Quick Orzo Pilaf Recipe

May 9, 2007 14 Comments

Quick Orzo Pilaf Recipe

What is Orzo?

I needed a quick meal the other night and I wanted to use up some left over roasted chicken from the night before. I was thinking risotto but I didn’t have any in the pantry but I did find a box of San Giorgio orzo and thought this might work.

Orzo is rice shaped pasta slightly smaller than a pine nut and is great in soups and pasta salads. See my seafood orzo salad recipe.


Find Recipes In All the Right Places

I love finding recipes and adapting them with ingredients I have on hand. Keep your eyes open and you can find interesting recipes everywhere; on product packages, the supermarket shelves, ads in magazines, newspaper articles, mail flyers. Most of these recipes are trying to sell you their products but they are still good starting points for creating your own recipe.

The orzo box was no exception. They had a recipe for Mediterranean Orzo Pilaf. Some of the ingredients were processed products like dried Italian seasoning, bouillon cubes, and garlic powder. It’s my opinion you can really change the quality of mediocre recipe just by using higher end products that really don’t cost you that much more money in the end.

For example, using homemade or quality chicken stock instead of bouillon can make all the difference in the world. Try using fresh garlic instead of garlic powder or fresh basil and parsley rather than dried Italian seasonings.

Dried herbs are great in some dishes, but with a pilaf recipe like this, why not go fresh if you can. If you don’t have fresh herbs in your refrigerator, by all means go with the dried ones but make sure they have not been sitting in the cabinet too long. I don’t date my dried spice bottles, but I should because I’m sure some of them have been around longer than my daughters. Chef Ricco forgive me.

I made the chicken stock the night before when we had roasted chicken. I’ll be honest.  I didn’t roast the chicken. It was a rotisserie chicken from our local market and a pretty good one at that. After I stripped the meat off, I stuck the carcass in a pot, covered it in water and made a quick stock in about an hour. Not classic chicken stock but good enough for what I wanted to use it for and a heck of a lot better than anything canned and let’s not even talk about a bouillon cube.

You can make this dish one hundred different ways by substituting various ingredients. Don’t like chicken, add shrimp. Don’t like parsley, try cilantro.  Try different types of cheeses, olives, nuts; whatever works for you or you happen to have in your pantry.

Experiment and have some fun. There are some recipes you must follow a precise technique using specified ingredients. This is not one of them.

Quick Orzo Pilaf Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serving Size: 4 servings

Quick Orzo Pilaf Recipe


2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces uncooked Orzo

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 ½ cups chicken stock

12 or more grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 cooked boneless chicken breast, meat shredded or cut into pieces

Salt & pepper, to taste

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

How To Prepare At Home

Heat a large sauce pot or fry pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the orzo and cook with the onions & garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn't burn. If the pan seems too hot, turn down the heat to medium.

While this is going on, I like to heat up the chicken stock so I'm not adding cold stock to the hot pan with the orzo. No reason to slow down the cooking process by cooling down a hot pan.

Add the chicken stock to the pan and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes while the orzo absorbs the stock. Be sure to stir every so often.

Add the grape tomatoes, chicken and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and then cover and cook for a few more minutes until all the stock has been absorbed into the orzo. Be sure to stir so the orzo doesn't stick to the pan.

I like stir in the grated Parmesan cheese at the end just before serving. You can add a sprig of fresh parsley to the plate to make it look nice. I always forget.

Last modified on Tue 26 May 2015 3:26 pm

Comments (14)

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  1. RG says:

    Avi wrote me and asked, “you mention making chicken stock from the carcass of of a store-bought roasted chicken. What did you use in addition to the water?”

    Thanks for the email. Actually, I didn’t add anything else. I just placed the carcass with any leftover bones into a pot, covered them with water and cooked them down until it had a nice chicken broth flavor. Could I have done more to make a classic chicken stock? Of course, but I just wanted a simple way to use the carcass instead of throwing it away and this gave me exactly what I needed. You can add chopped carrots and celery to the pot and it will have even more flavor but this is a great way to make a quick broth for rice dishes.

  2. Gg says:

    You mentioned above in the 1st paragraph Add the orzo and cook with the onions & garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn’t burn. – Are you adding the uncooked orzo or is it cooked when you add it to this.

  3. RG says:

    The orzo is uncooked at this point. I like to saute it for a few minutes to add a little extra flavor. RG

  4. Victor Robin says:

    Is there a standard ratio of liquid to orzo, like there is for rice? For rice I use twice as much water as rice, or 2 to 1.

  5. RG says:

    Hi Victor,

    I have read that you use the same ratio for orzo as you would for preparing rice but we all know that varies depending on the type of rice.

    I think most orzo boxes will tell you 2 – 1 but in the recipe above, I added a little more liquid. When I did some research on the ratio, I found many cooks go 2 1/2 or 3 to 1.

    You can always make adjustments while you cook. If the orzo has absorbed all the liquid and doesn’t appear to be done, just add a little more liquid.

    If there appears to be too much liquid, you can drain some off and cook the rest down. You just want to be careful not to overcook the orzo. – The Reluctant Gourmet

  6. Philnezz says:

    There is nothing like a good Chicken Recipe, Chicken is quite simply the best food in the world because of it’s versatility. You can make thousands of chicken recipes and every one of them will be different and taste great. ENJOY!!

  7. Bill says:

    Curry chicken salad.

  8. Prairie Ranch says:

    Made an awesome dish that can be made with rotisserie chicken as well-posted recipe and pics on blog at http://www.prairieranch.blogspot.com under Fragrant Indian Butter Chicken– it’s not a cowboy recipe, but it was yummy and my cowboy and buckaroos gobbled it all up–
    This one looks good to though-

  9. Mzz_noel says:

    Just read this recipe sounds delicious… Only I will be replacing the tomatoes for broccoli as I do not like tomatoes. I can’t wait to try it!

    Sounds like a great idea. Please let me know how it turns out for you. – RG

  10. Lori says:

    Orzo is a pasta, so you drain it. Just cook like regular pasta, enough water to cook and drain off excess. Hope this helps.

  11. Jeanne Emler says:

    I also add some parsnips, garlic, fresh spices, onion and carrots to the stock water and don’t even have to peel anything but do clean it all along with celery. I put it all in a cooking bag with the chicken and it is sooooo good!

  12. Shannon says:

    So y’all know, orzo cooks up great in the rice cooker as well as in a pot or pan.

    Hi Shannon, didn’t know but it makes sense. Thanks for the tip. – RG

  13. Melissa P says:

    I am vacationing in western Florida and having a dinner party this evening. Unfortunately San Giorgio products are unavailable in this area. There is a recipe on the back of the orzo box for Mediterranean orzo that is fabulous. I am desperately searching for that particular recipe, no deviations from the exact. Can anyone help me ?

    Hi Melissa, not sure what you are asking for. Do you have the box of orzo or do you know the name of the brand of orzo? That would help. – RG

  14. Adam says:


    I added feta and black olives to this for an excellent Greek style deal. Thanks for the base recipe!

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