How To Make Latin Chicken & Rice (Arroz Con Pollo) at home.
This dish is one of our family favorite comfort foods. The layers of flavor build from the spice blends to the sofrito to the savory aromatics.
Arroz Con Pollo (Spanish for chicken and rice) is a one-pan traditional Latin-American dish full of culture and history.
As with so many classic recipes there is much debate about its origin. No question it shares many similarities to Spanish Paella but this dish also has roots in the Caribbean. While traveling I’ve enjoyed versions of this chicken & rice comfort food in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. All delicious!
The recipe that I’m going to share will most resemble the Puerto Rican profile with a few influences from the other islands.
Arroz Con Pollo Components
Let’s break this recipe down into components as follows:
- Achiote Oil (made from Annatto Seeds)
- Sofrito (made from peppers, onions, garlic & culantro leaves)
- Adobo Seasoning
- Sazon Seasoning
- Chicken (we use bone-in, skin-on thighs and legs)
- Rice (medium grain is best)
- Cooking liquid (chicken broth is best)
- Aromatics (we added pigeon peas, green peas, and Spanish olives)
Don’t let the number of components deter you from making this dish. There are a few short cuts if needed that we’ll walk through.
Achiote Oil is made by gently heating annatto seeds in olive oil. The result is a gorgeous crimson colored oil that has a slightly sweet peppery flavor.
Shortcut – you can purchase premade Achiote Oil at specialty markets or online. However it is so simple to make and we’ll use those annatto seeds for the Sazon Seasoning as well.
Sofrito is a flavor base of herbs and aromatics used in Latin cooking, much like a French mirepoix or the Cajun holy trinity. This Simple Sofrito Recipe consists of peppers, onions, garlic, culantro leaves, olive oil and salt.
Shortcut – Premade Sofrito can be found on most grocery store shelves. But trust me – it’s hard to beat the fresh flavor of homemade for this key component.
Adobo & Sazon Seasoning Blends
You’ve likely noticed both of these seasoning blends on the grocery store shelves in the Latin/Mexican sections. Adobo and Sazon are widely used in Latin, Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The ingredients are similar but different and neither are hot and spicy, just full of spice flavor.
As I’ve said before, making your own seasoning blends at home is a great way to use ingredients you likely have on hand. And you can exclude ingredients you don’t want or need. Bye, bye MSG! Click on the links below for the exact measurements.
Shortcut – as mentioned above, Adobo and Sazon seasonings are readily available on the shelves in most grocery stores. Just be mindful of the added MSG and sodium.
For this Latin Chicken & Rice recipe I prefer skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and legs. And more specifically I am a HUGE fan of Springer Mountain Farms chicken.
Springer Mountain Farms is located an hour north of us, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their chickens are raised on a hormone, antibiotic and pesticide-free diet. Their PLUS line of products is 100% American-grown, non-GMO verified, vegetarian and gluten free. The best part is the juicy delicious flavor. And no, I was not paid to say this. I just love this product!
Medium Grain White Rice is the best choice for this recipe. It’s moist and tender and slightly sticky. Long grain would be too dry in this recipe and short grain, which is typically used for making sushi is too sticky. I was able to locate medium grain rice at my local market and it’s readily available online. Here’s a quick reference guide to rice if you’re interested.
Another way to infuse flavor into this rice based dish is to use chicken broth instead of water to cook the rice. Homemade Chicken Broth is so nutritious and easy to make. I freeze two-cup containers to have on hand.
In addition to the achiote oil, the sofrito, the adobo seasoned chicken, and the sazon seasoning….there’s another way to bring extra flavor to this classic dish. That’s through aromatics.
- For this recipe I added pigeon peas which are actually a kind of bean and the key ingredient in Arroz Con Gandules.
- I also added green Spanish olives and green peas.
- At the end I garnished the dish with fresh cilantro and diced red pepper for a bright look and flavor pop.
The Cooking Process
Liberally season the chicken pieces with Adobo Seasoning. Render the pork fat in a heavy bottom shallow pot or caldero, then pan brown the chicken pieces over medium heat until deep golden brown on both sides.
Remove browned chicken pieces and reserve. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of oil.
Add 3 Tablespoons of achiote oil. Saute 1/2 cup Sofrito in oil for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Add 2 1/2 cups of medium grain rice that has been triple rinsed to remove excess starch. Toast rice for 3 minutes, which yields a rich slightly nutty flavor.
Return chicken pieces to toasted rice. Add drained pigeon peas if using. Pour in 3 cups chicken broth, 2 bay leaves and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of Sazon seasoning.
Bring to a boil and simmer until the broth has reduced to just below the rice level. Then cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is tender. Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Add green peas, Spanish olives and diced red sweet pepper. Cover again and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
Latin Chicken & Rice is a wonderful Sunday Supper, comfort food dish, family-gathering kind of meal. You can just taste the rich history in every bite.
All my best,
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How To Make Latin Chicken & Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)
- 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs & legs about 8 pieces
- 1/3 cup Adobo Seasoning Blend see recipe link in post
- 1/4 cup salt pork or diced bacon pieces
- 3 Tablespoons Achiote Oil see recipe link in post
- 1/2 cup Sofrito see recipe link in post
- 2 1/2 cups medium grain white rice triple rinsed
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup canned pigeon peas drained
- 2 teaspoons Sazon Seasoning Blend see recipe link in post
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 1/2 cup Spanish olives
- 1/4 cup red sweet pepper diced
- 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
- If making from scratch, prepare Achiote Oil, Sofrito, Adobo and Sazon Seasoning Blends.
- Liberally season chicken pieces with adobo seasoning.
- In a large heavy bottomed shallow pot or caldero, render pork fat over medium heat. Remove cooked pork pieces. Pan brown chicken pieces in batches until deep golden brown on both sides. Remove and reserve. Pour off all but about 1 Tablespoon of oil from pan.
- Add 3 Tablespoons of achiote oil to pan. Saute the sofrito for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and toast, stirring frequently for about 3-5 minutes just until the rice starts to turn color.
- Return the browned chicken pieces to the pan, along with the pigeon peas and bay leaves. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sazon seasoning. Add 3 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until liquid is reduced to just below rice level. Reduce the heat to low and cover with tight fitting lid or aluminum foil. Simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Stir in olives, green peas, and chopped sweet red pepper. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro.