One Pan Mexican Chicken and Rice is easy skillet dinner made with pantry staples. Rice and chicken breasts are simmered in salsa broth, then finished with gooey cheese and served with avocado.
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I pulled off this Mexican chicken and rice recipe this week with mostly pantry ingredients. 4 months in into the year and my family declared this Mexican chicken recipe to be one of their favorite dinners of the year!
It has all the flavors of this Instant Pot chicken and rice with spices of Mexican cuisine like salsa and cumin, then topped with melted cheese on top. So-so-so good, I highly recommend not to cut the recipe in half.
While brown rice takes 40 minutes to cook, I was able to make this Mexican chicken and rice recipe in one skillet stirring only once. Not exactly a 30 minute dinner but so easy for extra nutrition benefits.
However, if you use white rice, this one pot meal is ready in 30 minutes. Let’s do it!
Ingredients for Mexican Chicken and Rice
To make this one pot Mexican chicken and rice recipe you will need just a handful of simple ingredients. Most are pantry staples.
- Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs cook equally fast.
- Rice: Any white rice or brown rice like long grain rice, short grain rice, basmati rice or jasmine rice works. The choice of type of rice will affect the consistency and nutrition of this Mexican chicken dish.
- Salsa: Mild salsa, medium salsa or hot salsa will affect level of spiciness of this Mexican chicken recipe. I used medium salsa and kids ate it no problem.
- Diced tomatoes: I use low sodium canned diced tomatoes that are undrained. You can also use tomato sauce.
- Cheese: Shredded Mexican cheese, Tex Mex cheese blend, cheddar cheese or marble cheese are great choices. If you shred cheese yourself, it will melt better than pre-shredded store-bought cheese.
- Onion, garlic, cumin, oil.
How to Make Mexican Chicken and Rice
Here is quick overview how to make Mexican chicken and rice step-by-step. Full recipe card is located below.
- Saute veggies and rice with spices. Saute onion and garlic first, then push them to the side and saute rice on its own. It adds flavor and cooks faster.
- Add chicken, salsa, tomatoes and water and cook for 20 minutes. It is important to bring chicken and rice mixture to a boil and cover with a tight fitting lid so rice can cook. If using white rice, cook for 10 minutes.
- Stir dish and cook for another 20 minutes. This step prevents burning and ensures evenly cooked rice. Again, skillet has to be covered and white rice takes only extra 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cheese and cover for 3 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Tips for Best Results and Variations
Here are my top tips for the best Mexican chicken and rice from the first try!
- Don’t reduce the recipe: It might seem like 2 pounds of chicken and 2 cups of rice is a lot but it’s not. This chicken dish was gone between 2 adults and 2 kids in one night. You can always refrigerate and freeze leftovers.
- Substitute chicken broth for water. Use either low sodium chicken broth from a carton, diluted in water bouillon cube, homemade chicken broth or Instant Pot chicken broth.
- Other seasonings: Enchilada sauce will work great in place of salsa. To add extra flavor to Mexican chicken and rice, substitute taco seasoning for cumin.
- Add small can of diced green chilies with the liquids, if you have them on hand. Great flavor.
- Skillet choice: Make sure to use a large skillet about 12 inches wide with deep walls. I am a huge fan of ceramic non-stick skillet because it does not contain PFOA and is affordable.
- Lid: Your lid should fit tightly over the skillet. If it doesn’t, then rice might need longer cook time.
- To make sure your rice is cooked: Be sure to bring all mixture to a boil first before reducing the heat, use tight fitting lid and do not open it too often.
What to Serve Mexican Chicken and Rice With?
To serve Mexican chicken and rice skillet, I like to add diced avocado and lots of chopped cilantro on top right in the skillet. This skillet is so flavorful, you don’t need many toppings.
You can also dress it up with diced tomato or pico de gallo, salsa guacamole, yogurt or sour cream, lime juice, green onion or shredded lettuce. Add some crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips, if you wish.
How to Store and Reheat
Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Longer than that and I prefer to freeze this chicken and rice casserole because salsa and rice go sour.
Freeze: Cook, cool and freeze Mexican chicken and rice in a tightly sealed container to prevent freezer burn. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
You can use white rice or brown rice. I think the best rice to use is basmati rice or long grain rice as it holds its shape the best in this Mexican chicken and rice recipe.
Yes. Cook this dish with white rice for 15 minutes after adding the rice. Please see recipe card below.
To avoid undercooked rice, be sure to bring the mixture to a boil before simmering. Also be sure the lid fits tightly on top of your skillet, so steam doesn’t escape. Stir only once. And sometimes different rice needs extra 5-15 minutes cook time which is also normal.
This one pan Mexican chicken and rice is full of flavor. However, you can add a can of diced green chilies, use chicken broth instead of water or saute some green bell pepper with onion to add more depth of flavor.
More Rice Recipes to Try
More One Pot Meals to Try
- One pot chicken quinoa
- One pan taco skillet
- One pan chicken and potatoes
- One pot chicken stew
- One pot skillet enchiladas
- Chicken and zucchini recipe
- Chicken quinoa skillet
One Pan Mexican Chicken and Rice
- 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts or thighs cut into 1″ pieces
- 2 cups brown or white rice rinsed & drained
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes low sodium
- 1 cup salsa I used medium
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup Tex Mex cheese cheddar or marble cheese, shredded
- Cilantro green onion, avocado, tomato, yogurt for toppings
- Preheat large skillet on medium heat and swirl 1 tablespoon of oil to coat. Add onion and garlic; saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Push veggies to the side and swirl remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add rice, cumin, salt, pepper and saute for 3 more minutes, stirring often (rice part only).
- Add chicken, diced tomatoes, salsa, water and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook with brown rice for 20 minutes and with white rice for 10 minutes.
- Stir, cover and cook for another 20 minutes – brown rice and 5 minutes – white rice.
- Turn off heat, add cheese and cover until melted.
- Serve hot with desired toppings like cilantro, green onion, avocado, tomato, yogurt etc.
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freeze: For up to 3 months.
- Don’t cut the recipe. It might seem like 2 pounds of chicken and 2 cups of rice is a lot but it’s not. This meal was gone between 2 adults and 2 boys in one night. You can always refrigerate and freeze leftovers.
- Brown rice: I used basmati brown rice as it stays more separated than long grain rice.
- Low sodium: If using not low sodium canned tomatoes, add less salt to taste at the end.
- Tomato sauce is OK in place of diced tomatoes. Enchilada sauce would work in place of salsa.
- More flavorful: Low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock is OK instead of water. Add a can of diced green chilies for even more Tex Mex taste.
- Lid. Your lid should fit tightly. If it’s not then rice might need longer cook time.