sauces for chicken and rice

15 Best Sauces for Chicken and Rice

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Chicken and rice is a quick and easy dinner to make. Or sometimes, it’s the only leftover food you have to combine. Nevertheless, as you may know, it can also be very boring and often a little bit bland. So what’s a better way to mix things up than by adding sauces?

So, what are the best sauces for chicken and rice? First, narrow down the type of sauces you like, then see which pairs well with chicken.

Ultimately, the best options will be something like a white sauce, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and mayonnaise. There are also more specific options like ranch dressing, coconut chutney, and mole sauce.

Today, we will do a deep dive into the many sides of pairing sauce with chicken and rice. It may seem easy, but there is more to consider than you may think. We’ve assembled a list of our favorite options that will help guide you to making the best pairing!

Chicken and Rice – A Classic Food Combo

Chicken and rice are one of the oldest and easiest food combos that exist! This combination provides you with a ton of lean animal-based protein and a generous amount of carbs.

However, many people consider this to be a super boring dinner. Luckily, we have a couple of ways you can spice things up – literally!

Firstly, when you think about chicken and rice, your first thoughts may be something along the line of roasted chicken breasts with a side of plain steamed or boiled rice.

But there are actually a couple of different ways you can serve these two elements to make it less, well boring!

You can combine chicken and rice to place it inside of a tortilla wrap, taco shell, puff pastry pocket, samosa dough, and even a delicious pie crust. You can also incorporate these elements into salads, sandwiches, and healthy bowls.

However, the real trick to elevating this food combo is by adding additional flavors. And what better way to do it than with sauce?

Benefits of Flavoring With Sauces

Now, sauces add flavor. But even more important (in our opinion) is that it adds moisture.

1. Adds Moisture

You know exactly what we are talking about! How many times have you had rice and bone-dry, chewy, tasteless chicken? 

But you wouldn’t believe how big of a difference a sauce makes. It adds a ton of moisture and can even create various degrees of juiciness.

For example, if you are making pulled chicken and rice for a taco filling, you may not want it to be dripping with juices. But if you are making it for a topping on a burger or sandwich, you will love the sauce-soaked bread!

2. Adds Flavor

Now, a sauce can add a ton of flavor. It can completely change what the meal is!

By adding a salad dressing or vinaigrette, you can make a fresher overall flavor. The same goes for fresh sauces like green goddess sauce or tzatziki sauce. And, if you add a tomato-based pasta sauce, you are instantly creating an uber-hearty, savory meal.

A BBQ sauce will make it the perfect meaty filling for a variety of dishes or just as a topping.

As you can imagine, there truly is no limit to which sauces you can use. As long as they pair well with the flavor of chicken, they will do just fine.

3. Can Tenderize the Meat (as a Marinade)

Something many people overlook is the fact that sauces can also be used as marinades. As long as the sauce is either super salty or contains a lot of acidity (from vinegar or lemon juice), it will make an excellent marinade.

Marinating your chicken (separately from the rice) in a sauce first also has many benefits. Again, it helps add flavor and moisture. But, it can create a lot more complex flavor profile than if you simply pour over some sauce.

Furthermore, the sauce will help tenderize the meat. Tenderized meat contains more juices, has a softer texture, and will ultimately not be dry and flavorless.

4. Adds Color and Visual Appeal

As the saying goes, “You eat with your eyes.” And there is nothing as off-putting as a pale piece of chicken. And honestly, no matter what people say, a little bit of char or caramelization has never hurt anybody!

But alas, it isn’t always possible to get your chicken nice and crispy. Even oven-baked chicken can sometimes look a little sad.

So, the best way we make our chicken and rice meals look more inviting is by adding a bright or colorful sauce. Even textured sauces will make a big difference even if they don’t add as much juiciness.

So, next time you accidentally make boiled chicken, pull it apart and serve it with a  sauce. It’s an instant, and tasty, fix.

Sauce Categories for Chicken and Rice

So, are you on board this saucy chicken and rice train? Well then, let’s start looking at how you can narrow down your sauce choices.

variety of sauces

First, there are a couple of different categories of sauces you can choose from – 12 to be exact. Virtually any one of these will work for chicken and rice. But, when you dive deeper into specific examples of these sauces, you will quickly see that some options just naturally work better than others with chicken.

Fish sauces aren’t bad and can work with chicken and rice. But they aren’t even close to being the best options. Neither are meat (beef) based sauces.

The best types of sauces you can look at include the following:

  • Emulsified sauces
  • Chopped herb sauces
  • Tomato sauces
  • Hot sauces
  • White sauces

When you further explore these types of sauces, you will see that they are also divided into sub-sections. 

Take emulsified sauces as an example. Arguably the best-known emulsified sauce is mayonnaise.

But mayonnaise also has a couple of different options. You get Bearnaise (which is made with clarified butter), Aioli (made with garlic), and Remoulade (which is often flavored with curry).

So, as you can imagine, the number of options can get quite overwhelming.

How to Narrow Down Your Options

1. Narrow Down Sauce Categories

First, narrow down the type (category) of sauce you want to use. This can be decided by the type of meal you are making.

For example, a hearty dinner can be made with chicken and rice paired with a chunky tomato and basil-garlic sauce. 

But a delicious combination for making burritos or tacos would be chicken and rice with buffalo sauce or enchilada sauce.

2. Narrow Down Flavor Pairings

Then you can narrow down the options based on what pairs well with chicken. For example, you decided you want to make a fresh chopped herb sauce. A herb sauce with fresh cilantro or parsley will work a lot better than a mint sauce.

If you want to make a spiced white sauce, a peppercorn and mushroom sauce will pair better with the flavor of chicken than a cloves-flavored white sauce.

3. Choose What You Like

Finally, you can narrow down your final options even further by simply eliminating what you don’t like.

If you want a mayonnaise-based sauce but don’t like garlic, don’t choose an Aoili. Instead, a sweet and tangy mayonnaise may be better suited to your preferences.

15 Best Sauces for Chicken and Rice

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best sauces you can serve or pair with chicken and rice.

We’ve included quite a broad variety of options so you are guaranteed to find something you love!

And remember, you can play around with flavors. If you want to use an XXX hot sauce instead of our recommended X hot sauce, then go for it! Again, as long as the flavors pair well with chicken, they will work just fine!

SauceFeatures
1.Béchamel SauceVersatile creamy base for herbs and spices; Easy to alter consistency.
2.Barbecue SauceVariety of options: great as a marinade, basting sauce, or condiment.
3.MayonnaiseClassic chicken mayo combo for sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc.; Many flavors and options available.
4.Alfredo SauceWhite sauce made with cream and Parmesan cheese; Creamy and customizable.
5.Hot SauceBuffalo sauce is popular for marinades, basting, and condiment; Wide variety of flavors and spice levels available.
6.Ranch DressingPopular salad dressing that pairs well with chicken salads; Can be used as a topping or mix-in with chicken and rice.
7.Jerk SauceSpicy Jamaican sauce with allspice berries and Scotch bonnets; Great for adding flavor to chicken and rice.
8.PestoClassic Italian herb sauce with basil, garlic, olive oil, cheese, and nuts; Different flavors and textures available.
9.Honey MustardSweet, tangy, and peppery flavors; Can be used chilled or heated with chicken and rice.
10.Tomato-based saucesVersatile tomato-based sauces used for pasta or pizza toppings; Enhance flavors and go well with chicken and rice.
11.Mushroom SauceSavory mushroom sauce, can be made fresh or bought premade; Limited in flavor pairings.
12.Sweet and Sour SauceAsian-inspired sauce for a sticky and caramelized flavor; Different variations available.
13.Peanut / Satay SauceThai peanut sauce, great for chicken satay with rice; Different consistencies and flavors available.
14.Coconut ChutneySweet and savory coconut-flavored chutney; Can experiment with basic vegetable add-ins.
15.Mole SauceFlavorful Mexican sauce with fruits, nuts, chili, and spices; Traditional with chicken and rice.

1. Béchamel Sauce

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Waitrose Cook's Ingredients Béchamel Sauce

Now, we may be a little biased towards this sauce because we can eat it with a spoonful. But it does make a fantastic option for chicken and rice. It is versatile, works for a variety of dishes, and is super easy to alter.

A béchamel sauce is one of the 5 mother sauces. Its base (a combination of roux and milk) can be flavored in any way that you’d like. This is a fantastic creamy base to use for herbs and spices. And you can adjust the consistency effortlessly!

You can buy a premade béchamel sauce like the one we’ve linked above, or you can make your own at home. The ingredients needed are few and simple, and it is a relatively easy sauce to make.

2. Barbecue Sauce

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Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue is one of the best sauce options to choose from, mainly because they are cheaper and easier to buy premade, and because there are thousands of options out there!

You can use this sauce as a marinade, basting sauce, and as a condiment to mix it. It only has to be heated slightly before developing an uber-rich and delicious flavor.

It can be served cold (uncooked), but it’s not nearly as good. For the best flavor, you have to cook it and then cool it to serve it chilled.

For barbecue sauces, you can choose varying degrees of sweetness, spiciness, spiced options (from savory spices), and even blends. No matter which you choose, we can all but guarantee that they will pair well with the chicken and rice.

3. Mayonnaise

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Duke's Mayonnaise

Who doesn’t love a good chicken mayo sandwich? And by adding rice, you are simply adding more heartiness to the overall dish.

But chicken mayo doesn’t only have to be used for sandwiches. You can make delicious burgers, salads, casseroles, and fillings using the classic combo

And, as with barbecue sauce, there are thousands of different options out there. You can even find low-calorie, dairy-free, egg-free, and completely vegan mayo options. Not to mention the many different flavors there are.

And again, it will be very difficult to find a mayo option that won’t work with chicken and rice.

4. Alfredo Sauce

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Whole Foods Market Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce is a type of white sauce similar to béchamel. However, it is a lot runnier and not nearly as creamy. This sauce is made with a combination of thickened cream and grated Parmesan cheese.

We know, we don’t even have to say anything more! It’s bound to be mind-blowing!

And you can buy premade Alfredo sauces as well. Personally, we prefer making our own and altering the flavor to our liking. But to each his own.

5. Hot Sauce

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Yo Mama's Buffalo Hot Sauce

The specific option we have in mind for virtually any combo with chicken and rice is Buffalo sauce. This is a popular vinegar-based spicy cayenne pepper sauce that is commonly used for buffalo chicken wings. 

It’s another timeless combo that can be used to marinade the chicken, baste the chicken while it’s cooking, or served it as a condiment or topping.

It’s an opportunity to play around with some flavor pairings and fusion cuisine. You can make a delicious buffalo chicken and rice quesadilla. Or buffalo wing chicken rice samosa!

Now, you can also use other types of hot sauces. And trust us, there are many. They don’t only differ in spiciness levels but also in their flavor. Some are mild but extremely sweet and herbaceous, while others just burn your taste buds off.

This hot sauce is a great option for people who love flavor and spice together. 

6. Ranch Dressing

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Hidden Valley Ranch Sauce

Our first “fresh” sauce option is ranch dressing. It is already an extremely popular salad dressing that is served with chicken salads of all kinds! So, why not incorporate it into a fresh chicken and rice meal?

You can either mix it in as-is or add some other salad ingredients. Cranberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and rocket leaves will make some incredibly tasty and texture-packed additions.

This sauce shouldn’t be heated. It has the best flavor and texture when it is served fresh and chilled. So, that also means you need the chicken rice filling or topping to be chilled.

7. Jerk Sauce

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Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Sauce

This Jamaican sauce is also a spicy one. It is uber-flavorful and packed with allspice berries and Scotch bonnets. You can make it at home, but it’s probably a lot easier to just buy a bottle.

Jerk sauce is incredible with chicken and rice, especially if you’ve accidentally made some pretty bland chicken. 

You can use it as a basting sauce, but it won’t work as well as a marinade unless the bottle specifically says so.

Jerk sauce has to be cooked a little bit for the flavors to be really good. It’s fine on its own, but try it cooked at least once.

8. Pesto

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Gotham Greens Pesto

Pesto is one of the most popular and common fresh Italian herb sauces. There are many different types of pestos out there today.

The classic one (for us) pairs best with chicken and rice. Again, as with ranch dressing, it is best to serve it chilled.

A good pesto for this food combo contains basil, garlic, olive oil, grated hard cheese (like Parmesan), and pine nuts. Again, there are many different flavors and even textures available.

We also love this Tomato Pesto for chicken and rice. And, if you feel like experimenting a bit with weird flavor combinations, try this Freak Flag Organics Pesto Variety pack. It includes Bruschetta pesto, Kale pesto, and Carrot pesto.

9. Honey Mustard

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G Hughes Honey Mustard Sauce

If you are looking for a combination of sweet, tangy, and peppery flavors, then this is the sauce you need to use! Honey mustard is also easy to find, and there are many different flavors to choose from.

You can use honey mustard chilled or warm. If you are buying a honey mustard salad dressing, only use it chilled. But, if it is just a sauce for general use, you can heat it with the chicken and rice combo.

It is also a great refreshing option that works for salads made from chicken and rice. Don’t worry, you do get sugar-free options as well!

10. Tomato-Based Sauces

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Bertolli Tomato and Basic Sauce

Here we aren’t talking about tomato sauce, but even these can work. Instead, we are looking more into sauces that are usually used for pasta or pizza toppings.

There are many different tomato-based sauces out there that sometimes even enhance specific flavors, like garlic or basil.

These sauces are very easy to use and super convenient. And despite usually being served with pasta, it goes just as well with rice and chicken.

And one last thing, these sauces do have various consistencies. So make sure you know what your choice is like. Sometimes a chunky sauce doesn’t pair well with a pulled chicken rice taco. For some people, a smoother sauce suits their preference better.

11. Mushroom Sauce

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Giorgio Dawn Fresh Mushroom Sauce

Nearing the end of our list, we move on to more specific options that may not allow you as much versatility as the above-mentioned options.

Mushroom sauces are best made fresh, but you can also buy them premade. These are usually thinner sauces with pieces of brown or white mushrooms in them. It is uber delicious, but you are pretty much limited in terms of flavor pairings.

It is best to use this sauce in a heated chicken rice dish. And because the sauce is super runny, we don’t recommend using it for fillings in pastries. Other than that, it is still an incredibly savory, umami sauce to try.

You can also buy pepper and mushroom sauce which is even better!

12. Sweet and Sour Sauce

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La Choy Sweet and Sour Sauce

A sweet and sour sauce is the perfect way to create an Asian-inspired flavor profile. You can still add other vegetables if you’d like, but we love it simply mixed with chicken and rice.

The sweet and sour sauce should also be served with the chicken and rice heated. It creates a sticky texture and an uber-caramelized flavor. 

When looking at sweet-sour sauces, make sure you buy what you need. Many of them are loaded with chili peppers, which not everybody likes.

You can make your own sweet and sour chicken rice sauce. But personally, we’ve never been able to recreate that authentic Chinese takeout flavor.

13. Peanut / Satay Sauce

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Mr Spice Peanut / Satay Sauce

Chicken satay with rice? Yes, please! Buying or making your own peanut dressing or sauce is the perfect Thai sauce to make your chicken even tastier.

This sauce is usually made with peanuts but can also contain other types of nuts. Naturally, that means that people with nut allergies so steer clear.

There are many different consistencies for peanut sauces, and some even come with curry spice or chili peppers.

If you do end up using this sauce, you won’t have a ton of options for ass-in ingredients. However, basic vegetables will work just fine.

14. Coconut Chutney

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Urban Platter Coconut Chutney

This chutney is incredibly tasty and still relatively versatile. It is deliciously sweet and has a strong, savory, coconut flavor as well.

While we wouldn’t recommend adding too many additional ingredients to your chicken and rice, you can experiment with basic add-ins. Green bell pepper, zucchini, and potato are all very safe and tasty options.

If you don’t like coconut chutney, there are many other types you can try. Indian cuisine is packed with condiments that naturally pair well with chicken.

15. Mole Sauce

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Dona Maria Mole Sauce

Mole is one of the most popular and flavorful Mexican sauces. It is traditionally used with chicken that is served with a side of rice – so it’s perfect!

You can make your own mole sauce at home, but there are options available to buy. This sauce contains a ton of flavors that include fruits, nuts, chili, black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin.

You can also find different types of mole sauces, for example, Amarillito, a yellow mole sauce.

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