Trust me, I know how hard it is to get food onto the table at the end of the day when everyone is tired and hungry. Which is why I love this 30-minute meal that has whole grains, veggies, and protein in one single pan! This Healthy Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe with pesto is a weeknight win.mom and kids chicken and brown rice dinner

Healthy Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe

This skillet recipe has been in rotation in my house for years and I love the simplicity of the ingredients—and that it delivers on flavor. Plus, the veggies blend right into the rice, making it both a satisfying and nutritious meal, and more appealing to wary kids. The dish includes whole grains, lean protein, 2 cups of veggies, and just enough pesto to add nice flavor.

Skillet Chicken

Calling a dish the “best” is always tricky because that word will mean something different to everyone, but this gets it in my book because I don’t have to chop any ingredients, I only have to use one pan, and there’s minimal tending after the food is in the pan—so I can get the table set and help the kids with whatever they might need while dinner finishes.

This recipe comes together in a wide bottom skillet with high sides. You’ll also need a lid for your pan.

ingredients in chicken and brown riceIngredients You Need

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • Chicken tenders or thighs
  • Instant brown rice
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Pesto

TIP: You can use fresh or frozen cauliflower rice, or make your own from florets.

how to make chicken and brown rice step by stepStep-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process involved in making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.

  1. Warm your pan and sautee the cauliflower rice in olive oil.
  2. Add the chicken and cook.
  3. Turn chicken over and cook.
  4. Add rice and broth. Cover and cook until tender.
  5. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Dollop pesto over chicken and serve.

TIP: This is fine to sit off the heat once it’s cooked for up to 30 minutes should you need it to. It’s also good reheated.

chicken and brown rice in skillet with pestoCan I use other veggies?

You can use any combination of finely diced or shredded carrot, bell peppers, onion or cauliflower rice.

Do I need to use instant rice?

I’ve made this with long grain brown rice, but you’ll need to increase the cooking time. See the note at the bottom of the recipe. Instant brown rice cooks through nicely in a shorter amount of time. It also still has fiber and protein that you’d expect from whole grains. (Funny story: My girls currently won’t eat regular brown rice, but they gobble up instant brown rice. Kids!)

Can I make this dairy-free?

You can make this dairy free by using olive oil instead of butter and pesto without cheese. You could also omit the pesto and add a little garlic powder or Italian seasoning for additional flavor.

healthy chicken and brown rice on kids plateMy kids don’t like pesto—what’s an alternative?

I love the flavor that the pesto adds, but if you don’t know that your kids will like it, you can add a little garlic powder or Italian seasoning for additional flavor. You could also offer a dip on the side like Ranch or ketchup so the kids can dip their chicken into it.

TIP: This dish has flavor from the broth, so while it will be less flavorful if you omit the pesto, it won’t be bland.

Best Tips for Success

  • You can use chicken thighs or chicken tenders. If using thighs, make sure they are spread out thinly in one layer so they cook through in the suggested time.
  • Use instant brown rice to ensure fast and even cooking.
  • To make this with regular rice, use long brown grain rice and increase the cooking time in Step 3 to about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  • Use finely diced onion, carrots, or bell peppers instead of or in the mix with cauliflower rice.
  • Use fresh or frozen cauliflower rice.
  • While the cauliflower rice is cooking, stir often to help prevent it from sticking.
  • Use low-sodium broth to avoid excess salt.
  • Use any kind of pesto you like: store-bought, basil, spinach pesto, kale pesto, or broccoli pesto.
  • Try other veggies like shredded or finely diced carrot, bell pepper, and/or onion.
  • If you need to omit the pesto, dd a little garlic powder or Italian seasoning for additional flavor.
  • Add some warmed frozen peas, whole grain toast, or a side of fruit to add a few simple sides if desired.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Adults may like their servings topped with crushed red pepper.
  • You may also like Baked Chicken Tenders, Crispy Fish Sticks, and Easy Chicken Meatballs.

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below if you try this recipe!

healthy chicken and brown rice on kids plate

One-Pot Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice

Add some warmed frozen peas, whole grain toast, or a side of fruit to add a few simple sides if desired. This recipe was updated in September 2019 to ensure the rice cooks through.
4.80 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 16 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 404kcal
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (or a mixture of finely diced or shredded onion, bell pepper, carrots, and/or cauliflower rice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound chicken thighs or chicken tenders (about 5-6)
  • 2 cups instant brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons pesto
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  • Warm the butter and oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add vegetables, sprinkle with salt and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add chicken, spread into an even layer. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip over. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the rice and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. 
  • Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
  • Top each piece of chicken with a dollop of pesto and serve topped with Parmesan cheese if desired.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Warm to serve.

Notes

  • You can use chicken thighs or chicken tenders. If using thighs, make sure they are spread out thinly in one layer so they cook through in the suggested time.
  • To make this with regular rice, use 1 cup long brown grain rice and increase the cooking time in Step 3 to about 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender.
  • Use finely diced onion, carrots, or bell peppers instead of or in the mix with cauliflower rice.
  • Use fresh or frozen cauliflower rice.
  • While the cauliflower rice is cooking, stir often to help prevent it from sticking.
  • Use low-sodium broth to avoid excess salt.
  • Use any kind of pesto you like: store-bought, basil, spinach pesto, kale pesto, or broccoli pesto.
  • Try other veggies like shredded or finely diced carrot, bell pepper, and/or onion.
  • If you need to omit the pesto, dd a little garlic powder or Italian seasoning for additional flavor.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Adults may like their servings topped with crushed red pepper.

Nutrition

Calories: 404kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 393mg, Potassium: 661mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 185IU, Vitamin C: 39mg, Calcium: 60mg, Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is delicious!! It was easy to prepare with simple ingredients. My husband loved it especially and wants me to make it again. Thank you for helping me find new, easy, healthy recipes to try with my family.

  2. 4 stars
    Flavors were good and I love chicken thighs! But the long grain brown rice was not cooked through. Probably needed twice as long to cook properly.

    1. I’m in the process of updating this to take care of the rice issue—thank you for the feedback. I really appreciate it!

  3. tasty but it took nearly double the listed time to cook my long grain brown rice. chicken was still nice and tender but my crew was hungry!

  4. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious!!! My husband had a third helping. I used chicken tenders and ended up having to simmer closer to 40 min.but still came out fantastic!