This sweet and spicy chicken bowl is packed with flavor and makes for a super easy weeknight dinner recipe. Chipotles in adobo sauce add the perfect amount of heat and smokiness to this versatile rice bowl recipe.
Don’t let the fact that I served mine as a rice bowl stop you from filling up corn or flour tortillas with that delicious, sweet, and spicy shredded chicken. And certainly, don’t let it stop you from piling that creamy, tangy shredded Brussels sprout slaw on top of each taco. The shredded chicken is perfect as a bowl, a taco, a tostada, or stuffed into a quesadilla (with plenty of cheese, of course).
What are chipotles in adobo sauce?
This recipe starts with chipotles in adobo sauce. The beauty of canned chipotles in adobo is that they pack SO much flavor. All that flavor means they do most of the heavy lifting for you.
If you’ve never cooked with chipotles in adobo, I’ll give you a primer on what to expect. Chipotles in adobo are jalapeños that have been dried and smoked. They’re packed in a can of tangy, spiced tomato purée, which is spiked with vinegar and seasoned with garlic and other spices. This sauce rehydrates the peppers, so they’re very soft and easy to work with. The result is a smoky, spicy, slightly sweet can of peppers that work perfectly as a flavor foundation for anything from chili to BBQ sauce.
I recommend one-third of a cup of chipotles in adobo sauce for this recipe. Taste them, though, to make sure they won’t be too spicy for your heat tolerance. You can increase or decrease the number of chipotles in adobo sauce, depending on your tolerance to spice.
Once you’ve figured out how many you want to use, you may have some extras left over. Don’t throw them away! You can cover any remaining chipotles in adobo sauce and refrigerate them for up to 7 days, or you can freeze them for up to 6 months.
Now that your chipotles in adobo are prepped, combine them in a bowl with lime juice and maple syrup. You can also use honey or even brown sugar! Throw in your chicken thighs and a few extra spices. Cover the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator.
How to make this sweet and spicy chicken bowl:
Once the chicken marinates, you’ll fry the thighs up with onions, black beans, tomatoes, and a little water and simmer until cooked through and tender. From there, it’s just a matter of shredding them up. It’s so easy to make, and if you’re like me, you may find yourself snacking on the shredded chicken over the stovetop before it ever makes it to your plate. That’s called the perk of being the cook!
Depending on how long I’m marinating for, I’ll either make the slaw while the chicken marinates or while it simmers.
How to make the slaw:
This slaw is zippy, sweet, spicy, and creamy! Personally, I’m on team cream when it comes to slaw, and I prefer creamy slaw over vinegar-based. I use Brussels sprouts, but you can use shredded red or green cabbage if you prefer.
This recipe is just a basic dressing of maple syrup, vinegar, mayo, and hot sauce. You can use sugar dissolved in water, but you’d want to let it cool before adding the mayo. For the slaw ingredients, I kept it simple with just Brussels sprouts, minced jalapeño, and cilantro. But get creative! Throw in some shredded carrots, red onion, or even red bell peppers.
Put it all together:
Once the chicken is done, and the slaw is ready, it’s time to put it all together! Serve the shredded chicken on top of cooked white rice and pile the slaw on top. The garnishes are the most fun part of this recipe. I went with avocado, lime wedges, and the most adorable baby radishes. Serve it with crumbled cotija cheese, jalapeño slices, pickled red onions, minced or charred scallions, or shredded cheddar cheese. Crispy tortilla strips would never be wrong, either!
If you made this recipe, be sure to comment below and tell me what you thought!
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bowl
- Large skillet
- ⅓ cup chipotles in adobo with sauce, chipotles roughly chopped; use more or less to taste
- ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder, more if you like extra heat
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup, more to taste
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- Hot sauce, to taste
- 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, trimmed and minced
- ⅓ cup cilantro, loosely packed and minced
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into half-moons
- 14.5- ounce can black beans, drained
- 14.5- ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- ½ cup water or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- Cooked white rice, radishes, avocado, and lime wedges
Marinate the chicken:
- Gather the chipotles with their sauce in a large bowl with maple syrup and lime juice. Whisk to combine. Add the chicken and season all over with salt, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne powder. Toss to coat and marinate for 1 hour up to 24 hours.
Prepare the slaw:
- While the chicken marinates, prepare the slaw. Combine vinegar, maple syrup, and mayonnaise in a bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Add a few splashes of hot sauce.
- In a bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts, jalapeño, and cilantro and toss to combine. Add a big pinch of salt. Pour the dressing on top. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Transfer to the refrigerator until needed.
Cook the chicken:
- Heat 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften. Turn the heat to high. Arrange the chicken in the skillet with the onion. Spoon any extra marinade on top of each chicken thigh. Cook for 5–6 minutes until it begins to char slightly.
- Flip the chicken and add the black beans, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40–50 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
- Once the chicken is completely cooked through, shred each thigh with two forks. Toss to coat in the sauce and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and season. Turn off the heat.
- Divide cooked white rice between bowls. Spoon the chicken on top and serve with the slaw. Garnish each plate with radishes, and avocado. Serve with a lime wedge. Enjoy!