Baked Chicken & Rice with Kickin’ Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries with an Opinion


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less

Well Fed Weeknights

By Melissa Joulwan

Published 2016

  • About

This is a deceptively decadent meal. Unassuming chicken thighs turn crisp in the oven, and all their chickeny flavor is concentrated in the cauliflower rice for the ultimate pilaf. Just when it’s all feeling maybe a bit too indulgent and cozy, the cranberry sauce busts onto the scene with a kick of orange and a jab of jalapeño. This is a roast chicken dinner with plenty of attitude.

Total time: 45 minutes
Hands-off time: 30 minutes


Cranberry Sauce

  • 4 medjool dates
  • 1 large navel orange
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 small jalapeño


  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs


  • 2 rimmed baking sheets, food processor



Preheat the oven to 425F. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Remove the pits from the dates and place the dates in a small bowl. Cover them with hot water to soak while you prep the other ingredients.

Rice the cauliflower

Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice, about 10 pulses. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, mix the riced cauliflower with the olive oil and salt. Spread it evenly on one of the prepared baking sheets.

Season the chicken

Combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl, then rub it onto the chicken pieces. Place the chicken in a single layer directly on top of the cauliflower rice.

Make the cranberry sauce

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Save the orange for later and julienne the peel. Remove the dates from the water, place them in the bowl of the food processor, and purée into a smooth paste. Transfer the puréed dates to a large mixing bowl and add the orange peel, cranberries, oil, salt, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Thinly slice the jalapeño and add it to the bowl. Toss all the ingredients with two wooden spoons and transfer the mixture to the second baking sheet.

Roast everything

Place both pans in the oven and roast until the cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, 10–15 minutes. Remove the cranberry sheet from the oven and allow it to cool a bit. Roast the chicken for an additional 10–15 minutes, until the rice begins to brown and the chicken is sizzling and cooked through. (Poke a piece of chicken with a fork; the juices should run clear. If they’re pink, keep roasting.)

Finish the cranberry sauce

Squeeze the juice from the orange into a small bowl. Transfer the roasted cranberries to a medium bowl, remove the cinnamon sticks, and stir in 2–3 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice.

To serve

Divide the rice among individual plates, top with chicken, and add cranberry sauce on the side.