Dairy-free chicken, bacon and mushroom risotto tastes like unhealthy and fattening comfort food, but it's not bad for you at all. 

Dairy-free chicken, bacon and mushroom risotto tastes like unhealthy and fattening comfort food, but it's not bad for you at all. 

This isn’t your Yankee grandma’s chicken and rice. Ye afraid of flavor, be warned. This is dairy-free chicken, bacon and mushroom risotto. Dairy-free risotto. You heard me.

I dreamed this up on the 1,000-hour drive back from Memphis last weekend. I was originally thinking about a baked dish of assorted mushrooms, chicken and rice, but per the usual, my idea evolved. I think it turned out much better.

Joel and I learned how to make risotto sans butter and cheese during a cooking class on our honeymoon. That’s right, our dedication to the culinary arts knows no bounds. Some probably know this, but in case you don’t, let me liberate you: risotto isn’t supposed to be made creamy by injecting the fatty creaminess of dairy (although I have nothing against the fatty creaminess of dairy). Its creaminess comes from the starch of the rice—Arborio rice, to be exact. If you ever read a recipe telling you to rinse your Arborio, burn it. Well, at least ignore that step. Rinsing the rice will wash away a lot of the starch needed to make it creamy. More tips and tricks below. Read on!


Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Risotto

Here’s what you’ll need:

1.5 lbs chicken thighs

2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP dried thyme

1 tsp garlic salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pint fresh whole mushrooms of choice, sliced

3 slices bacon, chopped

1.5 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken stock


Trim excess fat from chicken thighs and cut into 2-inch chunks. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then add thyme, garlic salt and a few twists of black pepper. Mix to coat chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Careful not to overcook.

Heat chicken stock until it is just boiling. Reduce heat, but keep it warm and on the stovetop. 

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes, until skillet is well-lubricated. Add the rice and stir constantly, toasting it, for about 2 minutes.

Add a ladle-full of stock. Add sliced mushrooms. Stir constantly, adding stock as needed, until mixture begins to thicken and become creamy. If the mixture gets too thick and the rice isn’t yet tender, add a ladle of stock—that’s what it’s there for.

When the rice is tender and the mixture is thick and creamy, remove the skillet from the heat and add chicken. Stir to combine and enjoy!

This chicken, bacon and mushroom risotto definitely falls into the comfort food category. It has the satisfying texture of a dish laden with cream and/or butter, plus the saltiness of the bacon. The chicken carries the herbal, fresh and earthy flavors of thyme and garlic, while the mushrooms lend a meaty heartiness. It’s a symphony of texture and flavors, so it must be evil in terms of calorie count and fat content, right?

Wrong. It’s not as unhealthy as it tastes. The worst thing about it is the rice, so if you’re watching calories, be mindful of that. Otherwise, go back for thirds.