Mexican Chicken and Rice

4.90 from 106 votes
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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.

If you enjoy this recipe, check out my other dinner ideas for chicken tortilla soup, carne asada, and chicken enchiladas.

Crispy skinned Mexican chicken and rice mixed with vegetables.

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

Chicken thighs marinating in a baking dish.
Step 1. Marinate the chicken

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

Several chicken thighs being sautéed in a pan.
Step 2. Sear the surface

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

Spoon mixing rice and onions inside a pan.
Step 3. 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

Portioned vegetables in a pan with rice before being mixed together.
Step 4. Add the mix-ins

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.

Topping suggestions

  • 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

Can I make the chicken skin crispy after braising?

Yes! For crispy skin, transfer the chicken to a sheet pan and broil until golden brown and crunchy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Can chicken breasts or boneless-skinless thighs be used?

Sure! I recommend pan-frying for a shorter time, about 2 minutes on each side, to develop color and some flavor.

Can I use shredded chicken?

Cook the rice first, then add the precooked shredded chicken. Cover and let warm for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Closeup photo of chicken thighs with crispy skin over a bed of vegetables and rice.
Step 6. Ready to serve

Recipe Science

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!

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.
4.90 from 106 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Mexican


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 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on


  • 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. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 430kcal (22%)Carbohydrates 66g (22%)Protein 8g (16%)Fat 15g (23%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Sodium 1059mg (44%)Potassium 425mg (12%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 2130IU (43%)Vitamin C 12.5mg (15%)Calcium 51mg (5%)Iron 2.2mg (12%)

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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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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4.90 from 106 votes (75 ratings without comment)

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51 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Linda Clements says

    I made this the other night and it was delicious! I am somewhat of a picky eater so I usually have to pick out a lot of veggies (bell peppers, large onion pieces) which takes time. But I ate every single thing in every bite! Thank you so much b/c my husband loved it, too! And the limes were a great touch which made think the next time I make this, I am adding flour tortillas heated up directly over my gas stove.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thrilled to hear that your family enjoyed the chicken and rice recipe! Love the idea of warming up some tortillas to go with the dish. I heat them directly on my gas burner too!

  2. Paul Fischer says

    Wow Jessica! Thank you, this recipe is seasoned to the God’s! I used boneless skinless chicken breast and yellow squash as my local market didn’t have any green zucchini. The rice was fluffy, the meat was perfect and again, wow the layers of flavor!

  3. Jean says

    This is a lovely dish – flavorful, lots of vegetables and the spices are perfect. This was a big hit with the family

  4. Linda says

    Made this tonight for my picky family, who usually has something negative to say about whatever I cook, but with this recipe I got a unanimous thumbs up! Everyone loved this and had nothing negative to say! It was absolutely delicious, and a huge success and I thank you so much for this recipe. Followed your directions to a tee and it came out perfect!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      So happy for you, Linda! I know meal time can always be a challenge. Thrilled to hear that the whole family enjoyed the chicken recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You could use brown rice, but you would need to almost double the cooking time and increase the stock to 5 cups. You could add in the zucchini after the first 20 minutes of steaming the rice so it doesn’t become too mushy.

  5. Tony says

    Hi In preparation to make this dish, can I use pinto beans as a substitute for black beans? For me this would be more in keeping with a traditional Mexican dish. Thanks.

  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.

          • Jessica Gavin says

            Thanks for the feedback, Andrew! Now I want to make some fried rice too! How clever!

  7. 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.

  8. Kaila Galati says

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

  9. 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?


      • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Sandy says

    Your description of this dish mentions bell peppers, but I don’t see that bell peppers are included in the Ingredients list… am I missing something? It certainly sounds like peppers would be nice in this.

  13. Lynda says

    Always looking for new recipes for our “Taco Tuesday” meal, which is any Mexican dish…..this one is going into the regular rotation category. Everyone loved it. Easy peasy and yummy, too can’t beat that. Thanks for sharing

  14. Sandy says

    Gorgeous recipe! We absolutely loved it! A new fave! Served with ice berg /red cabbage/carrot salad, guacamole and jalapeno/red onion quick pickle.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for making the recipe Sandy, love the side that you served with the chicken and rice!

  15. Sandra March says

    This was good but rather bland. Next time, I would add more spices and jalapeno and perhaps more tomato paste. Easy to make if you do the mise en place beforehand.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love the idea of adding cocoa powder! Did the brown rice take the same time to cook or longer?

    • Louise Swift says

      I made this with brown rice and added peppers and mixed beans rather than just black beans – absolutely delicious – and went really far with enough left overs for tomorrow , cold with fish salad I think. Took an hour – I did all the prep whilst the marinade was happening and then cooked for 30 mins

  16. Monica says

    Delicious! Definitely saving the recipe! I agree, it did take longer to make. I’m not great with a knife yet, so prep for me was about 25 minutes, and cooking time was about 45 minutes!

  17. Cynthia says

    Very tasty. I followed the recipe exactly and the family liked it a lot, though (as mentioned) it does take longer to prepare than was stated. Thank you!

  18. dory says

    Wonderful recipe – great aroma – worked well with brown rice. Needed about 10 more minutes to get the chicken done. I’m not sure how one would ever get it crispy. And chopping up all that stuff increased the prep time by a lot. But it will be a staple.

  19. Rio says

    Excellent recipe, when making I ignored steps 6 and 7, and sauteed the rice in the oil used to cook the chicken and the chicken juices for added flavor.

    Again, great recipe and will absolutely make again.