Super Easy and Delicious Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo Recipe [Video]

costa rican red plate with arroz con pollo and cilantro

Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is the quintessential Costa Rican dish- and it’s an easy twist on traditional Costa Rican white rice. It’s 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!

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. 

costa rican red plate with arroz con pollo and cilantro

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.

My arroz con pollo a la tica combines rice prepared with chicken stock instead of water plus a rich sautée of vegetables and spices. 

It’s common to prepare arroz con pollo ahead of time and reheat, or serve immediately after preparing. This recipe only takes 30 minutes- and I promise that after you follow this recipe you’ll have an authentic dish that everyone loves!

I’ll give you a quick overview of the dish, talk a bit about which rice to use, and tell you which tools you have ot have in your kitchen. Then- the best Costa Rican recipe ever!

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What is 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 either saffron or 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.

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What is the best rice for arroz con pollo?

Ahh- such a good question! By asking it, you’ve also opened Pandora’s box. I’ll summarize for you the Internet debates over the type of rice to use for arroz con pollo.

Short version? Use long-grain rice and rinse it first. Then, make sure to add oil to your pot and sautee it evenly before adding the liquid. This breaks down the natural starches in the rice to make sure that it cooks evenly.

Why do I say to use long grain rice? Because that’s what we use in Costa Rica of course!

Long version? (Because I love to debate this type of crap, honestly). You can use pretty much any type of rice you want. The most popular types are long-grain rice, medium-grain rice, Calrose Rice, parboiled rice, Jasmine Rice, or Basmati rice (weird, I know since it’s not Latin American, but I think it’s a white people thing lol).

A lot of people use parboiled rice (like Uncle Ben’s) because it cooks for less time and you can add everything in one pot, like the Instant Pot, and the chicken and rice cook at about the same speed. I don’t like it but to each his own. If you are going to do that, I would just get Minute Rice and stick it in the microwave and then add all the parts together afterward. Easier. 

I don’t like the texture of Calrose rice at all, but this type of rice is becoming popular in Costa Rica because a.) Walmart is importing it (gross) and b.) it’s cheaper. You have to cook it differently though, so unless you are a big fan of Calrose, I’d avoid it.

That leaves long-grain, medium-grain, Jasmine or Basmati- and at this point, it’s pretty much personal preference. If you aren’t a big rice eater and/or aren’t very picky about your rice, just use whatever the recipe recommends. If you have a favorite type of rice, you can definitely use any of these interchangeably.

My favorite? Jasmine rice– I love the texture. I eat it with all my Costa Rican recipes when I’m in the States- carne en salsa, olla de carne, picadillo de chayote, picadillo de vainica, caldo de frijol, sopa de garbanzo,  inside my tamales… and so on and so forth. 

If you want to get really nerdy about which rice to use- check out this Chowhound thread about which rice to use for arroz con pollo. (It’s a total rabbit hole)!

Then- you need to contact me and let me know what type of rice you love! Or add a comment below!

What to serve with arroz con pollo?

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. 

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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’!)

If you want me to publish a healthy arroz con pollo recipe, let me know in the comments below!

 

Kitchen Tools For This Chicken and Rice Recipe

People, you have to have the right tools for making arroz con pollo! There are so many ways to make it, but honestly, you have to have the basics- here’s a list of what I use in my kitchen.


Yield: 8 servings

Arroz con Pollo Costa Rica

Arroz con Pollo Costa Rica

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 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. 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 find it below in our related products list.

*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.

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    Sidra Khan
    August 14, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I like the rice dish and speccially chicken Admin Thanks

  • Reply
    Martha
    October 11, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Yum!! Look like wonderful comfort food. Love me some chicken any day!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Martha, yep, total comfort food! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Evelyne
    October 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    This is the next way we will bring trying rice!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Evelyne, I hope that you love it as much as we do! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance
    October 11, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Oh my gosh, I was looking for a recipe just like this. My dad loves this dish and I have never been able to make it. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe I can’t wait to give it a try
    Theresa

  • Reply
    Joy
    October 11, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    YUM! This looks so good- can not wait to make it!

  • Reply
    Amaia
    October 12, 2016 at 5:04 am

    It looks super yummy!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Amaia, thanks for stopping by! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Susan
    October 12, 2016 at 6:10 am

    This rice dish looks fabulous! How fun to learn how to make authentic Costa Rican dishes.

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Susan, learning to make these dishes has been so fun! Hope you can check out a few more of the recipes! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Rosemary
    October 12, 2016 at 6:33 am

    I’m always looking for new ways to make rice. Thanks for this.

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Rosemary, you are very welcome! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Daune | Cottage in the Oaks
    October 12, 2016 at 7:25 am

    This looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Duane I hope you love it! ~Christa

  • Reply
    carolyn
    October 12, 2016 at 8:13 am

    So yummmmm!!! Looks delish!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Carolyn thanks so much for stopping by! ~Christa

  • Reply
    SheilaG- Plum Doodles
    October 12, 2016 at 8:14 am

    That looks so yummy, and easier than I expected. Hubby will be thrilled with a new dinner option. 🙂

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      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

  • Reply
    Holly
    October 12, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    My boys love anything chicken and rice and I know this dinner would be a hit! Hugs, Holly

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Holly, thanks for stopping by. Hope you get to try it soon! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Barbara
    October 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Oh my goodness – my good friend is Cuban and I force her to make this for me at least once a month. Ha! Love the recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      Barbara, so funny! Now maybe you can make it for her… and get her ropa vieja recipe for me! Thanks for stopping by! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Maddie
    October 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    This looks delicious! Yum.

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Maddie!

  • Reply
    Linda
    October 12, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. It looks very delicious. Best wishes for fall. Linda

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks Linda, you too!

  • Reply
    Ashlee
    October 12, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    This looks so good! I’m a vegetarian but I would def make this minus the chicken! My mouth is currently watering!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Ashlee it could be great with veggie stock and no chicken. If you make it, please let me know how it turns out!

  • Reply
    Leanne
    October 12, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    This looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try it.

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Hope you love it Leanne!

  • Reply
    Michelle James
    October 13, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    This looks so yummy!

    • Reply
      Christa
      October 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks Michelle! It’s a favorite here!

  • Reply
    fifa 17 coins
    November 3, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Especially helpful, looking onward to visiting again

  • Reply
    Amanda Bruckhart
    January 29, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Just wondering what alterations i need to make if i dont have a rice maker?

    • Reply
      Christa
      January 29, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Amanda! Thanks for stopping by! That’s a great question… I would make the rice exactly the same but stovetop. (You could even use Minute Rice although a true Costa Rican would never stand for that!) I love the tutorials at The Kitchn, and here is a link to a good post they have for making rice on the stove: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-rice-on-the-stove-44333 PLEASE let me know how it turns out! ~Christa

  • Reply
    Shadi Hasanzadenemati
    December 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    I’m making this for the weekend, I bet everyone is going to devour it!

    • Reply
      Christa
      December 13, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      You will love it! Let me know how it turns out. Pura Vida!

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