Mexican chicken and rice is a one-pot meal loaded with flavor. Marinated chicken thighs simmer together with healthy vegetables, black beans, and tender long grain rice. A tasty Mexican recipe with a balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates for a satisfying family-friendly dinner.
It can be a challenge during the hectic work week to get a balanced and healthy meal on the dinner table. 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, seasoned rice, and cooks them all together.
The chicken is marinated first in earthy spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, and seasonings to kickstart flavor development. The trick to nailing chicken and rice that has succulent meat and tender grains is using a few cooking techniques in phases like pan-frying, sauteing, and braising. Don’t worry, it’s easy to do and I’ll walk you through the process.
How to make chicken and rice
- Marinate the chicken for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Pan-fry the chicken to brown and crisp the skin.
- Saute the uncooked rice in oil to give a toasted flavor and help the grains stay separate once cooked.
- Bring the stock to a boil then reduce to a simmer to gently cook the rice, vegetables, and chicken.
- Keep the lid covered so the ingredients can fully cook. The rice absorbs the hot liquid, the vegetables steam, and the chicken braises.
- Recrisp the chicken skin by broiling it in the oven for a few minutes at the end of cooking.
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.
My family is obsessed with crispy chicken skin, so broiling right before serving enhances the crunch factor. You can also think of the skin as a protective barrier, another way to keep the chicken from drying out.
Can chicken breasts or boneless-skinless thighs be used? Sure! I would recommend pan-frying for a shorter time, about 2 minutes on each side just to develop color and some flavor.
You don’t want to completely cook the chicken, the carryover cooking will continue during the covered braising process as the rice and vegetables cook.
The mix of tomato and spice seasoned rice combined with corn, bell peppers, zucchini, onions, and carrots is delightful. The black beans add extra protein and fiber to the meal. Each person gets a succulent piece of chicken, placed on top of a mountain of rice. The meal makes for great leftovers if there are any!
More Mexican recipes
Preventing soggy rice
A common issue with making rice is a resulting mushy texture. Choosing the right ratio of water-to-rice grains is key- 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 quickly soften the tough grains, then reduce to a simmer and cover to allow the rice to gradually 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-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 cup black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup diced zucchini, ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup diced carrots, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- 1 limes, cut into wedges
- In a small bowl whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, and black pepper.
- Pour marinade over chicken set in a baking dish and flip to evenly coat, marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook until skin is golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Flip and saute another 2 minutes, transfer chicken to a clean plate.
- If using a Dutch oven to cook the chicken, carefully drain the fat, wash and dry the pan.
- Heat over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, add the rice and saute, stirring occasionally until the grains are lightly toasted.
- Add in onion and garlic, saute until aromatics are fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add in tomato paste, stir to combine and cook 30 seconds.
- Add in diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, zucchini, carrots, jalapeno, and 1 teaspoon salt, stir to combine.
- Add chicken pieces 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.
- If desired, transfer chicken to a sheet pan and broil until skin is crispy 3 to 5 minutes.
- Season rice with salt as desired and garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts can be substituted. Cook for 2 minutes on each side before adding to the rice.
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