With juicy, tender chicken, healthy farro and loads of fresh spinach, this hearty, delicious Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro is an easy meal in one pan!
This one-skillet Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro has been our favorite "go-to" meal this winter. It's wonderful for lunch or dinner and (don't tell anyone) we've even devoured it for breakfast after a vigorous morning swim at our local YMCA. It's also been great for guests, as it can be all prepped ahead and then simply warmed before serving.
I love that this Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro is delicious enough to be dinner-party worthy yet it's easy to put together. It's also super healthy, with lean chicken, highly nutritious farro and big handfuls of fresh spinach. It makes a sunny, pretty presentation with fresh rosemary and lemon slices that are sprinkled with a wonderful spice mixture and briefly sautéed.
A simple but delicious spice rub
What is this "wonderful spice mixture"? It's used on both the lemons and the chicken and you probably have everything you need right in your pantry to stir this up: paprika, Italian seasoning and garlic salt. I like it so much, I often make a triple batch so I can whip up this Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro even faster. It's really nice to have a little jar of this on hand as sometimes I like to make the chicken on its own for a quick, delicious salad or sandwich.
What is farro?
This recipe includes farro which is a popular ancient grain. What are ancient grains? If you want to learn more about ancient grains you can read this Slow Roasted Tomato Ancient Grain Salad post, but simply said, ancient grains are grains that have been around hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years and have not been genetically altered or selectively bred. They are also some of the healthiest foods on the planet!
Farro is a protein and fiber-packed whole grain that is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect against cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Farro is also one of the "good carbs" with lots of fiber that can help prevent blood sugar spikes in diabetics and can help lower cholesterol levels. It's shaped like rice, looks like wheat berries in its raw state and a bit like barley when cooked. Farro has a nutty flavor and a nice chewy texture when cooked.
Although farro originated in Mesopotamia, Italians have also been eating farro for many years. The name farro is Italian for "ancient wheat grain".
Three types of farro
Farro can be a little confusing so I wanted to take a little time to demystify it. The name farro actually refers to three different wheat-derived grains, einkorn, emmer and spelt. The type you will find at your local grocery store depends on where you live in the world.
Almost all of the farro that's grown and sold in the U.S. is emmer (aka farro medio). In Italy, most of the farro consumed is either emmer or spelt (aka farro grande) and in Germany, Switzerland and southern France it's einkorn (aka farro piccolo).
All three of these types of farro will work in this Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro recipe, however the cooking time may be a bit different. I'll explain more about that below.
Three different farro preparations
To make things even more confusing, farro comes prepared in three different ways:
- Whole-grain farro is totally unrefined. It needs to be soaked overnight before cooking and takes 40-45 minutes to cook.
- Semi-pearled farro has a portion of the outer bran layer removed. It doesn't need to be soaked and takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes to cook.
- Pearled farro has the outer bran layer removed. Some of the fiber and nutrients are lost by removing the bran layer, but it still has plenty of great nutrition and is a good choice if you're short on time. It's done in roughly 10 minutes.
What's the best way to cook farro?
Although there are different ways to cook farro, I really like the pasta method for no-fail results. The pasta method simply means you bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil, add the farro and cook until it's al dente. Once it's cooked, drain the farro through a sieve and you're good to go. I often cook a large pot of farro, drizzle it lightly with olive oil then refrigerate it to use for salads, soups and meals like this Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro.
Due to the different types and preparations mentioned above, cooking times and methods for farro can greatly vary. However, if you use the pasta method and follow the cooking time indicated on the package you'll have perfectly cooked farro every time!
I like to set my timer for 5 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the farro package. I take a little taste at that point and then every couple minutes after that until it's just right. "Just right" farro should be tender but also a bit chewy.
if you follow the directions on the package, whichever variety you buy will be delicious!
Where can you buy farro?
Farro is available in most larger grocery stores in the same area you find rice and other grains like quinoa. I've found it at my local grocery store, at Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Super Target. Whole Foods and other health food stores often carry it in bulk.
Tender, juicy chicken breasts
Tender and juicy when used to describe chicken breast is often a contradiction. But if you follow the directions in this recipe the chicken comes out flavorful, delicious, TENDER and JUICY! Try it! You'll see what I mean and this Skillet Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro just might become your "go-to" recipe too!
Café Tips for making this Skillet Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Farro
- If you want to make this meal gluten-free, simply substitute cooked quinoa or buckwheat for the farro.
- This recipe calls for sweet paprika. There are different types of paprika, some quite spicy and others mild. Generally, if a product is labeled simply "paprika", it's the sweet variety. Sweet paprika is very mild in flavor. It's often used for garnishing as a sprinkle of paprika can be a pretty finishing touch without altering the flavor of the dish.
- Even though sweet paprika doesn't have a strong flavor, don't skip it. It's difficult to sauté chicken breast to a golden brown color and still have it juicy and tender. If you "brown" it long enough to get the outer layer golden, the inside will be tough and dry. Sweet paprika gives the illusion of that beautiful golden brown without having to overcook the chicken. It's a great chicken breast trick!
- Chicken breasts are easily undercooked (no one wants to eat raw chicken!) or overcooked (dry, tough meat is just as bad). But it doesn't have to be that way if you understand one simple rule. Use an instant thermometer! The safe temperature for perfectly cooked chicken is 165. In this particular recipe, the chicken is sautéd on one side until golden then flipped to the other side and the pan is covered. The chicken cooks slowly for another 7-10 minutes or until it reaches 160. It's removed from the pan at this point and loosely covered while you make the dressing and finish things up. The chicken temperature will continue to climb while it rests, reaching perfection!
- You'll notice in the recipe that there is a range of time that the chicken takes to cook on the second side. It will depend on the size of the breasts. Larger, thicker pieces will take longer. Start checking the temperature at 7 minutes.
- Although this recipe is delicious just as it is (I'm enjoying a bowl as I write), sometimes I add chopped sun-dried tomatoes (in oil) and chopped Kalamata olives for another layer of flavor.
- To prep this meal ahead:
- Cook the farro early in the day. Drain well and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Stir to coat, cool and refrigerate.
- Prepare the spice blend, cover and set aside.
- Slice the lemons and store them in the refrigerator in a zippered bag or small storage container.
- Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives (if using) and store in the refrigerator in a zippered bag or small storage container.
- Toast the pine nuts and store them at room temperature in an airtight container.
- If desired, you could even cook the chicken early in the day and then refrigerate it. After you add the farro, spinach and chicken give it a few extra minutes to warm the chicken.
- If ingredients are prepped ahead and refrigerated, you will need to add a few extra minutes to the cooking time at the end to ensure that everything is nice and war.
- If it's just Scott and me, I often make this dish ahead and refrigerate it. Then I simply warm it in the microwave on 40 or 50% power for a super quick dinner.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons mild paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons dry Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon butter I use salted
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small lemon sliced about ¼-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary divided
- 1 medium clove garlic finely minced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil well-drained (optional)
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped Kalamata olives (optional)
- 4 cups cooked farro see notes below (or more detailed instructions above in post) for how to cook farro, 2 cups uncooked farro will result in 4 cups cooked farro
- 4 cups baby spinach
- shaved parmesan for garnish
- toasted pine nuts for garnish
- fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside.
Place chicken breasts on a plate or shallow pan. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with the rub, reserving 1 teaspoon for the lemons. Rub the chicken with your fingers to thoroughly coat. Allow breasts to sit, uncovered, with the rub on for 15-20 minutes, at room temperature.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron or non-stick skillet (large enough to accommodate all the breasts without crowding) pan over medium heat until bubbly and hot. Pan should be hot, but not smoking.
Add the chicken to the pan, smooth side down. The butter should sizzle a bit but not splatter all over the place. If it’s splattering, reduce the heat a bit. Allow the chicken to cook for 3-5 minutes or until the bottom is a nice, deep, golden brown. If it seems to be browning too quickly, lower the heat a little.
Flip breasts to the opposite sides and lower heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and continue to cook for another 7-12 minutes OR until internal temperature reaches 160˚F. (see notes above in Café Tips) Once 160˚F is reached, remove the pan from heat and transfer chicken to a clean plate. Cover the chicken loosely with foil while you prepare the dressing and farro.
Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the drippings in the pan and heat over medium-low heat. Sprinkle lemon slices (on both sides) with the remaining 1 teaspoon of rub. Add the lemons to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds on each side, then remove to the plate with the chicken.
Add the garlic, 1½ teaspoon rosemary (and sundried tomatoes and olives, if using) to the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Add the farro and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes until the farro is hot. Add the spinach and stir to combine.
Tuck the chicken into the farro/spinach, cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook for 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted and chicken is warm.
Slice chicken at an angle and serve in bowls with farro. Garnish with the lemon slices, parmesan shavings, pine nuts, remainder of the freshly chopped rosemary and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Enjoy!
See Café Tips above in post for further instructions and detailed tips.
To cook farro, bring a large pot of salted water (about a tablespoon of salt) to a boil. Add 2 cups of farro. Cook for the length of time indicated on the package. Taste to determine doneness. Farro should be al dente and a bit chewy. Drain well in a sieve.
This recipe easily serves 6 even though it includes just 4 chicken breasts. Most chicken breasts these days are larger than one serving.
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