Youvetsi with chicken (Κοτόπουλο γιουβέτσι)

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Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

Youvetsi (sometimes spelled Giouvetsi) may be the most comforting Greek meal you will ever eat. There is nothing presumptuous or complicated here, nothing overly sophisticated.  Youvetsi is simply a plate full of goodness which will delight your palate and warm your belly.  And you’ll wonder, how could such simple ingredients come together to prepare something so reminiscent of love and home?

Youvetsi is a baked stew-like dish which usually combines orzo (κριθαράκι) and meat in a tomato based sauce. Orzo is a magical pasta, typically made of durum wheat semolina.  It’s adorably small and oval shaped, making it perfect for soaking up the flavours that it thoroughly gets coated with in this dish.  In this recipe, we chose to use chicken drumsticks and thighs as the meat component.  Although other sources of protein can also be used (resulting in many variations of this super supper) we chose to use these pieces of chicken because of their easy availability and low cost.  That is always a good thing.

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Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

Helpful hints:

Orzo is a wonderful pasta but it has some issues. In this recipe the orzo is cooked in the liquid in which it will be served.  Because of this, and the fact that it is not rinsed, the starch found on each tiny piece seeps into the sauce.  The up-side to this (and it is a very big up-side) is that you end up with a thick, creamy tomato sauce. The down-side is that you can end up with individual orzo pastas which clump together to create an orzo ball. This is something which is especially prone to happen as your youvetsi sits and cools.

Youvetsi with chicken (Κοτόπουλο γιουβέτσι)
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There are a couple of ways  to deal with clumpy orzo.  The first is to ensure that the orzo is stirred relatively regularly in the baking pan while it cooks.  This will prevent not only premature clumping, but it will also help keep the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Second, if you find that your sauce really is too thick and your orzo too clumpy,  simply add some hot water or warmed up tomato juice.  If you have leftovers, don’t panic when you take your youvetsi out of the refrigerator to serve.  It will appear to have congealed into a solid mass.  This is fine and will resolve itself once you heat your youvetsi in the microwave or on the stovetop.  You may or may not need to add some water at this point, depending upon how thick your sauce is.

The recipe below serves 8 people generously.  We decided to present it this way because that is the quantity our parents usually cook for when making youvetsi.  Feel free to halve, or even quarter the recipe if you like.  The beauty of cooking (versus baking) uncomplicated recipes such as this one is that you can evenly modify quantities without altering the end result.

Youvetsi can be a very easy and economical way to serve a crowd.  It is especially delicious when you have some freshly ground mizithra sprinkled on it.  Isn’t everything?

Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

Looking for more recipes starring chicken, check these out:

Roasted chicken thighs

Chicken with tomato sauce and peas

Greek marinated chicken thighs

We love hearing from you!  If you have made our recipes, or if you have a question or comment, or simply want to say Hi!,  please leave a comment below!

Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.
Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

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Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.

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Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.
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5 from 1 vote

Youvetsi with chicken

Youvetsi with chicken in pure comfort food. Tender chicken and wonderful orzo baked in a rich tomato based sauce.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: chicken dinner,, dinner recipe,, easy recipe,, youvetsi,
Servings: 6 people
Author: Mia Kouppa

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) Greek olive oil
  • 2 3/4 cups (680 mL) tomato sauce, or tomato juice
  • 7 1/2 cups (1,875 mL) boiling water
  • 2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 500 grams orzo

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan so that you can brown the chicken pieces.  Oil should be approximately 1/4 inch deep in pan.
  • Prior to placing chicken in frying pan, remove any excess fat and overhanging skin.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over all the chicken pieces, on all sides. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
  • Cook chicken pieces until all sides are nicely browned, approximately 5 – 7 minutes per side (remember, you are not cooking the chicken through, simply frying the skin).
  • Once all of the chicken is browned, transfer the pieces to a baking pan. We used a round roasting pan which was approximately 15 inches in diameter.
  • To the pan add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 3/4 cups tomato sauce, and 7 1/2 cups boiling water.  Sprinkle with 2/3 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Place in bottom rack of oven and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes
  • Carefully remove the pan from the oven and add the uncooked orzo.  Stir carefully.  Return pan to oven.
  • After 10 minutes, carefully stir the orzo in the pan as it will have a tendency to stick to the bottom.  We found that the easiest way to do this was with a spatula (easy to scrape up the orzo pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan), using an oven mitt, while the pan was still in the oven.  Alternatively you can place the pan onto the stove top, mix, and then return to the oven. Repeat this every 5 minutes for the next 15 minutes.
  • The total cooking time after adding the orzo should be 25 minutes.
  • If at any point after adding the orzo, your meal appears too dry, you can add a bit of boiling water and mix well.
  • Remove from oven, let cool slightly and serve.
  • Enjoy!

19 thoughts on “Youvetsi with chicken (Κοτόπουλο γιουβέτσι)

  1. Is it important to add cinnamon? My family and I only like cinnamon in or on desserts. Same applies to nutmeg in pastisio. A disappointment when wanting to order that dish in a restaurant and they’ll tell us it’s added.

    1. Hi Mary, you can certainly omit the cinnamon , but since this is the only spice we have added to this dish, you may want to consider adding another spice you enjoy. Our parents will sometimes include ground cloves as well, so maybe that is an option for you.

  2. Hello – Made this recipe twice already and the second time was even better. I did remember to add the cinnamon and it added a wonderful taste – it’s just a hint of cinnamon (nothing like a dessert). My dinner guest was a friend who is Greek and I was a bit nervous… Turns out I did not need to be as she loved it – So I passed ‘her’ test with YOUR recipe! 🙂
    THANKS Mia Kouppa

    1. That makes us so happy! Yes, the cinnamon might seem a bit odd in a savoury dish if you are not used to it, but it adds so much flavour. Thank you for helping spread the word about Mia Kouppa! 🙂

  3. I started preboiling the orzo to about 1/2 way, rinsing it, and then adding it to my pan in the oven. I continue to cook it in the oven another 15-20 minutes , so it soaks up the juices. The orzo doesn’t come out sticky at all. My family approves. Thank you for all your yummy recipes

  4. Do you take the chicken out after the 45 min then add the orzo? Seems like a long time to cook the chicken.

    1. Hi Tina! Nope, you leave the chicken in the entire time. It is dark meat which tends to take longer to cook than white meat. Don’t worry, the chicken stays nice and tender and full of flavour! 🙂

  5. Thank you for this great authentic recipe for making chicken and orzo. I have made it in the past always cooking my orzo in chicken broth first , then adding it to the sauce. Also, never thought of tomato juice??? Great idea. Nor did I add cinnamon. I just printed the recipe off for following your way of making it. Sounds delish, and nice and thick.

    1. Thank you Sophia! We really hope that you love this recipe as much as we do. We would love to hear back on how you enjoy it! xoxo Helen & Billie

  6. Made it last night for three picky kids. They asked me to keep it in my “cookbook “ lol This goes into the rotation for sure.

    1. You can’t imagine how happy that makes us Christianna! Knowing that our recipes are helping to feed kids gives us such a great feeling! So happy everyone liked the youvetsi and thanks for letting us know!

  7. Another sensationally tasty dish. Made a few alterations as I only had while large chicken breasts and small square hilopitas noodles. I marinated chicken in lemon juice, oregano, onion powder and dried parsley. Then fried cut up lengthwise chicken breasts and followed your recipe. Did add whole cinnamon stick to dish when I added the hilopitas. House smelled so delicious, not to mention the dish turned out fantastic. A sprinkling of kefaloryri and mizithra took it to a whole new comfort level…and best part, I have leftovers all for me!!! Thank you so much….next trying the baked feta with honey, yummy!!!!

    1. We are SO happy that you are enjoying our recipes Konstantina! Using hilopites in place of orzo is a great alternative. We actually have a recipe which uses hilopites on the website as well, but we the version we have posted is made on the stovetop. Delicious!! Enjoy, and enjoy the baked feta with honey! We would love to hear what you think 🙂 xoxo Helen & Billie

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