Insanely Delicious Chicken Risotto.
Yes. I am completely aware that I have possibly bastardized a gorgeous, elegant, traditional Italian dish. I’ve Americanized it in such a way that it should be almost shameful, but as soon as you try this chicken risotto, all of that self-induced shame melts away.
Yes, I understand you may still be unsure, so let me give you a little back story. This risotto recipe was inspired by a restaurant in a small town in North Carolina; that one restaurant that is consistently delivering great food. Their menu has a risotto of the day (what more could you need in life?!), and it ranges from fresh, regional vegetables to … yes … bacon, cheddar, and chicken risotto.
When the server first told me they were serving bacon, cheddar and chicken risotto, I was immediately overwhelmed by a wave of judgmentally based opinion, and definitely laughed on the inside. Seriously?! How dare you take such a respectable dish, and completely ruin it with the most Americanized version I could ever dream of?? But then my inner fat kid took over, and I was like “okay. yeah. let’s do this. if it’s terrible, I can internally judge that someone would attempt to make such a thing.”
Then I ate it. And I couldn’t stop. I COULDN’T. It possessed that undeniable creamy, decadent texture of risotto, mixed with flecks of smoked bacon, plenty of aged cheddar that had been transformed into a cheesy envelope of flavor, and chunks of seasoned grilled chicken that blended perfectly into a harmonious composition of comfort food in one bowl.
Food porn in word form, guys.
Tips for making the Best Bacon, Cheddar and Chicken Risotto:
- Use delicious cheddar cheese. Farmhouse cheddar, aged cheddar, or extra sharp cheddar will do. The cheese has a major supporting role in this recipe, so you want it to be incredible. But as always, if it’s a cheddar cheese that you *love*, then it will be perfect for this recipe!
- The bacon should also be high quality. A smoky, salty, thick cut of bacon is the best for this recipe! Purchase it from a local butcher if you can, or just grab the killer stuff you’ve been eyeing at the market for a special occasion. You only need a couple of strips, which is also why I recommend a local butcher or market. They would be happy to sell you just two strips of bacon, but you could always get a couple more because you know it’ll be a delicious treat for later. 🙂
- Rotisserie chicken is the best route. Because rotisserie chickens are seasoned, juicy, and super delicious, they are perfect for this risotto recipe. It’s also so incredibly easy to shred rotisserie chicken and add it to the risotto when you need it! It saves you the hassle of cooking chicken breasts or thighs, shredding them, then doing more dishes later.
- Be patient with your risotto. Great risotto takes time, and there’s really no way around it. However, I’ve included wine pairings with this recipe! I recommend sipping on a glass while you make the risotto, and just clearing your mind and stirring constantly. Use it as a form of relaxation, seriously. It takes time, but not much mental effort!
This is an awesome option for date night in. Mark likes to drink an oaky Chardonnay with this entree; he likes to match the creamy mouth feels together. I like to pair this with a lightly acidic / fruitier (not sweet, though. never sweet) red, as it lifts the density of the flavors and plays against them to create some balance. Honestly, you can do whatever you want here.
Wine pairings for Bacon, Cheddar and Chicken Risotto:
:: Chardonnay. (USA / California) >> Chardonnay varies vastly depending upon its region of growth. Typically, if French chardonnay sees oak, it doesn’t see enough to make it overwhelmingly oaky. Chardonnay from California, however, gained popularity through its huge, oaky notes and buttery layers. This creamy risotto would complement the oaky taste and feel of a California Chardonnay, and chicken is always one of Chardonnay’s best friends.
:: Beaujolais. (France) >> This is a softball. Beaujolais is one of those super versatile wines that can pair with damn near anything. Beaujolais is not a grape, but rather a region that covers both southern Burgundy and northern Rhône. The grape is actually Gamay, which is typically low in tannins (the stuff that makes your mouth pucker). Beaujolais tends to be lighter-bodied, full of fruit notes, and relatively fresh tasting. This is not a wine to age, but rather one to enjoy while its young and fun. Beaujolais is an excellent companion to cheese, pork, and definitely chicken. It’s a win-win here.
:: Pinot Noir. (USA / Oregon) >> Pinot Noir is like the sibling that outshined Beaujolais growing up. (But in Beaujolais’ defense, the younger sibling is now making a huge name for itself.) Pinot Noir, specifically Pinots from the Willamette Valley in northwest Oregon, is definitely another go-to option for chicken, cheeses, and pork. Most have very similar characteristics to those of Beaujolais, but just a bit more earthy notes. Pinots are super approachable and light on the palette, and their fruity notes make them an excellent intro to deeper red wines in the future.
Other Delicious Risotto Recipes:
- –> spicy shrimp risotto
- –> asparagus & prosciutto risotto
- –> caramelized onion & bacon risotto
- –> creamy parmesan risotto
- –> pancetta leek risotto
If you make this chicken risotto, I would LOVE it if you tagged me on Instagram! I love re-posting your pictures to my stories! And if you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out to me directly! Happy risotto making!
bacon, cheddar + chicken risotto
- 2 strips thick cut bacon best quality
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock best quality
- 1 cup farmhouse cheddar cheese grated from a block
- 6 ounces shredded rotisserie chicken
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. chopped chives finely chopped, for garnish
- In a large sauté pan, cook two slices of thick cut bacon over medium heat until deeply browned and crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the bacon from the pan, and set aside onto a paper towel. Once it's cooled (about halfway through the risotto), chop it into small pieces to use after the risotto has cooked.
- As the bacon is cooking, warm a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken stock, let it come to a gentle simmer, then turn the heat to low to keep it warm.
- In the same sauté pan used to cook the bacon, add the olive oil. Add onion, and mix it into the olive oil and remaining bacon fat, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan into the onion as it cooks. Add a pinch of salt to the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
- Stir in minced garlic, and cook for about one minute until it is very fragrant. Pour in the arborio rice, and stir to coat the rice in the onions, garlic, and fats. Allow the rice to cook for about two minutes, or until only a small white dot remains in the center of each rice grain.
- Stir in white wine, and cook for a minute or two as the alcohol burns off. Once the wine has been mostly absorbed into the rice, add the warm chicken stock one ladle at a time to the rice.
- As the rice absorbs the chicken stock, keep adding a ladle at a time. Stir quite frequently, almost a constant, smooth, stirring motion, to help the starches of the rice release, which creates the chewy texture of risotto.
- Continue this method until the rice develops a creamy, thick texture. Taste the rice as you go to make sure it isn't too crunchy, and allow it plenty of time to become really creamy. This total process will take around 30-35 minutes for the rice to cook. Once the rice reaches al dente (still has just the slightest bite to it), add the cheese and bacon. Stir to melt in the cheese, and fully incorporate the bacon into the risotto.
- Add the shredded rotisserie chicken to the cooked risotto, and mix it in completely. Taste the risotto, and feel free to add more salt and pepper if you please. You can also add more cheese if desired.
- Serve on warmed plates, and garnish with finely chopped chives. Enjoy with a glass of Malbec, Zinfandel, or surprise yourself and pour some oaky Chardonnay for complementing mouth feels.