Southwest Chicken Rice Bowl

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This Southwest Chicken Rice Bowl is a healthy and flavorful meal that’s so easy to prepare! Tender chicken is marinated in chipotle sauce, then mixed with fluffy brown rice, crisp veggies, and fresh herbs. Serve it as a quick weeknight dinner, or meal prep a batch for busy weeks!

458 CAL 54g CARBS 14g FAT 31g PROTEIN
2 Comments

These Southwest Chicken Rice Bowls packed with honey chipotle chicken, corn, avocado, and veggies all drizzled with cilantro lime sauce are seriously delicious. 

Everywhere you look, rice bowls are taking over menus and we are here for it. They’re boldly flavored, nutrient-dense, and easily customizable. Just the type of meal we love!

This particular Southwest chicken rice bowl is packed with spicy-sweet chipotle chicken, steamed brown rice, sweet corn, zesty tomatoes, creamy avocado, and savory onions.

Each bowl is drizzled with a refreshing cilantro yogurt sauce, which perfectly ties everything together. Make these bowls for busy weeknights, take them to potlucks, or prep them ahead of time for lunches all week long.

If you’re a fan of bowls, you will love our Shrimp Sushi Bowls, Taco Bowls with Cauliflower Rice, and Mediterranean Bowls.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Quick: This recipe can be put together in 30 minutes, making it an ideal option when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.
  • Easy: You don’t need to be an expert chef to make this simple recipe! Just follow the straightforward steps outlined below and your meal will turn out perfectly every time!
  • Healthy: Southwest chicken rice bowls are full of lean protein, fiber-rich brown rice, and nutritious veggies. Who said healthy food can’t taste delicious as well?

Southwest rice and chicken bowl with corn, avocado, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro sauce in a bowl.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here is everything you need to make these tasty chicken and rice bowls. 

  • Chicken: For the leanest option, use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. For more flavor and moisture, opt for chicken thighs.
  • Chipotles in adobo: Add spicy, smoky flavors to the marinade. If you love spicy foods, double the number of chipotles.
  • Lime: Provides a sweet acidity that brightens the sauce. We recommend freshly squeezed lime juice for the best taste, but you can use lime juice concentrate in a pinch.
  • Honey: Balances the spice and tang of the chipotles and lime. You can also use agave, brown sugar, or maple syrup in place of honey.
  • Olive oil: Prevents the chicken from sticking and adds a rich flavor. Other neutral vegetable oils, like avocado, sunflower, or safflower, will also work.
  • Garlic powder: Don’t skimp on the garlic powder for a savory, nutty, and roasted taste. If you don’t have garlic powder on hand, replace it with onion powder.
  • Brown rice: Brown rice is our go-to, but you can always use white rice if you prefer! Swap in cauliflower rice for a lower-carb option or quinoa for extra protein. 
  • Vegetables: We love the combination of corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and fresh or pickled red onions, but feel free to play around with your favorite veggies! Think lettuce, fajita vegetables, zucchini, or cauliflower. 
  • Cilantro Sauce: This tasty sauce is made with plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, honey, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. The longer you let it chill, the more the flavors meld together. For a lighter consistency, use regular plain yogurt.

Grilled Southwestern chicken rice bowls with cilantro lime sauce, corn, avocado, and vegetables served with cilantro.

How to Make Southwest Chicken and Rice Bowls

Follow the step-by directions below to make these delicious bowls. 

1. Marinate the chicken

Combine the marinade ingredients, then pour it over the chicken in a shallow dish. Adjust the amount of spiciness and sweetness to suit your needs. More chipotle pepper means a spicer and smokier chicken.

It’s important to marinate it for at least 30 minutes as the acidity helps tenderize the chicken. You can also cover the dish and leave it in the fridge overnight.

If you aren't planning on making the cilantro sauce, consider doubling up the marinade and saving half of it to drizzle on the bowls before serving. 

2. Prep the other ingredients

Save time by preparing the yogurt sauce and the other mix-ins while the chicken is marinating. I recommend using a blender to mix the sauce for the smoothest, most uniform consistency.

If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry! Just finely mince the cilantro, then whisk everything by hand in a bowl.

At the same time, you can cook the rice and chop the vegetables. Looking to save time? Use precooked or frozen rice to speed things up. 

3. Cook the chicken

Add a touch of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken on both sides until it’s nicely browned. You can also grill the chicken for a more charred flavor!

The total cook time will depend on the thickness of your breasts, and it will also take longer if you use chicken thighs. Once your chicken is cooked, don’t forget to let it rest. This helps redistribute the juices and results in a tender, moist texture.

4. Assemble the chicken bowls

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, then serve it on a bed of rice. Add the cherry tomatoes, red onions, corn, and avocado. Drizzle of sauce, and that’s all it takes!

If you are making these for meal prep, wait to add the avocado and sauce until it's time to eat.

Chicken rice bowls with Southwestern flavors including brown rice, grilled chicken, corn, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro lime sauce.

Topping Ideas

You can customize this recipe to your liking by serving it with a variety of toppings and garnishes. Some of our favorites include:

You can also swap the yogurt sauce for Creamy Chipotle Sauce, or add a brighter flavor with an extra squeeze of lime or fresh cilantro.

Storage and Reheating

Whether you have leftovers or want to meal prep Southwest chicken rice bowls for the week, follow these simple storage and reheating tips:

  • Fridge: You can store everything in the fridge for 3-4 days in airtight containers. It’s best to store the chicken, rice, and veggies separately if possible.
  • Freezer: Southwest chicken rice bowl ingredients can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Just make sure they’re fully cooled before freezing.
  • Reheating: When you’re ready for more bowls, warm the chicken, veggies, and rice over medium heat on the stovetop. Just add a touch of oil and stir continuously until it’s warmed through. Alternatively, reheat it in the microwave in 30-second intervals.

Variations and Recipe Ideas

There are lots of ways to customize this bowl and make it your own. 

  • Spicy: Add a few more chipotle peppers or some sliced jalapeños for more of a kick.
  • Rotisserie chicken: Save time by using rotisserie chicken. Simply toss it with the marinade so it can soak up the Southwest flavors.

Tips for Making Southwest Chicken Rice Bowls

Follow these tips to make sure the chicken is juicy and cooked perfectly every time. 

  • Marinate: Give the chicken at least 30 minutes to marinate for a tender texture and fully developed flavors.
  • Meat thermometer: To achieve accurate and safe results, use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F.
  • Meal prep: If you’re making Southwest chicken rice bowls for meal prep, allow everything to cool completely and store the ingredients separately to avoid sogginess.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions when making these tasty chicken rice bowls.

Yes, you can use frozen chicken, but thaw and drain it before marinating. Frozen chicken doesn't soak up any flavor from marinades and also cooks unevenly. 

The cilantro yogurt sauce will keep in the fridge for about 4-5 days in an airtight container.

Yes, to make this recipe dairy-free, just use a dairy-free yogurt or vegan mayonnaise for the base of the dressing.

Chicken rice bowls with Southwestern flavors including spicy grilled chicken, corn, avocado, cilantro, and red onions.
The Recipe
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Southwest Chicken Rice Bowl

458 CAL 54g CARBS 14g FAT 31g PROTEIN
PREP TIME: 30 Min
COOK TIME: 15 Min
TOTAL TIME: 45 Min
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Ingredients

US METRICS
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (or chicken thighs)
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (2 for more heat, or red pepper flakes)
  • 1 lime, juice (2-4 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups corn (fresh, canned, or frozen)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced (or pickled onions)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

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Instructions

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1

Combine the chipotle peppers, lime juice, honey, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

2

Add the chicken to a shallow dish and cover it with the honey-chipotle sauce. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

3

While the chicken marinates, make the sauce (see notes) and prep the other ingredients. To make the sauce, add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

4

Stovetop cooking: Add about one tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until the chicken is nicely browned, about 4-5 minutes depending on thickness. Flip and cook on the other side for 3-5 minted until cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes and then chop into bite-sized pieces. Grilling: Grill the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. Let rest and chop into bite-sized pieces.

5

Assemble the bowls with the rice, grilled chicken, vegetables, and a drizzle of sauce.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2.5-3 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 458
Calories from Fat 123
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g
21%
Saturated Fat 2g
10%
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 56mg
18%
Sodium 126mg
5%
Total Carbohydrate 54g
18%
Dietary Fiber 9g
35%
Sugars 13g
Protein 31g

* 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.

Notes

Recommended Cilantro Yogurt Sauce: 1 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey (optional), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, salt, and pepper. To make the sauce, add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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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
2 Comments
On Southwest Chicken Rice Bowl
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Jean
March 28, 2023 - 07:57
FYI: The cilantro sauce in the Notes does not print along with the recipe. It doesn't even appear on screen when viewing the print version.
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March 28, 2023 - 16:23
Thanks! We will get that fixed :)
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