You really can't beat Arroz con Pollo as a one-pot dinner -- with minimal effort you get a savory meal that is far superior to your local takeout options.
There's something so satisfying about plopping everything in a pan and letting the heat of the stove do all the heavy lifting. All while you chill out on the couch 🙂
I take an extra step in this recipe by brining the chicken, but keep in mind you can always skip that step for an even faster, more couch-friendly version.
How To Make Arroz con Pollo -- Mexican Chicken and Rice
A quick swim in saltwater can do wonders for chicken and I've been brining chicken nearly every time I cook with it lately. Brining will help keep it moist during the cook, and more importantly, it makes it taste better!
For this recipe that meant brining 5 bone-in chicken thighs in 2 quarts of cold water with 1/2 cup Kosher salt dissolved in it.
Cover these and let them chill out in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. It doesn't matter exactly how long you brine them -- I usually just play it by ear and grab 'em when I'm getting hungry 🙂
Keep in mind that you can use just about any cut of chicken for this recipe, you can even use boneless breasts if that's what you have available.
While the chicken is brining I usually put the tomatoes in the oven to roast. This will sweeten them up just a bit before we blend them into the sauce.
When you feel the hangry coming on, remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry.
Pre-heat a deep skillet or saucepan over medium-high and add a big glug of oil, 2-3 tablespoons worth.
Brown the chicken on both sides -- I usually brown it skin side down first.
Don't try to get the skin super crispy as it has absorbed some of the brine and won't crisp as readily -- the above pic took about 5-6 minutes to get a slight crisp on the thighs.
As the chicken browns you can build the tomato-jalapeno mixture. Add the following ingredients to a blender:
the roasted tomatoes
1/2 small onion
2 garlic cloves
Give it a good whirl and feel free to add more jalapeno if you want your Arroz con Pollo fiery. I like this dish best when the heat is subtle, and a single jalapeno seems to do that quite well.
Once the chicken is browned you can remove the thighs from the pan, setting them aside.
Add 2 cups rice to the same pan and let it cook over medium heat.
It will start to absorb some of the awesome chicken flavor that's leftover in the pan. Perfect!
When the rice starts to turn opaque and light brown you can add the tomato-jalapeno mixture from the blender.
Let this cook for a couple minutes and then add:
3 cups stock
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano What is Mexican oregano?
1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
freshly cracked black pepper
Bring it to a boil and now the all important taste testing, mostly checking for salt level. The thing is....
The exact amount of salt you need will depend on which stock you use. Sometimes I use homemade chicken stock that has zero sodium so I have to add a heaping teaspoon of salt to this dish. Conversely, if you're using store-bought stock then you may not need to add any salt at all.
So once this mixture is up to temp be sure to take a taste, adding salt if you think it needs it. It should already be quite flavorful at this point so don't eat it all!
When your happy with the salt level, add the chicken to the pan.
Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 20-25 minutes.
And now the best part...
Taking off the lid and seeing how your awesome one-pot meal has transformed is so satisfying! Something about seeing how the rice has fluffed up around the chicken gets me every time 🙂
Here's how this batch looked after 20 minutes or so....
Once you confirm the liquid is fully absorbed you can remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit in its own steam for a few minutes.
First things first...
Take a taste of the rice.
It's easily some of the best rice you'll ever eat. For realz.
It's been cooked in chicken fond, stock, some fat from the chicken skin, and the roasted tomato mixture. It is off the charts and you'll have loads of it when starting with 2 cups uncooked rice.
Serve up your chicken over a bed of the UNREAL rice and all is well in the world for a few minutes.
I topped this batch with freshly chopped cilantro but you can consider this optional.
Okay I hope you try out this Arroz con Pollo. It's the very definition of comfort food and I think you'll be amazed at how savory it can be despite so little work!
Feel free to get creative with your epic rice over the coming days. You can use it in so many tasty ways: burritos, tacos, tostadas, or even just mixed with some black beans.
Mexican Chicken and Rice -- Arroz con Pollo
- 2-3 lbs. chicken (I used 5 bone-in chicken thighs)
- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 3 cups stock (or water)
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 1/2 small onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- 0-1 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- freshly chopped cilantro (optional)
- olive oil
- I usually brine the chicken, but keep in mind this step is optional if you want a faster version. Add 2 quarts of cold water to a large mixing bowl along with 1/2 cup Kosher salt. Mix well to dissolve the salt and then add the chicken thighs. Cover and let brine in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
- Rinse and de-stem 3 plum tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes in the oven (400F) for 30 minutes or until you need them.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat dry. Pre-heat a deep skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and add a big glug of oil, 2-3 tablespoons worth. Once the oil is hot you can add the chicken, browning both sides for a few minutes each. I usually start with the skin side down, cook until the skin is browning, then flip and cook the underside for another few minutes. Once browned, you can remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Note: if you brine your chicken the skin may not crisp up as readily as it has absorbed some of the saltwater.
- Add 2 cups uncooked rice to the pan that you used to brown the chicken (the chicken has been set aside for now). Cook the rice for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring regularly.
- As the rice is cooking, add the following ingredients to a blender: the roasted tomatoes, 1/2 small onion, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 jalapeno. Combine well. For a milder version you can use less jalapeno.
- When the rice is turning opaque and light brown in color you can add the blended tomato-jalapeno mixture. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly. Then add the remaining ingredients: 3 cups stock, 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional), freshly cracked black pepper, and salt (optional). Bring it up to a boil and do some taste testing. The exact level of salt to be added will depend on which stock you use. If using store-bought stock you may not need to add much salt at all. If using water you'll probably need to add a heaping teaspoon of salt. Taste test and add pinches of salt until this mixture tastes good to you.
- Add the browned chicken to the pan. Bring it up to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.
- Once all the liquid is absorbed by the rice (usually somewhere around the 20 minute mark) you can remove it from the heat and let it sit in its own steam for a few minutes, covered.
- Serve up your chicken pieces over a bed of rice and optionally top with freshly chopped cilantro.
- Store leftovers in the fridge where they will keep for a few days. The rice is dee-licious, feel free to use it over the coming days in burritos, tacos, tostadas, or even just mixed with some black beans. Enjoy!
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