Mexican Chicken and Rice

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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.

crispy skinned Mexican chicken and rice mixed with vegetables

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.

chicken thighs marinating in a dish

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.

chicken thighs being sautéed in a pan

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.

spoon mixing rice and onions inside a pan

Optional substitutions

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.

portioned vegetables in a pan with rice before being mixed together

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!

Closeup photo of chicken thigh with crispy skin over a bed of vegetables and rice

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

Mexican chicken and rice is a one-pot meal loaded with flavor. Marinated chicken thighs simmer together with healthy vegetables, black beans, and rice.
Pin Print Review
4.32 from 45 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients

Chicken Marinade

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 pieces chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on

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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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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Nutrition Facts
Mexican Chicken and Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 430 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Sodium 1059mg44%
Potassium 425mg12%
Carbohydrates 66g22%
Fiber 5g20%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 2130IU43%
Vitamin C 12.5mg15%
Calcium 51mg5%
Iron 2.2mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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34 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Lynn says

    Awesome recipe. Very family friendly and easy to amp up the heat level. To the marinade i added chili powder and a bit of cayenne. Instead of tomato paste i used gochujang. There was a lot of left over oily spiced marinade and so i used it to fry the rice. Brought everything to a simmer put the cover on then put it into a 350 degree oven for about 45 min then took the lid off to crisp the chicken skin. I also used brown rice (all i had on hand).

    Jessica, thank you for putting the weight of salt. Since different brands of kosher salt can vary greatly in flake size, weighing out whatever salt you have ensures not over- or under-salting.

  2. Alistair Q says

    Made this last nice and it’s a keeper. There’s a lot of little techniques that elevate this dish beyond the sum of its parts. Personally, I used thick skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and ‘jerked’ with a fork, then gently browned them on low heat — they were moist and ‘fluffy’ after 25 minutes in the dutch oven, and full of flavor thanks to the short but effective marinade. Not bad for the dullest cut of meat. Like I said, try this! especially if you’ve run out of ideas for Mexican and want something one-pot (I served it with guac and pico de gallo) that’s simple, hearty and filling.

  3. Anastasia says

    Made it with chicken breast today! Absolutely delicious, had to fry it in 2 sets, but in the end everything fit just nicely in my 4.5q dutch oven (4 breasts). Thanks, definitely in one of the fam favourites now.

    • Anastasia says

      Oh an I didn’t wash dutch oven between chicken and rice, and let rice absorb all the flavour. Is there any special reason you wash pan after frying chicken?

      Thanks!

      • Jessica Gavin says

        Sometimes the paprika in the marinade can overly brown, so I wash the pot in between so there are no charred notes. However, you can definitely skip the washing step for even more flavorful rice as long as the drippings are not burnt.

  4. Kaila Galati says

    I made this tonight and it was a definite crowd pleaser! I love that theres so much healthy veg!! Delicious!

  5. Gail Noren says

    Another winner. So easy even though I had to brown the breasts in two batches. Freezing the leftover rice for future dinners.

  6. Andrew says

    Thanks for this lovely recipe, will be trying it this weekend.
    I’m surprised that the beans and tomatoes are cooked for 30 mins with the rice and chicken. I would have thought they would go soggy and lose colour but in the photos they look so bright and vibrant. Can they be added last?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would still add the tomatoes as indicated because they flavor the rice and add some color. You can add some fresh chopped tomatoes to garnish. You can add the beans later if you’d like, but need to heat them to warm them up. Let me know how it goes!

        • Andrew Owen says

          Hi Jessica! We followed the recipe as you detailed it, and it was DELICIOUS. My friends loved it and it was so simple.
          We had quite a lot of rice left over so we made a version of egg fried rice in my wok the next morning. Also delicious. Thanks ever so much.

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