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This recipe for Pollo Loco is inspired by my FAVORITE dish at just about any Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s essentially Mexican Chicken and Rice covered with white queso also known as heaven on earth and your about thirty minutes away from having it on your plate!
I don’t know about y’all, but my mom and I LOVE Pollo Loco! We used to have lunch dates ALL the time and we would constantly go to our favorite Mexican restaurant and order the Pollo Loco! Basically, it’s rice and grilled chicken covered in white queso. It’s kind of magic. It might be called something different at your local restaurant. I’ve seen a couple different names, but usually it’s Pollo Loco around here. Probably about 10 years ago my mom started making it at home with super simple ingredients and the rest is history! It was actually helpful that she started making it at home because that meant I could finally try other Mexican dishes and begin to love them too!
Pollo Loco translates to crazy chicken which must be because most people who eat this dish are crazy for it, right? Haha. The recipe calls for just a few simple ingredients and it comes together in under 30 minutes! The most work you need to do is slice up the chicken. Honestly, 25 minutes of the 30 minutes is hands off. Just sit back and read that magazine, y’all. You deserve a break.
Let’s be honest here plates with Queso are not super skinny alright? I know. You don’t need to tell me twice, but that’s the beauty in skinny-ish you can balance it with a delicious salad or vegetables and call it a day because it’s homemade pollo loco night and clap your hands!!
Because I don’t have access to any set in stone nutritional data from a Mexican restaurant I can’t accurately compare nutritional data because I’m sure it widely varies. I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that a homemade version of Pollo Loco where you control the amount of oil and queso is going to be at least 45.6% healthier. This is not a fact, but it’s a strong guess.
Anyway there’s not much else to write about this recipe, friends. It’s just delicious. It’s one of my favorite meals to make at home when I’m feeling a little more indulgent and my whole family loves when it’s on the menu!
Also, VEEERY budget friendly! We all need a little more of that these days, unfortunately.
How to make Pollo Loco:
Gather your ingredients! These are a little different from the average ingredients list you’ll find here, but they are the exact ones we’ve been using in this Pollo Loco dish for years!
- 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (or chicken tenderloins) cut into small bite size chunks
- 1 tsp Goya adobo seasoning– this is a fantastic seasoning blend that I use a lot.
- 1 tomato bouillon cube- I know from using this item in other recipes that not everyone can find it. If you can’t find it just leave it out of this recipe.
- 10 oz pkg Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice– My mom has been buying this brand of rice for probably 15-ish years. She started using it for the homemade pollo loco so i’ve personally never strayed from it. You can probably use a different brand, but measurements may be different. I am able to find this in all different grocery stores near the other rice.
- Queso (see next step)
- 2.5 cups water and a couple splashes of milk
Except for the Queso! The brand of Queso will range probably from store to store/area, but Pancho’s is the one I get most in East TN. There are quite a few different brands next to this one and I have had them all, but I tend to grab this one most.
I find mine in two different areas usually. The “fancy cheese” section in the store may have a couple different types. I find it in the refrigerated section near dairy where you can find fresh tortillas, chorizo, crema etc. I’ve always been able to find it in in grocery stores all over the Midwest and here in the South. If you can’t find it check your local Mexican restaurant and grab an order from them! I would stay away from the shelf stable cheeses. They just don’t taste as good in this recipe. Honestly, they are terrible in this recipe please don’t do it.
I’ll add a link here when I get homemade queso here on the site. It’s actually super easy. I was going to do it and show it here, but my store was out of white American cheese and I didn’t want to go to a different store.
After you cut your chicken into small bite size pieces season liberally with adobo seasoning.
*If using chicken tenderloins just be sure to remove the tendon
You can use a large skillet with a lid or a dutch oven here. Heat over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray and a drizzle of oil. Add chicken when the pan is hot. Cook for a few minutes and then turn the pieces and cook for another minute or so until cooked through.
When the chicken is finished cooking add the rice in with it.
Crush the tomato bouillon cube on top and add in 2.5 cups water. Stir together and then bring to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce to low and continue to cook for about 20-25 minutes. Take a small bite from the top when its done cooking to check if the rice is done. If it has a bite put the cap back on and let it continue to cook for a bit longer.
note: since posting the recipe I’ve gotten some feedback saying the rice remained crunchy no matter what. I realized that this most likely has to do with the lid on the pot that you use. If there is a small hole on your lid (steam vent) this will cause your rice to not cook properly. Adding more water/cooking longer will not fix this. people with this problem have said they stick a peice of foil in the hole or cover it with tape and this resolves the issue. my pans don’t have that hole so this isn’t a issue everyone will have.
tip: when cutting chicken into small pieces make sure to cut against the grain.
Time for the most important thing! Add in about 1/3 cup queso (3 ounces if you wanna weigh it out) and about 2 tablespoons of whatever milk you have on hand (can even use water if you’re out of milk).
You can do this one of two ways. Mostly, I add the queso and milk straight in and fluff the rice with a fork. Other times, I heat up the queso separately and measure it out for each individual serving. That way I am SURE to get every last drop I’m spending my points and calories on on. If you know, you know! Haha Either way works. I usually heat up extra queso if others want more too.
My mom usually makes the chicken separately too. But, I just figured one pot, get it done all at once so it’s all warm and ready to go at the same time with less dishes. The most beautiful thing about one pot dishes!
Pollo Loco has been such a staple recipe in my life for so many years. It’s truly no fuss or frills, but perfectly delicious and hits the spot every time. When life gets complicated and crazy, I can always count on this dish to warm me up and put a smile on my face. Who can ever be sad with queso is involved? When life gets tough, just add queso.
I like to add a nice Southwestern inspired type of salad on the side or some quick black beans! It rounds everything out nicely.
Other Chicken and Rice recipe you’ll love:
- Mom’s Chicken and Rice
- Cheesy Italian Rice Skillet
- Cajun Chicken, Sausage, and Rice Skillet
- Buffalo Chicken N’ Rice
Pollo Loco – Mexican Chicken and Rice with Queso
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1.5 lbs uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast cut into small bite size pieces
- 1 tsp Goya Adobo Seasoning
- 1 10 oz pkg Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice (Arroz Amarillo) (these packages are easy to find, but sometimes different sizes. Just weigh out 10 ounces if you can only find the family size package and use the rest later)
- 1 cube Knorr Tomato Bouillon (optional)
- 2½ cups water
- 3 oz White Queso Dip *see notes
- 2 tbsp milk skim, 1%, 2%, or whole all work
- cooking spray
- If the chicken seems "wet" pat it dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle with the adobo seasoning and rub it in all over.
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven or non stick large deep skillet with tight fitting lid over medium heat. Add diced chicken breast and cook on one side for about 3 minutes and then turn and continue to cook for a few minutes.
- When the chicken is cooked and browned add in the package of rice, crushed up tomato bouillon, and water. Stir and bring to a boil for one minute. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for at least 20 minutes before checking the rice for doneness. It should be done between 20-25 minutes.
- When rice is cooked add in queso and milk then fluff all together with fork. Serve warm!*see notes about rice cooking*