One-Skillet Paprika Chicken Thighs & Pepper Rice

May 24, 2021
51 Ratings
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Yes, this dish is very much inspired by paella. There’s lots of smoky paprika and a sofrito base, which is a mixture of bell pepper, onion, garlic, and tomato, and the traditional starting place for many Spanish dishes, from fideua to stewed oxtails. But without a paella pan and calasparra or bomba rice, this recipe is a way for me to get paella feelings, using the ingredients and equipment already in my kitchen. If I’ve got the time, I like to dry-brine the chicken overnight, so it’s seasoned to the bone and the skin gets super crisp. The sofitro puree is cooked down into a concentrated, jammy, brick-red paste that flavors the whole dish and adds so much richness that we don’t need any stock. If you don’t have smoked paprika, don’t fret—the sofrito adds so much flavor, you won’t miss a thing. I like to serve this rice with a few heavy splashes of extra-virgin olive oil and squeeze of fresh lemon, adding the same richness and flavor of the homemade aioli you’d typically find alongside paella. And if I’m feeling fresh, I’ll add a flourish of chopped parsley—but the dish is just as bright and vibrant without it.

Want to riff on it? Try this recipe next: One-Skillet Garam Masala Chicken Thighs & Saffron Rice. And head here to read more about the technique, so you can off-script it however you want.Sohla El-Waylly

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
One-Skillet Paprika Chicken Thighs & Pepper Rice
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds (4 to 6) bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 1/4 cups medium- or long-grain rice (like basmati or jasmine)
  • 1 medium (8-ounce) red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium (8-ounce) yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 1 medium (12-ounce) beefsteak tomato, roughly chopped
  • 6 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Fresh parsley, to serve (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Stir together 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and the black pepper in a small bowl. Pat-dry the chicken with paper towels and evenly season with the paprika mixture. You can cook the chicken right away or dry-brine by arranging on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for up to 24 hours.
  2. Place the rice in a medium bowl. Cover with cool tap water, use your hand to gently agitate the grains, and drain. Repeat at least 2 more times until water runs clear enough to see your hand through it. Cover with cool tap water and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the dish (this helps the rice cook evenly).
  3. In a small food processor or blender, puree the red bell pepper, onion, and garlic until smooth, adding a splash of water if needed.
  4. In a medium cast-iron pan or high-sided skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the chicken, skin side-down. Cook until the skin is deeply golden brown, the fat has rendered, and the chicken effortlessly releases from the pan, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (If your chicken thighs are large, brown them well on both sides before transferring to a plate.)
  5. Add the pepper puree, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, and a big pinch of kosher salt to the residual schmaltzy oil in the skillet. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as it cooks down, until the puree is thick, brick-red, and the fat has broken out, 5 to 7, minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with a big pinch of salt, and cook until tender and soft, 2 to 4 minutes.
  6. Drain the rice. Add the rice and green beans to the skillet, and stir to combine. Add 2 cups of water, season with salt until the cooking liquid tastes as seasoned as you want your final dish to taste, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  7. Nestle chicken thighs into rice, pouring over any juices that accumulated while the chicken sat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering gently until the rice has absorbed all the water and everything is cooked through and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. (If the water evaporates before the rice has cooked through, add a few splashes of water across the rice and continue cooking.)
  8. Remove from the heat and rest for 10 minutes before drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with parsley if you’re using it. Serve with the lemon wedges alongside.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Heather Worley Torrance
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  • Sarah Timson
    Sarah Timson
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    Karl Rosaen
Sohla El-Waylly is a Food52 Resident, sharing new riffable recipes every month that'll help you get creative in the kitchen. Watch her cook on YouTube in her new series, Off-Script With Sohla. Before she started developing fun recipes for home cooks, she worked as a chef in N.Y.C. and L.A., briefly owning a restaurant in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow chef, Ham El-Waylly. She lives in the East Village with Ham, their two dogs, and cat. Find out what else she's up to on Instagram @sohlae

79 Reviews

Heather W. May 26, 2023
We LOVE this recipe. I've made it several times, and it's always amazing. Last night I got the oil a little too hot so I only seared the chicken for a few minutes, but it cooked all the way through while the rice was cooking so everything was fine. The only thing I do different is to add some extra green beans (I didn't want to do a vegetable side...ha!).
Nattie May 11, 2023
I love most of Sohla’s recipes but this was a nightmare. I used a dutch oven. I seared the chicken over 12 minutes on the first side with a weight on top after salting and drying it well in advance, then browned it on the other side for a few minutes.

Even after 45 minutes the chicken would not come up to temp. Parts of it were 200 degrees while other parts were 140 degrees. The rice burned on the bottom despite having to add water many times, and half of it was mushy and overcooked and half was nearly raw even though there were bubbles at the surface. The worst part was even though I took care not to pour the additions of extra water on the chicken itself, being steamed for a million years meant it ended up soggy and disgusting anyway.

I can’t recommend this at all. Maybe if you just cook the chicken and rice separately, I dunno. I didn’t think it was good enough to bother with that.

Worst of all, it did not have enough flavor, or enough of an interesting flavor to justify all the hassle of pureeing the sauce etc even if the chicken and rice had cooked properly.
Fjp August 1, 2023
I've made this recipe many times and realized that the depth of your pan matters a lot to make sure that the chicken skin stays crispy. Cast iron skillet as mentioned, works well but a dutch oven doesn't let the steam escape quickly enough and as a result it softens the chicken skin.

It's a small detail in the recipe, but adding the chicken to the rice after you've boiled and reduced the rice to a simmer is critical.

Lastly uneven cooking might be a result of one or a combination of the pan being bigger than the burner, not conducting heat well, or having the heat to high. Once the chicken is in, the heat should be low enough to not make much visible steam otherwise you will steam the chicken skin and burn the bottom rice.
Eilidhmack April 18, 2022
I loved this - so much flavour and my chicken was so juicy. Only issue was a thin layer of rice crisped onto my pan (I used fast iron). Does anyone know how to avoid this or is it inevitable?
Jan August 23, 2023
Perhaps your burners don't perform at a precise simmer. If that is the case then try using a diffuser under your pan.
Katiewhitt February 9, 2022
love this recipe! We've made it a few times now and it's a big hit! I didn't run into the problems with mushy rice or under cooked chicken others seem to have had, I made sure to buy smaller chicken thighs which I think really helps!
MAO53 January 12, 2022
This was very good. A bit time consuming,so maybe not a work-day meal. I didnt have any green beans so used a zucchini I had in the fridge. Giving it 4 stars because I now have to clean up what looks like tornadic activity in my kitchen 😬
AlexGronvall July 25, 2021
I love this recipe, and have made it, and variations on it, several times.
Today I tried making it in our little 28 ft sailboat, with a kerosene stove. To make sure I got it evenly cooked, I made it in an Omnia stovetop oven, and it came out perfect!
I normally find it a bit tricky to get the rice cooked right when I make it at home, either not cooking thoroughly, or charring it a little. But this worked like a charm, with a nice golden crust on the rice and crispy chicken!
I grated the onion and garlic, and used canned crushed tomatoes, since I can't use a food processor onboard. The flavor was great all the same.
cook365 March 29, 2021
I made this for the second time last night. The first time, I liked the flavors, but the rice was mushy and the chicken undercooked. This time I followed several tips from reviewers and it came out almost perfect! Here's what I did:

- Used basmati rice instead of jasmine. I know this recipe is built for any medium- or long-grain rice but I do think basmati holds up better.
- Browned BOTH sides of the chicken for about 5 minutes each. I think it was almost cooked through after that. As Sohla says, it's good to get the thighs REALLY dry and to start them on an almost-cool pan, this way the skin doesn't burn or stick and you can cook the chicken longer before it starts smoking.
- Cooked it with the pan lid ON for ten minutes. The rice was actually done after this, and i just needed to stir it up and let some of the liquid cook off with the lid off. The chicken was also done at this point.

The only problem with cooking it with the lid on is that the skin loses its crispiness. You could remove it and brown it under the broiler if you want to get the crispiness back, but I was hungry and just decided to forgo that. And the dish was honestly perfect this way, I barely missed the crispy skin. Though next time I may cook the chicken separately in the oven after browning. You still have all that good chicken flavor in the pan from the rendered fat and the fond.
Titoalfaro March 22, 2021
I love this recipe but I have not been able to get it right. My chicken never cooks all the way.

That said, I truly love it because I think it has taught me a lot about cooking. Mostly how when you start to cook down the puree, you can smell the change in flavors as the onions cook and the other ingredients become stronger and that is how you know things are going well.

I'll try try again. What I did to get a "successful" cook one time was to use boneless skinless thighs. If I don't care about the crispy skin I can do more things like really submerge the thighs or use a lid so that everything cooks.
Abby H. February 18, 2021
Opps, feeling stupid - the yellow "paper" upon re-reading turns out to be a yellow onion! Sorry!
Abby H. February 18, 2021
despite watching the video and re-reading the recipe 4 times I cannot see where the peeled chopped yellow paper is used. Ideas?
Yomama February 5, 2021
Sadly no....

Recipe as given means raw chicken. Bone in chicken thighs need significantly more time than this. A cook as experienced as Sohla should know this
Arrxx February 20, 2021
Maybe depends on the size of the thighs. She does say in #4 that if they are large to brown on both sides.
rstyan February 4, 2021
I've made this 4 times now, and each time it gets better. And I have to say I've tried traditional paella as well, with saffron. This dish has so much more flavour. The way the puree coats the rice is brilliant. Initially, I did not have the heat on high enough. The chicken and the puree took more heat than I anticipated; medium high. But now that I have that figured out - beautiful.
Nina H. January 30, 2021
I really wanted to like this recipe, because Sohla's video was fantastic and it looked so delicious. But, the rice was mushy and the chicken was undercooked. I followed the recipe to a tee, but not sure what went wrong. Definitely want to give it another shot.
Karl R. January 31, 2021
Having made this 4 or 5 times I do think this recipe takes practice - for me I had trouble with the rice getting evenly cooked and with the chicken ending up undercooked. What has worked for me is to be ready to add water as it goes (from a kettle that has hot water ready) and finishing in the oven at 375 (my stove top isn't large enough to keep even heat across the entire pan). I also cook chicken thighs on both side originally.

That makes this recipe less simple than it originally appears - but it ends up so good that I keep coming back (the Indian spiced variant as well).
Nina H. February 2, 2021
Great tips, thank you!
olivia A. January 19, 2021
So so so amazing!! I didn't have chicken thighs on hand so I used breasts and it worked out great. Soaking the rice really made a huge difference. In the end it was perfectly cooked with flavorful rice and beautifully browned chicken. Thank you Sohla <3
Taylor M. January 7, 2021
I LOVED THIS SO MUCH! I went ahead and added some saffron to the rice as it was cooking because I happened to have some on hand and it was beautiful. Also used cherry tomatoes instead of a cut up tomato and added them with the beans so we could have some bright and acidic bites. This was super delicious and satisfying. My only regret was not doubling the recipe because we ate it all and didn't have any leftovers!
Emma B. January 7, 2021
Loved this! Had to change up a couple of thing because of my ingredients and still had a lovely dish at the end. I only had boneless/ skinless thighs and can definitely see how bone in and skin on would have made the dish even better. I did have to remove the chicken and put in the oven for a few minutes to make sure it was cooked through, but I think it was my fault for not browning enough beforehand. I only has frozen beans and didn't wanna add more water to my rice so I cooked them on the side and added in after. Added some chopped jalapeño at the rice cooking stage, but could have blended it up at the beginning too. All and all loved this and would make it again and can't wait to try the Garam Masala version and my own takes.
LillyGee January 7, 2021
Sohla was totally right that it'll take a few tries to get this one right! I like the concept, but I also had issues with cooking rates. Had to keep adding liquid bc some rice wasn't cooked, but some kept getting scorched on the bottom. Also used a 10 in cast-iron. Maybe issues because I only had 4 chicken thighs rather than 6? Also, despite seasoning generously upon adding the rice, the final dish still turned out bland (maybe because out of season tomatoes right now?). Chicken was beautifully cooked though at least! Will keep dialing it in :)
Arrxx February 20, 2021
I used a few San Marzano canned tomatoes which were good.
ct2020 December 28, 2020
I've made this dish several times now and I finally got it 100% right. Sometimes it burned for me, sometimes the rice was half cooked/half al dente. It takes a bit of adjusting depending on pan type and heat, it takes some finesse for sure. Things that worked for me:

-I used a stainless steel skillet with deep sides (the non-stick skillet or even shallow dutch oven DID NOT WORK FOR ME)
-Added 1 tablespoon tomato paste right before adding the tomato
-Subbed the tomato with a small can of diced tomato (drained) - this yielded a better, more flavorful tomato taste
-I decreased the rice to 1 cup, keeping 2-2.25 cups water *make plenty of rice*
-I kept the heat to medium low when cooking the rice with a gentle simmer, HALF COVERED most of the time (this is KEY)
-When rice is 90% there, with some water residual, I took the pan off the heat and covered it, let it sit for ~5 mins.

That was the key. I also serve it with cucumber and tzatziki, it's perfect with this.
Cassie M. December 27, 2020
I loved this dish. My rice came out perfect! Great technique Sohla!
Sarah T. December 22, 2020
Flavors are good, and the chicken cooked through and the rice didn’t burn, but the rice ended up a pile of mush. I’ll eat the leftovers but won’t use this technique again, which is a shame for a series based around techniques.