Mexican chicken and rice is a one-pot meal loaded with flavor. Marinated chicken thighs simmer with healthy vegetables, black beans, and tender long grain rice—this a tasty recipe with a balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates.
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It can be challenging to get a balanced and healthy meal on the dinner table during the hectic work week. Thankfully, I’ve been doing some testing and made a Mexican chicken and rice recipe that tastes great but is also easy to prepare—if you’re like me, minimizing the number of dishes to wash is ideal.
This recipe combines three main ingredients; sauteed chicken thighs, steamed vegetables, and seasoned rice. The trick to succulent meat and tender grains is using multiple cooking techniques like pan-frying, sauteing, and braising. Don’t worry. It’s easy to do, and I’ll walk you through the process.
Use bone-in chicken thighs
I use bone-in chicken thighs in the recipe, knowing that the protein would continue to braise alongside the other tasty ingredients. Thighs contain more fat which helps retain moisture compared to lean breast pieces.
The bones also don’t absorb heat as well, so it acts as an insulator, preventing the surrounding meat from cooking too quickly. Alternatively, bone-in chicken breasts can be used, but check for doneness sooner.
Marinate the chicken pieces
The chicken is marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and earthy spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika. The quick 15 to 30-minute soak in the concentrated salty seasoning adds more flavor to the surface and inside the meat. Add chili powder, chipotle, or cayenne pepper if you like a spicier taste.
Sear the chicken
In a large skillet, sear the chicken skin in hot olive oil until golden brown and crispy. This adds more flavor to the surface and renders some fat, so the dish isn’t too greasy. The skin is a protective barrier to keep the chicken from drying out while braising.
You don’t want to cook the chicken completely. The carryover cooking will continue during the covered braising process. Remove the chicken from the pan to cook the remaining ingredients.
Saute the rice
Use long-grain white rice for the chicken recipe. When cooked, the grain becomes fluffy and tender and stays separate. Whenever I make Mexican rice, I toast the grains in oil. This adds a nutty flavor to the surface and golden color.
Briefly saute the aromatics like onion and garlic until fragrant. This helps mellow out the sulfurous notes. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for 30 seconds to concentrate the sweet flavor.
Simmer the rice
Before cooking the rice, add in the flavorful fruits and vegetables. Stir in the diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, zucchini, carrots, jalapeno, and salt. Add the pieces of seared chicken rice on top, then pour in the chicken broth or stock.
Bring the rice mixture to a boil to kickstart the cooking process, then cover and reduce to a simmer until the rice absorbs the liquid. The trapped steam will quickly cook the grains in about 20 minutes. Resist the urge to open the lid or stir! Mixing makes the rice mushy.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro
- Serve with lime wedges and sour cream for a tangy topping
- Add fresh pico de gallo, red salsa, or green chilies for extra heat
- Slices of avocado or guacamole
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
Yes! For crispy skin, transfer the chicken to a sheet pan and broil until golden brown and crunchy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Sure! I recommend pan-frying for a shorter time, about 2 minutes on each side, to develop color and some flavor.
Cook the rice first, then add the precooked shredded chicken. Cover and let warm for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Preventing soggy rice
To avoid mushy rice, the ratio of water-to-rice grains is critical, which is variety dependent. For most long-grain types; for every 1 cup of dried rice, use 2 cups of liquid. Make sure to briefly (this is critical) bring the liquid to a boil to soften the tough grains, then reduce it to a simmer and cover it to absorb the moisture. If you keep the water boiling, the grains will fall apart and lose texture. Also, never stir the rice as it cooks!
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Mexican Chicken and Rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups long grain rice
- ½ cup diced white onion, ¼" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, ¼" dice
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 cup black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup diced zucchini, ¼" dice
- ½ cup diced carrots, ¼" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- 1 limes, cut into wedges
- Marinate the Chicken – In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Pour the marinade over the chicken set in a baking dish and flip to coat evenly. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Sear the Surface – Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin is golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and saute for 2 minutes, then transfer to a clean plate.
- Saute the Rice – If using the pan to cook the chicken, wash and dry it first. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add the rice and saute, occasionally stirring until the grains are lightly toasted.Add in onion and garlic, and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomato paste, and stir to combine—cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the Mix-ins – Add in diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, zucchini, carrots, jalapeno, and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine.
- Simmer – Add the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
- For Crispy Skin (Optional) – Transfer the chicken to a foil-lined sheet pan and broil until crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- To Serve – Season the rice with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
- For Boneless Chicken: Thighs or breasts can be substituted. Cook for 2 minutes on each side before adding to the rice.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and cook in the microwave on high setting in 30-second increments until hot.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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