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This arroz con pollo 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.
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 American 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, and 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 is on every menu and can be found at almost any celebration. 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 Coca-Cola, Imperial Beer, or some fresh juice like tamarindo, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, starfruit, or blackberry.
You might also like:
- Arroz con camarones (Costa Rican shrimp and rice)
- Arroz cantones (Costa Rican Cantonese fried rice)
- Arroz a la jardinera (Costa Rican red rice)
Arroz con Pollo Costa Rica Recipe
(Printable recipe below)
- cooked white rice
- Salsa Lizano
rotisserie chicken or shredded chicken
frozen mixed vegetables
red bell pepper
white or yellow onion
Before covering the rice to cook, add your 3 TB achiote. (See notes) While the rice is cooking, make your sofrito.
To make the sofrito, you will do the following. 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 cooked, shredded chicken to the pan and stir until 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 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.
After the sauces have been added, mix in the mixed vegetables. They can be canned or frozen- I use frozen.
Taste everything to make sure that the arroz con pollo has the right amount to salt.
You can adjust the flavor by adding salt, sauces, or a little water if the flavor is too strong.
Heat thoroughly, and serve with ensalada verde and potato chips or French fries.
**Achiote is a colorant commonly used in Latin cooking to make 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.
We serve arroz con pollo with a traditional green salad (ensalada verde) and papas.
This papas thing gets confusing though. 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.
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 number of veggies.
Related post: Costa Rican Casado
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!
Is arroz con pollo healthy?
Um- no? HAHA. Seriously though, I would say not really. A lot of people (like me!) don’t process white rice very well, and it just makes us gain weight. So at least I 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 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 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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- 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)
- 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, 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.
- 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. 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 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.
**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.
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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.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!