Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots is one of those meals that you make and say, "WOW!"
Followed by, "Where have you been all my life?"
Followed by, "Is there any left?"
Yep... It's that good! It's also super easy!
Let's face it, one of the biggest challenges with making dinner is having everything ready at the same time!
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Cooking with the Ninja Foodi makes this easier, but pulling together a complete dinner can still be challenging. There are lots of things to consider when making a dinner you haven't made a gazillion times or making it in a new appliance like: how much time will it take?; what cooking mode will work best?; and, of course... the great unknown. You know, when you set your Ninja Foodi to pressurize and get busy with something else, just to return when it should be done and you didn't turn the valve to seal. Or, you didn't have enough liquid to come to pressure. Trust me, it happens to everyone.
I can't tell you the amount of times I've second-guessed myself while cooking. Did I do that right? Should I have put more time on the pressure cooker? Are we going to starve tonight?
I can tell you that the more you do it, the easier it gets... but I still question myself and cross my fingers from time to time. Making this Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots was one of those times! Just how long should I steam the carrots? Will the wild rice get done? Will it be too liquidy? And... the biggest question of all, will it taste good?
I'm happy to say, that this recipe for Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots turned out FANTASTIC!
The reasoning behind how I developed this recipe
Sometimes I really think it helps to understand why a recipe developer makes the decisions they do, so you have a better understanding of what ingredients/times/methods of cooking you can change and still end up with a great dinner. So, here it goes.
Why I chose Chicken Thighs
I prefer chicken breasts, so does my husband. The problem with chicken breasts is they can become over cooked very easily, even under pressure. Now, they don't dry out like if you baked them for hours in the oven, but they do change texture. This can be fine for shredded chicken, but not exactly right for this recipe.
Chicken thighs, on the other hand, are super forgiving and can be cooked for very long periods of time without drying out in the oven, or changing texture under pressure. You could also make this recipe with chicken legs, but I don't ever recall seeing boneless, skinless chicken legs... so, frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs is what I went with.
Do I have to use Frozen Chicken Thighs?
No, probably not. I chose to use individually frozen chicken thighs because I wanted each chicken thigh to stay in one piece as much as possible after a long pressure cooking time. They still fell apart a little, but I do think starting with frozen helped. If you don't mind the chicken falling apart, go ahead and use fresh or thawed thighs.
Quick Tip: after purchasing your chicken thighs or any chicken pieces for that matter, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay out the individual pieces on it. Freeze the tray for a few hours, then place the pieces into a freezer bag. Now, you can grab the amount you want easily and they won't be stuck together.
If you really have an aversion to chicken thighs, you can try frozen chicken breasts. I would suggest pressure cooking the wild rice for 15 minutes then release the pressure, add the chicken and re-pressurize for 10-15 minutes. Please let me know if you try this, I am very curious to hear how chicken breasts work in this recipe.
Do I have to Pressure Cook the Carrots First?
No, probably not. See how easy it is? Just because I did, doesn't mean you have to. I chose to pressure cook the carrots separate from the chicken and wild rice because I do not like mushy carrots, but I also knew that the few minutes of baking after pressure cooking would not be enough time to allow them to soften ever-so-slightly. I decided that the extra step of pressure cooking the carrots for zero minutes ( I only wanted the heat and cook time while the Ninja Foodi was coming up to pressure) was worth the time it took to end up with carrots the perfect texture for my husband and me.
We like our carrots very firm, not raw... but firm. While I pressure cooked mine for zero minutes, I am suggesting a 2 minute pressure cook in this recipe. I think that will deliver a better result for most people. If you like your carrots very firm, stick with zero minutes. If you like your carrots very soft (and I mean very soft), go ahead and skip the separate pressure cooking and just throw them in with the chicken and wild rice.
I had a community member comment on the Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots You Tube video that she would wrap the carrots in foil and pressure cook at the same time as the chicken and wild rice. I think this is a great suggestion and I will give it a try the next time I make this recipe.
Do I have to use a Wild Rice Blend?
YES!!!! Okay, I'll change that to sort of. The reason the wild rice blend works so well is because it does take a while to cook and it adds the flavor and texture that makes this Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots recipe work so well.
Texture is huge with food. If everything is super soft or doesn't have a chew to it, it just isn't as good. If you don't want to use a wild rice blend because you haven't tried it before, I encourage you to give it a try.
If you are totally against using a wild rice blend, you could use brown rice and decrease the pressure cook time to 20-25 minutes. If you do make this substitution, I definitely want to hear how it turns out!
I do not suggest using white rice because it cooks too fast to fully cook the chicken. White rice cooks under high pressure in about 2 minutes, the chicken thighs will take at least 5 minutes, leaving you with very mushy rice. Perhaps Arborio rice would work, though. Be sure to let me know if you try it!
Okay, now you have the behind the scenes of this recipe... let's get to making it!
How to Make Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots
First start by, peeling and cutting your carrots into large pieces. If you want a quick trick to peeling carrots, check out this video on How to Peel Carrots.
I had pretty long carrots, so I cut each one into 3 equal pieces. My Carrots also were a good inch in diameter and in the video I cooked them for zero minutes which resulted in a very firm carrot. For this recipe, I am suggesting a 2 minute cook time based on a 1" diameter carrot.
If you are using super skinny carrots, cut them in half or leave them whole. The skinnier the carrot, the quicker it will cook. The length does not matter as much as the diameter for cooking times. I would increase or decrease cooking time by 1 minute per 1/4 inch. So if your diameter is 1 1/2 inches (thats' a jumbo carrot, but I've seen them that big), increase the cook time by 2 minutes. If the carrot diameter is 1/2 inch, decrease cook time by 2 minutes (and we are back to zero cook time).
You can also decrease the diameter and therefore cooking time if you want to cut them in half lengthwise or make smaller chunks and your carrots will cook quicker.
Jeeze... that was a lot of blah blah blah just for carrots! I think you get my point, let's move on.
Place the cut carrots into the steamer/fry basket that came with the Foodi. Make sure the legs are attached. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock into the inner pot and put in the basket. Set the Ninja Foodi to high pressure for 2 minutes (assuming you have 1" diameter carrots) and press start. Remember to turn the valve to seal.
While the carrots are cooking, mix up your seasoning blend by combining the salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, dried thyme leaves, garlic powder, and onion powder. In the video, I did not use all the seasoning blend, so for this recipe I decreased the amounts and so you can use it all and not have to throw the extra away. Rinse the wild rice under cold water for a minute or two. Cut your butter into 9 equal pats.
When the carrots are done, immediately release the pressure and remove the basket. Set to the side.
Pour the rinsed wild rice blend into the inner pot with the chicken stock and sprinkle with 1/3 seasoning blend. Add 3 pats of butter to the top.
Layer the frozen chicken thighs on top, some overlapping is fine. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the seasoning blend and add 3 pats of butter on top. I break my pats up to place a bit of butter on each thigh.
Set the Ninja Foodi to high pressure for 30 minutes. Make sure the valve is in the seal position.
When the time is up, immediately release the pressure. Yes, I hear you screaming, "NO!" And yes, I understand this is a wildly debated topic regarding immediately release and natural release of pressure cooked meats. Trust me on this one, immediate release the pressure.
I have done some testing on this debate and while I am not ready to publish my findings; I can say that not ALL meats suffer from immediate release and this is true here. Don't worry about the extra liquid, it will be absorbed during the baking time.
Add the par-cooked carrots on top of the chicken, sprinkle with remaining seasoning and
top with remaining butter. Close the Tender Crisp lid and set the bake function to 375° F. for 15 minutes.
The main goal here is to have any remaining liquid be absorbed and to heat/finish cooking the carrots. I stopped my bake time at 8 minutes, but remember, I really like firm carrots. You can go the entire 15 minutes or even longer if needed. I would not exceed 20 minutes though, because the heat and air circulation may dry the chicken thighs.
Serve & Enjoy! Be sure to snap a picture and tag me on your favorite social media channel @thesaltedpepper. I love to see what you are cooking up.
Ninja Foodi Chicken & Wild Rice with Carrots
- 2 cups chicken broth or stock
- 1 lb carrots
- 1 1/2 cups Wild Rice Blend
- 1/4 cup butter salted and cut into 9 pats
- 2 lbs chicken thighs frozen boneless/skinless
- Add the chicken stock to the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi. Peel and cut the carrots into large pieces and place into the steamer/fry basket. Set the Ninja Foodi to high pressure for 2 minutes. See post for details about cooking time and texture of carrots.
- Mix up the seasoning blend. Cut butter into 9 pats.
- When the time is up, immediate release the pressure and remove the basket with the carrots. Set aside.
- Rinse the wild rice blend under cold water for a minute or so. Add rice to chicken stock in the bottom of the inner pot and sprinkle with 1/3 of the seasoning blend. Place 3 pats of butter on top.
- Layer the frozen chicken thighs on top of the rice. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the seasoning blend. Place 3 pats of butter on top of the chicken. I break the pats into smaller pieces to place one on each piece of chicken.
- Put the pressure lid on and set high pressure for 30 minutes. When the time is up, immediately release the pressure.
- Add the carrots directly on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with remaining seasoning and butter pats. Set the Ninja Foodi to the bake function on 375° F. for 8-15 minutes. See post for details.
- Serve & Enjoy!