Cajun Chicken and Rice Bowls

Cajun Chicken and Rice Bowls

These high protein Cajun Chicken and Rice Bowls pack serious flavor for a delicious healthy dinner or lunch!

This healthy cajun chicken and rice bowl is a perfect Mardi Gras Dinner idea

Living in Colorado, Mardi Gras isn’t a huge deal. Sure, there are events downtown, but growing up we never did anything special for dinner. 

But ever since I started cooking for myself, I’m all about getting in the celebratory mood with recipes that I don’t usually make. 

While these healthy Cajun chicken and rice bowls started out as a Mardi Gras dinner idea, they’ve since become one of my go-to healthy chicken dinner recipes. 

Bite of cajun chicken and rice

Cajun seasoning is must in my kitchen

I’ve always loved to cook. But it wasn’t until I met Bry that I really started to appreciate the world of spices and seasonings. 

And as fun as it is experimenting with different combos and exploring spice shops for new seasonings, I always fall back on my all-time favorite: Cajun seasoning. 

Seriously, this spice mix is the ultimate flavor-booster. I almost always put it on my eggs and love using it as a dry rub when grilling.

While we have a spice shop a few blocks away that I like to get my spices from, when in a pinch I’ll sometimes buy this one off of Amazon. 

What You’ll Need

To make these healthy Cajun Chicken and Rice bowls, you just need a few simple ingredients – many of which can be substituted based on what you have on hand or find on sale: 

  • Chicken thighs: I prefer the juiciness of chicken thighs in this recipe, but if you want to make it a bit leaner you can use chicken breasts instead. Just make sure to cut down on the cooking time a bit so that you don’t end up with dried out meat. 
  • Brown rice: texture-wise I like long-grain brown rice, which takes about 40-60 min to cook. To cut down on time, you can use a quicker cooking brown rice or other grain such as quinoa or farro. 
  • Chicken broth: Optional, but I like the taste of the rice best when simmer in low-sodium chicken broth. But feel free to use water instead. 
  • Cajun seasoning: this is essential to this recipe! See notes above for a link to one of my preferred seasoning blends. 
  • Brown sugar: to help balance out the spiciness of the dish, I recommend using a bit of brown sugar. I’ve tried it with white sugar and didn’t like the flavor as much. 
  • Paprika: I recommend using sweet/California paprika rather than a smoky variety. 
  • Dried thyme: You just need a pinch. There’s been a few times when I’ve run out of dried thyme and used dried oregano instead. While I don’t like it quite as much, it did work. 
  • Salt: I tend to go easy on salt (especially since there’s also soy sauce), but feel free to adjust to taste. 
  • Soy sauce: It may seem odd, but trust me! Soy sauce gives a deep, almost umami flavor to this chicken dish. 
  • Garlic: I used pre-minced garlic to make this super easy, but you can chop it yourself as well.
  • Bell peppers: If you don’t like peppers or want to add more veggies, other options that would work well include onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini. 

How to make healthy Cajun chicken and rice 

When making this healthy Cajun chicken recipe, know that things can start moving fast, so I highly recommend getting your rice (or grain of choice) cooking and then prepping everything else: dice your chicken, make the spice blend, and slice your peppers. 

Once the rice is cooking and everything is prepped, the first step is to get the chicken cooked. I recommend doing this on the stove, as I like the flavor better than baked, but you could also grill your chicken thighs instead. 

If grilling the chicken thighs and veggies, then I recommend marinating the chicken in oil and the spice blend at least 30 minutes before cooking. 

Once cooked, move the chicken thighs to a paper towel-lined plate. This will help remove a little of the grease from the chicken. 

Using the same pan, you’ll then cook the garlic and peppers. I like to cook the peppers until they’re slightly blistered on the outside but still a bit crisp inside. If you like softer peppers, then just keep cooking. 

Finally, you’ll add the chicken back in, taste, and then start dishing everything out. 

Sauteeing chicken thighs with cajun seasoning

How much Cajun seasoning should you use?

I like heat, so I add 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning. 

However, I’ve found that even 1 tablespoon can be a bit much for people who really don’t like heat in their food. 

If making this for someone who doesn’t love spice or kids, I’d start with 2 teaspoons, taste and adjust as you cook. However, if you want a good amount of heat then start with 1 tablespoon and go up from there. 

For a saucier dish, add a can of diced tomatoes 

The original version of this recipe called for adding 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes. Then one day I forgot to add them and Bry actually liked it better. 

Without the tomatoes, it’s much more like a grain bowl in the sense that you have spiced chicken, sautéed vegetables, and rice, but nothing is very saucy. 

Adding the tomatoes makes the consistency a little saucier – almost like jambalaya. 

Cajun chicken and rice bowls healthier

Meal prep tips

This healthy cajun chicken and rice is one of my favorite meal prep recipes! Not only is it quick to make, but the leftovers taste just as good if not better. 

However, the rice can get a bit dry after a day or two in the fridge. So, if making a batch to enjoy throughout the week, I recommend adding a splash of water to the rice before heating it up in the microwave. 

If you have a rice cooker, you could also prep the chicken and veggies the night before. Then in the morning, cook the rice in your rice cooker while you’re at work, come home, and quickly cook up the chicken and veggies for dinner. 

More healthy chicken dinner recipe ideas

Looking for more easy, healthy chicken dinner recipes that are perfect for meal prep? Here are some of my go-to’s: 

Want something sweet after this Cajun Chicken and Rice? These King Cake Cupcakes from Cooking Light are a tasty twist on the traditional Mardi Gras dessert. 

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Healthy Cajun Chicken and Rice Pinterest Image

Cajun Chicken and Rice

These high protein Cajun Chicken and Rice Bowls pack serious flavor for a delicious healthy dinner or lunch!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cajun, Chicken, Healthy Dinner
Servings: 4
Calories: 470kcal
Author: Kelli

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil separated
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning for less spicy, use 1 Tbsp
  • ½ Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 bell peppers diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 14- oz can diced tomatoes (Optional)

Instructions

  • Place rice in medium saucepan with broth/water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook 40-50 minutes, or until soft.
  • While rice cooks, place large skillet over stove at medium-high heat. Pour 1 Tbsp oil into pan.
  • While oil heat ups, combine Cajun seasoning, brown sugar, paprika, thyme, and black pepper in a small bowl (I usually just use a measuring cup). Set aside.
  • Place chicken pieces in skillet and toss with seasoning mix. Spread chicken in a single layer and let cook for 3-4 minutes, or until browned (try to avoid stirring).
  • Stir chicken and add 2 Tbsp soy sauce. Let cook another 4-5 minutes, or until chicken pieces are cooked through. Remove cooked chicken from skillet and set aside.
  • Reduce heat to medium and place remaining Tbsp oil in saucepan. Add garlic and diced peppers. Cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  • If using, add can of diced tomatoes to skillet along with cooked chicken. Let simmer until majority of liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Otherwise, if not using the tomatoes, just add chicken, give a stir and then serve.
  • Evenly divide rice between four bowls then spoon chicken mixture over rice. Enjoy!

Notes

Nutrition for ¼ recipe: 470 calories, 16 g fat, 44 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 34 g protein

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About

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Hi, I’m Kelli McGrane MS, RD! My mission is to show you that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. I believe getting to know your food is the first step to a healthy relationship with it. Follow along in my journey to learn all I can about ingredients and cooking with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

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