There’s no shortage of flavor in this Mexican Chicken and Rice. The flavors are bold and incredibly amazing!
This dish is a full meal on its own, and it’s made in one pot for easy clean-up, which is why it’s one of my favorite weeknight meals!
This Mexican chicken and rice reheats very well, making it ideal for enjoying the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or make the entire dish up to 3 days in advance to make weeknights even easier!
This one pot Mexican chicken and rice has become one of my favorite meals ever. It’s super easy to make, and PACKED with incredible flavor!
It all starts with the marinade, which not only adds so much flavor, but also helps tenderize the chicken thighs. The rice is cooked in a seasoned tomato-based broth and finished in the oven until tender and fragrant.
Although this Mexican chicken and rice recipe does take closer to 1 hour to make, it is a great weeknight meal because it is a one-pot recipe with minimal cleanup.
Why we LOVE this recipe:
- SO much flavor: The chicken is marinated in a blend of bold Mexican-inspired spices.
- Juicy chicken thighs: Skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs retain moisture and juiciness, resulting in tender and succulent meat.
- Complete meal in one: This Mexican chicken and rice dish is a complete meal in and of itself. If you like, you can also add some vegetables!
- Easy clean-up! Everything cooks right in the same pan, which is a huge time-saver.
The Chicken Marinade
Marinades not only do a great job of adding tons of flavor to proteins, they also help tenderize. The results? Flavorful, juicy, and tender chicken.
This marinade for this Mexican chicken and rice dish is made with garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
The marinade not only adds flavor to the chicken, but also to the rice. After searing the marinated chicken in the pan, the browned bits that are left behind are infused with the flavors of the marinade, which enhances the flavors of the rice. It’s amazing!
How long to marinate: The length of time you marinate chicken depends on your preference and how much time you have. A 20-30 minute marinade will give you good results, but marinating for a few hours or even overnight will make the chicken even more flavorful.
You only need a handful of basic ingredients to make the most delicious and comforting Mexican chicken and rice at home. As always, the full ingredient quantities can be found in the recipe card down below, but I wanted to provide a few helpful notes here:
For the chicken and marinade:
- Chicken thighs: Opt for skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs for juiciness and tenderness. Boneless thighs work too.
- Olive oil: Helps to carry the flavors into the chicken.
- Minced garlic: For flavor.
- Chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and dried oregano: These spices bring the bold Mexican-inspired flavors.
- Lime juice: Adds a refreshing tanginess and balances the richness of the spice blend.
- Salt and pepper
For the rice:
- Long grain rice: Long grain rice provides a fluffy texture and absorbs the flavors of the dish. I wouldn’t recommend using short grain rice here, as the texture may
- Onions and garlic: These aromatics add depth and fragrance to the dish.
- Tomato paste: Enhances flavors and adds color.
- Rotel tomatoes and chilies: A can of mild Rotel tomatoes and chilies adds a subtle kick and tang to the dish.
- Chicken broth: Using broth to cook the rice adds extra flavor.
- Toppings like cilantro, queso fresco crumbles, and lime wedges
Making this one pan Mexican chicken and rice is easier than you might think. We start on the stove to build all those amazing flavors, and finish cooking in the oven until the rice is perfectly tender and fragrant.
Step 1 | Marinate chicken
Make the marinade first. In a bowl or large resealable Ziploc bag, combine the olive oil, minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and make sure it’s coated with all the marinade. Marinate for 20 to 30 minutes, or overnight for even more flavor.
Step 2 | Sear the chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a deep skillet or pan that has a lid, sear the marinated chicken thighs (skin side down first) UNDISTURBED until they develop a golden-brown crust. This step will render the fat from the skin and lock in the flavors. Flip the chicken thighs over and sear the other side. The chicken won’t be fully cooked at this point.
Step 3 | Sauté aromatics
Don’t wipe the skillet clean – we’re going to build on those flavors. Add the diced onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. The moisture from the onions should help deglaze the browned bits, but if not, add a splash of broth. Cook the garlic for another minute until fragrant.
Step 4 | Add rice and tomatoes
Stir in the rice and tomato paste, ensuring the grains are coated with the aromatic mixture. Add the can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies.
Step 5 | Add broth and chicken
Add the chicken broth and give it a stir. Bring to a low simmer. Then, nestle the seared chicken thighs into the rice mixture. Bring back the mixture to a simmer. Don’t over-stir.
Step 6 | Finish cooking in oven
Cover the pan with the lid (if your pan doesn’t have a lid, cover with foil tightly), and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let the rice rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve the Mexican chicken and rice with crumbled queso fresco, cilantro, and jalapeño slices.
Tip: Don’t open the lid until the rice is ready, otherwise the rice may not cook properly. The trapped steam will cook the rice just right.
Tips for Cooking Rice
I get a lot of questions about how to cook rice. How do I prevent rice from sticking? How do I cook the rice so that it’s not mushy?
The first step is to get the right ratio of rice to water. Different types of rice require different amounts of water. For long-grain rice, which is used in this Mexican chicken and rice recipe, use 1-¾ cups of liquid per 1 cup of rice. Note: The original recipe for this dish used the standard 2:1 water to rice ratio (2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice), but I have since tested the recipe again and modified it.
In addition, simply using the rice-to-liquid ratio is not enough to get the desired consistency. Here are a few more pointers for making the perfect one-pot Mexican chicken and rice every time:
- Before cooking, rinse the rice thoroughly in a colander to remove some of the natural starch. This will result in fluffy, separated grains rather than mushy ones.
- Do not over-stir. Once you have added the liquid and stirred it to combine evenly, let it simmer undisturbed and covered. Stirring rice while it is cooking will only make it like risotto consistency, which is not what we are looking for here.
Prep ahead: To save time for this Mexican chicken and rice, marinate the chicken thighs in the refrigerator overnight. This will help to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor.
Of course, fresh is always better but this Mexican chicken and rice can be made up to 3 days in advance. It keeps really well, which is why it’s also great for leftovers. Reheat individual servings in the microwave with a splash of water to prevent drying out.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
I love serving this dish with a spread of toppings. Try crumbled queso fresco, shredded Mexican blend cheese blend, jalapeños, fresh tomatoes, and cilantro. And, of course, don’t forget that squeeze of fresh lime that brightens the entire dish!
It would also go great with a generous serving of my easy 4-ingredient guacamole! Guac makes everything better, let’s be honest.
More Mexican-inspired recipes you’ll love
- Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice
- Chicken Quesadillas
- Chicken Fajita Bowls
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Slow Cooker Tacos Al Pastor
It’s best to use long grain rice to achieve the right texture. Short grain rice, such as arborio, are best used for dishes like risotto or paella.
You can use long grain brown rice. Brown rice usually needs more liquid than white rice, so use a 2:1 liquid to rice ratio.
I would not recommend freezing this dish. Freezing cooked rice changes the texture of cooked rice, and may turn mushy when reheated. You can, however, store the prepared dish in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes, absolutely. I’d recommend dicing the chicken breast into cubes before marinating.
I use this Dutch oven braiser with a lid.
This recipe was published in 2019 and updated in May 2023 to include new photos and information, plus a few recipe modifications.
Tips for Success
- Use an oven-proof deep skillet or pan with a lid to make sure there’s room for the rice to expand as it cooks. My pan is about 2.5-inch deep and 12 inches in diameter.
- After cooking the chicken, don’t wipe the skillet clean. Use those flavor-packed brown bits to sauté the onions and garlic – this will help build the flavors for the rice.
- Avoid opening the lid while the rice is cooking in the oven, otherwise the steam will escape and the rice may not cook properly.
- If your pan doesn’t have a lid, you can cover tightly with aluminum foil instead.
Mexican Chicken and Rice
- Dutch oven deep skillet with a lid
For the chicken marinade
- 6 chicken thighs (skin-on and bone-in) - excess fat trimmed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the rice
- Olive oil for pan
- ½ cup diced yellow onions
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups long grain rice - rinsed through a colander
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 can (10 ounces) Rotel tomatoes and chilies
- 3 ½ cups chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Topping for servings: Cilantro, queso fresco, lime wedges
- Marinate the chicken: In a large Ziploc bag, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken thighs into the marinade, making sure they are thoroughly covered. Seal the bag and let marinate in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large oven-proof deep skillet with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the marinated chicken thighs, skin-down first, until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then, flip them over and sear for another 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. The chicken won’t be fully cooked at this point. Tip: Give each side time to sear undisturbed to lock in all the flavors and get a golden brown crust.
- Don’t wipe the skillet clean – we’ll use these brown bits to build flavors. Add the onions and sauté for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the rice and tomato paste, and stir to coat. Stir in the Rotel tomatoes and chilies.
- Then stir in the chicken broth and combine evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and return the seared chicken, nesting it under the rice.
- Bring back to a simmer. Cover tightly with the oven-proof lid. Finish cooking in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Tip: Avoid opening the lid, otherwise the steam will escape and the rice may not cook properly.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. To serve, top with cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, and lime wedges. Enjoy!
- Liquid to rice ratio: For every 1 cup of long grain rice, use 1-¾ cups of liquid. For this recipe, we use 2 cups of rice, so 3.5 cups of broth.
- Don’t stir the rice as it cooks in the oven: Once you add the broth, give it a stir to combine everything evenly and that’s it. Finish cooking the rice undisturbed in the oven. Over-stirring can lead to mushy rice.
- Prep ahead: Marinate the chicken for a minimum of 20 minutes, or up to 1 day in the fridge.
- Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave oven with a splash of water to prevent drying out.
- Chicken: Instead of thighs, you may use chicken breast cut into cubes.
- Rice: Regular long grain rice is ideal, but you can try other varieties like jasmine. Do not use short grain rice, as the texture may not hold up very well for this dish.
- Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies: Canned diced tomatoes and add a chopped jalapeno for a spicy kick.