Tender boneless chicken thighs and flavorful orzo braised with fragrant Moroccan spices and topped with olives, lemon and fresh parsley. All you need is one pan and 30 minutes and you’ve got yourself one fabulous, flavorful family dinner.

One pot recipes are a miracle of cookery, saving time both during cooking and the dishwashing after the fact. This one is particularly flavor-packed, pairing sultry saffron with turmeric, paprika, ginger and even a hint of cinnamon with bright and tangy olives and a hint of lemon.

One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo Recipe

One pan recipes are a thing of beauty. You don’t need a separate pot or pan to cook the side dish, rather, it’s all cooked together in a single pan on a single burner with a single spoon.

Not only do you have less dishes to do, but it’s also that much more flavorful since the starch (orzo in this case) absorbs all the delicious flavors from the chicken as it cooks.

It’s like flavor recycling.

One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo

That said, however, not all combinations work in a one pot situation.

I recall trying one of those one pot pasta kind of recipes, from a very well known food personality, where you cook the spaghetti and the tomato sauce and garlic and all that in a single pot… brilliant in concept, but not so much in execution. The texture of the final dish just didn’t quite work for me. With pasta like spaghetti if you lose the al-dente-ness of the pasta, it just tastes like mush.

Orzo seems to be a bit more practical in this kind of situation, however.

Ideally you want to time it so that the orzo is al-dente at the same time that the chicken is cooked through (poke it with an instant read thermometer, please, just to be sure).

For us, that was about 9 minutes on the dog. If you are using particularly large boneless thighs or bone-in thighs (which you can certainly do), I recommend cooking them for a few minutes longer in the beginning, so that they’ll be completely cooked through after 9 minutes in the pan with the orzo.

If anything, it’s better to overcook the chicken in this case rather than overcooking the orzo, since all the braising liquid surrounding the chicken will keep it extra moist even if it goes over a few degrees.

One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo

Easy One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo Recipe

This recipe is a mashup of inspiration; the one-pan-chicken-and-orzo idea came from a Taste of Home recipe, and the Moroccan spice combination was inspired by something I saw on the New York Times.

The final result doesn’t really resemble either recipe, but hey, I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo - An easy one-pan dinner recipe!

We attempted a version of this recipe using preserved lemons, adding thin ribbons of peel to the orzo at the end.

Tell me, preserved lemon lovers, are they really supposed to taste like lysol? I’m not sure what I was expecting (something more like marmalade I guess?) but I couldn’t get past the overwhelming flavor of disinfectant. It wasn’t enjoyable at all, and pretty much ruined the entire dish for us. Maybe we got a bad jar or something?

Needless to say, we opted for fresh lemon in this recipe instead, just a bit of zest and juice to give the final dish a hint of tangy lemon without any undesirable undertones of cleaning products.

That said, as with most things, I do think homemade preserved lemons would be an entirely different story (one of these days I’ll try making my own). So if you’re lucky enough to have some on hand, feel free to chop up a tablespoon or two of the peel and fold it in at the end in place of the lemon zest.

One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo

One Pan Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Orzo

Yield: 3-4 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

This quick & easy weeknight dinner recipe features chicken thighs and orzo braised in flavorful Moroccan spices and topped with olives, lemon and fresh parsley.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
  • 2/3 cup orzo
  • 1 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup mixed pitted olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for topping

Directions:

  1. Generously salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmery. Arrange thighs, smooth side down, in preheated skillet (if you are using a smaller pan or cooking more than 5 or 6 thighs, you might want to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan). Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned; flip and cook other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant and starting to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping up any leftover brown bits from the chicken as well. Add spices and stir until onions are fully coated with spices.
  4. Add orzo and stir to coat.
  5. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Place chicken thighs back in the skillet in a single layer, nestling them down into the orzo.
  6. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally so orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom, about 8 to 10 minutes or until orzo is aldente and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest thigh reads 165 degrees F. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and olives and remove from heat. Spoon into serving dishes and served warm topped with a sprinkle of parsley and slivered almonds, if desired.

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13 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. My husband has to eat gluten free. Would rice work in place of the orzo? Timing wise, it looks like the rice would need to be cooked already before adding to the dish?

    • In theory it should work, though depending on how long the rice takes to cook you might need to wait a bit to add the chicken back to the pan (the chicken/orzo both take about 10 minutes to finish cooking. If the rice would take 20, let the rice cook in the pan by itself for 10 mins then add the chicken back. Can also add more liquid if needed too, almost like risotto?)

      Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

  2. If thickness of chicken is concerning I would encourage you to take the rolling pin to them flatten them out a bit. And it’s good for getting out your frustrations, too! ?

    As to those preserved lemons, I prefer fresh anyway. Could have been a problem with the levels of salt in the recipe and in the lemons.

    Cheers!

  3. Beautiful post ! So glad to find it !

  4. a very creative spin on the original recipes that inspired you, and yes fresh lemons and lemon rinds always, I’d only preserve lemons in alcohol and make lemoncello out of it!

  5. These sound so delicious and yum! Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Thank you!! I’ll try this this weekend. Loved the Moroccan chicken recipes! :)

  7. We made this last night but added some fresh fennel with the onions. Very tasty! The spices really make this dish Shine!

  8. Not that familiar with saffron. Would leaving it out dramatically change the taste? If so, is there another spice to use in lieu of?

  9. I don’t have orzo, but I do have couscous. I’m going to give it a try with that tonight. I’ll simmer the chicken for 10 minutes, then add the couscous right at the end, and let it sit a few minutes while I corral the kids into setting the table.

  10. OMG Lindsay, I made this dish and my kids loved it! I cooked more orzo than the recipe called for (adding more chicken broth) because I knew they would love it. They called it fake rice and got seconds of everything. I didn’t have enough olives so I added more lemon juice tanginess and it worked. Thank you! Another quick dish for school nights.

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