Chipotle Chicken and Pineapple Barley Bowls are the BEST healthy meal that are not only delicious but SO satisfying. Chipotle and brown sugar marinated chicken is grilled and nestled on a bed of nutty barley, quinoa, pineapple,cilantro, and tossed in a citrusy vinaigrette. It can be served at room temperature or warm from the stove/grill!
Oh hi. If you were anything like me this past weekend and ate way too many carbs, drank way too many glasses of frosé, and snuck in an embarrassing amount of cookies, then you’re in need of a recharge. Lean protein, hearty grains and maximum flavor with minimum fat is my solution.
Enter: Chipotle Chicken and Pineapple Bowls.
I am in LOVE with these guys. Spicy, juicy chipotle-marinated chicken breasts are grilled until charred, sliced, and then served over a bed of chopped (fresh) pineapple, sunflower seed and chipotle pepper-laced grains for a healthy meets I-could-eat-this-any-day-of-the-week meal.
And honestly, I could literally eat this any day of the week.
In the past few years, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with barley, so to me, it’s not even really a health food, it’s just a phenomenally chewy, nutty carb I adore that also happens to be good for me. Surprisingly, barley is actually pretty versatile, so I love to throw it in salads (like this Everyday Kale Salad) to make them a little bit more substantial and fiber-heavy, soups in place of noodles or pasta, and sometimes I’ll even serve it under a runny fried egg for breakfast instead of toast.
Here, I paired it with fluffy quinoa, chopped pineapple, super spicy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, sunflower seeds, plenty of chopped cilantro and a zippy vinaigrette (that has practically no oil).
It’s the perfect blend of textures,sweet to spicy to savory, and I’m in smitten.
While the barley and kale mixture is delicious on its own, I’d say the pièce de résistance is the juicy chipotle chicken nestled on top. Now, I’m not even really a big chicken person in the sense that it’s not something I crave or can’t live without (unless it’s crispy like this, roasted like this or fried like this), but this chicken, this I adore.
Three ingredients – adobo sauce, honey and grated garlic – and the grill take a simple chicken breast from a blank canvas to a sweet and spicy charred masterpiece.
How to get juicy grilled chicken
The key to perfection comes from two rules: Marinate the chicken for the right amount of time and use a proper grill. Up until recently I’ve thought that the longer you marinate chicken the better, but I’ve come to realize after lots of research and trial and error, that it’s really not necessary to marinate chicken that long. Usually one two hours is enough, and five is almost always too many, especially if you’re using any kind of acid. For this particular preparation, one and half to two hours is plenty of time for the adobo sauce and honey to penetrate the chicken.
Also, a grill that actually works WELL is essential. For the past three years we’ve had a faulty grill that only cooked meat and didn’t actually char it, but over Fourth of July we swapped out our old one for this guy and we’ve never been happier. We FINALLY have a grill that puts actual grill marks on meat, and the high temperature slightly chars foods on the outside, but keeps them nice and moist on the inside. It’s perfection.
If you don’t have a grill, you can definitely use a grill pan inside, just make sure it’s hot enough to really char the chicken and lock in all that juiciness on the inside.
What to serve with Chipotle Chicken and Pineapple Barley Bowls
What I love most, is I don’t even really feel like I need a side to go with it since the barley and quinoa mixture is really a side on its own. But if you must, roasted broccoli, these green beans or this Everyday Kale Salad.
For lunch the next day, I love to take the leftover barley and quinoa mixture and serve it with a runny fried egg on top.
Health food at its finest.
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (4 small or 2 large)
- 3 tbsp adobo sauce from chipotle peppers in adobo + 2-3 of the peppers, chopped
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 4 large garlic cloves, divided (2 cloves grated, 2 minced)
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup barley
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped pineapple
- 3 tbsp sunflower seeds, plus. more for garnish
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1/ tsp ground cumin
- Cast iron skillet
- Add chicken, 3 tablespoons adobo sauce, brown sugar,grated garlic and chili to a large ziplock bag. Massage mixture into the chicken and marinate for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
- As the chicken marinates, cook the barley and quinoa according to package directions. Be sure to season with salt and pepper. (See note) Combine cooked barley and quinoa in a bowl and set aside.
- Using the same pan you cooked barley and quinoa in, heat to a medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, and when the olive is hot, add onion and garlic. Saute until translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt. Transfer to barley and quinoa.
- Heat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from the marinate. Let any excess drip off. Season both sides of breasts with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Grill until slightly charred and cooked through, about 5 minutes on one side, 3-4 minutes on the other (depending on the size of your chicken breasts.). Let chicken rest for 1-2 minutes, then slice into thin pieces.
- As the chicken cooks, toss the barley, quinoa and onion and garlic mixture with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 chopped chipotle peppers (3 if you like super spicy). pineapple, sunflower seeds, cilantro, lemon juice, lime juice, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide barley mixture between bowls, top with sliced chicken. Garnish with sunflower seeds and chopped cilantro.