Almost Hands-Free Saffron Risotto with Chicken and Peas

Published May 2010

Why This Recipe Works

For a simplified risotto recipe, we swapped our saucepan for a thick, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven that trapped and distributed heat evenly and ensured our risotto cooked evenly. We seared bone-in chicken breasts and then poached them in the broth before adding it in two intervals to the rice, stirring only occasionally. And to make sure the bottom of our risotto didn’t cook more quickly than the top, we stirred the pot for just a few minutes and turned off the heat. The rice turned perfectly al dente from the heat retained in the pot, giving us a foolproof risotto recipe.


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5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
1 ½ cups water
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each), each cut in half crosswise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
Table salt
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
¾ cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Ground black pepper
Nutritional Information


Per Serving (Serves 6)

  • Calories 474
  • Cholesterol 45 mg
  • Fat 14 g
  • Sodium 1033 mg
  • Saturated 7 g
  • Carbs 61 g
  • Trans 0 g
  • Dietary Fiber 3 g
  • Monounsaturated 4 g
  • Sugar 2 g
  • Polyunsaturated 1 g
  • Protein 19 g

The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Serves 6 as a side dish

This recipe does not employ the traditional risotto method; the rice is mainly stirred for 3 minutes toward the end of cooking instead of constantly throughout. This more hands-off method does require precise timing, so we strongly recommend using a timer. The consistency of risotto is largely a matter of personal taste; if you prefer a looser texture, add extra broth in step 4.

1. Bring broth and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer.

2. Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to saucepan of simmering broth and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to large plate.

3. Add 2 tablespoons butter to now empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onion and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.

4. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir 5 cups warm broth and saffron into rice; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 16 to 18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.

5. Add ¾ cup warm broth to risotto and stir gently and constantly until risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and frozen peas. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, remove and discard skin and bones from chicken, and shred meat into bite-size pieces. Gently stir shredded chicken, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, lemon juice, parsley, and chives into risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add up to ½ cup additional broth to loosen texture of risotto.


Secrets to Almost Hands-Free Risotto

In the traditional approach to risotto, near-constant stirring for 25 minutes accomplishes two things: It maximizes the release of starch from the rice, for a creamier sauce, and it ensures that the whole pot cooks evenly. Here’s how we achieved the same goals, with just a few minutes of stirring.


Once it starts bubbling, a full 5 cups of liquid added at the start of cooking agitates the rice grains much like stirring, accelerating the release of creamy starch.


A lid, coupled with the heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and low heat, helps to distribute the heat as evenly as stirring, so every grain is as tender as the next.


A brief stir followed by a five-minute rest provides additional insurance that the rice will be perfectly al dente, from the top of the pot to the bottom.