Creamy Chicken and Rice

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 an Italian seasoned 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.

up close of a spoon scooping up the best chicken and rice recipe to show how creamy it is

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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).

Top view showing how to serve Creamy Chicken and Rice by garnishing with parsley

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.
side view of serving Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe from a large serving bowl

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.

showing how to make creamy chicken and rice recipe by seasoning chicken in a bowl with paprika, salt and pepper

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.

showing how to make chicken and rice recipe by cooking carrots, celery and onions in a Dutch oven

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.

showing how to make chicken and rice recipe by cooking sauteing chicken with rice, carrots, onions and celery

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.

showing how to make creamy chicken and rice recipe by adding chicken broth, diced tomatoes and all seasonings to Dutch oven with chicken and rice

Bake. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until rice is the softer side of al dente.

showing how to make chicken and rice by simmering until the rice is tender and most of the broth is absorbed

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 -½ 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.
top view of a serving bowl of creamy chicken and rice garnished with parsley and peas, showing how to serve chicken and rice

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:

  1. Add Chicken and Rice along with a splash of chicken broth or water to a skillet.
  2. Heat over medium heat until warmed through, stirring often. 
  3. If the rice is still thick, stir in additional liquid one tablespoon at a time.
  4. 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.

a small white bowl of chicken and rice recipe with a golden spoon ready to eat

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:

up close a serving spoon scooping creamy chicken and rice recipe showing how creamy it is

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Creamy Chicken and Rice

Creamy Chicken and Rice is comfort food at its most addicting – and just also happens to be made in one pot with minimal prep. This Chicken and Rice recipe is easy, warm, comforting, fool proof and oh so satisfying. It’s basically a chicken risotto 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.
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika

RICE

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 medium carrots chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice DON’T USE DIFFERENT RICE
  • 1 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
  • 4 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth warmed
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried oregano, salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried thyme
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup thawed frozen petite peas

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Pat chicken dry and add to a bowl. Toss with “chicken seasonings;” set aside.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until rice is tender.
  • When you remove the rice from the oven, there should be a little liquid that hasn’t been absorbed yet; if your rice is on the drier side, add 1/4-½ cup warmed chicken broth. Stir in 2 tablespoons cubed butter (optional) and Parmesan Cheese. Stir vigorously until butter and cheese are melted (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).

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • 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.  It can be found in almost every grocery store alongside the other rice varieties.  If you are having trouble locating it, you can also purchase it on amazon.
  • 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 -½ 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.

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16 Comments

  1. Susan says

    I just love your recipes! You’re always so detailed with your explanations and offer so many tips and tricks! I hope you’re doing ok healthwise.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Susan, I’m so happy you find the tips helpful! And thank you so much for inquiring about my health. It has been a great health year and I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital – yay!

  2. Laura says

    LOVED THIS! Another Carlsbad Cravings winner!!! Thank you for sharing your talents. (PS: it doesn’t say in the recipe where to add tomatoes. It says up in the detailed instructions but might want to add below as well.)

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Laura, I always love getting comments on new recipes! I’m thrilled it was a hit! Thanks for the heads up about the tomatoes – I added it earlier and just cleared the cache so hopefully it will show up now. Thanks!

  3. Teri Pflederer says

    What size dutch oven do you use….6 or 8 quart? I’ve been wanting to buy a Lodge enamel lined dutch oven and just wondering what size would work best with your recipe. Thank you! It looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it. Going to try to make for my parents and if it turns out and it’s not too difficult, I may start using it as a dish to take to others when they are in need of a meal.

    • Jen says

      Hi Teri, I recommend an 8 quart – it seems to be perfect for soups and everything in between. That is so thoughtful of you to already be thinking of bringing it to other!

      • Teri Pflederer says

        Hi Jen! I’m starting to chicken out…no pun intended! I don’t own an enameled dutch oven, so now I am wondering if I can use a stainless steel dutch oven or will that change the way it turns out? I am not a confident cook, so now I’m not sure I can do this even if I purchase a heavy duty dutch oven. What do you think?

        • Jen says

          haha! No need to chicken out Teri! I think a stainless steel dutch oven should be just fine as long as it is oven proof. You can even cook it on the stove then transfer it to a 9×13 and cover tightly with foil. If you use the latter, I’d check it for doneness a couple minutes earlier than the recipe calls for because it will be more spread out. Hope that helps!

  4. Maxine R Parrot says

    Made this dish and everyone loved it! Sooo delicious on a cold northeast winter night. I also appreciate the detailed instructions you provide with all of your recipes,,,,you anticipate all the questions one might have. This is the forth or fifth recipe of yours that I have tried and all have been so excellent. Thank you and continued good health.

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased this Creamy Chicken and Rice was a winner, thanks Maxine! And thank you for your kind words- I’m so pleased you find my tips and tricks helpful and are enjoying my recipes!

  5. Melissa says

    This was wonderful! My husband and I have been under the weather and I’m so tired of eating soup! We tried this today it was perfect! Thanks for always providing such great recipes! Everything I have tried from your site has been a winner!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Mary, thanks for taking the time to comment! I love hearing you’re enjoying my recipes and I’m so pleased this Creamy Chicken and Rice was another hit! Wishing you and your husband a speedy recovery!

  6. Ruth says

    Made your dish this morning for a church potluck and it was wonderful!! It also holds well just by adding a little additional warmed cream/broth without getting mushy! We put it on a warming plate for an hour during service, and it was still a beautiful texture and flavors!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your awesome comment Ruth! I’m so pleased it was a winner and that it kept so well – definitely a plus!

  7. Rebecca says

    Really really good. Wasn’t sure just reading the recipe what the flavors would be but it’s was perfectly creamy, cheesy, Italian seasoned dish with tender chicken. Add roasted broccoli and zucchini after taking it out of the oven. Loved it so much. Thanks once again for a perfect recipe. You have been my go to for new recipes for awhile now.

    • Jen says

      Thanks for the review Rebecca! I’m so pleased you loved it and I love your veggie additions – yum! I also love hearing my site has been your go-to, thank you!