Growing up in Spain, one simple and delicious dish we ate often was Spanish Chicken & Rice or, Arroz con Pollo. It’s a family-friendly dish made with rice, chicken, and vegetables for a simple yet satisfying meal that comes together in one skillet so cleanup is a breeze.
The flavors of this recipe are as close to what I remember from my childhood and bring back happy memories of my grandfather and his back-yard chickens and my grandmother cooking Valencia rice with aromatic spices in the kitchen. You could taste the quality of the ingredients in every bite.
In this simple recipe for Spanish chicken and rice, I used chicken thighs cooked over saffron rice; yielding a fragrant, delicious, one skillet meal.
Spanish Chicken Spices
To bring this dish up a notch, I seasoned the rice with saffron. But don’t worry, if you don’t have saffron, I offer a replacement that will also add lots of flavor in the recipe card below. I can’t help it! I’m from Spain and paella is a way of life! But that’s another recipe for another day.
For anyone who is not familiar with saffron, it’s a threadlike spice harvested from flowers. It has a sweet, floral scent and gives a beautiful yellow hue when cooked with rice, couscous, and grains. It’s also one of the most widely used spices in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Searing the chicken in the same pot leaves small tidbits of flavor that will add additional seasoning to this dish. And the bone-in makes each chicken piece tender and juicy.
How to Cook Spanish Chicken Thighs
The key to getting a golden sear on these Spanish chicken thighs is to brown them skin-side down a minute or 2 before cooking the rice. It makes the skin crisp and keeps the meat tender and moist as it cooks with the rice.
Some recipes call for bone-in thighs with the skin removed, but I prefer to keep the skin-on, it helps to lock in moisture and keep the meat moist.
Since we’re cooking the rice along with the chicken, low and slow is best. This will guarantee a perfect texture for the rice without drying out the chicken.
They say, that the best way to learn how something is made is to see it so I’ve made a video showing you how!
How to Make Spanish Chicken & Rice Step-by-Step
To make this recipe, you’ll want to use a large skillet with a lid. While the ingredient list is simple, if you don’t have saffron, you can order it off Amazon, or if you’re in a pinch, use smoked paprika instead.
Brown the Chicken
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs skin down. Brown for 2 minutes before flipping and browning another 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside onto a plate.
Sauté the Veggies
Heat additional olive oil in the skillet and add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes or until softened. Add the saffron, salt, and bay leaf, give it stir and sauté for another 3 minutes.
Add the rice
By now, your kitchen should smell incredible. Take in a few deep breaths and add the rice to the veggies. Toast for 1 minute, to give it more flavor and pour in the chicken broth, stir to combine.
Add the thighs
Place the browned thighs over the rice and bring to a simmer.
Put a lid on it
Cover the skillet with the lid and cook for 30 minutes. In the final 5 minutes, remove the lid and top the mixture with the peas. Cover with lid and finish cooking.
Check for Doneness
Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175F and the rice is tender, remove the skillet from heat and allow to rest 5 minutes or so.
All that’s left is to grab a plate, fork, and serve yourself a generous portion of arroz con pollo.
Related: Skillet Chicken Thighs Recipe
Why This Spanish Chicken and Rice Recipe is the BEST!
While it tastes expert status, this is an easy weeknight meal made with simple ingredients.
If you wanted to make this low-carb, you could swap the rice for cauliflower rice, this would drastically cut down on the cooking time, but you would get an EPIC meal that’s Whole 30 approved and keto-friendly.
Spanish Chicken and Rice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of saffron threads or 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 leaf bay, optional
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 2 ¼ cups chicken broth
- ¾ cup frozen peas
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and set aside onto a plate.
- In the same skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute, until softened, then season with saffron, or paprika, salt, and bay leaf. Continue to sauté until golden brown and softened, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the rice. Cook for an additional minute while stirring, then add the chicken broth, stir, and top the mixture with the chicken thighs. Bring to a simmer and cover with lid, cook for 30 minutes.
- In the final 5 minutes of cooking, top the rice mixture with frozen peas and cover with lid. Once the chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 175F and the rice is tender, remove the pan from heat.
- Serve chicken thighs over rice.