This pesto chicken risotto is a cosy comfort food dinner recipe, with so many healthy ingredients! It's a flavourful dairy-free and gluten free meal that is so easy to make in your skillet.
Risotto is one of the cosiest warming dishes, and is actually very simple to do. If you don't mind a bit of stirring, then you may also like my creamy beetroot risotto for a vegan option, and for a more 'hands off' approach, my baked asparagus risotto is so flavourful and lets the oven do the work!
This chicken and pesto risotto combines lots of green veggies, both with the broccoli in the dish and the pesto that works to give so much delicious flavour. It's very simple to do, so don't be put off by the number of steps involved!
⭐ Why this recipe is so good
Full of flavour. Pesto is packed with flavour from the herbs, garlic and olive oil. It elevates this risotto to a restaurant-worthy dish!
The best comfort food. There's just *something* about risotto that is so cosy. Ladle into a bowl and enjoy on the couch in front of a good show!
Gluten and dairy free. If either are an issue for you, then this dish is for you as it contains neither (depending upon the pesto used).
Chicken broccoli risotto without wine. I've kept this risotto alcohol-free so it is more suitable for those with dietary restrictions.
All the ingredients and their quantities for this chicken pesto risotto are in the recipe card below.
A few notes on a couple of them:
- Rice - you want to use a rice specifically for risotto, not just regular white rice. Arborio rice is the most popular, and the type I use in this recipe.
- Pesto - you can either make your own (some recipes linked below) or use a store-bought one. I suggest checking ingredients if using store-bought to make sure it is suitable for any dietary requirements.
- Chicken breast - you can use chicken breast or breast fillets. As we will be shredding them, it doesn't matter which type.
📖 Swaps and variations
Swap cooking the chicken breast for leftover or rotisserie chicken. If it is suitable for you (likely not for my low histamine readers), then you can use leftovers or chicken from the store that has already been cooked and shredded.
Use a pesto suitable for you. Pesto comes in many different shapes and sizes now, with nut free, dairy free and many other versions. Choose one suitable for you.
Use butter and olive oil. I've kept this as a dairy-free chicken risotto, but you can use butter alongside a little olive oil if this is suitable for you (when frying the onion and leeks at step 4, not when frying the chicken).
🥬 Pesto options
If you prefer to make your own pesto, there are lots of options to choose from here! All are dairy-free and gluten free also, and some are nut free. Each will slightly change the flavour of the risotto but all will be delicious!
🔪 Step by step instructions
While this may seem like a lot of steps, they are all very easy to do!
Blend your pesto ingredients together, if making your own pesto (image 1).
Season the chicken with salt and black pepper each side, then use tongs to place in a skillet already drizzled with olive oil. Fry the chicken pieces both sides so they are white meat throughout and at an internal temperature of 165F at their deepest point (image 2). Set aside on a plate.
Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with two forks (image 3).
Heat your chicken stock in a pot, and keep warm throughout the cooking process (image 4).
Fry the onion, leek and garlic in the skillet for 4-5 minutes or until the onion has softened (image 5).
Tip in the rice, and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn't burn. Ladle in the stock about ¼ cup at a time, adding more once it has been absorbed by the rice. Stir the risotto frequently, moving the rice around in the skillet (image 6).
Recipe tip: no need to clean the skillet before adding the onion and leek. The chicken juices will just add more flavour!
Add in the broccoli florets, and continue to ladle chicken stock into the skillet for another 10 minutes or until the risotto is cooked through (image 7).
Recipe note: you may not need to use all 6 cups of stock. It will vary depending upon cook time, and how thick you like the risotto to be.
Add the chicken, pesto and apple cider vinegar and stir to combine into the rice (image 8). Adjust with more stock for a looser risotto, depending upon your preference in terms of the consistency.
Warm through for a few minutes. Season with salt and black pepper, if using, then ladle into your serving bowls. Serve immediately.
💭 Recipe tips and notes
- Keep the chicken stock warm throughout. This helps to get the risotto nice and creamy through the rice releasing its starch.
- Keep stirring! You don't have to stir continuously, but frequently moving the rice around the skillet enables it to soak up the stock, release starch and go nice and creamy.
- Don't let it go mushy! While risotto is all about the comfort food vibes, the rice is best with a little bite to it.
- Adjust the amount of pesto to preference. Each of us likes more or less, so spoon in the right quantity for you!
- Use a dairy-free and/or nut free pesto. If you have these dietary requirements, be sure to use a suitable pesto.
📋 Frequently asked questions
Risotto needs to be stirred very frequently so that the rice releases starch and becomes creamy.
While many risotto recipes use white wine, it isn't necessary to do so. Using chicken or vegetable stock will still make for a delicious risotto.
Risotto using rice is gluten free, so long as all other ingredients are also gluten free.
🍚 More risotto recipes
Find both more traditional risotto recipes such as my butternut squash risotto as well as variations such as my baked fennel risotto:
I'm always in the kitchen, so come join me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to be the first to hear of new recipes! And please do leave a star rating if you have tried the recipe!
Pesto Chicken Risotto
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ white onion diced
- ½ leek diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced or finely diced
- 1 chicken breast (about 1.5 cups shredded chicken)
- 1.5 cups arborio rice
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup broccoli florets diced into small florets
- ¾ cup pesto
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- pinch salt
- pinch black pepper optional
- If you are making your own pesto, choose from one of the recipes linked above, or follow your own recipe.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper each side, then use tongs to place in the skillet. Cook both sides for 6-8 minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken breast or fillets, or until cooked through to 165F at their deepest point. Set aside on a plate.
- Once cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the chicken.
- Pour your chicken stock into a pot, heat to a low simmer and then keep warm in the pot.
- Fry the onion, leek and garlic in the skillet (no need to clean first) for 4-5 minutes or until the onion has softened.
- Tip in the rice, and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn't burn. Ladle in the stock about ¼ cup at a time, adding more once it has been absorbed by the rice. Stir the risotto frequently, moving the rice around in the skillet.
- After 10 minutes, add in the broccoli florets. Continue to ladle the stock into the skillet a ladle at a time, for another 10 minutes or until the rice has cooked through.
- Add the chicken, pesto and apple cider vinegar and stir to combine into the rice. Warm through for a few minutes. Season with salt and black pepper, if using, then ladle into your serving bowls. Serve immediately.
- Adjust the amount of pesto to preference, adding more for extra 'herby' flavour.
- You can use leftover or pre-shredded chicken from the store if this is suitable for you, and so skip the second and third steps. This likely isn't suitable for my low histamine readers.
- Keep the chicken stock warm in your pot. This helps the rice release starch and become creamy in texture.
- Don't be tempted to add all the stock at once. Risotto needs to have stock added gradually and then absorbed before adding more.
- Please note that nutritional information is offered as a courtesy. It is auto-generated and should be understood to be an estimate.
- pesto will vary depending upon ingredients used.
- leek, which scores 1 and has a ? as a liberator. There is a note, 'In small amounts, usually well tolerated'
- garlic, which scores 1.
- chicken stock will vary depending upon ingredients used.
- apple cider vinegar, which scores 1.
- black pepper, which scores 2.
Loved this comfort food. It was easy to put together. I converted it for Instant Pot by reducing broth by 2 cups. I cooked the chicken in the IP with the risotto (one less step) and threw the broccoli in at the end. Delicious!
So glad you liked it Erin! I'm so tempted to get an Instant Pot as so many people find them so helpful.