Kitchn Love Letters

This Impressive Chicken Dinner Is a One-Pan Wonder — And It Costs Less than $20

published Mar 13, 2023
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Chicken with lemon, rice, olives and herbs after cooking in skillet.
Credit: Kristina Razon

Everyone should have a one-pan meal in their back pocket. My go-to comes from the LA Times, courtesy of food writer Regina Schrambling, who was introduced to the dish by a friend who brought it to her potluck table. It’s a shockingly simple, yet wildly delicious dish of chicken braised with orzo, lemon, and olives. Schrambling wrote that “the combination is sensational,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Between the tangy lemons, briny olives, tender chicken, and creamy orzo, this dish is greater than the sum of its parts. 

The meal comes together in less than an hour, requires minimal prep, and combines a side dish and a protein — for less than $20. As Schrambling notes, it’s enough to feed four, but you can easily double the recipe.   

Why I Love Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Olives 

One of the biggest reasons I love this dish is that it comes together in a single pan. You don’t need to break out separate pans to brown the chicken and cook the orzo. Here, the meal is extremely intentional with how it’s put together: Sear your chicken in a pot, stir in the rest of your ingredients, then pop the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking. That’s it. Plus, there’s very little hands-on time and cleanup involved — it takes about 15 minutes to prep the ingredients and you can use the cook time to wash up any dirty dishes. 

Another reason to love this dish: You get a protein and a side dish all in one. I spend a considerable amount of time menu planning for my family of four. And, despite the number of times I’ve done this, putting together a weekly meal plan is still a bit of a puzzle. Therefore, I love any dish that combines a protein, a carb, and/or a vegetable, as it cuts out some of the work. To round it out, I serve a simple veggie on the side like sautéed spinach, roasted broccoli, or a tossed salad

Credit: Kristina Razon

How to Make Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Olives

It’s amazing how easily this meal comes together. You start by seasoning chicken drumsticks with salt and black pepper and sear them in a pan until brown all over. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Then add orzo, chicken stock, minced garlic, lemon wedges and juice, olives, a bay leaf, and oregano and give it all a stir. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and its juices run clear. 

If You’re Making Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Olives, a Few Tips 

  • Reach for a large cast iron skillet or oven-safe nonstick skillet. While it asks you to cook the meal in a Dutch oven or a large stockpot, I always reach for my 12-inch cast iron skillet, which provides enough surface area to nestle the chicken into the orzo without it looking crowded. And if you don’t have a matching lid, use aluminum foil to cover.
  • Deseed your lemon. Taking the extra step to remove the seeds beforehand means you don’t have to worry about biting into a stray seed or two later on. 
  • Toast the orzo in the pan. The recipe calls for adding the rest of the ingredients at the same time, but I like to add the orzo first to give it time to toast in the chicken fat, which deepens the flavor. 
  • Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. After toasting the orzo, I deglaze the pan with chicken stock, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon, to make sure all the tasty bits get mixed up with the stock. Afterwards, I add the remaining ingredients.
  • Try it with dried oregano. If you don’t have fresh oregano on hand, you can replace it with 1/2 tablespoon of dried oregano.