this Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe. You may also use carnaroli rice which is dependable and hard to overcook but can only be found at specialty markets.
Please use only these two rice varieties. If you use any other type of rice, your Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe will not have the correct consistency and texture due to the different starch content and can easily become mushy. Also, arborio rice becomes creamy as it is vigorously stirred and the starch is released. This technique will not work with any other type of rice and instead you will have to add heavy cream in order to make it creamy (if it hasn’t already turned mushy).
WHERE CAN I BUY ARBORIO RICE?
Almost every grocery store carries arborio rice. It is often in a plastic container alongside the other rice varieties. If you are having trouble locating it, you can also purchase it on amazon.
DO YOU WASH RICE BEFORE COOKING IT?
While it is good practice to rinse most rice before cooking it to eliminate extra starch, do NOT rinse arborio rice – we WANT the extra starch because that is what translates into Creamy Chicken and Rice. Some of the starch is released while cooking and once again while vigorously stirring. This starch adds body, creaminess and delivers a velvety consistency.
What Chicken Should I use?
You can use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe. I tend to use chicken breasts because they are leaner and emerge wonderfully juicy in this aromatic bath, but chicken thighs would be even juicier – totally your call. You can even use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken and add it to the Chicken and Rice after you add the cheeses.
CREAMY CHICKEN AND RICE INGREDIENTS:
In addition to chicken and rice, you will need these other pantry friendly ingredients:
- Butter. Use unsalted butter so we can control the level of salt.
- Olive oil. Use quality oil for the best flavor. You may also substitute with your favorite cooking oil but don’t substitute with butter as the tablespoon of oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Aromatics. Onions and garlic are the building blocks of flavor and infuse the entire Creamy Chicken and Rice with their peppery, pungent, herby, warm essence.
- Veggies. Carrots, celery and peas add fantastic flavor and texture. Chop the carrots and celery on the smaller side so they will be soft by the time the Chicken and Rice is done. You can omit the carrots and celery or swap them for other veggies but I highly recommend always using peas. For the peas, always use frozen petite peas and never canned.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes. Are located next to the traditional diced tomatoes. Fire roasted tomatoes are NOT spicy – the fire simply means they have been roasted which gives them a complex smokiness. If you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, then traditional diced tomatoes work just fine.
- Chicken broth. Make sure you use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
- Parmesan Cheese. Parmesan infuses the Creamy Chicken and Rice with its fantastic salty, nuttiness. You can use ½ cup to 1 cup. Grate the Parmesan on the finest, prickly holes of your grater. Please only use freshly grated Parmesan cheese – not the Parmesan in the green can. Freshly grated Parmesan melts and tastes far superior.
- Mozzarella. Adds additional buttery, tangy flavor and melts beautifully to help thicken the broth into a creamy sauce. Use freshly grated cheese for its superior melting ability and flavor.
- Seasonings: dried basil, dried, parsley, dried oregano, dried thyme, salt, and pepper create our Italian symphony. I typically like to add additional salt and pepper to taste at the end – but remember always taste first! Your cheeses or your broth could be saltier than mine.
Can I use Frozen Vegetables?
Absolutely! Frozen vegetables are a great shortcut in this Chicken and Rice recipe and allow you to mix up the flavor profile. Mediterranean Veggie Mix, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots Medley, and even a Stir Fry Medley would all be fabulous. Add the vegetables before you add the broth then bring to a simmer.
IS CHICKEN AND RICE GLUTEN FREE?
Yes! All rice is naturally gluten-free and this Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe does not contain any other gluten ingredients.
What Pot should I use?
You will want to make the Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, then you can use foil, but make sure it is TIGHT otherwise the broth will evaporate before the rice is cooked, leaving you with crunchy rice.
HOW TO MAKE CREAMY CHICKEN AND RICE:
Season chicken. Pat chicken dry and add to a bowl. Toss with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika; set aside.
Sauté vegetables. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté 3 minutes.
Brown chicken and rice. Add chicken and the rice and sauté until chicken is opaque, 4-5 minutes (it won’t be cooked through yet). Add garlic and sauté an additional 30 seconds. The brief step of sautéing the arborio rice with the chicken is critical to the perfect consistency. Toasting the rice not only infuses it with flavor, but more importantly, creates a protective barrier around each grain which helps the grains absorb moisture slowly. This allows the grains to maintain their structural integrity and become soft without becoming soggy or exploding from absorbing moisture too quickly.
Bring to a simmer. Add diced tomatoes, warm chicken broth and seasonings. Turn heat to high and bring to a simmer. When it starts to simmer around the edges, cover, and transfer to oven.
Bake. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until rice is the softer side of al dente.
Add cheese. When rice is tender, remove from oven. Stir in 2 tablespoons cubed butter (optional) and Parmesan Cheese – stirring vigorously until smooth (this releases starch and makes it creamier). Stir in mozzarella cheese until melted followed by peas. Stir in additional chicken broth if desired for a creamier/saucier chicken and rice. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I like more of both).
Is it safe to cook raw chicken with rice?
Yes, cooking the raw chicken with the rice is perfectly safe because all of the ingredients are going to be cooked to a safe temperature which will kill any harmful bacteria. You only have to worry about raw chicken coming in contact with foods that are not going to be cooked.
tips for best Chicken and rice Recipe
This Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe is pretty foolproof if you follow the recipe, but her are a few tips and tricks to ensure success every time:
- Use arborio rice. As detailed earlier, you must use arborio rice or your Chicken and Rice recipe can easily become mushy. Arborio rice ensures creamy rice every time.
- Don’t rinse rice. In contrast to other rice recipes, we WANT the extra starch because that is what translates into Creamy Chicken and Rice.
- Drain tomatoes. Make sure to drain the tomatoes very well in a fine mesh sieve so they don’t add extra liquid to the rice which will throw off the ratios.
- Warm broth. Only use warm broth so the rice will cook evenly. Adding cold broth reduces the temperature of the rice and interrupts the cooking process. Warming the broth before adding it to the rice also releases more starch from each grain of rice whereas cold broth will cook the rice while shocking it into holding onto its starches.
- Bake on. If your rice is not done (too crunchy) but the broth is gone, simply add more broth and bake until the rice is on the softer side of al dente.
- Add broth. When your Chicken and Rice comes out of the oven, there should be a little liquid that hasn’t been absorbed yet; if your rice is on the drier side, add ¼ -1/2 cup warmed chicken broth.
- Stir vigorously. After you add the butter and Parmesan, stir vigorously. The stirring isn’t just to combine the ingredients but is to stimulate the rice. Arborio rice becomes creamy as it is vigorously stirred and the starch is released.
- Salt to taste. If your risotto tastes like its missing something – it is probably salt. Salt enhances all of the other flavors. Add additional salt to taste a little at a time if needed.
- Heavy cream. Is absolutely optional but makes the rice even creamier. I would not add heavy cream, however, if your rice is already on the saucier side.
How Do I make it Creamier?
If your Creamy Chicken and Rice is too thick and not as creamy as desired, simply stir in additional chicken broth. You can also stir in heavy creamy for extra decadence.
Can I Make it cheesier?
Absolutely! Simply stir in additional mozzarella until your cheesy heart is content.
HOW TO STORE CHICKEN AND RICE
It is a happy day when there is leftover Chicken and Rice! To store, transfer Creamy Chicken and Rice to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
HOW TO REHEAT Creamy CHICKEN AND RICE
The Creamy Chicken and Rice will thicken slightly in the refrigerator due to the starch, but you can easily thin it out to and restore it to its creamy glory. To reheat:
- Add Chicken and Rice along with a splash of chicken broth or water to a skillet.
- Heat over medium heat until warmed through, stirring often.
- If the rice is still thick, stir in additional liquid one tablespoon at a time.
- You can also add additional butter and salt to taste as the salt will mellow when refrigerated.
CAN YOU FREEZE creamy chicken and rice?
Creamy Chicken and Rice is best eaten fresh or refrigerated. Freezing the rice will change its texture and can make it mushy and the cheese become a funky grainy texture.
If you aren’t a stickler for texture, then make sure you let the Chicken and Rice cool completely before freezing to help preserve some of the texture.
CHICKEN AND RICE RECIPE VARIATIONS
This Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe is a springboard for endless variations! Once you make it once, you will be finding excuses to add anything and everything to it! Here are just a few ideas:
- Swap Seasonings: mix up the flavor profile by swapping the seasonings – go Mexican with chili powder, ground cumin, smoke paprika, etc., go Cajun with black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne, or Greek with plenty of oregano, basil, lemon and feta.
- Spice it up: sauté a pinch of red pepper flakes in the butter for a kick.
- Vegetables: swap or add any chopped vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, etc. and sauté them in in the butter and olive oil. You can also add roasted vegetables directly to the rice at the end of cooking. Adding volume in vegetables means you might want to increase the amount of sauce so it’s not spread too thin. To do this, simply stir in additional broth or heavy cream at the end of cooking along with some extra cheese.
- Go all veggie: omit the chicken altogether and go all veggie with your favs such as zucchini, bell peppers, peas and spinach.
- Greens: stir in spinach or kale directly into the rice at the end of cooking to wilt.
- Cheese: mix up the flavor profile by adding your favorite cheeses. For example, pair broccoli with cheddar and bacon or feta with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and olives. You can even add feta for a tangy Greek flair or Pepper Jack for a kick.
- Add-ins: you can stir in anything to this Creamy Chicken and Rice such as sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil pesto, slivered almonds, toasted pine nuts, raisins, etc.
- Protein: swap the chicken for Italian sausage or lean ground beef and bake it in the rice or stir in cooked bacon, sautéed shrimp or cooked salmon or lobster at the end of cooking.
More flavor variations:
- Fennel and lemon
- Garlic, sage and mushroom
- Bacon and cheddar
- Spinach and pea
- Peas and mint
- Swiss chard and shrimp
- Gorgonzola and radicchio
- Asparagus, spinach and lemon
- Sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta
- Shrimp, lemon, herbs
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN AND RICE?
This Creamy Chicken and Rice is a meal-in-one complete with protein, veggies and grains. So, you call dinner done or serve it with any of these additional sides:
- Bread: Garlic Bread, Dinner Rolls, or Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks are all fantastic to mop up leftover saucy creaminess.
- Salad: This Chicken and Rice recipe pairs beautifully with a fresh, crunchy salad such as Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ranch, Cucumber Tomato Salad, Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apple Salad, Pear Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- Vegetables: You can skip the veggies because the Chicken and Rice includes chopped carrots and celery, but I like a more substantial veggie side such as Roasted Parmesan Broccoli, Roasted Parmesan Asparagus, Roasted Butternut Squash, Roasted Carrots, Glazed Carrots, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, or Parmesan Roasted Root Vegetables.
- Fruit: Bright, fresh fruit is always a welcome side to creamy dishes. Go as simple as grapes, melon, etc. or you’ll love Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette and Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone, Tropical Fruit Salad, or Pina Colada Fruit Salad.
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