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.
Clearly I enjoyed it.
Ingredients for Chicken Bacon Risotto:
- 2 strips thick cut bacon
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken stock (the best you can find)
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 6 ounces cubed or shredded chicken (grilled or rotisserie)
- salt & pepper
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
IMPORTANT INGREDIENT NOTES & RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Use delicious bacon. A smoky, salty, thick cut of bacon is the best for this recipe. Ideally, purchase a couple of strips from the butcher’s counter at a local butcher or grocery store. It should cost about $1-$2, and you don’t have to freeze or refrigerate any leftovers.
- Let’s talk dry white wine. Do not use anything that says something like “Demi-sec, sec, sweet, semi-sweet”, etc. Use a Pinot Grigio from Italy (you can find a good one for $10 and drink the rest of it while you cook and eat dinner
- Low-sodium chicken stock prevents the risotto from being too salty. Adding salt to taste is a safer way to make sure your risotto is as delicious as possibly. Some normal stocks have salt added, which could make the risotto too salty. Go with a low-sodium option!
- Rotisserie chicken is easy, but grilled chicken is delicious. Because rotisserie chickens are seasoned, juicy, and readily available, they are an easy (and delicious) option for this risotto recipe. However, if you have the time and resources, sprinkle both sides of a chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season it, then grill it. Let it rest for about ten minutes, then cut it into cubes or shred it for this recipe.
- 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!
- 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!
How to make the Best Bacon, Cheddar and Chicken Risotto:
- Chop the bacon and cook it in a saute pan over medium heat until browned and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Leave the rendered bacon fat in the pan. In the meantime, pour the low-sodium chicken stock in a saucepan, and warm it on the oven. Keep it warm while you make the risotto.
- Add the olive oil to the pan. Stir in the chopped onions with a pinch of salt, and cook for about 3-4 minutes until softened. Then stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute.
- Stir in the arborio rice and cook for a couple of minutes, or until a little white dot remains in the center of the grains of rice. Stir in the white wine, cook for a couple of minutes until absorbed, and then start adding warm stock one ladle at a time.
- This is the part that takes some time. Let each ladle of stock absorb into the rice before adding the next one. It’s a slow process, but it’s absolutely worth it for that creamy texture. This will take about 30-35 minutes in total.
- Once the rice is creamy, take a little bite. If it has the tiniest crunch to it, then you’re good! Stir in the cheese and bacon, then the chicken. Garnish with chopped chives for a pop of color and extra flavor.
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:
Budget Friendly + Easy Choice: Chardonnay (USA) :: 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.
If You're Feeling Adventurous: 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.
Another Fun Option: Pinot Noir (USA / France) :: 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
- 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 chopped grilled chicken*
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. chopped chives finely chopped, for garnish
- Chop the bacon into small pieces, about 1/2" in size. In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and crunchy, then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels.
- 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.
- Stir in the chicken. 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 Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, or surprise yourself and pour some oaky Chardonnay!