Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is the quintessential Costa Rican dish. It’s on every menu and can be found at almost any celebration. It’s such a common dish that ticos have dubbed it “arroz con siempre” (rice with always). It’s traditionally served with a simple lettuce, tomato and lime juice salad and either potato chips or french fries – so yummy! A few years after I married my Costa Rican husband, I spent a summer in the Central Valley of Costa Rica learning how to make all of his favorite dishes from childhood (like tomato soup with garbanzos- yum!). Arroz con pollo from his Aunt Flor was the first dish that he mentioned, and I dutifully learned all of her secrets. The recipe was time and labor intensive, and so I decided to modify the method (so I could make it on a weeknight!) without changing the taste. Here I share with you my easy and flavorful version of the most popular Costa Rican dish – arroz con pollo.
The recipe combines rice flavored with chicken stock and a rich sautée of vegetables and spices. It’s prepared in two parts and then combined at the end. The recipe is easy to make ahead and reheat, or serve immediately after preparing. Please also note that this post contains affiliate links.
- 4 C white rice
- 32 oz chicken stock/broth (optional)
- 1 tsp achiote/annato paste (optional)
- 1 1/2 tspSalt
- 1 TB oil
- 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
- 1 TB butter
- 1 can of mixed vegetables, drained
- handful cilantro
- 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped finely
- 1 stalk of celery chopped finely (optional)
- 1 small white or yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 3 TB ketchup
- 3 TB soy sauce
- 3 TB Salsa Lizano*
*Salsa Lizano is a traditional Costa Rican flavoring, and used in most dishes to create a distinctly Costa Rican flavor, like in picadillos.
Start by preparing the rice in the rice cooker. You will prepare the rice the traditional Costa Rican way, lightly coating the bottom of the rice cooker with oil. Measure out the rice and pour it over the oil. Next add the salt and achiote. (Achiote is a colorant commonly used in Latin cooking. It does not affect the flavor of the dish, only the presentation, and for this reason it is optional. It can be found in most supermarkets in the Latin aisle, or you can order it on Amazon here). Stir the rice and seasonings to fully coat. Measure out equal parts chicken stock to rice (4 cups) and add to the dry rice and stir again. The chicken stock can be replaced by water in this recipe, but you would want to add a bit more salt, and know that the rice won’t have the same flavor. Cook the rice.
While the rice is cooking, you will begin to make your sofrito, which is the flavor base for the chicken. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium heat. Once melted, add the cilantro, red pepper, onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent. This is your sofrito. When the dish is finished, these ingredients should be imperceptible to the eye, so it is important to chop everything VERY finely.
Next add the chicken and cilantro to the pan, and stir until the cilantro has wilted and the chicken is coated in the sofrito. By this time, the rice should be cooked. Add all of the rice to the skillet and begin to mix everything together.
This is where you will add your ketchup, soy sauce, and Salsa Lizano. I add them one at a time in a circle on the pan, stirring after each addition until the sauces are evenly mixed in. I do find that using the rice paddle from the cooker is the best way to do this. After the sauces have been added, mix in the mixed vegetables. Taste everything to make sure that it has the right amount to salt. You can adjust the flavor by adding salt, the sauces, or a little water if the flavor is too strong.
Serve with salad, potato chips or homemade french fries… and an Imperial never fails to be a good accompaniment!
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