Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

If you are on your A-game and ready to boogy around the kitchen like it is nobody’s business then this meal can be made in less than 20 minutes. For the rest of us slackers, it is probably more like a 27-minute meal. But I’ll take that any night of the week.

Creamy and healthful (thanks to the cream cheese instead of the heavy cream!), this pasta dish is filled with delicious gifts of goodness like flavorful mushrooms, sweet red pepper, tender chicken and the entire skillet is brightened up with fresh parsley and lemon juice. A hit, all the way from my finicky 1-year old to my finicky 33-year old (who shall remain nameless).

What To ServeFresh fruit or green salad
Steamed broccoli or other vegetable 
Simple Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

One Year Ago: Lemon Sugar Crusted Blueberry Muffins
Two Years Ago: Chicken Lo Mein

Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

Yield: Serves 4

Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

Note: this pasta is best served immediately as it tends to get less creamy as it sits at room temperature – so serve warm right as it finishes cooking! (Incidentally, it heated up just fine the next day in the microwave on low power.)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 average-sized chicken breasts (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds), cut into chunks
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (can use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions until tender. When the orzo is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (ladling it into a small bowl is my method) and then drain the orzo and set aside.
  2. While the orzo cooks, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot oil and brown on all sides. When nicely browned (but not all the way cooked through), add the peppers, mushrooms and thyme. Stir and let cook for about 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms and peppers have softened and browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. In the skillet over medium heat, add the softened cream cheese (if you forgot to let the cream cheese soften at room temperature, no worries! Pop it in the microwave for one minute on 40% power) in bite sized chunks and stir so that the cream cheese melts and coats the chicken and vegetables. Add the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir. Add the orzo, Parmesan, lemon juice and fresh parsley. Stir to combine and heat through. Garnish with additional Parmesan and parsley.

Recipe Source: adapted from Food and Wine Quick From Scratch Pasta Cookbook

68 Responses to Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

  1. Tara says:

    Delicious! Thank you for another yummy and simple recipe!

  2. Christina says:

    I want to eat this all day every day!!!!!!! I am not a huge fan of cream cheese in my savory dishes so I subbed it straight up with heavy cream and it turned out so very delicious and amazing!!! Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Kit says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I made it for supper this evening and it was delicious. My husband said he preferred it to risotto, which suits me very well, as there’s much less stirring involved!

  4. Lisa says:

    Thumbs down on this one. Any sauce w cream cheese a fail w our family!!! Probably a shortcut but tastes awful. Like many of your other posts but this one was a let down. Won’t keep trying you r recipes however!

  5. Kate says:

    Spring is here… this and broiled asparagus were a dream come true!

  6. […] Thursday 10/17 – BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches w/Deviled Egg Macaroni Pasta Salad Friday 10/18 – Creamy Orzo w/Chicken, Mushrooms, and Asparagus (I substituted asparagus for the red bell peppers) Monday 10/21 – Orange chicken, white rice, and […]

  7. Brigid says:

    This was fabulous! Took me a bit longer than the 20 minutes, but certainly an easy enough meal for mid-week, after work. Definitely have leftovers, which is great. I’ve made quite a few of your recipes and thy have all been hits! Thanks Mel!

  8. hol says:

    I was a little worried that a 20 min recipe would be a bland attempt at a quick meal. {Sometimes I think blood, sweat, and tears is what it should take to prepare a tasty meal..} HOWEVER, This was fabulous!!! Creamy goodness, I say!! We try not to eat a lot of pasta…so to have cream cheese AND pasta in the same recipe was almost lost on me. My 7 year olds asked me if I could make it tomorrow.. and the next day.. and the next day:):) It is added to my recipe book!! Oh, and I added up the calories and it’s only 300 calories per serving! It would make about 8 servings. Thank you, Mel!!

  9. Fruit Salad with Honey and Lime says:

    […] and a perfect side dish for a myriad of dishes (we’ve enjoyed it lately with this and this and this to name a few). What takes this fruit salad to the next level is the three secret ingredients: tart […]

  10. I made this for dinner last night and it was fantastic! The kids and husband all loved it and I have the slow cooker beef stroganoff in the crock pot today! Thanks for sharing all of your quick and easy recipes!

  11. Creamy Orzo with Chicken and Mushrooms « Another Bite Please says:

    […] Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers INGREDIENTS: 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 organic chicken breasts cut into chunks 8 ounces white button mushrooms quartered 1 teaspoon dried thyme 3 cloves garlic minced 1 pound orzo pasta 8 ounces cream cheese softened – I use Mascarpone 1 cup reserved pasta water 1/2 teaspoon salt ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (tip: not the curly parsley I don’t like as much as the the flat parsley) 1 lemon which you will squeeze for fresh lemon juice […]

  12. Nathalie says:

    Made this for super last night and it was really good! I had never had orzo before so it was a different meal, my husband thoroughly enjoyed this meal as well, thanks for another wonderful recipe! 🙂

  13. TXMEL says:

    Sounds delish! Love the idea of adding Asparagus! I also like adding a 1/2-1 tsp of Turmeric to add a bright yellow color to the dish… think this would benefit from it too!

  14. Heidy says:

    Yum! Another success! Thanks for all the great recipes!

  15. Jnl2211 says:

    Wonderful recipe! I added broccoli and fresh baby spinach. Also, to keep sauce like this from soaking into the noodles, I always keep it separate and just spoon the sauce over each dish. Thanks again for a great meal.

  16. Ali says:

    Yum yum! I love your recipes. I am sitting here finishing up my last helping. I ate way too much. It was delicious. The hubby and 16 month old loved it. My 4 year old doesn’t eat much of anything and wouldn’t even try a bite. More for me! I love love love mushrooms. It totally made the dish. Thank you!

  17. Megan says:

    Oh my. This is AMAZING. This is my favorite pasta dish now. All of you mushroom haters are missing out because it’s the mushrooms that make this dish divine. I have made maybe 50 or more Mel recipes and while I can’t say it’s my favorite because there are so many that I love, I can say it’s in my top 10…maybe even top 5 and I really couldn’t pick a very favorite because there are so many perfect ones. I am going to buy 20 lbs of orzo because I am going to make this often. Thanks a million!

  18. Our Family's adventures! » Blog Archive » Some recipes I would love to try!! says:

    […] Creamy Chicken Orzo with chicken, mushrooms and Red peppers This is going on the menu for next week! I have chicken, mushrooms and peppers in the freezer, so this could be a frugal meal too! […]

  19. Stacie D. says:

    What perfect timing! This is on the menu for tonight. Thanks!

  20. Lindsay says:

    This is seriously one of our favorites. love the new picture!

  21. […] keep this secret to myself but it is the internet (which is public) so I am obligated to share.  This is just one of my favorite dinner recipes.  (I will post many more recipes from this […]

  22. We made this tonight — it was great, even my non-cream cheese loving husband thought so. We halved the cream cheese, use a little more pasta water, and added broccoli. Thanks!

  23. Sara says:

    Hi Mel, made this recently and posted today with a link back here. This was seriously good, although your picture does it a lot more justice than mine does! Thanks for all the great recipes.

  24. Made this the other night for dinner and it was so easy and delicious. My somewhat picky 4 year old asked if we could have this every day! I was shocked. She doesn’t like peppers, so I didn’t tell her what the “red things” were and she ate them. It made a ton, too, and leftovers are never a bad thing in my house!

  25. Rachel says:

    I made this tonight and it was SO GOOD! I used chicken broth in place of the pasta water and added 1/2 of a sliced red onion in with the peppers and mushrooms. I also halved the recipe and still had a ton leftover, which is good because after two bites my husband asked if he could take it for lunch tomorrow. Next time we are going to try it with blackened chicken, and after reading the comments I’d love to try it with peas or asparagus as well. YUM!

  26. Hey Mel…since this is the 50th time I have made this dish in the past3 months I thought I would add a comment to the recipe to tell you that this my FAVORITE thing ever from your cooking blog (along with the French Bread Rolls). I have to substitute Peas for the mushrooms since no one in our house likes mushrooms but it is unbelievably good!!!

    • Mel says:

      Vanessa – I had no idea that you liked this recipe so much! Thanks for including your substitution for the mushrooms…I hope it keeps on pleasing your family for many meals to come!

  27. Your Fave Sis-in-law EVER says:

    How in the world did I miss this dish?!?!? One of these nights when David isn’t working a 12 hour shift I will make this. OR I may make it for myself and not share one bit! :]

  28. kira says:

    We had this last night and it was creamy, tasty, and oh so easy!! I had never used orzo before and now will make it again and again. This recipe was awesome. I did leave out the mushrooms, we aren’t big fans, and will have to try subbing them with asparagus next time-this was my husbands suggestion and I see others thought the same- so we will give it a try. Thanks again for making dinner time so easy and delicious!

  29. susie says:

    This was not good. Only my 1 yr old ate it and thats not saying much b.c he eats everything. I might try it again but make my own garlic cream sauce and try not to use the cream cheese

  30. Kristen says:

    I just made this for dinner tonight and my husband and I loved it!! I added fresh spinach to it before adding the cream cheese. I love spinach and add it anywhere I can. It turned out really well and I thought others might like the suggestion. This was my first Mel’s Kitchen recipe and I’m so excited to try more now! I LOVE to cook and the recipes on this site look amazing!

    • Mel says:

      Kristen – your change sound fabulous! I love spinach, too, so I’m glad you included your variation. Thanks for checking in!

  31. juliann says:

    This was AWESOME!!! I did tweak it for my taste just slightly because I dont eat fungus so I subbed in asparagus instead. I loved it so much and I had tons of leftovers for several lunches. This is going in my family favorite file.

    • Mel says:

      Juliann – sorry, I had to chuckle at the “I don’t eat fungus” comment. I guess if you put it that way, mushrooms aren’t quite as appealing by the fungus name. I’m glad this orzo dish worked out with asparagus, sounds quite tasty, actually!

  32. Megan says:

    Yum!! Just made this tonight. DH asked whats for dinner and I told him something from Mel’s Kitchen, and he was excited as he knew what that meant – it would be yummy! Your blog has become a regular go-to for yummy quick dinners and we make a number of your recipes throughout the month.
    Promise you won’t stop blogging…. 😉

    • Mel says:

      Megan – you are so nice, thank you! I’m so glad that you both liked this. And don’t worry, I don’t have any plans yet to give up blogging. 🙂

  33. Jennifer says:

    This recipe was awesome! We are not big mushroom lovers so we substituted them for some fresh asparagus from the garden. I only had half the amount of cream cheese so I added 1/4 cup of milk and it worked out very well. Thanks for these great recipes. Keep them coming!!!

  34. Reyna says:

    Hi Mel…So we just finished this for dinner, and thought I’d report. I used rotisserie chicken that I needed to use up, and instead of peppers (didn’t have any on hand) I cut up asparagus and just sauteed it right along with the mushrooms and garlic. They were perfectly crisp-tender. The flavor of this dish was sooooo tasty. My only complaint was the amount of sauce. I wanted more. You were right about the dish getting less creamy if not served right away. It seemed like within minutes it was dry—so I ended up going back and making more sauce. Next time I will either add half the amount of orzo, or double the saucy goodness. Every person in my family ate this including the pickiest 3 year old in history (who subsists on air and pirates booty) and my 8 month old! This served with a caprese salad was pretty much perfection. Thanks for another excellent recipe.

    • Mel says:

      Reyna – oh my, yummy! Your changes sound incredible and I’m glad you were able to tailor it to your liking with the extra sauce, etc. I love the addition of asparagus – how perfect! I’m glad your three year old was able to break out of his pirate booty diet and enjoy it!

  35. Leisel says:

    Loved the recipe! I finally got around to making it and it was amazing! My whole family devoured it. But we thought the name was a little, well, boring. Sorry about that. So instead of just a list of ingreds. we came up with “funkadilly orzo and chicken”. We used the word funkadilly to describe the smoothness from the cream cheese and the zing from the lemon juice. This new title may not be for everyone, but we think it’s a perfect name for a perfect recipe!

    • Mel says:

      Leisel – thanks for the smile, as always. I’m not offended you thought the name was boring, don’t worry. I like the funkadilly twist on the name…you have a very clever household!

  36. Jami says:

    I made this dinner last night for my family of six. I think it’s the perfect spring/summer meal. Light, fresh, and filling!!! A family pleaser for sure!

  37. Susan says:

    I made this recipe last night! It was delish and easy to follow. My only comment would be that it feeds more like 6 people. I would’ve halved it had I know how much I’d have leftover.

    Love your site and your recipe choices!!

  38. Loralee says:

    This was sooooo good! Can’t wait to make it again!

  39. Mindy Christensen says:

    Mmm… looks so good! I know my hubby would love this. I will add to the “to make list”

  40. teresa says:

    this looks crazy delicious!

  41. Maria says:

    I love orzo. I need to use it more often!

  42. TaLaisa says:

    Looks so yummy. I love quick cook dinners. We’ll be making this sometime this week for sure.

    If it does have to sit a little longer you can reserve a little more pasta water to loosen up the sauce and make held over dinners just as creamy. And reheated leftovers will be creamier if you add a .5-1 tsp of water before reheating in the micro.

  43. Katy says:

    Another dinner winner! This makes me happy just looking at that delicious photo. I can imagine how it would make my tummy feel after eating big scoops!

  44. Missy says:

    ha ha… don’t even know how to spell ORZO. lol.

  45. Missy says:

    This looks delicious!! I have to admit, I’ve never cooked orso, but I’m excited to give it a try! I posted a link on my blog:

    Thanks for the great recipes!!

  46. Ashlie Stroman says:

    Quit. Cooking. Delicious. Food. !!:)

    I love your site and can’t get enough of it!

  47. The first time I wanted to try to make orzo was after I moved to a rural area and THEY DON”T HAVE IT HERE!! Makes me so sad.

  48. grace says:

    i’m rarely on my a-game, but the no-lose quality of cream cheese makes this dish a pretty surefire hit. it’s lovely, melanie! and hey–how kind of you to protect the innocent by not revealing names. 🙂

  49. Lisa says:

    I adore orzo, this looks very tasty!

  50. Julie says:

    27 minutes totally works for me! I love orzo, what a great way to serve it 🙂

  51. Leah F says:

    Ohh! This looks wonderful! This may have to be a Tuesday or Wednesday night meal when my DH isn’t home for dinner. He doesn’t like mushrooms or bell peppers.

  52. Megan says:

    That looks so delicious! I wish a certain finicky 32 year old eater living with me would eat mushrooms:( I might just give it a go anyway without.

  53. Cammee says:

    I love orzo, too and this looks fantastic!

  54. Jessica says:

    I seriously LOVE orzo! And this recipe looks great! I might have to try lightening up the recipe though. Can’t wait to try it!

  55. Kim in MD says:

    Congratulations to the winners! Since I didn’t win, I am going to buy a subscription to Cook’s Country (the recipes you make from the magazine are amazing, Melanie!).

    This orzo looks so good, and I love that you can use reduced fat cream cheese. This looks like a great way to get your children (or finicky husband 😉 ) to eat their vegetables! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Melanie!

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