With the creamy texture of traditional risotto, but a much faster cook time and an easier method, this Orzo Risotto is a favorite family dinner. And it’s versatile so you can adjust (and add veggies) as your family likes.

orzo risotto in various bowls and pan with cheese topping.

Orzo Risotto

I will never forget the one Christmas that I made risotto for my extended family, and pregnant as I was, it was basically like running a marathon. And while I love the flavor and texture of classic rice-based risotto made with traditional arborio rice, I also love the ease of making it with orzo pasta, which is rice-shaped pasta, instead.

This dinner recipe comes together in under 30 minutes and is creamy and tender. It’s also really versatile in that you can make it vegetarian or not, with added veggies or not.

We often have it plain or with frozen peas stirred in. The lemon flavor is bright, but not overpowering, and it’s really just a great staple one-pot dish to have in your back pocket for easy family dinners.

I love to make this with my One-Pot Vegetable Broth, which has veggies blended right in.

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Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at what you need to have on hand to make this orzo recipe so you can pull them out of the pantry and fridge, or add them to your grocery list.

Ingredients for orzo risotto on countertop.
  • Olive oil: I like to start this dish with a base of olive oil, which adds nice flavor to the onion and helps the mixture to not stick to the pan.
  • Yellow onion: I like to mince yellow onion to add flavor to this dish. Any color of onion would work and you can use shallots instead if you prefer.
  • Reduced-sodium chicken broth: This liquid adds flavor and allows the orzo to cook quickly in the pan. You don’t have to warm it like you do in traditional risottos and you can use vegetable broth if you prefer.
  • Orzo pasta: This rice-shaped pasta cooks quickly and is widely available. It’s a nice size that’s easy for little kids to eat.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: You can use freshly grated Parmesan cheese or buy it pre-grated from the store. I find that grated Parmesan has more flavor than shredded. Pecorino Romano can also be used if that’s less expensive.
  • Heavy cream (or half and half): This adds richness and creaminess to the orzo risotto.
  • Unsalted butter: I add butter towards the end of cooking to enhance the flavor and richness.
  • Frozen peas (optional): You can stir in frozen peas right at the end of cooking—they thaw and warm through almost instantly, to add a veggie and plant-based protein to this.
  • Juice and zest from ½ lemon: This is optional but recommended for a hit of bright flavor. You could also add a little minced fresh parsley for more freshness, too.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the basic process involved in making this orzo risotto recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full information and timing.

Orzo risotto in grid of four images.
  1. Chop or mince the onions. Add the olive oil to a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and salt, and stir to coat. Cook.
  3. Add the liquid and bring to a simmer. (Try not to let it boil vigorously, but simmer gently, to ensure that the pasta has time to cook before the liquid is absorbed and evaporated.) Add the orzo and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed and the pasta is tender. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon or silicone spoon, making sure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan, cream, butter, and peas and lemon juice and lemon zest, if using. Serve warm.

If you want to be sure that the onion blends into the pasta, you can grate it on a box grater or grind it in the food processor.

Orzo risotto in pan with spoon.

How to Store

Store leftovers of this pasta recipe in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, sprinkle with water to add moisture and help loosen the pasta as it warms. Cover with a damp paper towel or wax paper. Warm in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until heated through.

You could even pack leftover in a thermos for a kids lunch.

More Orzo Recipes to Try

Orzo risotto in pan with lemon zest being grated on top.

Best Tips for Success

  • Add peas, spinach, asparagus, or another favorite veggie to the mix.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper as you like.
  • Add minced garlic cloves to the pan with the onion for more flavor.
  • Adults may enjoy this topped with crushed red pepper or cracked black pepper.
  • Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make this vegetarian.
  • Serve as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish to go with Yogurt Chicken, Baked Tofu, or a big Caesar Salad.
  • Use gluten-free orzo if needed and additional broth in place of the cream to make this dairy-free. Many people like nutritional yeast as a nondairy alternative to Parmesan cheese.

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orzo risotto in various bowls and pan with cheese topping.

Easy Orzo Risotto

With the creamy texture of risotto but a much faster cook time and an easier method, this Orzo Risotto is a favorite family dinner. And it's versatile so you can adjust (and add veggies) as your family likes.
5 from 15 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 354kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart reduced sodium chicken broth (warmed slightly or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup water
  • 16 ounces orzo pasta
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
  • Juice and zest from ½ lemon (optional)
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Instructions

  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet or medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, and stir to coat. Cook for 4 minutes.
  • Add the broth and water, cover, and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the orzo and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the liquid is almost absorbed and the pasta is tender.
  • Stir in the Parmesan, cream, butter, and peas and lemon juice and zest, if using. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, sprinkle with water and cover with a damp paper towel or wax paper. Warm in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until heated through.
  • Add peas, spinach, or another favorite veggie to the mix.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper as you like.
  • Adults may enjoy this topped with crushed red pepper.
  • Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make this vegetarian.
  • Use gluten-free orzo if needed and additional broth in place of the cream to make this dairy-free. Many people like nutritional yeast as a nondairy alternative to Parmesan cheese.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 354kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 748mg, Potassium: 209mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 360IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 87mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was so good and so easy! Added some more veg to it and also cooked chicken sausages on the side for the adults and 5 year old. When sautéing the onion I added in a bit of butter and diced up cremini mushrooms. Used a whole lemon for zest and juice when added. Didn’t have heavy cream and instead used whole milk. Also added an entire bag of spinach that I chopped up with the frozen peas. My nearly 1 year old devoured it and the rest of the family enjoyed it as well. Great the next day as a cold salad (added feta and more lemon). So good, thanks Amy! A great versatile dish for leftovers as well.

  2. 5 stars
    This was a total hit tonight with my 4.5 year old and 20 month old (and mom and dad too). It was super easy and so good. The lemon made all the difference. I didn’t have cream on hand, but followed another reviewer and did 1/4 cup melted butter and 3/4 whole milk and it turned out great. This will definitely a new go-to. I also think freshly grated is best for this.

  3. 5 stars
    This is delicious! Didn’t have cream so used 1% milk and butter. I also added the suggested garlic for extra flavor. Perfect. Everyone in the family loved it. Will make again and again.

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve never had orzo pasta or risotto for that matter, but wanted a quick side dish for dinner.
    This was delicious and, dare I say, better the next day? I served it sans peas, add pepperoni and ugh! Chef’s kiss!

  5. 5 stars
    This is so yummy! I added some broccoli to it and my picky eater ended up eating some! Thank you for this delicious and easy recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    Very flavorful and yummy!
    How dry is the final dish supposed to be? mine turned out more on the wet, cheesy side. Like a Mac and cheese. Will try to boil off the water more next time. Fingers crossed the kids like it. Otherwise, more for mommy!

  7. 5 stars
    Made this for lunch, didn’t have heavy cream but used 1/4 melted butter whisked with 3/4 whole milk and it came out perfect. Added a touch of pepper and sautéed sliced mushroom. A hit!