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Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote

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Lightly braised chicken thighs and chicken legs in a red achiote based sauce served with potatoes and white rice for an easy and healthy week night meal.

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote on a white plate with a black background

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About This Recipe

This traditional Costa Rican chicken is popular throughout the country as chicken is relatively easy to come by and less expensive than veef. 

This recipe uses chicken legs and thighs braised in a light vegetable sauce and served with either white rice or arroz a la jardinera. 

When visiting Costa Rica, you will often find this dish either in the buffets that are popular stops for large restaurants. You can also find this dish as part of a Costa Rican casado lunch plate (link). Most often, this is a plate made in homes, and the number of variations on the dish are as vast as the number of people who make it each day.

I am using a version my dear friend Paola taught me to make when I was staying while I completed my Costa Rican residency. This dish was passed down from her mom who was raised in Drake Bay, married in Perez Zeledon and has lived in San Ramon (Central Valley) for over 40 years. I like her version because it’s a nice combination of several regions in the country.

This dish should not be confused with the Costa Rican shredded chicken in red sauce. It looks similar but the taste is not quite as sweet. 

Costa Rican chicken with achiote is popular because of the Costa Rican achiote used to give the dish it’s unique color. 

close up of Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote

Related post: Costa Rican Shredded Chicken

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote with a black background

Costa Rican Pollo Achiotado Recipe

Printable recipe below

Ingredients

  • chicken thighs and chicken legs
  • white onion
  • red bell pepper
  • small white or yellow potatoes
  • garlic cloves
  • vegetable oil
  • water
  • Costa Rican achiote
  • Salsa Lizano
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • salt

Instructions

Cut red pepper and onion into large strips (about 1/4  inch wide). Crush or mince garlic cloves. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, red pepper and garlic and sautee until just tender.

Place whole potatoes if small, or cut into half or fourth if large, and add half cup of water. Cover, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are about halfway done.

Add the chicken to the pan and add a bit more water. Add achiote, Salsa Lizano, oregano, paprika and salt, mixing with the water to form a paste. 

Cover again and braise until chicken is done, turning occasionally to cook evenly on all sides.

Remove from heat and serve.

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote with a black background

Serving Suggestions

This dishes most often served with Costa Rican white rice or Costa Rican arroz a la jardinera

I will often serve it with Costa Rican black beans (link)  as well, and I love to make it with a traditional Costa Rican green salad. It’s also delicious with Costa Rican fried ripe plantains

Related post: Gallo Pinto

Substitutions

You may substitute any type of oil for the vegetable oil. If you want the chicken to have a darker red color you can double the amount of achiote. 

I have trouble finding the white finger potatoes here in the United States at certain times of the year, so I will substitute small red potatoes instead.

If you don’t have Costa Rican achiote (which you can buy here LINK) you can substitute tomato paste, tomato sauce or ketchup, but it will change the flavor a bit.

To add depth to the flavor, you can substitute chicken broth (LINK) for the water.

Related post: Costa Rican Chicken With Rice

Variations

Another popular Costa Rican chicken recipe uses blended tomato and ketchup with either large chicken chunks or shredded Costa Rican chicken (LINK). If you are looking for that recipe simply add the sauce from this recipe  (link Costa Rican beef in red sauce) to the chicken cooked in this recipe.

Related post: Sopa Azteca

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Yield: 4

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote on a white plate with a black background

Lightly braised chicken thighs and chicken legs in a red achiote based sauce served with potatoes and white rice for an easy and healthy week night meal.

Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken legs
  •  ½ white onion
  •  ½ red bell pepper 
  • 3-4 small white or yellow potatoes 
  • 1-2 garlic cloves 
  • 2-3 teaspoons vegetable oil 
  • ½ - 1 cup water 
  • 1 TB Costa Rican achiote 
  • 1 teaspoon Salsa Lizano
  •  1 teaspoon oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  •  1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Instructions

  1. Cut red pepper and onion into large strips (about 1/4 inch wide). Crush or mince garlic cloves. In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, red pepper and garlic and sautee until just tender.
  2. Place whole potatoes if small, or cut into half or fourth if large, and add half cup of water. Cover, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are about halfway done.
  3. Add the chicken to the pan and add a bit more water. Add achiote, Salsa Lizano, oregano, paprika and salt, mixing with the water to form a paste.
  4. Cover again and braise until chicken is done, turning occasionally to cook evenly on all sides.
  5. Remove from heat and serve.

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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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2 Responses

  1. Hi Christa!

    This was always one of my favorite dishes in CR while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2005-2007. But I never knew exactly what went into the red sauce to recreate it here at home. I can’t wait to make this for my Tico husband and our kids. It’s simple but delicious!

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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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