Easy to make, bursting with fresh lemon flavor and so delicious! Tender chicken meatballs are baked in lemon and garlic infused butter and served over creamy parmesan spinach orzo that's all made in just one pot! Serve the meatballs over the creamy orzo and drizzle with extra lemon butter.
This post is sponsored by Go Bold With Butter, who I am so excited to partner with! The recipe, thoughts and opinions are all my own.
I love recipes that are easy to make, yet so flavorful, and this is definitely one of them. The combination of the lemony, buttery meatballs and creamy, cheesy orzo is seriously good!!
Baking the meatballs with lots of butter, lemon slices and garlic adds so much flavor, while making the meatballs tender and juicy. And as it all bakes, the lemon and garlic infuses the butter, and it's absolutely perfect for drizzling over the meatballs and orzo.
While the meatballs bake, make the creamy orzo. Like any great recipe, you'll start by cooking garlic in butter, then add in the orzo, broth, milk, lemon juice and seasoning. As the orzo cooks, it absorbs all those delicious flavors. Finish with parmesan cheese and spinach to tie it all together.
The lemon butter
The lemon butter seriously takes this dish to the next level!! It's lemony, salty, and just sooo good!
This chicken meatball recipe calls for baking the meatballs with a full stick of butter, but trust me, it's highly necessary. Some of the butter cooks off and some absorbs into the meatballs as they cook, and if you don't use a full stick, you won't have extra lemon butter for drizzling on the meatballs and orzo, and that's a must!!
Also important, you must use REAL butter. You know, the stuff made from cow's milk. Real butter = flavor town!! You won't get the same results from margarine, olive oil or butter alternatives.
Why you'll love this recipe
- So flavorful! Butter, lemon and parmesan come together in this recipe to create amazing flavor.
- Easy to make. The chicken meatballs are baked in the oven, while the creamy orzo cooks on the stove in one pot!
- Loved by all. I mean, who wouldn't like buttery meatballs served over a bed of cheesy, creamy pasta??
How to make this recipe
This recipe is simple to make, yet so flavorful! The meatballs bake in the oven, while the creamy spinach orzo cooks in one pot on the stove. Here's step by step instructions with some tips.
- Roll the meatballs. Ground chicken gets mixed with breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, egg and some spices. Be careful not to overmix the meatballs, or the chicken will become pretty sticky and difficult to roll. I like to use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to evenly portion the meatballs.
- Bake the meatballs. The meatballs bake on top of lemon butter that is insanely delicious. Don't skimp on the butter because you'll want lots to drizzle over the meatballs.
- Make the orzo. The orzo is all made in just one pot on the stove! It's creamy, cheesy and ready in about 15 minutes. Don't forget to stir frequently, otherwise the orzo will stick to the bottom of the skillet. If the liquid cooks off before the orzo is done, simply mix in more broth or milk.
- Enjoy! Serve the chicken meatballs over the creamy spinach orzo and drizzle with lots of lemon butter!
Scroll down to the recipe card for the full instructions.
Here is a list of everything you will need to make this recipe. The ingredients are fairly simple, and you probably already have a lot of them in your home.
- Butter. Salted butter is my favorite.
- Garlic cloves.
- Lemon. I like to bake the chicken meatballs with fresh lemon slices, but you can substitute lemon juice, if needed.
- Ground chicken. You can buy already ground chicken at the store, or you can grind your own chicken thigh meat using a food grinder KitchenAid attachment! This is one I have and love.
- Panko breadcrumbs.
- Grated parmesan cheese.
- Chicken broth.
- Milk. I like to use whole or 2% because it makes the orzo really creamy, but you can use whatever works for you.
- Lemon juice. Fresh squeezed or from the bottle is fine.
- Fresh baby spinach. Avoid frozen spinach.
- Onion powder.
- Garlic powder.
Frequently Asked Questions & Troubleshooting.
Do meatballs need eggs?
One egg is used to help bind the chicken meatballs together so they hold their shape. This won't change the flavor or texture of the meatballs.
Why are my meatballs tough?
If your chicken meatballs are tough, it's likely because they were over mixed or packed too tightly. When mixing up the meatball ingredients, mix until JUST combined, then gently and quickly roll into balls.
Why are my meatballs falling apart?
The meatballs should hold together great if you use all the ingredients listed, including the egg, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Using too many breadcrumbs or too little can make the meatballs more susceptible to falling apart.
Storage & Reheating
How to store the leftovers
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
How to reheat the leftovers
- Microwave. Reheat the meatballs and orzo separately. To reheat the orzo, mix in a splash of broth, milk or heavy cream and heat until warm.
- Stove & oven. Reheat the meatballs in an oven-safe dish at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes, or until heated through. Meanwhile, reheat the orzo in a pot on the stove with a splash of broth, milk or heavy cream.
To be completely honest, this recipe is best freshly made.
But, to save on time, you can at least prepare the meatballs ahead of time - just don't bake them until you're ready to serve!
Mix together the meatball ingredients and roll into balls. Place in an airtight container or on a plate. Cover the meatballs and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Use lots of butter! Trust me, you're going to want to use the full stick of butter when baking the meatballs. As the meatballs bake, the butter becomes infused with the flavors of the lemon and garlic, and it's incredible! You'll want lots of it to drizzle all over the meatballs.
- Add more milk or broth to the orzo, if needed. If the liquid cooks off before the orzo has finished cooking, simply add a few extra splashes of broth or milk, mix it in and continue cooking until done. As the orzo sits, it will continue to absorb the liquid, so it's better to add too much liquid than not enough.
- Serve immediately. The meatballs and orzo are best served while they're still hot, especially the creamy orzo!
More Chicken Recipes You'll Love!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below! I'd love to hear from you! If you’re on Instagram, share a picture of the food you created and tag me at Modern Farmhouse Eats! I enjoy seeing all the pictures! 😊
Baked Lemon Butter Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Spinach Orzo
Lemon butter chicken meatballs
- 8 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 egg
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon each onion powder, garlic powder & salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Creamy spinach orzo
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 pound orzo (about 2 ½ cups)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups baby spinach
- Add the lemon slices in a single layer to an oven-safe skillet, and top with the butter and garlic. Cook on the stove over medium-high heat until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Add the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a bowl. Mix until just combined.
- Roll the chicken mixture into 2 tablespoon-size meatballs and place in the skillet on top of the lemon slices (will make about 18 meatballs). Loosely cover the meatballs with tinfoil and bake for 10. Remove the tinfoil and continue baking another 15 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Meanwhile, make the orzo. Heat a skillet or pot over medium-high heat with butter and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the broth, milk, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and mix in the orzo. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn't stick. Add more broth or milk, if needed.
- Mix the parmesan and baby spinach into the orzo until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.
- Serve the meatballs over the creamy spinach orzo and drizzle with the extra lemon butter.
This recipe was created in partnership with Go Bold With Butter. Thank you for supporting brands that I love, which make Modern Farmhouse Eats possible. Learn more about Go Bold With Butter by visiting their website or find them on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.