Chicken and Rice For a Crowd

You would think that with my history of chicken and rice I can make it in any quantity and for any crowd. That I could make it in a house or make it for a mouse or make it here or there, that I could make it anywhere! Sadly, that is not the case. A few years ago I had a friend’s family over and I tried making 16 servings of it in one pot. It was a disaster!! The pan’s bottom was too thin, the rice stuck to the bottom and burned. It was so bad I had to throw out the pan. Amazingly enough his family still wanted to eat the not burned parts of the dish. It was “ok” but it still had that horrible flavor of having been cooked in a pot where something burned. I was mortified, not least of all because this friend had been going on about my cooking to his family and THIS hideousness is what I served them. It was the first time I ever burned anything for a crowd/group before and it was possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of my culinary life.

Since then, I have oscillated between avoiding and wanting to make this for a crowd again, but I never had the nerve to attempt it. Enter a new job and a team who loves to share food and eat. They flat out asked for me to bring them food!! Well, I am always looking for willing Guinea pigs to feed the recipes I make for this blog and this was my big chance!! I whooped out my big girl panties, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and made chicken and rice for a crowd. I am proud to say that this time I got it right! Not only did it taste as expected, the rice cooked properly and nothing burned to the bottom of the pan. This recipe feeds between 12 and 16 people depending on their appetite.

This recipe differs slightly from my other chicken and rice recipe and is slightly easier to make. I use it because it is a recipe that is very balanced and doubling, halving or quartering it is simple and works well.

2.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thigh – Diced into 1 inch pieces
4 cups short grain rice
1 very large yellow onion – diced
10 cloves of garlic – crushed
6 packets of Sazon Goya
3 tbsp of olive oil
8 cups boiling water
Salt to taste

What is Sazon Goya?
Sazon Goya is a seasoning packet used by the Cuban community to flavor mainly chicken and rice. It is comprised of cumin, anatto, food coloring and MSG. If you do not want to use this you can use a pinch of saffron in water along with a tsp of cumin and a tsp of salt for each packet. The flavor will not be identical but it will still be delicious.

1. Heat a large dutch oven, the thicker the bottom the better, over high heat
2. Add the olive oil, chicken and onions
3. Sautee for 5 minutes

Chicken and Onion with freshly added Sazon Goya and garlic.
Chicken and Onion with freshly added Sazon Goya and garlic.

4. Add the garlic and Sazon Goya

This is how you want the chicken mixture to look before you add the rice.
This is how you want the chicken mixture to look before you add the rice.

5. Sautee until the chicken is cooked through and there is little to no liquid left in the bottom of the pan
6. Add the rice and boiling water to the pot
7. Stir well, place the cover over the top and reduce heat to low
8. Let cook for 5 minutes
9. Stir to make sure that no rice is sticking. This is the biggest problem you have when making this dish for a crowd, so while it might seem counter intuitive to lift the lid, it beats the hell out of burning the dish
10. Replace the cover and let cook for another 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure that nothing is sticking
11. Once the rice is tender and the water has evaporated the dish is done
12. Transfer to a serving dish and if you would like you may garnish with roasted bell peppers and peas or lime wedges and chopped parsley
13. Apply to face


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Apply to face. Hahaha! This sounds delicious!

  2. cuisinedemma says:

    LOL, thanks. Yeah that is kind of my catch phrase. You know, like Ina Garten has “how bad can that be”, Emeril has “Kick it up a notch” and Alton Brown has “Good Eats”. If I were a famous cooking show host I would end each segment with “Apply to face.”

  3. B says:

    What if I don’t have a Dutch oven what would I use? Could I add beans in somewhere? Looks good

    1. Hi B. You can easily make this in either a deep skillet with a lid or a regular pot. If you wanted to add beans, I’d do either chick peas or white beans (possibly even kidney beans) and I’d add them before the rice and after the chicken is done cooking through. You would want them to get good and covered in the seasoning and cook a bit on the outside to caramelize a tad. To be clear, these beans would be either canned or cooked to tender already. Thanks for the question, let me know how it works for you. 🙂

  4. Elle says:

    Is there an msg free alternative to sazon Goya I could use?

    1. Hi Elle, thanks for your question, it’s one I get a lot. Sadly, there is no easy replacement. A lot of people will say Bijol is a replacement, but I find it’s very different and lacks a certain something more than just the MSG. If you’d like to come as close as you can, you can replace it with 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp garlic powder for each package of Sazon Goya. You would also want to use Saffron to add color as well as flavor to your dish. If you want a chicken and rice made without MSG or food coloring, I have the more traditional recipe here:

      This recipe is actually the one I use more often and it can be doubled or even tripled for a crowd. It’s just a tad more fiddly than this one, hence why I have two on this site 🙂

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