This recipe takes two classic dishes and combines them into one delicious dinner the whole family will love! Chicken Parmesan Risotto is a creamy rice packed with chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and basil with a crispy panko topping.
Whenever people ask me what kind of food I like to make best when it comes to recipe development and blogging, I almost always have risotto on my list.
Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make because, contrary to popular belief, it's incredibly easy. Plus, it's ridiculously versatile and I'm pretty sure I could eat a different kind of risotto every night for dinner and never tire of it.
I've made all kinds of risotto from BLT to blue cheese to tomato and sausage. I've even made a risotto that you can eat for breakfast! To be fair, you are free to eat any risotto dish for breakfast, but this specific one is made with bacon and poached eggs.
Another food I'm a big fan of is chicken parmesan. So, when I got it in my head to make a chicken parmesan risotto, I knew it needed to happen immediately.
What is Risotto?
A lot of people have questions about risotto since it's a bit different than the typical rice dish.
Risotto is an Italian dish typically made with arborio rice here in the U.S., but it's also often made with Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice.
Because arborio rice (and other risotto rices) has a high starch level, it results in a super creamy rice. I used to think risottos must have a ton of cheese or cream in them to make them creamy, but it's really just the rice and cooking method of slowly incorporating liquid into it.
Lots of people also make risotto-style dishes with other types or rice, like farro or barley. I've even made a spelt risotto before! It's generally not as creamy as traditional risotto, but can still be delicious and often healthier.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
There are lots of reasons to love this recipe! To start, it's pretty easy, especially when compared to a traditional chicken parmesan, which often takes a lot of work and time. And also makes a mess!
The chicken in this rice isn't breaded and fried. Of course, it's served in a deliciously creamy rice with lots of cheese, so whether it's "healthier" or not is debatable.
Instead of breading the chicken (I imagined it would get soggy when mixed into the rice), I topped the risotto with a crispy panko.
This is a fairly traditional risotto with lots of extras mixed in that turn it into a dish you'll really get excited about!
How to Make Chicken Parmesan Risotto
If you've ever made risotto before, you know it's all about adding broth into the rice, stirring it, and letting it absorb before adding more.
This risotto is much the same except you'll use a chicken broth and diced tomato mixture. You'll also cook chicken breasts to mix in, along with some other goodies at the end.
If you prefer to use a rotisserie chicken you purchase at the store, you certainly can! You can also opt to mix in chicken that you have left over from another dinner.
First, cook the chicken. To save on dishes, you can cook the chicken in the same saucepan you're going to cook the risotto in (I didn't do that in these photos, but realized I should have after the fact).
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper and place in saucepan.
Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.
Remove chicken to cutting board and once cool enough to touch, slice chicken into bite-sized pieces. Keep saucepan out.
While chicken is cooking, heat the broth. In a small saucepan over medium heat (separate from the one the chicken is cooking in), bring diced tomatoes in juice and chicken broth to a simmer. Lower heat and keep mixture warm.
In the same saucepan you cooked the chicken in (you don't even have to clean it out!), add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add diced onion and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Now, add arborio rice to the saucepan and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a bit, until it’s translucent around the edges.
Stir in about 1 ½ cups of the tomato broth and stir occasionally until it has absorbed into rice completely, 3-4 minutes.
Continue adding the mixture ¾ cup at a time, stirring after each addition, and waiting to add more until liquid is all absorbed. Stir occasionally.
Rice will be creamy and al dente when done.
Once the rice is done cooking, add in the chicken pieces, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, dried basil, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan, fresh basil, and butter to rice.
I added both dried and fresh basil to my risotto, but you can feel free to use just one if you prefer (I like a lot of basil flavor!)
Stir until well-combined.
Taste and add more salt if desired.
How to Make Crispy Panko Topping
Because I didn't bread the chicken, I decided to top each chicken parmesan risotto serving with a crispy panko topping. It's super easy to make!
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
Add panko and toss gently to coat in butter. Stirring occasionally, allow panko to slowly and evenly toast in the butter until crispy and golden brown.
Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Serve the chicken parmesan risotto on plates or in bowls and top each serving with some of that crispy panko topping.
You can add more parmesan cheese, too, if you want.
HELLO. This risotto has ALL the flavors of chicken parmesan, but is a whole lot simpler to make.
No breading and frying or baking... Just a simple chicken breast mixed into a creamy rice with all the fixings.
I hope this recipe will help convince you that homemade risotto really is easy and the kind of dinner you can have any day of the week!
Do I Need to Constantly Stir Risotto?
While risotto does need to be paid attention to and stirred a bit, you don't need be constantly standing over it and stirring it.
As you add the broth, you can move about your kitchen and get other stuff done and just return to the pot to stir the risotto every few minutes or so. Really just to make sure the liquid is absorbing and the rice isn't sticking.
Does Risotto Need Wine?
One thing you may notice in this recipe is that I didn't use wine. I almost always use wine in my risotto, but I didn't have any white wine on hand and also don't always love the idea of telling you to open a bottle of wine for to just use a little bit.
I did some research and learned that while risotto often does have wine, it doesn't necessarily need it. In fact, Marcella Hazan doesn't use wine in her risotto in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (source).
If you do want to use wine in this risotto recipe, simply add ½ cup to the rice and onion mixture before you start adding in the broth.
Stir to let it absorb and then start stirring in the broth.
Can I Make This Recipe Vegetarian?
It may sound strange to ask if you can make a CHICKEN parmesan risotto vegetarian, but I promise it's not!
If you don't eat meat, but love the flavors of chicken parmesan, you can definitely make this recipe without the chicken added in. Or, of course, you can use the meat substitute of your choice.
Make sure to also swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
All of the flavor from the tomatoes, cheeses, and basil are so perfect, you likely won't even miss the chicken!
More Risotto Recipes
In terms of risotto recipes, I feel like this chicken parmesan version is one of the more "difficult" ones as it requires chicken to be cooked and a panko topping to be made. But it's still easy!
And I have plenty more favorite simple risotto recipes that are perfect for weeknight dinners. Here are some of the best:
- Tomato and Sausage Risotto
- BLT Risotto
- Lemon and Fennel Risotto with Mussels
- Breakfast Risotto with Bacon and Poached Egg
- Red Wine Olive Risotto
- Blue Cheese Risotto with Kale
- Jalapeño Cheddar Risotto
- Mushroom Risotto
- Saffron Risotto (from Everyday Delicious)
- Seafood Risotto (from Our Sweet Adventures)
The next time you get a craving for chicken parmesan, try making this chicken parmesan risotto instead!
What's the best risotto you've ever had?
Chicken Parmesan Risotto
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- ¾ tsp salt, divided
- ¾ tsp pepper, divided
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
- 3 cups unsalted or reduced salt chicken broth
- 1 cup diced onion (from 1 small onion)
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic (from about 3 cloves)
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ¼ tsp dried basil
- 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
- ¾ cup mozzarella pearls
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan, plus more for topping
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup panko
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat (to cut down on dishes, use the same saucepan you're going to cook the risotto in). Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper and place in saucepan. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.
- Remove chicken to cutting board and once cool enough to touch, slice chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- While chicken is cooking, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring diced tomatoes in juice and chicken broth to a simmer. Lower heat and keep mixture warm.
- In the same saucepan you cooked the chicken in, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add diced onion and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add arborio rice to the saucepan and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a bit, until it’s translucent around the edges.
- Stir in about 1 ½ cups of the tomato broth and stir occasionally until it has absorbed into rice completely, 3-4 minutes. Continue adding the mixture ¾ cup at a time, stirring after each addition, and waiting to add more until liquid is all absorbed. Stir occasionally. Rice should be creamy and al dente when done.
- Add diced chicken, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, dried basil, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan, fresh basil, and butter to rice and stir until well-combined and warmed through. Taste and add more salt if desired.
- Serve risotto on plates or in bowls and top each serving with crispy panko topping and more parmesan cheese, if desired.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add panko and toss gently to coat in butter. Stirring occasionally, allow panko to slowly and evenly toast in the butter until crispy and golden brown. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- To make this recipe even easier, use shredded rotisserie chicken (or leftover chicken) instead of cooking from scratch.