Sunday, November 6, 2011

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

You should know I'm not a native Southerner. I'm from Miami, which is a whole different ballgame. You know what the most awesome thing about Miami is (ok apart from all the awesome beaches and the fact that you can have pool parties in December): the food, specifically Cuban food. And I miss it like crazy. So a couple of weeks ago I made a 45 minute trip outside of my usual stomping grounds in Atlanta for Cuban food. And while the arroz con pollo at this restaurant was very good, there was enough salt in it to kill a horse, which is one of my biggest pet peeves. Don't get me wrong, I like salt, but if your first thought is "This is salty.", then it's too salty. Anyhow, I digress.

So, I decided to pull out a Cuban cookbook that I bought a while back and haven't used. I made their version with a few tweaks. OMG, best arroz con pollo ever! I am kicking myself for not having tried it sooner. It's pretty easy, makes an enormous amount of food, and is way better than any restaurant version.  Tender, fall off the bone chicken and perfectly seasoned rice studded with chorizo, onions, bell pepper, and peas. You won't look at chicken the same way again. It's from the cookbook Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban, which despite the dorky title appears to be a gem of a cookbook. I've since tried a split pea soup recipe, which was also excellent (I didn't even think I liked split pea soup before).

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the authors/publishers of this cookbook, and if I ever receive something free to try, I will always let you know. 

This dish is not healthy and you really shouldn't try to healthify it by using boneless, skinless chicken. It will just be bland. If you have to cut the fat a little, skip the chorizo or use turkey sausage or turkey bacon instead. The original recipe actually calls for regular bacon, but my favorite versions always have pork or chicken chorizo.

Another word of warning: this recipe calls for Bijol powder, which can be a pain to find. The Bijol is mostly made up of annatto powder, which is a Latin spice that adds flavor and colors the rice the orange color that is typical of arroz con pollo. If you can't find Bijol or annatto powder, you can substitute Goya's Sazon con Azafran, which is pretty widely available in the ethnic section of grocery stores. DO NOT buy whole annatto seeds like I did. They are a royal pain to work with because they are super hard and can break spice grinders and food processors. I only managed to crack mine with my marble mortar and pestle. If all you can find is whole annatto seeds, soak them for an hour or two and make a paste with them after they soften. 

And last, but not least, make sure to get parboiled rice (aka converted rice) since it holds its shape and doesn't turn into mush with the extended cooking time.

Arroz con Pollo
Serves 8
Adapted slightly from Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban


1/2 pound chorizo
8 chicken thighs, skin on (Don't substitute boneless, skinless chicken or it will be bland!)
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped green pepper
4 large cloves garlic, mashed or pressed
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 12 ounce bottle of beer
1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Bijol or annatto powder (or Goya's Sazon con Azafran, or as a last resort annatto seeds, see discussion above)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 cups parboiled rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt to taste


1. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and a little cumin and set aside.  Squeeze the chorizo out of its casings and saute in a large skillet, breaking it into bite size pieces as it cooks.

2. Remove the chorizo from the skillet and add it to a large stockpot or dutch oven. In batches, brown the chicken on both sides in the rendered chorizo fat. The chicken shouldn't be cooked through just crispy and browned on the outside. Add it to the stockpot as well.

3. Saute the green pepper and onion in the same skillet until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to the stockpot.

4. Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the peas to the stockpot and stir to incorporate. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a very low simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is no longer soupy. Scrape the bottom occasionally so the rice doesn't burn.

5. Add the peas and cook 5 minutes more.


  1. Ultimately my favorite cuban food ever. youre making a whole lotta goodness on here!

  2. Arroz con pollo is a serious comfort food. I've probably never really had an authentic version but there's a first time for everything! Looks great!