Pollo Ranchero

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Pollo Ranchero is made with tender chicken breast, onion, and peppers in a flavorful and aromatic tomato sauce. Serve up this crave-worthy dish alongside beans and rice or load it into warm tortillas with your favorite toppings. Yum!

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If you’re looking for a delicious 20-minute meal, this is the one. Pollo Ranchero is packed with protein, flavor, and everything you could possibly ask for in a dish. Not only is it beyond easy to make it is super versatile. And the best part? It all cooks in one pan.

I don’t know about you, but one-pan meals are my jam. It’s easier to make, produces fewer dishes to clean, and allows all the wonderful flavors to come together in a really beautiful way.

You can serve this chicken ranchero dish any way you like, but my personal preference is pairing it with a stack of warm corn tortillas and my favorite toppings. Flavorful and juicy chicken and peppers topped with sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, and jalapeno slices. What could be better?

Serve it with some refried beans and Mexican cauliflower rice for a well-balanced meal. 

If you’re not in the mood for something handheld, this dish also tastes amazing as the star of a burrito bowltaco salad, or some chicken ranchero enchiladas. The options are endless. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor pairings until you find the perfect one for you.

If you are looking for another authentic Mexican chicken recipe, don't miss this delicious Pollo Pibil recipe.

Chicken ranchero with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers in a skillet with avocado and tortillas on the side.

What is Pollo Ranchero?

There are many different versions of pollo ranchero, or chicken ranchero. They all include chicken breast cooked in a tomato-based sauce with peppers, onions, and garlic. 

From there, there is a lot of variation. Some recipes use thinly sliced chicken while others use a pounded, flat chicken breast. Sometimes the chicken is covered in melted Monterey jack cheese, sometimes it is finished with fresh avocado slices, and other versions include a creamier sauce with sour cream. 

All that is to say, this Mexican chicken dish can be made in many ways but they all include ranchero sauce, a spicy tomato-based sauce. From there, it can be customized to your liking. 

Looking for more Ranchero inspired dishes? Don't miss these Camarones Rancheros (Ranchero Shrimp) and Bistec Ranchero (Ranchero Beef).

Key Ingredients

To bring this flavorful dish to life, you will need the following key ingredients:

  • Chicken breast. Make sure to use the boneless and skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs in this recipe. If you don’t have chicken or want to try something else, you can use pork tenderloin or sirloin steak.
  • Onions and peppers. The combination of yellow or white onions, poblano pepper, and jalapeno pepper adds a ton of bright and delicious flavor. If you’re worried about the heat level, make sure to remove the seeds from the jalapeno first. Yellow chile peppers can also be used. 
  • Tomatoes: To form the delicious tomato base for the dish, I like to use both fresh Roma tomatoes and canned tomato sauce. If you can’t find Roma tomatoes, feel free to use cherry tomatoes instead. For less tomato flavor, use chicken stock instead of tomato sauce. 
  • Spices: I like to keep the spices simple to allow the meat and veggies to stand on their own. All you need are cumin, salt, and pepper. However, feel free to add additional spices if you’d like. Smoked paprika and chili powder would both work well.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this dish:

  • Switch up the meat. If you aren’t feeling chicken breasts, feel free to swap them out for chicken thighs, pork tenderloin, or sirloin steak instead. 
  • Make it spicy. Craving more of a kick? You can increase the heat by adding chipotle pepper, serrano pepper, or red pepper flakes. You can also add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
  • Add toppings. Arguably one of the best parts of this dish is mixing and matching your favorite toppings to serve it! My top choices include fresh avocado, guacamole, cilantro, queso fresco, and jalapeno slices.
  • Speed things up: For a faster option, swap in Pico de Gallo for the chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Saute it until it begins to turn into a sauce.

Skillet with chicken in ranchero sauce served with cilantro, lime, and corn tortillas.

How to Serve Pollo Ranchero

This is one of those entrées that really can do it all. It can be served on its own or as part of a larger and more filling dish. Although this dish is typically served in tortillas, it tastes incredible with salads, nachos, and basically anything else you can think of.

Not sure what to pair it with? Here are some of my favorite ways to serve Pollo Ranchero:

  • Tacos and Taco Bowls. I love loading this shredded chicken recipe into warm corn or flour tortillas. Then top the tacos with sliced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, and a sprinkle of cilantro. We love to use leftovers in this Chicken Taco Bowl recipe or Cauliflower Rice Taco Bowl.
  • Burrito bowls. Every burrito bowl needs a hearty dose of protein, and this flavorful chicken is perfect for the job. Fill a bowl with some brown rice or Mexican rice, beans, greens, some spoonfuls of Pollo Ranchero, and all your favorite burrito fixings for a wholesome and satisfying meal.
  • Salads. Leftover (or fresh!) Pollo Ranchero is perfect for topping off your favorite Mexican and Southwest salads. Some of my favorites to pair with this dish include this Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey Lime Dressing or this Mexican Quinoa Salad.
  • Tostadas: Make homemade tostada shells, top them with refried beans, and then pile this ranchero chicken on top. Finish the dish with some chopped lettuce and shredded cheese. 

How to Store Leftovers

This dish is great for making ahead of time because it can be used to upgrade a wide variety of dishes. I love using my leftovers for salads, tacos, wraps, nachos, and burrito bowls for lunch or dinner. To store leftovers, allow them to cool before transferring them to an airtight storage container. Then, you can store them in one of two ways:

  • In the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
  • In the freezer for up to 4 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this healthy chicken recipe:

Absolutely! Feel free to swap out chicken breasts for chicken thighs, pork tenderloin, or lean sirloin steak. For a vegan-friendly version, you can use black or kidney beans in place of meat.

Pollo Ranchero is made with poblano and jalapeno peppers. Poblano peppers have mild heat and jalapenos are a bit hotter. You can easily reduce the heat level of the dish by swapping out the jalapeno peppers for bell peppers or just using poblano peppers. Alternatively, you could increase the heat by leaving the seeds in the jalapeno and/or adding an additional pepper like a serrano pepper.

This dish works great in the slow cooker. Simply add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours until the chicken is cooked through. Finish the dish with fresh lime juice and cilantro. 

Chicken breast in ranchero sauce in a skillet with limes, cilantro, tortillas, and avocado.
The Recipe
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Pollo Ranchero

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (or yellow chile pepper)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed for less heat)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juice

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Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy skillet. Add the chicken to the skillet (with some oil if needed) in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4-6 minutes, flipping as needed until the chicken is just cooked through and lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Chicken breast strips cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Add the onion, tomatoes, and peppers to the skillet with a splash of water if needed. Saute for 5-7 minutes until becoming tender.

Tomatoes and onions cooking in a cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce, and cumin. Cook for 3-5 minutes until tomatoes are softened and a thick, chunky sauce is forming. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Ranchero sauce being simmered in a skillet with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeno peppers.

Add back in the chicken. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Finish with freshly squeezed lime juice and cilantro.

Chicken breast being nestled into ranchero sauce in a skillet.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 190
Calories from Fat 42
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 56mg
Sodium 206mg
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 4g
Protein 26g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Pollo Ranchero
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Alexandra M
May 16, 2022 - 23:07
Add a Rating:
Saw this and was so excited I had everything in my fridge/pantry already. We loved it! Served it with rice, black beans, and avocado. Delicious. Can’t wait for leftovers.
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