Canal House Chicken and Rice

canal house chicken and rice

Last week, a friend, a reliable source of all things cooking — books, ingredients, attire, drinks — texted me a recipe. It came from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6: The Grocery Store, and she described it as a small miracle.

I, of course, made the dish, “chicken and rice,” immediately, and then made it again, and then made it once more last night. The dish is miraculous foremost for its reception — we ALL gobble it up — but also for its simplicity: it’s a one-pot wonder calling for nothing more than butter, one onion, a few stalks of celery, one chicken, rice and water. I added a bay leaf because I can’t not when cooking rice — that’s what my mother does — but otherwise, I followed the text-message recipe to a T.

You’ll be tempted to use stock instead of water — I was — but it’s not necessary. For the first 20 minutes of stove-top cooking, the chicken braises with diced onions, celery and water, during which time that water essentially becomes a light broth. During the next 30 minutes, the rice cooks in that broth with a little more water, absorbing all of the flavors of the vegetables and meat, fluffing up perfectly around the pieces of falling-off-the-bone tender chicken.

You can add peas if you like — my friend does — and you could add some parsley for color, but don’t get too fancy — there is something beautiful about the monochromaticity of this miracle dish. Tan has never tasted so good.


diced onions and celery

browning the chicken

adding the celery and onion

adding the rice

adding the water

canal house chicken and rice

Canal House Chicken and Rice

Adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6: The Grocery Store

The original recipe calls for 1.5 cups of rice, and if you choose to use this quantity of rice, be sure to add 1.5 cups of water at the same time. Note: One cup of rice generously feeds four people.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces (I prefer, as always, using the dark meat for braises such as this one, so if you are not cutting up a whole chicken, I suggest buying bone-in, skin on thighs and drumsticks — three of each should do it.)
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, diced to yields 1 1/2 cups or so
  • a few stalks celery, about 1/2 cup diced
  • 1 cup rice (I use Uncle Ben's Original (parboiled long grain rice) — it's what my mother always uses; my friend uses long grain basmati, rinsed 4 to 5 times in colander)
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. In a large, wide pot or sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Brown skin side down until golden, about 10 minutes. (Note: The skin does not need to be super dark. It's best to brown slowly. The goal is to extract flavor. This is not a dish where the skin in the end is crispy.)
  2. Meanwhile, dice the onion and celery (if you haven't already). When the chicken is golden, flip it over, add the celery and onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and let cook for a minute or so. Add 1 cup of water, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes add the cup of rice, patting it down in between the chicken pieces. Add 1 cup of water and the bay leaf. Cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and serve.
  4. If you live with little people, you might want to cut the meat off the bone, chop it up and stir it into the rice.

plate of Canal House chicken and rice


      • says

        I’ve got chicken and rice cooking at this very moment. I also added some preserved meyer lemon and a cinnamon stick….and some very sad mushrooms that were being neglected. I can see this being a great clean out the fridge kind of dish.

        But I didn’t add the second cup of water. When it was time to add the rice, I had a lot of liquid in my pan, and not much room. So I’m going to keep an eye on it and add more liquid if the rice isn’t doing nice ricey things.

        And for dessert I have Tastycake PB Kandy Kake inspired cupcakes that I made for my grandmother’s 91st birthday. I do love me some Tastycake!

        • says

          Oh my gosh those sound amazing! I’ve been on a brown butter cupcake with brown butter frosting kick. Will report back on those soon.

          Did you end up having to add more water? I got nervous when I read your comment because there definitely is a lot of water in the pan when you add that second cup of water, but somehow the rice soaks it all up. Love the idea of adding preserved meyer lemon — you are the second to suggest that so I think I’m going to have to try immediately. And yes on the cleaning out the fridge idea. I’m hoping those sad mushrooms perhaps let out more water? So your pan didn’t dry up?

          • says

            I did great without the second cup of water. Maybe those mushrooms helped.

            My pan was rather crowded because I used four leg quarters. So after the cooking time I pulled the chicken off the bone, gave everything a good stir, put the lid back on and let it sit for about 15 minutes to make sure all my rice was done.

            I’ve got leftovers reheating in the oven right now! Sadly all the cupcakes are gone. But if the predicted weather event hits town this week, maybe I can remedy that.

          • says

            Love the idea of pulling the meat of the bone. I basically do that at the end anyway, but it would be nice to do that before the cooking is actually complete because I bet both the chicken and the rice become more flavorful. Totally doing that next time.

        • Lenora says

          Tastykake PB Kandy Kake are the best. I am originally from Philadelphia moved to New York. There were no Tastykake here until last year. I squealed like a little girl when I saw an entire display of Tastykakes at the local supermarket. People turned around to look at me. Didn’t think they could improve on the original Kandy Kake but the dark chocolate is very good.

          BTW rice and chicken looks good. 😉

  1. Shelly says

    Love the canal house series. I might have to add this one to my collection. I’m with Wendi — making this this weekend!

  2. PeterVL says

    Of course I need to try this, looks and sounds delicious.

    But – I just have to ask – Uncle Bens rice!?!?!?!

    Wow … kinda had to catch my breath a bit, there. As I was reading the text I was thinking “oh I have to try this with brown rice” … and then you call out Uncle Bens. LOL!

    May I please ask – why? I mean – rice by itself is so lovely and easy. But it’s too processed for me what with all the brown goodness scrubbed off of the grain. But – Uncle Bens?


    (my comments meant in all loving gentle teasing kindness ….)

    • says

      Haha, Oh Peter, you know I love ALL of your comments, ALWAYS :) So, I know, I know. Note that I didn’t snap a pic of the Uncle Ben’s box and include it in the photo roundup. I’m not necessarily proud of my consumption of white, processed rice. Uncle Ben’s is one of those things my mother has always used, and honestly, when I am making rice for company (which isn’t that often any more), I always use Uncle Ben’s because it comes out perfectly every time. It really is surprising, too, that my mother uses it, because she is the first to buy the organic, heirloom, boutique whole grain and the first to send me an article pooh-poohing something and touting another — she sent me countless articles about arsenic in rice, which turned me off it for awhile, but all of a sudden I’ve been making it again. I love white processed rice. Interestingly enough, I just googled “parboiled/converted rice” and found this wikipedia article: which says that parboiled rice is about 80% nutritionally similar to brown rice…so maybe it’s not so bad after all?

      Please never stop commenting :)

  3. Laurie says

    Chicken and rice is one of Jeff’s favorite dishes and mine too…..this looks great, just the thing to try out a new pan I actually bought for stir fry but it’s multi purpose and big and I thought I’d double the recipe for lunch leftovers….the only thing I will omit is the celery….I have a morbid fear of celery…hate the stuff! A few years ago some ‘friends’ took me to lunch at a Chinese buffet and had arranged to ‘buy my lunch for me’……when they brought out the covered plate, I eagerly picked up the silver top to reveal a steaming plate of nothing but HOT COOKED CELERY!!! Aggghhhhhhh! I felt like Lucy when Snoopy licked her!

    • says

      Hahaha…. oh noooooo! Laurie, I’m sorry about that lunch experience. Sounds traumatic. You can totally omit the celery. Maybe add more onion? Or a dice carrot? I think I might have the same reaction to a whole plate of steamed celery…there is something terrifying about that image! Haha, xoxo

    • says

      Alicia, I only have one — Canal House Cooks Every Day — which I absolutely love. Seriously, I find nothing more relaxing than curling up to that book on the couch. I might have to buy this other series. My friend raves about it.

  4. Laura says

    Hi Ali,

    Cribbage, cocktails and Chicken (and rice) tomorrow night. Is that a wok pan you used? I have an All-Clad wok pan that doesn’t get as much use anymore since we’ve kinda gotten off the stir fry thing.

    • says

      Yesssss. I love your Cribbage & Cocktail nights. It’s not a wok actually, it’s this all-clad braising pan — I think it used to be called an “everyday pan”. I got it almost 10 years ago and use it all the time. So hope you like the chicken! It’s simple but oh so good. Have a great weekend.

      • Laura says

        That looks lovely… my husband would kill me at this point if I bought another pan! Luckily we don’t use much packaged foods so the pantry is handling the overload but it is an expensive habit of mine.

        but still…… hmmm, might just be necessary :-)

        • says

          Haha, I know, my husband might kill me too if I buy anything else for the kitchen…I’m obsessing about weck jars, but I really really don’t need them. Need to figure out a way to make them feel more useful than 1,000 ball jars I have in the cupboard…this will be a challenge :)

  5. says

    Just ordered that book, in Kindle version… your description of the dish sold me, and I do have three other books of their series

    something about simple cooking that appeals to me so much!

    Thanks for the constant inspiration!

  6. Trish says

    This looks simple but comforting! I had to laugh when you wrote, “Tan never tasted so good.” My daughter laughs whenever I plate a dinner (that is all beige/tan) and I exclaim, “Oh no. It’s all the same color.” But we have decided that we love tan! Chicken and rice. Sign me up!

    • says

      Haha, I love it! I think if I chopped up parsley and stirred it into my children’s rice they would have complete meltdowns…embarrassing, I know. We love tan, too! Haha

      • Trish says

        By the way, speaking of beige (with a pop of orange), I made your cheese biscuits for the first time. So glad I did! They were delicious, especially as part of a fried egg and ham breakfast sandwich. Yum!!! I am craving it now just thinking about it.

  7. Jenn says

    I also heart the Canal House series and recently discovered this recipe as well. I’ve made it 3 times and my kids gobble it up. I’ve added preserved lemon rind, which give it additional zip (and I think the Canal House ladies would approve). You just have to dice the lemon fine enough so u don’t get a mouthful.

    I love your blog and everything I’ve made from u. I’ve made the tyme yeast rolls a lot lately and they get rave reviews. I always give u credit. Thank u!

    • says

      So happy to hear this, Jenn! This has been one dish my daughter actually requests, which is a first. So glad you like it, too, and thank you SO much for the tip on the preserved lemon rind. I am definitely going to need to start posting recipes using those preserved lemons I made about a month ago, and I love the idea of adding them to something like this. The Canal House ladies most certainly would approve :) So glad you like the thyme rolls. Thanks for writing in.

  8. Mama Poule says

    Mmmmm, looks yummy. My mom makes something very similar, well, actually the exact thing minus the celery, and it is just comforting. Comforting to cook, to eat, to think about….no futzing, no overengineering, no exotic spices or crazy techniques needed.

    I had read an interview with Amanda Hesser after she redid the NY Times cookbook, and one of the things she said that struck me was that in recent times, cooking and food has become about complex flavors, mixing spices, surprising combinations and pairings etc, whereas say 40 years ago there was really none of that. So not surprising that all of us offsprings of the complex flavors era are finding surprise and comfort in simplicity.

    • says

      Very interesting! And so true! I find myself drawn to the recipes now with fewer ingredients — as soon as I see a long spice list, I think: forget it. Now that’s partly bc I don’t have as much time as I used to in the kitchen, but it’s also because it’s so often no necessary. And nothing irritates me more than when I spend hours on something complex or that I’ve had to get to five different stores to pick up the right ingredients, and in the end there’s not much to show for it. Butter, onions, browning chicken — it doesn’t get much better (and simple) than that.

  9. Bates says

    It’s a gift that keeps on giving. We got home at 6:30pm one night this weekend – kids but not adults were fed – and the dish was ready just as the tots were in bed. Next up from Canal House is the chicken cordon bleu – my mom used to make a stouffers version in the toaster oven but I suspect the wee ones will enjoy the homemade version.

  10. says

    I can’t wait to try this, Alexandra! With three boys, it recently dawned on me that feeding them when they’re older is going to get very spendy so I need to get smart about inexpensive protein sources, like buying whole chickens instead of just chicken breasts.

    And thanks for the tip about cutting the chicken up and incorporating it into the rice. I can see my little ones balking at a whole skin-on thigh.

    • says

      Haha, yes, my kids don’t know what to make of the pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken parts. The thing, however, is that I kind of like when the chicken is all cut up and mixed with the rice, too. So yummy. And wow, three boys! I think I may have known that, but now I’m not sure. In any case, what fun!

  11. says

    This sounds just wonderful! While snowed in this weekend, I went through the freezer and found some chicken thighs I’d forgotten about. Perfection! Love the simplicity and sounds so tasty.

  12. Reesa says

    I’m new to your blog and I have to say that I’m loving every delicious minute of it! The first recipe that I made from your site / recommendation was the Canal House Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were a huge hit! A definite keeper. I made this lovely chicken and rice dish yesterday. This was so simple and oh so yummy!. Who would think that a dish this simple would be so delicious? I made a few additions to adjust to my family’s taste: added fresh minced garlic, and used Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice. I also added just a tad bit of chicken seasoning to the chicken before browning. Uh! So good — we loved it! This one will be on the menu often at my house.

    Thank you for your lovely blog! I love your taste :-)

    • says

      Reesa, thank you for your nice comment! I am so happy to read all of this. I’m glad the cookies were a hit — those have given some commenters some trouble (spreading issues) — and I’m so glad you like this chicken. I am going to have to try the wild rice — I haven’t made it in ages, and it sounds perfect for this. Love the idea of garlic, too. Thanks again for your nice comment and for writing in!

  13. says

    Made this tonight. Seriously awesome. Wow. I used Jasmine rice. Loved it, though I did use 1 1/2 cups and we would have liked more for leftovers, I think next time I’ll try 2 cups. Also, I used 3T butter and I had a lot of grease at the end (maybe a really tubby chicken, IDK,), I think next time I might try to use a bit less butter at the beginning, though then again, the flavor was so magnificent I must just go for it and not think too much. Thank you for posting this.

    • says

      Wonderful to hear this! I used 3 T of butter, too, and I do think that offers a nice flavor. I mean, the dish overall is pretty healthy, so I say keep the butter, though it never hurts to experiment. Love the idea of Jasmine rice. Also, love the thought of a tubby chicken. Thanks for writing in!

  14. Sandy says

    Just made this wonderful recipe! I used all thighs….then added some finely chopped carrots, sliced black olives and red peppers to the vegetables for color, then at the end added 1 cup white wine in place of the water for flavor…upped the rice ( jasmine) to 2 cups because there was quite a lot of liquid…at the end I stirred in a cup of leftover cooked black rice in for additional color… it was so delicious! Thank you for a such a wonderful recipe!

  15. Katie says

    This recipe is a winner! Thanks for sharing — I love the Canal House recipes. I wish there were more recipes like this out there — simple preparation with only a few ingredients.

    At your friend’s suggestion, I added peas. It adds great color to an otherwise, tan dish. And like Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon, I didn’t need to add the second cup of water. When it came time to add the rice, there was a ton of liquid in my pan. Way more than what I saw in your picture (…

    I saw your kale recipe in goop today. Congratulations! I hope you are crowned the victor!

    • says

      I know, I agree. So often these simple recipes turn out the best. Glad to hear the peas were a nice addition, and I’m glad you/Wendi made the right call re adding water. I should make a note in the recipe. I’m making the Canal House Cordon Bleu. I will be sure to report back!

  16. Teri says

    Ali – this was fabulous! Everyone in our household loved it, made me promise to make it again and again! I used basmati rice and my husband, who says he doesn’t like celery, gave this a rave review!

    Thank you!

    • says

      Wonderful to hear this, Teri! I know, celery is not everyone’s favorite, but a little goes a long way, and you can barely taste it in the end, right? i can’t wait to make this again with those beautiful bay leaves! So happy you liked this one.

  17. Lenora says

    This was perfect! I followed most of Wendi’s suggestions. After browning the chicken I removed the chicken while sauteed the onion, celery and mushrooms. I returned the chicken to the pan browned side up along with the preserved lemon, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Instead of water I used a cup of chicken stock. It was in the fridge so I wanted to use it up. I wasn’t exactly sure when to add the lemon etc so this seemed like as a good as time as any. I used a cup of basmati rice. The recipe did not require anymore water.

    The preserved lemon and cinnamon stick was such a simple addition but added so much flavor.

    Huge hit. I used an entire preserved lemon. I thought maybe it was too much lemon but my son and husband didn’t want to change a thing about the recipe. It was perfect as prepared. My son went for seconds with the rice and said, “this rice makes me happy.”

    • says

      I am so happy to hear this, Lenora! I am definitely going to add both a preserved lemon and cinnamon stick next time — sounds so good. The rice is the biggest hit with my kiddos, too. And when they are happy at the table, I am happy at the table :) Thanks for writing in!

  18. Anne Murphy says

    This was soooooooooo good. And soooooooo easy to make. I was tempted to add chicken stock instead of water and am glad I didn’t – it was not needed. Thanks AGAIN for another wonderful recipe.

  19. robin says

    I love your photography and your dinner inspiration. I tried this recipe tonight. It’s not the first time I’ve made a chicken and rice meal that cooks in the same pot. I used all thighs which I trimmed of all the excess fat but the finished dish was super greasy. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Thank you for your nice comment, Robin. Sorry to hear about the grease! I have two thoughts: 1.) As someone else mentioned above, it’s possible that you had a “tubby” chicken on your hands, and if this is the case, there isn’t much you can do. 2.) Did you brown the skin enough? I know the recipe says not to worry about getting the skin too dark, and that is right, but if there was enough skin left unbrowned, it’s possible that that did it.

      Otherwise, I don’t know. Did you use 3 tablespoons butter to start?

  20. Marcy says

    Hi Alexandra,
    I’ve been a longtime reader–your recipes have been consistently awesome! Here’s a question about this one–can I use skin-on boneless chicken thighs? How much would I cut the cooking time? I know bone-in is better, but I’m outnumbered by bone-in haters in my household.

    Also, this is late, but as a fellow transplant to Upstate NY, welcome!

    • says

      Hi Marcy, wonderful to hear from you, and thank you for welcome! I absolutely love it here. I think/hope we will be here for a long time.

      OK, so, I think you can use skin-on boneless thighs. In my experience, thighs are forgiving. Now, would you be up for using stock in place of water? I know this swap sort of takes away from the miracle of the dish, but if you have some on hand, I think it might be a good idea. What I’m thinking is that you should cut eliminate the first 20 minute cooking period all together. After you add the onion and celery to the pan and let it cook for a couple of minutes, I would add the rice and the water, sticking to the classic 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to rice. So, if you add 1 cup of rice to the pan, and 2 cups of water. I think if you cook the rice and chicken together for 30 minutes covered over low heat, the thighs will be done. And if you use stock, the flavor absorbed by the rice will be great.

      Does that make sense? Let me know if you have any other questions!

  21. Sara says


    I found your site through pinterest (the eggplant involtini, which was OMIGOODNESS good) and this was the fourth dish I have made and they have all been FANTASTIC. This time I even followed the recipe (I have a hard time not improvising while I cook) and the chicken was mindblowingly good. Thank you so much for sharing delicious recipes that aren’t a chore to make!

    • says

      Sara, I’m so happyf to hear this! And improvising is good! It’s almost impossible not to. I’m so glad you have found a few recipes you like, and It’s great to hear they weren’t a chore to make. I used to really love fussing in the kitchen, and I still do occassionally, but so often it’s not necessary. Simple is best. Thanks for writing in!

  22. Roma says

    I stumbled upon one of your recipes while I was pinning, and I started looking at all of the recipes you had on your blog. I absolutely love the food you make. I love to cook for my family and I love to try new recipes. We never have the samething I try to introduce new foods and tastes to them. So far so good. So thank you for all these new recipes I will be trying.

  23. Camille B says

    As soon as I saw this post a couple weeks ago I knew I had to make this. Finally got around to it tonight, and it’s phenomenal. So delicious and so simple. I normally can’t resist making slight alterations to a recipe, but I followed this one pretty much exactly, except I used less butter because I was making less chicken than the recipe calls for (just dinner for me, with a couple servings left over for lunches this week). I also added peas like you mentioned. I used Jasmine rice, and needed to add the second cup of water. Couldn’t. Stop. Eating. This!

    But I’m afraid I, too, must have had a “tubby” chicken, because the finished product was pretty greasy. I used chicken thighs, and I browned them slowly to a deep golden brown. Used 2T butter for four chicken thighs–will maybe start with less butter next time…because there will definitely be a next time. :) Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  24. says

    OK, trying this tonight, Alexandra! I’ll let you know how it turns out. I’ll be serving it will carrots braised in a little broth, butter, and white wine.

    Do you have a fool-proof way to thaw a whole bird? They give me so much grief. It seems to take days in the fridge and when I butcher it, the inside is often still frozen. Water baths are a bit of a pain with water changes every 30 minutes.

    • says

      Oh, this is a keeper! I cut up the chicken like you recommended for the littles and everyone loved it. My husband isn’t the effusive type, but he mentioned several times how much he liked it. Yay!

      I did the chicken in two batches. I have a large oval Le Creuset, but it seemed like a tight squeeze with whole chicken and I was worried about crowding the pan and it not browning right. Does it matter since this recipe really isn’t about the skin? It would be nice to save some time. Also, I think I’m going to double the rice — it’s so good! This made enough for two meals (well, I’d like a little more leftover rice) so not only is it easy (and cheap!) to make, but it’s a time saver. What more could you ask for from a recipe!

      • says

        Wonderful to hear this, Anne! My husband loves this, too, as do the kids — I think it’s something about the simple, clean flavors. And the rice is SO good. Nice call on making a double batch next time. I would like to try that too.

        As for browning the chicken in two batches, I think it’s up to you and your preferences — if you found yourself peeling away the skin and pushing it to the side, then I wouldn’t worry about browning the skin properly for this dish. Honestly, next time, I might try skipping the browning step all together — I feel like enough flavor would be extracted in the long cooking time anyway, you know?

    • says

      Hi Anne! So sorry for the delay here! I am just catching up on everything!

      OK, I don’t really have a foolproof method. I try to remember to thaw overnight in the fridge, but when I forget, I do tend to throw chicken in a ziplock and drop it in a water bath weighed down by plates or something. I will keep my eyes/ears open for a foolproof method and report back if I make any discoveries.

  25. Ann stader says

    This is very similar to a wonderful NYT recipe from the 70 ‘s which I lost and have been searching for. It had whits wine,too. I think it was a Carig Claiborne Sixty Minute Gourmet Receipe, if their was such a thing. I can not wait to make your recipe. Thanks.

  26. says

    Reminds me of a wonderful NYT recipe from the 70’s which included white wine. I have been searching for it and this is close. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks.

  27. Julia says

    I made this last night, making modifications, and it was awesome. I used all thigh meat, chicken stock instead of water, and added several cloves of garlic and shallots and used heirloom short grain brown rice. Amazing! Incredibly rich! I think next time I’ll do a mix of white and dark, 50/50 stock and water and add more onions. It took about 60 minutes to cook the rice in case anyone in the future reading this is curious.

    I’ve been obsessed with chicken and rice lately, usually leaving it grilled chicken with a pilaf-style brown rice sans the tomatoes. This was awesome! will definitely make this again next week! Thank you

    By the way- congrats on your newest baby! They are amazing creatures, aren’t they?! Our first was amazing but now with Number Two here, it couldn’t get much better. Babies are the greatest!!!

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