This Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo is a twist on the classic chicken with rice dish popular in much of the world in one variation or another. It takes a few prep steps and then you walk away and let it cook in the oven, freeing you up to make something to go alongside (a salad would be good), or put your feet up for a few minutes.
One of my all-time favorites is Arroz con Pollo, the classic chicken and rice dish made in most Latin countries, and rumored to have originated in Puerto Rico. While versions vary from country to country, they all have a similar technique. You fry chicken pieces in oil and then cook vegetables in the drippings. Place the chicken back in the pot, add rice and broth and simmer until the rice is done and the liquid has evaporated. Very simple to make, and oh so delicious!
I was about 10 years old the first time I made it and it was one of those moments in my life when you look back and realize that in that moment your entire future changed – all because of a recipe in a borrowed cookbook and an enthusiastic teacher in my school.
That year, my teacher hosted a potluck dinner to help us get more involved in learning Spanish. Some children made decorations, some brought music, and I was asked to bring an entree. There were no Mexican restaurants in our little town so we had tried very little of the cuisine beyond Americanized tacos. My mom and I went to the library and got a cookbook on Mexican foods. We settled on Arroz con Pollo. It looked and sounded good, wasn’t too complicated, and we decided to try it.
Mom and I stood side by side in the kitchen, reading the recipe together, gathering the ingredients, making a shopping list for everything we didn’t have and studying the pictures. Step by step we made the dish and it smelled heavenly as it was baking. When it came out of the oven, we each took a bite and were thrilled – it was absolutely amazing, so much better than anything we had ever made!
I packed it up and took it to class, so proud of what we had created. The class loved it as much as Mom and I did. It was my first time cooking for people outside of our family and it was a resounding success. I got kudos from the teacher and other kids, cementing in my brain the concept that cooking can garner you peer recognition.
I have made this dish in one form or another since that day. But this time I dialed up the flavor and boosted the vegetable quotient, making it healthier and more delicious. It isn’t very spicy, but full of incredible flavors that are built in a few steps. And don’t forget that you can make the entire thing a day ahead for even more flexibility.
Today’s version incorporates the flavors of classic arroz con pollo amped up with Tex-Mex ingredients for a winning dish your whole family will love. It is also a great dish for parties because you can make it a day ahead and just reheat gently before people arrive. You can increase the amount of chicken to feed more people if needed.
The original recipe calls for a whole cut-up chicken on the bone, but I was running short on time so I switched to boneless skinless breasts which cook much more quickly. The Artist was very hungry and needed to eat sooner rather than later.
If you have trouble getting your kids to eat vegetables, cut all of them into very small pieces and cook them down until they start to caramelize, then add some tomatoes, seasonings, and you’ve got the base for a great dish that your kids will love. If all else fails, add some grated cheese and melt it over the rice – that is guaranteed to have everyone begging for seconds.
If you are cooking for vegetarians, you can leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Add some mushrooms to take the place of the chicken. You can use this recipe to create an amazing side dish. I honestly can’t wait for the leftovers, which after an evening in the refrigerator will be even better with more developed and melded flavors. Can you guess what we will be having for dinner tomorrow? LOL
I hope you put this Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo on your to-make list and give it a try soon. I know you will love it as much as The Artist and I do. Have a fabulous weekend!
Key Ingredients for Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo:
- Chicken, ancho chile powder, olive oil, onion, celery
- Carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno, long-grain white rice
- Diced tomatoes, white wine, cumin, frozen peas
- Frozen corn, chicken broth, cilantro or parsley
What is the difference between a poblano pepper and a jalapeno?
Poblanos are fairly large and dark green. They are a mild pepper and add a lovely flavor without a lot of heat. Jalapenos are much hotter but are considered on the lower end of the scale. Generally, the smaller the pepper or chile, the hotter it is.
If you normally cook with gluten ingredients, you need to be careful not to use your normal cutting board or wooden utensils and sponges (for clean up) as they can harbor minute amounts of gluten. It is best to keep a separate set of tools if you will be cooking for someone regularly.
How to make Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo:
- Brown chicken and set aside; in the same skillet, sauté the vegetables then stir in the rice and toss to coat with the oil and cook until lightly toasted
- Stir in the tomatoes and wine, deglazing the pan; add the seasonings, peas, and corn then pour into the baking pan and pour in the broth and half the cilantro (or parsley)
- Add the chicken to the rice mixture and bake 40 to 50 minutes until rice is tender and chicken cooked through; adjust seasonings and serve rice with some of the chicken
There are people who have a gene that makes cilantro taste soapy. If someone you are cooking for hates cilantro, you can use parsley in its place. You can serve cilantro on the side for others to add to their individual plates.
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- 9×13-inch baking pan
- Large skillet
- Wooden spatula
- Instant read thermometer
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
Watch the canned or frozen products whenever you are cooking for someone with Celiac or gluten-intolerance. Broths are another place where gluten can hide. Always look for certified gluten-free products for the safest meals.
- 4 large boneless, skinless breasts or 1 cut-up chicken, skin removed
- 1 tbsp ground ancho chile powder
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp organic olive oil
- 2 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, minced
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 28 oz (about 3 cups) diced tomatoes with their juices
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 2 tsp ground ancho chile powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
- 2 cups chicken broth (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley, divided
- Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Set a plate and a 9x13-inch baking pan next to the stove.
- Prepare the Chicken: Season the chicken pieces with the chile powder, salt, and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and add the chicken (cook in batches if it won’t all fit at the same time). Reduce the heat to medium and cook the chicken until browned on the first side, about 5 minutes and then turn with tongs to cook the second side until golden brown. (If using boneless chicken, reduce this to about 3 minutes per side.) Transfer the chicken to the plate. If cooking in batches, add the remaining chicken, brown and add to the first batch on the plate.
- Prep the Rice: Add the 2 tbsp oil to the same pan you cooked the chicken in and stir in the onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and poblanos or jalapenos. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are slightly softened, stirring often, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and continue cooking, tossing occasionally until the rice is lightly toasted and starting to get a little color, about 10 minutes.
- When the rice is ready, stir in the tomatoes and wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper, peas, and corn, stirring until all the ingredients are combined. Transfer to the baking dish, stir in the broth and half the cilantro.
- Bake the Casserole: Add the chicken to the dish, snuggling them down into the rice and liquid to protect them from overcooking. Place in the hot oven.
- Bake until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 40 to 50 minutes. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast is 160°F. If the chicken finishes before the rice, transfer it to a plate and tent loosely with foil; continue baking the rice. If using boneless breasts, cut each one crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. If needed, return the chicken to the rice for 10 minutes to rewarm before serving.
- To Serve: Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Scoop rice into warmed serving bowls and top with some the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining cilantro for bright flavor and serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 408Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 1236mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 11gSugar: 26gProtein: 12g
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