Chicken Rice-A-Roni


Made with shredded chicken, tender basmati rice, and smoky-sweet, caramelized onions and peppers, this chicken Rice-A-Roni was inspired by a Lebanese rice and vermicelli pilaf. Garnish with fresh herbs, lemon juice, chili flakes, hot sauce, or even garlic-infused yogurt!

Prep Time:
35 mins
Cook Time:
2 hrs
Additional Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
4 servings

I didn't think about becoming a professional chef until High School, but my interest in all things food started way before then. Most of my earliest, most vivid childhood memories revolve around new foods, like my first visit to a Chinese restaurant, traveling to New York City to visit my Polish grandmother and her pierogi, my uncle Billy's homemade sausage, and something I pronounced "shy-dia."

Eating chicken and rice wasn't that unusual, but this was a whole new experience, since it was studded with chickpeas, and browned strands of pasta, not to mention it was sort of yellow. At that age I assumed it was some kind of Italian recipe, but as I got older I learned it was actually based on a Lebanese dish called Riz Bi Sha'rieh.

From that time on, whenever I'd see an ad for Rice-a-Roni on TV, especially after I moved to San Francisco, I would smile knowingly. The "San Francisco treat?" I think not. Anyway, this is my version of that childhood favorite, and it remains one of my favorite comfort foods of all time, which is why I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Homemade Broth and Chicken Meat:

  • 1 (3 1/2) pound whole chicken

  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

  • ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 3 quarts water

Chicken Rice-a-Roni

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced

  • cup diced red bell pepper

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 cup broken uncooked spaghetti (2-inch pieces)

  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (Optional)

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • ½ cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

  • cup frozen green peas, thawed and drained

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or to taste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste


  1. Place chicken, celery, carrot, onion, and bay leaf in a stockpot and cover with water. Set over high heat, add salt, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the thighs and legs can be pulled easily from the carcass, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a bowl, carefully tipping the carcass to drain any broth from the cavity back into the stockpot.

  2. Let meat sit until it's cool enough to handle, 15 to 20 minutes. Separate skin, bones, and meat. Set aside 2 cups shredded meat (white, dark, or a combination of the two) for rice-a-roni and reserve the rest for another use.

  3. Transfer skin and bones back to the stockpot with the broth and simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until you need it. Strain.

  4. Combine oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot and melted, add onion, bell pepper, and salt. Cook and stir until onion just starts to turn translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broken spaghetti and cook until toasted and light golden brown to dark brown in color, about 3 minutes; it's okay if the onions and peppers start to caramelize.

  5. Add rice and stir until completely coated. Add pepper, oregano, cumin, and saffron. Stir in 3 ½ cups chicken broth. Add cayenne, garbanzo beans, peas, and shredded chicken and return to a simmer.

  6. Cover tightly with a lid, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes; do not lift the lid or stir during this time.

  7. Remove the lid and check the rice in a couple spots. It should be just barely tender. (If it seems undercooked, you can cover and cook for a few more minutes.) Replace the lid, turn off the heat, and let rice sit for 10 minutes.

  8. Sprinkle parsley and cilantro over top and stir to combine. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.

    chicken, rice pilaf, and vegetables in a skillet on the stovetop
    Chicken Rice-a-Roni. Chef John

Chef's Notes:

You can use leftover chicken and store-bought broth if you'd like, instead of making your own.

Any long-grain white rice can be used instead of basmati.

Editor's Note:

Nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of chicken and broth. The actual amount of chicken and broth consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

1381 Calories
74g Fat
89g Carbs
86g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 1381
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 74g 95%
Saturated Fat 22g 111%
Cholesterol 313mg 104%
Sodium 2868mg 125%
Total Carbohydrate 89g 32%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Protein 86g
Potassium 1052mg 22%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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