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.

Other chicken and rice recipes we love is this crockpot chicken and rice, chicken burritos and chicken burrito skillet.

One Pan Mexican chicken and rice garnished with avocado and cilantro.

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 breasts, brown rice, salsa, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin, oil, cheese, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
  • 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.

Step by step process how to saute veggies and cook rice for Mexican chicken and rice.
  • 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.
Step-by-step process how to finish cooking Mexican chicken and rice and garnish it with cheese.
  • 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.
Mexican Chicken and Rice in a skillet with melted cheese and diced avocado on top.

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.


What is the best rice to use to make this dish?

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.

Can you make it with white rice?

Yes. Cook this dish with white rice for 15 minutes after adding the rice. Please see recipe card below.

Why is my rice undercooked?

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.

How do I make Mexican chicken and rice taste better?

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

Mexican Chicken and rice on a wooden spoon topped with avocado.
mexican chicken and rice

One Pan Mexican Chicken and Rice

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.
4.94 from 32 votes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 419
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour



  • 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.


Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 516mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. 5 stars
    I totally loved this recipe! It was very tasty, easy and plentiful. I must admit, I don’t enjoy Mexican food without the addition of cilantro, lime and Tajin, so all of these were added. I’ve tried other recipes of yours but this is definitely my favourite. Thanks so much for the time and effort to make these available.

    1. Hi Diana! I have never made this recipe using Old El Paso Cheesy Mexican Rice. I see that this rice package is already seasoned. If you do use it, I would add the spices listed in this recipe cautiously to taste as I don’t know how much is already in the rice.

  2. 5 stars
    I have made a few of your recipes and everyone I’ve tried has been great! This one was especially tasty and a bit for the whole family! So easy to make too! I will be adding this to a regular mealtime idea, thanks for the amazing recipes!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was delicious! I added 2 jalapenos to the veg sautee and needed an extra cup of broth to get the rice cooked enough…not sure why. I made it in a Dutch Oven rather than a skillet, so maybe that’s it. Added also a can of Hatch chiles and some corn. Garnished with cilantro. It was a hit at my house…it turned out like Mexican risotto. Yum! Thanks for the recipe–also the chicken breast bites came out really tender. My husband doesn’t usually like white meat and he was the biggest fan of this dish!

    1. I agree!!! It IS like Mexican risotto! The texture is definitely like that-and so GOOD! I agree with you regarding the chicken too. Incredibly tender and flavorful!I also used a Dutch oven-I honestly think it needed the room! LOL. I loved the heat of the chilies, and used a medium salsa for additional heat. I served it with some corn tortillas I toasted in the oven, as well as some guacamole and extra salsa on the side.

  4. My wife loved it, although I think she loved not having to cook more. I wasn’t sure whether to cook the chicken before putting it in the pan with the other ingredients, but it all worked out. The rice was a little over done. Would it work to put the rice in the pan uncooked like the chicken?

    1. You add uncooked chicken and rice, as per recipe. Also photos show that and are helpful. In recipes, if anything has to be pre-cooked, it is usually indicated.

      1. My wife loved the idea that I was cooking, too… But for some reason I couldn’t get the brown rice to cook. After a couple of hours I gave up and ordered pizza 🙁

        BUT, I will say this: I pulled the chicken out of the uncooked rice and the flavor was delicious. I wound up using (some of) the chicken in an omelet and it was delicious. I’m going to try again with a different skillet and maybe white rice. Hope springs eternal.

        1. I am sorry to hear that, David! Let’s troubleshoot. Does your lid have a tight seal on a skillet like mine pictured? Did you open it more than once as per recipe during cooking? It is important to follow the recipe with brown rice, it takes a while to cook. If you let out too much steam, it will take forever to cook. ALso could be the rice itself. Hope this helps! Dutch ovens are amazing for cooking brown rice dishes!

        2. Thanks, Olena!

          I was thinking that the lid might not be tight enough. It’s the lid that came with the skillet – I’d say it’s a good fit, but not really “sealed.” I’m going to try a different skillet. I only opened the one time (at 20 minutes), but then – when it wasn’t cooked at the second checkpoint I started checking every 10 minutes or so – that probably didn’t help.

          I’m going to try again soon and will let you know!

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe was amazing and made me feel like I could cook! Super easy, healthy, and filling. I am already thinking about when I can make it again! Thank you for this wonderful creation!

  6. 5 stars
    I had just signed up for some recipes today, when this dish caught my eye so I had to make it & I did ‘ all I can say is Wow!! What a tasty & healthy meal. So full of flavour & it packs a punch. I must admit I left out the cheese as I’m doing food optimising, but I know exactly what it would’ve tasted with the cheese….. Even more yummy.
    Will definitely be making this again & it could even be made in advance for a party. Great!

    1. Any large deep pan or even Dutch oven. Ceramic is just a recommendation when you buy new pan cause no harmful chemicals in non stock coating. Or less of them at least.

    1. None, just like in the photo final dish. If you have some left, let it sit a bit and it will get absorbed or cook extra few minutes.

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