Coconut-Braised Chicken and Rice with Collard Greens

I take inspiration from cuisines that use lots of spices and herbs; after all, deep, bold, worldly flavors are the new comfort food. At first glance, this one-pot dinner recipe may seem like just another humble oven-to-table casserole—crispy chicken resting upon a bed of tender rice and hearty greens. But this recipe is all about employing techniques that build complexity in a dish. It’s the perfect combination of simplicity and bold flavor that captivates your senses as you’re cooking.It all starts with a simple paste of serrano chiles, ginger, and garlic made in a mortar and pestle. Though you may be tempted to get out your food processor, don’t. The act of pounding and grinding the aromatic ingredients against the mortar reveals a depth far beyond that of a blade’s pulverizing motion. They’re bruised and mashed, unleashing the essence of their flavors.One of the takeaway techniques I learned in culinary school is the importance of toasting spices. I was taught to roll the whole seeds around in a dry pan over a low flame until they’ve perfumed the room and taken on a darker tinge. But I’ve since realized there are other ways to do it, too. Here the spices are toasted in the hot coconut oil and chicken drippings, along with the other aromatic ingredients.It’s always a good idea to finish a dish by repeating the same flavors and textures in a different way; in this case, with sliced chiles and crispy coconut flakes. It adds complexity and also freshness in contrast to the chile paste and coconut milk that were cooked in the pot. And as always, a pile of fresh herbs enlivens it all.My go-to wine for heavily spiced dishes is a dry sparkling Vouvray. Chenin blanc—the grape of the Vouvray region—is one of the more fascinating white wines to begin to explore if you’re unfamiliar. Its nutty, fruity quality proves a worthy partner to toasted spices and richly flavored foods, and the bubbles work to cleanse a coconut-coated palate. With this dish, I’m particularly fond of François Pinon’s Vouvray Brut Non Dosé. It’s the perfect partner to transform your one-pot-wonder into a surprisingly special supper.

Coconut Braised Chicken Recipe
Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins


  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced serrano chile, divided

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

  • 4 small (8-ounce) chicken leg quarters, patted dry

  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, finely ground

  • 1/2 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, finely ground

  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed under cold running water

  • 4 cups chopped stemmed collard greens

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, well shaken and stirred

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • Fresh cilantro and mint leaves, toasted flaked coconut, for garnish

  • Lime wedges, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mortar and pestle, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon serrano chile. Pound and grind it to a relatively smooth paste, about 5 minutes; set aside.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high just until smoke rises from skillet. While pan heats, season chicken evenly with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan, skin side down, and cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, skin side up.

  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon, until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil, and stir in turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until spice mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Add rice and collard greens, and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is coated in spice mixture and greens are slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, stock, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until rice mixture is distributed evenly. Nestle chicken into rice mixture, skin side up, and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer 3 minutes, cover pan, and transfer to preheated oven. Bake 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Lift up chicken to stir rice underneath; cover and return chicken to oven. Bake at 350°F until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Uncover pan, and bake until chicken and rice are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  5. Top with fresh cilantro and mint leaves, toasted flaked coconut, and remaining 1 tablespoon serrano slices. Serve with lime wedges.

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