Chicken With Achiote – A Favorite Costa Rican Recipe

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This chicken with achiote recipe combines braised chicken in a red achiote-based sauce served with potatoes and white rice.

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

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About This Chicken With Achiote Recipe

This recipe uses chicken legs and thighs braised in a light vegetable sauce and served with either Costa Rican 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 or as part of a Costa Rican casado lunch plate. Most often, this is a plate made in homes, and the number of variations on the dish is 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 with her 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.  

close up of Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote

Related post: Costa Rican Shredded Chicken

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Costa Rican Chicken with Achiote 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 saute until just tender.

Place whole potatoes if small, or cut into half or fourths if large, and add half a 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 dish is 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 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

Costa Rican Chicken With Achiote with a black background

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 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 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 for the water.

Related post: Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo

Variations

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

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!

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5 Comments

  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!

      1. Hello! This looks amazing. This is one of my favorites down there! Do you think this could work as a slow cooker recipe as well? If so, what tips would you recommend? Thanks and Pura Vida!

  2. Thank you for your recipes! My husband is from Central America and lived in Costa Rica from several years. Your recipes have enabled me to make food that not just reminds him of fond memories, but also of home.

    I tried to make this one last night and it came out well! It did seem like it was lacking a little flavor so I think I will double the Lizano. It may have been user error though. I’ll definitely be trying this one again!

    1. I am so glad the recipes are helpful to you to connect with your husband! It is the same in our family. And yes- you could double the Lizano or maybe add a pinch more of salt. Or both! ~Pura Vida! Christa