Creamy Chicken Risotto

This classic Italian Chicken Risotto is the perfect treat for a weeknight dinner! It's easier than you think to prepare and is sure to impress those around your table. You can make it in under an hour and it makes for a hearty, comforting meal. Customize it with your favorite risotto add-ins or keep it simple as a classic chicken risotto dish.

Two gray dishes filled with creamy chicken risotto with zucchini and tomatoes.
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Creamy Chicken Risotto Recipe

When I studied abroad in Italy, I learned that Italian food is so much more than pasta. One way that it branches out from pasta is with risotto, a pasta-like rice dish.

Ever since I got back from my adventures (now 10+ years ago sadly!), I've been obsessed with making all kinds of risotto dishes. And once you learn how to cook risotto and reheat risotto, it is a game changer.

It can be made in so many ways so it's a fun recipe to be creative with, one of my favorite parts of being in the kitchen!

I like to take whatever protein I have on hand and some veggies and create something new. Our tried and true though is this chicken risotto recipe.

Bowl of chicken and veggie risotto

Why You'll Love This Recipe

This easy recipe is one of our go-to recipes when we need something hearty, delicious and something that feels fancy. We keep meals super simple around here because with three growing boys, we need dinner on the table fast.

Luckily, this homemade risotto fits into the main criteria for a weeknight dinner: hearty, easy, and delicious!

I know you will love this recipe too. This chicken risotto dinner...

  • is fancy-feeling, but only takes 40 minutes to get on the table.
  • uses minimal dishes (always a win in my husband's book).
  • has such simple ingredients, but this pasta-like rice dish is packed with flavor.
  • will be loved by the whole family.
Stainless steel pot of creamy risotto with zucchini and tomatoes.

What is risotto?

Risotto is made from a short-grain rice that is naturally starchy. As the risotto grains bump together, they create a naturally creamy dish that can be made with or without dairy. As the grains bump together and cook, it creates a creamy risotto texture.

Your traditional, basic risotto recipe is simply butter, onions, white wine and arborio rice simmered in chicken broth (or vegetable) and the optional freshly grated parmesan on top.

Do not let the simplicity fool you though, this is a winner dish! The key to a successful risotto dish is slowly adding in the broth — more on that below.

Ingredients

Here's what to pick up at the grocery store for this seafood risotto:

  • arborio rice: Find risotto rice in the rice and pasta aisle.
  • garlic: Freshly minced or pre-minced work great.
  • shallot, yellow or white onion
  • white wine (a dry white wine is best, but cooking white wine works fine too)
  • chicken broth or chicken stock
  • unsalted butter
  • chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts
  • veggies: I love the combination of zucchini and tomato for this recipe. You can also add fresh spinach or whatever veggies you need to use up.
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • optional (but encouraged) is finishing it off with fresh parmesan cheese

While there's no cream in this recipe, the risotto itself produces a delightful, creamy texture. If you want it creamier, you could add a few tablespoons of heavy cream.

Variations & Substitutions

Think of your risotto dish as a blank canvas. The one rule is that the arborio rice is non-negotiable. It's what makes risotto, well, risotto! Short-grain rice technically can be used but it just won't be the same.

Here are some other substitutions you can make:

Proteins: Chicken tenderloins, breasts or thighs will work well for this recipe. Don't have chicken? A nice cast iron steak or grilled shrimp skewers are perfect substitutions. You can even use rotisserie chicken.

Garlic: Pre-minced garlic is a great time saver. You can use garlic powder in a pinch.

Veggies: No onion? Add 1 teaspoon of onion powder or sub in a shallot. Substitute your favorite veggies, or what's on hand, into this risotto. These roasted root vegetables would be a perfect compliment to this chicken risotto.

White wine: This adds so much flavor but if you need a substitution for the wine in risotto, white or red wine vinegar work well. Just a splash is best!

Chicken broth: You can absolutely substitute vegetable broth instead.

Butter: Feel free to use olive oil or avocado oil instead to make this dairy-free. Salted butter will work too, just taste your risotto before adding salt at the end.

Best Rice for Risotto

There are many delicious types of rice, but arborio rice specifically is best for risotto. Make sure to leave it un-rinsed; the natural starches on the rice are essential.

If you can't find arborio rice, you can use another short-grain rice (or medium-grain rice) in a pinch. We like to look for organic arborio rice if we can.

How to Cook Risotto

It might seem like there are many steps to making risotto but the truth is it is so simple. The cook time on risotto is only 40 minutes. Making homemade mac and cheese is more difficult!

  1. In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, pour in broth and set to low heat. (If your broth is coming from the pantry, this isn't an essential step, but it does help the risotto cook evenly if the broth is warm not cold).
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons butter to a saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic until fragrant, about a minute. 
  3. Add arborio rice to pan and stir with wooden spoon until the edges are translucent and golden, another 2 minutes. 
  4. Pour in wine and let the wine absorb almost fully, about 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
  5. Use a ladle to pour about ½ cup of broth into the risotto. Allow the risotto to almost fully absorb the broth before adding another ladle. Stir risotto occasionally, ladling in the broth ½ cup at a time.
  6. When there is about a ½ cup of broth left to add to the risotto, take a spoonful to test. Risotto typically is served "al dente" but you can cook it to your personal preference. When resting, the risotto will continue to cook so be sure to not overcook it during this process. As it rests that's when it gets it's creamy consistency (even before you add cheese!)
  7. If needed, add additional broth or more to cook to the right consistency for your preference.
pan seared chicken breast tenderloins

How to Cook Chicken for Risotto

There are so many ways you could prepare chicken for risotto such as grilled chicken thighs, lemon pepper chicken or pan seared chicken.

You could even use leftover chicken.

If you are using chicken breast tenderloins as I did, here's how you'll prepare it!

  1. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In your favorite frying pan, heat the pan to medium high heat and add olive oil.
  3. Cook chicken on first side for 3 minutes, until it pulls away easily from the pan.
  4. Flip the chicken to the second side and cook an additional 3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165º.
  5. Use a fork and sharp knife to dice chicken and add to finished risotto.

You can also add your veggies to this pan to sauté or cook them afterwards.

Bowl of chicken and veggie risotto

Tips & Tricks

The secret to meals with minimal ingredients is usually the proper technique! In order to make risotto right every time, remember these three things: 

  1. Take your time. Once you nail making risotto, it'll fly by. But the first few times, it may seem time-consuming. Make this on a night when you have at least an hour to prep dinner comfortably!
  2. Nail the technique first, then get creative. Getting the base of this recipe is really the key here. Once you have this basic risotto down, the toppings have infinite possibilities.
  3. Temperature matters. Always use warm stock. It will help the rice to cook evenly and efficiently.

More Risotto Recipes

Once you fall in love with this risotto recipe, here are a few more you'll want to try!

Did you make this recipe?

If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Gray dish filled with creamy chicken risotto with zucchini and tomatoes. With forks stuck into food.

Chicken Risotto

Creamy Chicken Risotto is a delicious and comforting Italian dish. Tender, pan seared chicken plus veggies make the perfect toppings for this elegant dish!
5 from 42 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Madison | A Joyfully Mad Kitchen

Ingredients

For the Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • parmesan cheese optional

For the Toppings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini quartered and sliced ½ inch thick
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes

Instructions

Risotto

  • In a small saucepan, pour in broth and set to low heat. 
  • Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a saucepan on medium heat, sauté garlic until fragrant, about a minute. 
  • Add arborio rice to pan and stir with wooden spoon until the edges are translucent another 2 minutes. 
  • Pour in wine and let the wine absorb almost fully, about 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
  • Use a ladle to pour about ½ cup of broth into the risotto. Allow risotto to almost fully absorb broth before adding another ladle. Stir risotto occasionally, between ladling in broth.
  • When there is about a ½ cup of broth left to add to the risotto, take a spoonful to test. Risotto typically is served "al dente" but you can cook it to your personal preference. When resting, the risotto will continue to cook so be sure to not overcook it during this process.
  • If needed, add the rest of the broth or more to cook to the right consistency for your preference.

Chicken and Veggies

  • Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • In your favorite frying pan, heat the pan to medium high heat and add olive oil.
  • Cook chicken on first side for 3 minutes, until it pulls away easily from the pan.
  • Flip the chicken to the second side and cook an additional 3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
  • Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and sauté zucchini for about 3 minutes until fork tender.
  • Use a fork and sharp knife to dice chicken and add with zucchini and chopped tomatoes to cooked risotto.
  • Finish the dish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Notes

Always use at least lukewarm stock — never cold.
Instead of using wine, squeeze in lemon juice at some point during the cooking process or at the very end for a punch of lemon flavor.
To reheat risotto, microwave individual portions or add a splash of cooking broth and bake until heated through.

Nutrition

Calories: 307kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 883mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

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