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Arroz con Pollo Recipe -Costa Rica

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This arroz con pollo from Costa Rica combines traditional Costa Rican white rice, shredded chicken and traditional Costa Rican spices to make what is arguably one of Costa Rica’s most popular dishes.

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About Costa Rican arroz con pollo

Ok so for you non-Spanish speakers out there arroz con pollo is Spanish for chicken with rice. You might be picturing some white rice with chicken pieces next to it- and that is definitely not what chicken and rice is in Latin America.

Traditional Latin America arroz con pollo is a gorgeously colored dish that looks similar to Asian fried rice- except with chicken too! We color the rice with achiote and add cooked shredded chicken.

Then, we flavor everything with spices- salt and pepper (black pepper), garlic cloves (or garlic powder), onion, cilantro, red or green bell pepper. Finally, we add mixed vegetables for a fun pop of color.

I love to make sure my chicken is cooked in homemade chicken broth (with my secret ingredient) and cook my rice in it. And of course in Costa Rica, we use Salsa Lizano as the main flavoring ingredient in our chicken and rice.

This chicken and rice dish on every menu and can be found at almost any celebration. In fact, arroz con pollo is such a common dish that ticos have dubbed it arroz con siempre (rice with always). Because we literally have it at every party!

Related post: 30+ Foods To Try In Costa Rica

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at a party to see a huge cooler lined with tin foil and stuffed to the brim with Costa Rican chicken and rice. Whoever made the dish gets bragging rights, and all the women crowd around with styrofoam plates and plastic utensils and start to serve guests. 

The colorful rice is served with ensalada verde– a fresh salad with lettuce, tomato, and lime juice, and everything is topped with potato chips.  No party is complete without the Coca-Cola, Imperial, or some fresh juice like tamarindo, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, starfruit, or blackberry.

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Recipe Costa Rican Chicken and Rice

(Printable recipe below)

Ingredients 

Instructions 

Start by preparing the rice in the rice cooker. You will prepare the rice using our prepare the rice using our Costa Rican white rice recipe– but use chicken broth instead of water.

Before covering the rice to cook, add your 3 TB achiote. (See notes) While the rice is cooking, make your sofrito. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat.

Once heated, add the cilantro, red bell pepper, celery, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and translucent. This is your sofrito.

Add the chicken to the pan and stir until the chicken is coated in the sofrito.

Chicken slices, herbs, diced onions, and peppers frying in a pan.

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 to the arroz con pollo. I add them one at a time in a circle on the pan, stirring after each addition until the sauces are evenly mixed in.

White rice swirled condiments.

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.

Close up of a platter of costa rican chicken fried rice.

Taste everything to make sure that the arroz con pollo 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.

Heat thoroughly, and serve with ensalada verde and potato chips or French fries.

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Notes

**Achiote is a colorant commonly used in Latin cooking to make the food look beautiful. It is by far my favorite kitchen secret and Los Patitos is the best brand in Costa Rica.

*Salsa Lizano is a traditional Costa Rican sauce that is used in most dishes to create a distinctly Costa Rican flavor. Learn more about Salsa Lizano here.

You can purchase all your ingredients for arroz con Pollo right from Pura Vida Moms!

Serving Suggestions

We serve arroz con pollo with a traditional green salad (ensalada verde) and papas

This papas thing gets confusing though. Because some people in Costa Rica refer to papas as French fries, and others refer to them as potato chips. I love French fries and hate potato chips so here’s what to expect. 

If you are going to a party or to eat at someone’s house, you will eat Costa Rican chicken and rice with potato chips. If you are in a restaurant, you will usually get French fries, but not always. So make sure to ask.

Substitutions

You can substitute homemade chicken stock for boxed broth.

You can use a rotisserie chicken instead of shredded chicken. You can also just use shredded chicken breasts.

You can use brown rice instead of white.

Some people say you can substitute Worcestershire sauce in place of the Salsa Lizano. I think it works… ok? But not really great.

I sometimes use frozen mixed vegetables in place of the canned veggies- just get the ones with the green beans. I also often double the quantity of veggies.

Related post: Costa Rican Casado

Variations

There aren’t a ton of variations on the traditional Costa Rican arroz con pollo. The dish does, however, have its own version for almost every single other Latin American country- and they are all delicious!

FAQ

Is arroz con pollo healthy? 

Um- no? HAHA. Seriously though, I would say not really. A lot of people (like me!) don’t actually process white rice very well, and it just makes us gain weight. So at least I definitely have to be careful with arroz con pollo.
That said- it isn’t fried. There’s no added sugar, and you don’t use canned or processed food. So on the scale of unhealthy foods, it’s probably not actually that high either. 
You can lighten it up though. Some people make arroz con pollo with brown rice instead of white, and use only white meat. If you really wanted to make your arroz con pollo healthier, what I would do is cut in half the amount of rice and then double or triple the number of vegetables. And be prepared for any Latino worth his salt to fully turn up their nose at your dish. (Just sayin’!)

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Printable Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Arroz con Pollo Costa Rica

costa rica arroz con pollo chicken and rice on a plate with a wood background

This arroz con pollo from Costa Rica combines traditional Costa Rican white rice, shredded chicken and traditional Costa Rican spices to make what is arguably one of Costa Rica's most popular dishes.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 C long-grain white rice
  • 32 oz chicken stock/broth or water
  • 3 TB achiote (see notes)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
  • 1 can of mixed vegetables drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped with stems
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 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 (see notes)

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the rice in the rice cooker. You will prepare the rice using our prepare the rice using our Costa Rican white rice recipe- but use chicken broth instead of water.
  2. Before covering the rice to cook, add your 3 TB achiote. (See notes)
  3. While the rice is cooking, make your sofrito. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat.
  4. Once heated, add the cilantro, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and translucent. This is your sofrito.
  5. Add the chicken to the pan and stir until the chicken is coated in the sofrito.
  6. By this time, the rice should be cooked. Add all of the rice to the skillet and begin to mix everything together.
  7. This is where you will add your ketchup, soy sauce, and Salsa Lizano to the arroz con pollo. 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.
  8. After the sauces have been added, mix in the mixed vegetables. Taste everything to make sure that the arroz con pollo 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.
  9. Heat thoroughly, and serve with ensalada verde and potato chips or French fries.

Notes

**Achiote is a colorant commonly used in Latin cooking to make the food look beautiful. It is by far my favorite kitchen secret and Los Patitos is the best brand in Costa Rica. You can find where to buy it in the recommended products below.

*Salsa Lizano is a traditional Costa Rican sauce that is used in most dishes to create a distinctly Costa Rican flavor. Learn more about Salsa Lizano here.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 280Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 1220mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 17g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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53 Responses

    1. COVID-19 prevented us from taking a family trip to Costa Rica so I’ve enjoyed cooking these Pura Vida Moms’ recipes instead. I made Salsa Lizano from scratch because my local grocery store didn’t stock it. We love it. I also made the Beef Carne Asada with the marinade. Yummy! I hope next summer we can go try the local versions! Que rico!

      1. Not getting to go this year has been brutal! I am so glad you have enjoyed the recipes- cooking food from home is definitely getting us through not being able to travel! A weird fact- I usually find Lizano at local hardware stores like Ace or True Value. So next time you need a lightbulb, check the food aisle and see what you find! Pura vida! ~Christa

    1. Sheila, for sure- I definitely made a 4 hours production into a weeknight recipe. And it’s budget friendly-too. Hope your husband liked it! ~Christa

  1. Great recipe- really the flavors of Costa Rica came through. I used chicken breasts (boiled and shredded) because that’s what I had on hand. This made a LOT of arroz con pollo (plenty of leftovers).

  2. You say it doesn’t use canned or processed foods, but a can of mixed vegetables is one of the ingredients. What vegetables are traditional to use, so those of us who would prefer to include fresh veggies can get it right?

    1. Hi Sully! I should probably take that phrase out- whoops! Especially since the recipe calls for Salsa Lizano which is also processed. And ketchup. Oy! The traditional veggies are carrots, green beans and corn. So you could just boil carrot pieces, cut green beans into smaller pieces and cook them, and get a fresh ear of corn on the cob and cook it and then pull the kernels off. I am sure there are places in Costa Rica that do that. However- I just use the frozen mixed veggies from Bird’s Eye to save time! ;). Thanks for commenting and please let me know how it turns out!

  3. Hi Christa! Hope you are all ok during this crazy year! I am so happy you popped up when I was looking for a new arroz con pollo recipe. Great SEO skills! We are in NYC right now but can’t wait to get home to CR. Of course I am going to take a few of your tips and then go to my kitchen and just wing it, and hope it comes out OK to eat, but thanks for the help!!! (i.e. the ketchup, chicken stock and saffron). xoxox to everyone! And if there are any other moms/dads reading this a thinking of a move to CR – go for it!

    1. Hi Kim! I am so glad you commented- and thanks for the props on the SEO. Man am I working it hard! Was in CR last week- it rained the whole time. But now- I’m a resident! Let me know how your arroz comes out! Pura vida- Christa

  4. Hi Christa! Can’t wait to make this as I miss CR so much! Is it ok to make the rice ahead of time, like the day before or use leftover rice? Thanks!

  5. In the video the achiote is added to the pan but the recipe says to put it in the rice cooler when cooking the rice? I’m confused

  6. My aunt in Costa Rica, who was a very good cook, used to add a tiny bit of raisins and prunes to her arroz con pollo. It’s a yummy variation. So glad I found your website!

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, language and travel. I’m a Latina mom, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here.

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