I’ve been craving the salty, briny flavor of kalamata olives lately, so I bought a handful of olives off the olive/salad bar at the grocery store, combined them with a can of diced tomatoes, a few herbs, and made a wonderful sauce for this One Skillet Chicken with Orzo and Olives. The orzo and chicken cook right in the same skillet as the tomato and olive sauce, maximizing the flavor and making sure not a drop of goodness is lost. Plus, my favorite bonus of having everything cook in one skillet: fewer dishes to clean. Woot!
One Skillet Chicken and Orzo with Olives
Can I Use Chicken Breast?
This recipe is written specifically for skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. The dark meat of chicken thighs together with the bones and skin help keep the chicken moist and tender through the slightly longer cooking time. While you technically can use a boneless, skinless chicken breast, you’ll miss some of the flavor provided from the chicken skin and bones, and the chicken may be slightly on the drier side.
Can I Substitute the Olives?
If you don’t like or can’t find kalamata olives, you can achieve the same briny flavor with either capers or artichoke hearts. Both would pair beautifully with the other flavors in this dish.
Love briny flavors? Check out my Pasta Puttanesca or Chicken Piccata recipes!
What is Orzo?
Orzo is just a very small shaped pasta. It’s shaped a little bit like grains of rice, but slightly larger. It’s great for making pilafs, serving as a side dish, or adding to soup. You can find it in most major grocery stores either in the pasta aisle, or near other specialty Italian or Mediterranean ingredients.
What Else Can I Add to This Chicken and Orzo?
If you have a few extra dollars, a little crumbled feta would be amazing on this. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a basil plant, try thinly slicing some fresh basil to sprinkle over top after cooking.
What Do You Serve with Chicken and Orzo?
I would consider this a “one pot meal” or “one bowl meal” because it has everything I’d want in one dish–meat, grain, and vegetables. If you want to add a side, you could do a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette, and maybe some homemade garlic bread.
Skillet Chicken with Orzo and Olives
- 4 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) ($5.66)
- 1 pinch salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.12)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced ($0.24)
- 1 15oz. can diced tomatoes* ($0.89)
- 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives ($1.62)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
- 2 cups chicken broth** ($0.26)
- 1.5 cups orzo (uncooked) ($0.89)
- 1/4 bunch parsley (optional) ($0.25)
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, then sprinkle both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken thighs with the skin side down. Cook the chicken thighs on each side until golden brown (about 5-7 minutes each side), then remove to a clean plate.
- Pour off the excess fat from the skillet, leaving just enough to sauté the garlic. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the minced garlic, and sauté for about one minute, or just until the garlic is soft and very fragrant.
- Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), oregano, olives, and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir the tomatoes, herbs, and olives to combine and allow the juices from the tomatoes to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Roughly chop the kalamata olives, and add them to the skillet.
- Add the chicken broth and orzo to the skillet, and stir to combine. Nestle the browned chicken thighs down into the skillet, place a lid on the skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow the skillet to come to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, or the lowest temperature needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the skillet simmer for 15 minutes with the lid in place.
- Turn the heat off and let the skillet rest for 5 minutes. The tomatoes and olives will have risen to the top, so use a fork to gently stir or fluff the orzo, tomatoes, and olives back together. The orzo should be tender and slightly saucy. Pull the parsley leaves from the stems, roughly chop them, and sprinkle over top.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Chicken with Orzo and Olives – Step by Step Photos
Start with four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Pat them dry with a paper towel (this helps facilitate browning and reduce splatter), then season on both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin side down.
Cook the chicken thighs on each side until golden brown (about 5-7 minutes each side), then remove them to a clean plate. The chicken will only be partially cooked at this point, but it will continue to cook through while it simmers with the orzo. The chicken will let off quite a bit of fat as they cook, so pour off the excess oil, leaving just a small amount to cook the garlic.
Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add four cloves of minced garlic to the skillet and sauté in the leftover fat for about one minute, or just until the garlic has softened a bit and is very fragrant.
Add one 15oz. can of diced tomatoes and stir to help the tomato juices dissolve the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. I used a garlic and onion flavored diced tomato because they were on sale, but you can use plain diced tomatoes as well.
Roughly chop about 1/3 cup kalamata olives. I grabbed this handful of olives off the olive bar at my local grocery store so that I could avoid purchasing an entire jar. They are already pitted, so I just cut them into smaller pieces so they would distribute throughout the dish better.
Add the chopped olives, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and a little more freshly cracked pepper.
Add two cups of chicken broth. I use Better Than Bouillon because it’s very flavorful, less expensive than boxed or canned broths, stays good in the refrigerator for just about forever, and allows you to mix up the exact quantity of broth that you need.
Finally, add 1.5 cups uncooked orzo. Stir to combine the tomatoes, broth, and orzo.
Nestle the chicken thighs down into the liquid in the skillet.
Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, or the lowest temperature that maintains a gentle simmer. Let the skillet simmer for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it rest for 5 minutes (with the lid in place).
The tomatoes and olives will rise to the top as it simmers. The orzo should be tender at this point, but also quite saucy. Use a fork to fluff the orzo and mix the tomatoes and olives back into the orzo.
Roughly chop a handful of fresh parsley and sprinkle over top just before serving (optional). Serve hot!
One skillet, one meal. Perfect.
Skillet Chicken with Orzo and Olives all in pretty little portioned containers. :) Cuz that’s how I roll.
Want to try it tomorrow for dinner but would like to lower the amount of carbs. Would this work with cauliflower rice instead of orzo? Thanks!
Dash, we haven’t tried it with cauli rice so I don’t want to promise you — but you should totally give it a shot and let us know how it goes! Another great sub would be canned white beans (simmer for 8-10 minutes instead of 15) and that would cut the carbs in half. — Marion :)
Has anyone tried this recipe adding peas? I am going to try this tonight, but instead of olives, as I don’t have any, I thought I might add peas as an additional vegetable.
The comments on this page are years old, but I made this meal tonight, and it still hits the spot. I didn’t have olives and only had chicken breasts that were cut into tenders. I cooked the chicken to 120F internal temp, and took it out. I sauteed a white onion with the garlic and added the chicken back when the orzo was about halfway finished cooking. I had a ton of spinach that needed getting rid of, so once the chicken was an internal temp of 165F, the orzo was done, so I took it off the heat and added the spinach until it wilted. Topped with feta + fresh basil.
Simple recipe, but it used all ingredients that I already had and came together really quickly.