Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Stuffed chicken thighs are so satisfying and delicious. The chicken is so juicy on the inside but golden and crisp on the outside and filled with a cheesy rice stuffing. This is a wonderful dinner option for company and can even be made in advance.

Stuffed Chicken Thighs With Rice

Stuffed Chicken Thighs are a great idea, especially paired with a savory rice filling. Chicken and rice are a very common combination, such as a whole Butterflied Roast Chicken with Rice Stuffing, or a simple Chicken Rice Pilaf. Why not assemble it into something unique that has a beautiful presentation and is perfect to serve for company dinners? Since chicken thighs will not dry out as they roast like chicken breasts and are also the perfect size, they are a great option to serve it with stuffing, baking long enough to allow the flavors to meld into a creamy goodness and the chicken skin to get crisp and beautifully golden.

Chicken thigh meat is so juicy and tender, it’s the perfect option to make these individual bundles filled with rice.  The rice is already flavorful with all the sautéed aromatic veggies – onion, celery, carrot and garlic, but as it bakes inside the chicken, it soaks up the flavors of the roasting chicken as well. There’s also some cheese in the rice, so it becomes really creamy as it bakes.

This recipe has been a family favorite for more than a decade and we make them for many holidays and special occasions as well as regular family dinners. It’s such a great example that a handful of simple ingredients can be served in an elegant way.

Ingredients For Stuffed Chicken and Rice:

  • chicken thighs – for this recipe, it is best to use chicken thighs with the bone and skin and then remove the bones yourself. I have never seen them sold in stores with the skin on and bones removed. The boneless option is usually skinless as well. If you don’t like chicken skin, you can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • long grain white rice – the measurements and timing that I have listed for this recipe are for uncooked long grain white rice. If you use any other kind of rice, you will need to adjust the recipe.
  • aromatic vegetables – onion, carrot, celery and garlic. These delicious vegetables will flavor the rice. It’s a classic combination.
  • oil or butter to sauté the vegetables.
  • cheese – the cheese is important not only to add flavor and creaminess to the rice, but it also helps to bind it together. Without the cheese, the rice will fall apart more easily. You can use any cheese that melts well, such as mozzarella, provolone, Colby, cheddar, Monterey Jack, etc.
  • mayonnaise – mayonnaise is another important ingredient to bind the rice together. If you prefer not to use mayonnaise, you can use plain Greek yogurt or sour cream instead.
  • dry herbs and spices, salt and pepper – this will add additional flavor to the chicken and the rice. Use any combination of herbs and spices that you like, such as garlic and onion powder, granulated garlic and/or onion, dry chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, etc. I also like to use paprika for the top of the chicken. It add flavor and helps to give the top of the chicken and slightly golden color.
  • fresh herbs – parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, dill – any of these will be wonderful to add to the rice and to garnish the chicken when serving.
Ingredients For Stuffed Chicken Thighs With Rice Stuffing

How To Debone Chicken Thighs:

  • A good pair of kitchen scissors is great for this job. It’s much easier than using a knife, although you can use a knife too if you don’t have kitchen scissors.
  • Trim the chicken thighs as much as you can, cutting off excess skin the goes beyond the chicken meat and also remove excess fat and other things that aren’t appetizing to eat. This is important because if you don’t trim enough skin and fat from the chicken thighs, they will exude a lot of fat while they are roasting and your elegant chicken and rice may end up floating in chicken fat, which is not what we are going for.
  • To remove the bone, turn the chicken thigh over so it’s skin side down and find the bone. There is usually a line that runs right over the one. Cut on both sides of the bone and then go underneath the bone, trying to stay as close to the bone as possible. Cut all the way around to completely remove the chicken bone.
  • Save the chicken bones to use in chicken broth. I just put it in my freezer until the next time I make broth.

How to Prepare Stuffed Chicken Thighs With Rice Stuffing:

  • Prepare the chicken thighs. Debone the chicken thighs. Season on both sides with salt, pepper dry herbs and spices.
  • Partially cook the rice. In a medium saucepan, place 1 cup of rice with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Season water with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes. The rice should only be partially cooked. If there is any water left. drain it. Immediately place the rice in a large bowl and cool slightly.
  • Sauté the vegetables. In a large skillet, sauté all the vegetables until they are tender and slightly golden, seasoning with salt and pepper, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Mix the rice stuffing. Add the sautéed vegetables, the cheese, mayonnaise, dry herbs and spices and fresh herbs to the rice and mix to combine.
  • Stuff the chicken with rice. Take about 1/2 cup of the rice and firmly shape it with your hands into an oval and place inside the chicken thighs. Place the stuffed chicken into a deep baking dish (I use a 9 X 13 inch baking dish). If there is any rice leftover, place it on the bottom of the baking sheet under the chicken.
  • Roast. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and roast in the preheated oven (400 F) about 40 minutes, then uncover and continue roasting until the chicken is completely cooked through, it should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer and the outside is golden brown, another 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven and on the size of your chicken thighs. I also like to increase the oven temperature to 450-475 degrees Fahrenheit after uncovering the baking dish, so it get more crisp.

Helpful Tips and Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you use chicken breast?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Chicken breast is too large, so you will need to butterfly it and pound it into an even thickness and probably cut it into smaller pieces. Chicken breast will also be more dry. However, of course, you can do whatever you want, just be aware of that.

Can you use boneless skinless chicken thighs?

Yes, however, the chicken skin also keeps the chicken meat much more moist, so I would recommend possibly sprinkling the stuffed chicken without the skin with grated cheese, or adding a thin layer or Greek yogurt or sour cream, then adding some breadcrumbs or something to add a protective layer and to make the chicken more attractive. Boneless chicken thighs won’t look as pretty and will be more dry if you remove the skin. The rice will be more dry as well.

Can you use leftover or fully cooked rice?

I don’t recommend this. If you fully cook the rice, it will become really overcooked and will have a blown out texture because it will continue cooking in the oven for awhile. It is also important that the rice is only partially cooked so it can absorb the chicken juices for extra flavor otherwise there will be too much excess liquid in the baking dish.

What to do if the rice stuffing is falling apart:

It is normal for the rice to be a little bit fluffy, but the cheese and the mayonnaise help to bind it together. Use your hands to firmly press the rice into an oval and then place inside the chicken. If you try to wrap the chicken around the rice and it is still completely falling apart, then add a bit more mayo, yogurt, sour cream or cheese. That should help.

The baked chicken and rice is floating in chicken juice/grease.

This is most likely because of 3 reasons.

  • You didn’t trim enough fat from the chicken or left too much skin on the chicken.
  • The other reason is because you are roasting the chicken in a baking dish that is too small. If you use more chicken thighs in the 9 X 13 baking dish, not 8 chicken thighs, that will create more juice as it roasts. Also, if you use a smaller baking dish, even if you can squeeze all 8 chicken thighs into an 8 X 8 inch baking dish, or some other size, it will still have too much liquid in such a small space.
  • Your rice was full cooked. The rice needs to be partially cooked so it can finish baking inside the chicken and absorb some of the chicken juices. (See the above note about the rice.)

Prepping Ahead:

This is a wonderful recipe to prep ahead, which is especially helpful if you are serving it for company. Prep the entire dish, wrap the baking dish with foil and possibly plastic wrap as well and store it in the refrigerator overnight or up to a day in advance. Take the baking dish out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking (don’t forget to remove the plastic wrap if you used it) and then bake. You don’t want to put a completely cold baking dish into a hot oven, it can crack.

You can even prep the chicken and rice and freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw and cook as usual.

What to Serve With the Stuffed Chicken Thighs:

How to Store, Freeze and Reheating

Store leftover chicken and rice in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

You can reheat the chicken in the microwave but my favorite way to do it is in a skillet on low heat. Reheat until the chicken and rice are warmed through (the rice gets golden and crisp – so good!) and you can even crisp up the chicken skin on higher heat towards the end.

Leftover cooked chicken and rice will freeze well too. I prefer freezing the chicken and rice uncooked, but if you have a bit leftover, you can freeze it and enjoy it for lunch one day in the future. Freezing the chicken and rice uncooked is the best option because it will taste much more fresh and will have a much better texture.

Print

Elegant Chicken and Rice Dinner

Stuffed chicken thighs are so satisfying and delicious. The chicken is so juicy on the inside but golden and crisp on the outside and filled with a cheesy rice stuffing. This is a wonderful dinner option for company and can even be made in advance.

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 40 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 mins
  • Yield: 68 1x
  • Category: Entree

Ingredients

Scale

8 chicken thighs, with the bone removed but the skin still on

1 cup rice, uncooked

1 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely shredded

1 celery stalk, finely chopped 

1/2 cup mozzarella or provolone cheese, finely shredded

24 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon oil or butter, to sauté the vegetables

2 tablespoons mayonaise

salt, ground black pepper, to taste

12 teaspoons dry herbs and spices (such as garlic powder, onion powder, dry parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, paprika, etc.)

1/21 Tablespoon fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Debone the chicken thighs and clean up the chicken meat from excess fat, and skin leaving only enough skin to go around the chicken. Trim the chicken from all unpleasant things so they are neat and clean all around and on the inside of the meat as well.  
  3. In a medium saucepan, add uncooked rice and 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes. Immediately take the rice out of the saucepan to stop the cooking, drain it if there is any water left and place it into a large bowl.
  4. Heat butter or oil in a large skillet, then add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and slightly golden.
  5. Add the sautéed vegetables to the rice. Cool slightly, then add the grated cheese, dry herbs and spices, fresh herbs (save some fresh herbs to garnish later), grated cheese and mayonnaise. Mix to combine.
  6. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt, pepper and dry herbs and seasonings.
  7. Take 1/2 cup of rice stuffing and form into a log by pressing on it with your hands very firmly. Place the rice in the middle of each chicken thigh and wrap the chicken around the rice, forming a neat bundle.
  8. If there is any rice left over, place it onto the bottom of the baking dish. I use a 13 X 9 inch baking dish.
  9. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and continue roasting for 15-20 minutes more, until the top of the chicken is golden brown and crisp.
  10. Serve the chicken hot. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave, skillet or oven.

Notes

Make Ahead:

  1. This is another recipe that can be made ahead of time. Prep it completely without roasting, cover, refrigerate and cook when needed. Just let the baking dish warm up a bit before you put it in the oven, at least half an hour; the chicken will cook faster and more evenly and you won’t run the risk of a shattered casserole dish. This is a great option for entertaining. 

Keywords: stuffed chicken thighs, chicken and rice dinner, chicken stuffed with rice, rice stuffed chicken thighs

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This is an updated recipe that was originally published on November 12, 2011. It was the very first recipe I published on this website and has been so loved and enjoyed all these years. I updated the pictures and clarified the instructions. Enjoy!

53 Comments

    • Olga K.

      Yes, Tanya, I trim off as much of the fat as possible. You’re right, chicken thighs are very fatty, so they need to be trimmed. I trim them for any recipe that I’m using.

  • Katia B.

    This really delicious, my husband said “wow, this is packed with flavor”! :)) One thing is that my baking dish was full of liquid by the time chicken cooked, I drained it as much as I could and put it in the oven for another 20 min. Does this happen when you cook it? The rice underneath turned into risotto, which everybody loved. Thanks for the recipe, Olga!

    • Olga K.

      Hi Katya,
      The chicken thighs are very juicy, so there will be some liquid. Like you said, the rice turns into a risotto – we love it too.
      I always trim as much fat from the meat and the skin as possible, so that helps quite a bit.

    • Vera

      I cook the rice half way for this dish. That way, when it’s cooking with the chicken, it absorbs the juices and there’s not much excess liquid.

  • Natasha

    This is VERY delicious, and convenient. I prep it the night before and just bake it the next day for dinner. We love it too that rice turns into risotto – so flavorful!! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Yuliya

    Hi Olga, i buy boneless-skinless chicken thighs. Will they be fine? Or will there be a big difference without the skin on top?

    • olgak7

      Hi Lena,
      Mix the cheese and mayo along with the rest of the ingredients in the rice mixture. The mayo and the cheese do not go on top of the chicken.

  • Irina

    Made this last night for dinner and my husband loved it! Thank you for the yummy recipe. Will make again in the future.

  • Candice

    This is a very good recipe but I made mine with boneless chicken breast( all I had) and it was a little bit on the dry side… Still tasty ! ….so as you stated in the recipe to use skin on thighs…. I think this is the best way to go… I will be making it again but next time exactly as your recipe states To do!

    • olgak7

      Hi Candice! Chicken thighs are definitely a lot juicier, but I understand that sometimes you have to use what you have on hand. Thank you for taking the time to write.

  • Michelle Cole

    Yes they do sell boneless/skinless thighs at the market you pay more for them doing the trimming, and Ive shopped at Vons/Safeway, Stater Brothers, Kroger they all carry them.

  • Neysa

    Tried it…..Was really tasty .Very different from our Indian food … I am delightfully surprised.

  • Nadia

    This was amazing Olga! The whole family enjoyed it, they asked to put it on rotation! Thanks to your sister’s Easter vlog for cooking it and sending me to your site. As a 1/2 Russian/Australian this is truly the comfort food I grew up with, but never had it before that I can remember.

  • Cristina Moravec-Kossegi

    I saw your sister make this on a FB video. She had a link to your recipe. I finally made it today after scrolling through your website for a bit. I am a nurse too. I graduated and took my boards in NY 10 years before you did in 1996. I got my 1st job and got married that same year. I have been a night nurse the whole time. I have been working in the same ER for almost 25 years. I also have 2 boys but they are grown. They are both studying to be nurses too.
    Everyone loved this recipe. My husband is a very picky eater and he actually had 3rds. He rarely takes 2nds. My 17 and 21 year old sons loved it too. I guess I should have made more. There isn’t much left over. The chicken did give off more liquid than I expected, so I just poured off as much as I could before serving. I added a package of riced cauliflower and sauteed mushrooms to stretch the rice. It came out delicious! Thank you so much for such a great dinner!

    • olgak7

      I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed the Chicken and Rice dinner. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. It’s always so lovely to “meet” some of my readers. So nice that you are a nurse also:).

  • Joanna

    Saw your sister make it in a video, pinned the recipe last week, and made it today. It was so delicious. My husband said it needs to be on rotation… easy and elegant. Only change I made was I used boneless skinless thighs (that I trimmed) as that’s what I had and honestly, wouldn’t eat the skin anyway. Chicken remained juicy and flavorful. It’s just not as pretty without the skin, but I don’t really care as long as it’s good. Thank you! I’ve pinned other recipes. Can’t wait to try!

  • Irene

    I used exact proportion from the recipe, but rice was still too fluffy with all other ingredients mixed in, couldn’t make a log. I ended up cooking chicken on top of bed of rice, still was very good. What should I do to make rice more sticky?

    • olgak7

      Hi Irene.
      Sometimes different types of rice have different amounts of starch. Add a bit more mayonnaise and/or cheese and that should help. Also, when you are making the “logs” it helps to press them firmly with your hands so they stick better without adding too much extra mayo. You can also try using sour cream or Greek yogurt instead too. Hope that helps!

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