Chicken Fiesta

This Chicken Fiesta will have your family licking their plates…and the skillet. It’s an easy, 30 minute, one skillet dinner, made with nutritious Tex-Mex ingredients you probably have on hand right now. Everything simmers together (including my quick dinner secret weapon – instant brown rice), in enchilada sauce and broth, instead of water, for elevated earthy, chili flavor with perfectly textured rice!

top view of Chicken Fiesta in a skillet topped with avocados and tomatoes


 

Watch how to make Chicken Fiesta

 
  • Easy. If you can chop and stir, you can make this recipe with only 10 minutes of prep!
  • ONE skillet meal-in-one. Only one pan to wash without any additional sides.
  • Pantry friendly ingredients.   Make it any time, even when you’re short on ingredients.
  • Tender, never mush rice. Instant brown rice is the secret!
  • Tex-Mex flavor. You will be amazed at the explosion of flavor thanks to the earthy, sassy spice rub and simmering the ingredients in enchilada sauce and chicken broth instead of water.
  • Incredibly customizable.  Swap out any of the veggies, use ground beef, turkey or chicken, use more or less cheese, etc.
  • Nutritious. This Fiesta Chicken recipe is loaded with lean protein, nutritious veggies, and whole grains for a wholesome meal the whole family will love and YOU can feel good about serving it!
  • Fabulous leftovers. This recipe tastes just as good the next day for meal prep!
Fiesta chicken with chicken, rice, beans, corn and tomatoes all simmered together in one skillet

Fiesta Chicken Ingredients

This Fiesta Chicken transforms, humble, everyday ingredients into a back-pocket win the whole family will love!  Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to make this recipe (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Chicken: Keep chicken breasts stashed in your fridge or freezer so you can make this Chicken Fiesta recipe any time.
  • Spices: A homemade spice mix is made with chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and dried oregano, They combine to create a dynamic, complex, alluring explosion of flavor.
  • Instant brown rice: My secret to getting this one-pan wonder on the table in under 30 minutes! You MUST use instant brown rice, and not any other rice. Minute brand is a common favorite (this is the one I used here).
  • Aromatics: One chopped yellow onion and 4-6 garlic cloves create the building blocks of flavor.
  • Bell peppers: Like fajitas, I recommend one green bell pepper for its earthiness and either a red, orange or yellow bell pepper for sweetness.
  • Black beans:  One can black beans rinsed and drained provides creaminess and earthiness, as well as vitamins and minerals.
  • Corn:  Use one 15 oz. can sweet corn or 1 ¾ cup thawed frozen corn or corn straight off the cob.
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes:  These are wonderfully smoky with a sweet complexity and less acidity than traditional tomatoes.   
  • Diced green chiles: These are sold in 4 oz. cans usually next to the beans and corn. They are tangy and zippy without being spicy (make sure to purchase “mild!).
  • Enchilada sauceUse your favorite store-bought variety or this homemade recipe.
  • Chicken broth: The broth is used, in combination with enchilada sauce, to cook the rice directly in the pan and infuse it with flavor. Use low sodium broth which allows you to season the Fiesta Chicken recipe to taste.
  • Cheese: Sharp cheddar is bold enough to hold up against the other ingredients without being overly heavy.
showing how to serve chicken fiesta recipe by adding to a bowl with chopped avocados and sour cream and cilantro
  • Use chicken thighs:  Swap the chicken breasts for boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • Use ground beef:  Swap the chicken for 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey. Brown the beef/turkey completely before removing from the skillet.
  • Use leftover proteins: Instead of chicken, use your favorite Mexican-inspired proteins such as beef barbacoa, Mexican chickencrockpot Mexican chickenchipotle chickenchipotle sweet pull pork, carnitas, etc. When using seasoned leftovers, reduce the spice mix by one third and add it only to the bell peppers.
  • Use cooked rice: Omit the chicken broth, and stir in any cooked rice, grain or low carb alternative such as cauliflower rice. Simmer just a minute or so to warm through (because the rice is already cooked). If the skillet looks dry, add additional enchilada sauce as needed.
  • Use regular diced tomatoes: Most grocery stores carry fire roasted, but if you can’t find them, substitute with regular diced tomatoes instead.
  • Swap the cheese: Use Monterrey Jack cheese or pepper Jack cheese or stir in your favorite cheese sauce.
  • Swap beans:  Use pinto beans or kidney beans in place of black beans, or stir refried beans into the skillet at the end of cooking for extra creaminess.
  • Add veggies:  Swap the bell peppers for corn, zucchini, chayote, cauliflower, pre-cooked sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Spice it up:  Increase the heat by adding cayenne pepper, chipotle chile pepper, or hot sauce to taste. You can also use spicy green chili peppers or enchilada sauce to bring the heat.
  • Make it vegetarian: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and swap the chicken for firm, drained tofu or additional vegetables.
  • Step 1: Season chicken. Whisk the homemade spice mix seasonings together in a bowl. Pat the chopped chicken dry while it’s still on the cutting board, then season with 1 tablespoon of the Spice Mix.
showing how to make Chicken Fiesta Recipe by adding spices to chopped chicken
  • Step 2: Brown chicken: Sear chicken for a couple minutes on each side in sizzling oil oil. The chicken will not be cooked through at this point, but will finish cooking with the rice. Remove chicken to a plate, but leave the drippings.
showing how to make fiesta chicken by searing chicken in a skillet
  • Step 3: Sauté bell peppers. Sauté the onions for a few minutes to give them a head start to soften. Add the bell peppers, sauté for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and remaining spices and sauté for 1 minute.
a collage showing how to make chicken fiesta recipe by sautéing onions until softened, then adding bell peppers and spices and sautéing
  • Step 4: Add remaining ingredients. Add the chicken back to the pot along with the all the remaining ingredients (the rice is in there somewhere!).
showing how to make fiesta chicken recipe by adding chicken, rice, black beans, corn, bell peppers and enchilada sauce to the skillet to simmer all together
  • Step 5: Simmer. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to medium-low and continue to simmer until the rice is tender, about 6-8 minutes. 
Showing how to make chicken fiesta and rice by simmering until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender
  • Step 6: Add cheese. Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted.  Top with remaining cheese, cover and cook on medium until cheese is melted. Top with desired toppings like sour cream, avocados, etc.
a collage showing how to make chicken fiesta by stirring chicken into the recipe, then topping with additional cheese to melt
showing how to make chicken fiesta recipe by topping the skillet with sour cream, avocados and pico de gallo
  • Cook the onions until tender. The onions won’t soften more when simmering with the rice, so take care they are as soft as you want them before you add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Use instant brown rice. This is the secret to the juiciest chicken and the quickest dinner! Don’t be tempted to use any other type of rice or the liquid ration and cooking time will be off.
  • Check the rice early. Different brands of rice, different pans and exact stove temperature will affect the simmering time. Check the rice for doneness at 6 minutes, then simmer for additional time as needed. If the skillet is drying up before the rice is cooked, add additional broth ¼ cup at a time.
  • Usefreshly grated cheese. Use freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Grate the cheese yourself for superior flavor and melting ability as opposed to store-bought shredded cheese which are coating in anti-caking agents.
  • Add toppings! Toppings elevate this recipe for Fiesta Chicken to new heights and allows everyone to customize their own plates. Some ideas include sour cream, avocados, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, hot sauce and/or jalapenos (sweet pickled jalapenos from Trader Joe’s are amazing (get on Amazon here). 
up close of serving fiesta chicken recipe by scooping it up with a spoon
  • Chicken Fiesta Dip:  Top with shredded cheese, as instructed, or nacho cheese sauce along with desired toppings such as jalapenos, olives, sour cream, guacamole, etc.  Serve with thick restaurant style tortilla chips.
  • Chicken Fiesta Tacos:  Serve in warm tortillas and top with desired toppings such as lettuce, cilantro, homemade guacamole, cotija cheese, and sour cream. 
  • Chicken Fiesta Burritos: Layer a burrito size tortilla with Fiesta Chicken and Rice, guacamole, sour cream and lettuce.  Serve with desired toppings.
  • Chicken Fiesta Quesadillas:  Layer a burrito size tortilla with Chicken Fiesta recipe, and grill until golden, cheesy perfection. Serve with your favorite toppings.
  • Chicken Fiesta Burrito Bowls: Pile the Chicken Fiesta in a bowl, top with chopped lettuce, tortilla chips and your favorite burrito toppings such as sour cream/Greek yogurt, avocado crema or guacamole, avocado ranch or cilantro lime dressing.
  • Smothered Fiesta Chicken Burritos:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and add a baking rack on top. Prepare burritos by adding a heaping ½ cup Fiesta Chicken and Rice to each burrito size tortilla, then roll up burrito-style. Place burritos on the baking rack and brush both sides lightly with olive oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cook for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Broil to desired crispiness, flip over and broil the other side until golden.  Remove baking rack and top burritos with my wildly popular Cheesy Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce like in my Chicken Burritos, enchilada sauce, salsa verde or salsa.
serving chicken fiesta recipe in a bowl with rice

Chicken Fiesta Recipe FAQs

Can I Make Fiesta Chicken in a Crock Pot?

I have only tried making this recipe as written, so I cannot guarantee results using the slow cooker. The recipe would have to be cooked on high in order to simmer the rice. The chicken will take approximately 2-2 ½ hours to cook at high heat, but I’m not sure if the rice will be done before then. You are welcome to experiment, or make on the stovetop, then transfer to the slow cooker to keep warm.

Can I Make Instant Pot Fiesta Chicken?

I have not tried making this recipe in the Instant Pot, and the liquid ratio would likely need to be experimented with in order to make it successful.

Can I Make Fiesta Chicken Without Instant Rice?

Yes, but not using the same amount of liquid and cooking time as in the recipe card. The only other rice that could be used with moderate success would be white rice because it cooks much quicker than brown rice. Cook the skillet closer to 10-15 minutes, adding additional broth as needed. The rice will not be as texturally pleasing.

What is the tastiest way to cook chicken?

The tastiest way to cook chicken is to first pat it dry with paper towels so the chicken will sear instead of steam. Next, chop the chicken into large bite-size pieces so it stays extra juicy and is more difficult to overcook. Season the bites of chicken with a robust spice rub and toss until the cubes are evenly coated. Lastly, sear the chicken for a couple minutes on each side to create the Maillard reaction. For this recipe, the chicken will continue to cook with the rice, otherwise, cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, then let rest for 5 minutes to carryover to 165 degrees F.

up close of scooping up chicken fiesta and rice showing how cheesy it is

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showing how to make chicken fiesta recipe by topping the skillet with sour cream, avocados and pico de gallo

Fiesta Chicken and Rice

This Chicken Fiesta will have your family licking their plates…and the skillet. It's an easy, 30 minute, one skillet dinner, made with nutritious Tex-Mex ingredients you probably have on hand right now! Everything simmers together (including my quick dinner secret weapon – instant brown rice), in enchilada sauce and broth, instead of water, for elevated earthy, chili flavor with perfectly textured rice!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

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Ingredients

SPICE Mix

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH salt, ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano

SKILLET

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound uncooked chicken breasts, chopped into large bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can sweet corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 1 1/2 cups instant brown rice *Do NOT use ANY OTHER RICE (white minute rice or regular rice will cook differently)
  • 1 10 oz. can mild enchilada sauce
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

Add later:

  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

TOPPING IDEAS

  • chopped avocados
  • chopped lettuce
  • tortilla chips
  • cilantro
  • sour cream
  • guacamole

Instructions

  • Spice Mix: Whisk the Spices Mix seasonings together in a small bowl.
  • Season chicken: Pat the chopped chicken dry while it’s still on the cutting board; season with 1 tablespoon of the Spice Mix; set aside.
  • Sear chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat (if you don’t have a deep one, use an enamaled Dutch oven or braiser). Add seasoned chicken and sear for about 2 minutes per side, until golden, then stir until until no longer pink on the outside (it will cook fully with the rice). Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon
  • Saute veggies: Add the onions and sauté for 4 minutes. Add bell peppers and sauté for 2 minutes or until the onions are softened; add garlic and remaining spices and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add ingredients: Reduce heat to low and add the chicken back to the skillet. Stir in the rest of the ingredients through the chicken broth (don't add cheese).
  • Cook rice: Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to medium-low and continue to simmer until the rice is tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Add cheese: Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted. Top with remaining cheese, cover, and cook on medium until cheese is melted.
  • Add toppings: Top with desired toppings such as sour cream, tomatoes, avocados etc. Serve with plenty of chips!

Video

Notes

  • *ABOUT THE RICE: This recipe is written and intended for INSTANT BROWN rice, and NOT instant white rice, regular white or brown rice. You are welcome to experiment, but the cooking time and amount of broth will need to be adjusted (I don’t advise regular brown rice, however, because the cook time is too long).  Alternatively, omit the chicken broth and stir pre-cooked rice into the skillet and simmer just to warm through, adding additional enchilada sauce, as needed, if it seems dry. 

To Store and Reheat

  • To Store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To Freeze: Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to three months.  Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • To Reheat: Microwave for 60 seconds then at 20-second intervals as needed, gently over the stove top, or bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until warmed through. 

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2 Comments

  1. Paddy Harrington says

    Jen,
    You continue to amaze me with such perfect meals!!!! This was outstanding!!!!
    I said it before I will say it again, someone needs to put a cape on you!
    Thank you so much for all your great recipes
    Paddy

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much, Paddy, I am so happy you enjoyed this! I appreciate you taking the time to leave such glowing reviews- it really makes my day!