I have always been a huge fan chicken and rice, a.k.a arroz con pollo, but making it at home has always intimidated me. Looking at traditional recipes left me confused and ready to give up…a lot are full of ingredients I’ve never heard of, or can’t get my hands on. Through a little research, I discovered that more and more recipes are popping up using short cuts and easy to find ingredients. So, I set out to make my own version and I’m thrilled with the way it turned out!
It’s hard to find a classic, tried and true recipe for arroz con pollo because it differs depending on the region in which it’s made. Spanish versions differ from those of Latin American countries as each different country has different “essential” ingredients. For my version, I took my favorites from different recipes to create my perfect chicken and rice!
Saffron is a very common ingredient in arroz con pollo recipes, and in my opinion it’s necessary. It’s more common in Spanish versions to use saffron as opposed to Latin American versions that use achiote oil. Both will give the dish its classic yellow hue, but I find saffron to be more easily accessible. I really love the floral flavor saffron provides, and though it’s pricy, a little really goes a long way.
I decided to use a spice mixture (salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, cumin) to flavor my chicken. This worked out really well because not only did it flavor the chicken, but the rest of the dish as well. Browning the chicken first and then cooking the vegetables and rice in the same pot create loads of flavor! A lot of recipes I found used Spanish olives at some point in the recipe…I topped my chicken and rice with them and I think it really makes the dish. However, if you don’t like olives just leave them out.
The prep time for this dish is pretty simple and doesn’t take up too much time. You can also do all of the prep ahead of time and then just put it together to pop into the oven – perfect make-ahead meal! The leftovers are great on this too – you can even make the whole dish ahead and serve it up the next day.
I forgot to mention that I used brown rice instead of white, which you probably won’t find in any classic recipes! I always have brown rice on hand and I love it so much, so I went ahead and used that. My cook times reflect that as brown rice has a longer cook time than white, so keep that in mind if you use white.
I hope you will add some Spanish flare to your weeknight meals with this dish. This is a great, hearty meal that is full of flavor – you won’t be disappointed!
Chicken and Rice
Chicken and rice, also known as Arroz con Pollo, is a classic latin dish. My version is much simpler than some traditional recipes out there, but still holds true to the classic flavors. This one-pot wonder is the perfect make-ahead meal to add some latin flare to your meals.
Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 30 Min. | Cook Time: 1 Hour
1 Whole Chicken, cut into 10 pieces
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ Teaspoon Paprika
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Red Onion, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1 ½ Cups Brown Rice
1 Cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Cup Water
¼ Teaspoon Saffron Threads
1 Cup Frozen Peas
½ Cup Spanish Olives, sliced for garnish, optional
Freshly Parsley, for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 375º.
Lay the chicken out on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels; you want the outer skin to be dry so that it browns nicely. In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and ground cumin. Season the chicken with the spice mixture, being sure to rub it into the chicken pieces. Heat the canola oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, over medium heat until the skin is very nicely browned; about 10 minutes. Flip the chicken over and brown the other side for another 4-5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
In the same pot over medium heat add in the onion and bell pepper and cook until lightly golden and soft; about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add in the brown rice and allow it to gently toast over medium heat, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken broth, water, and saffron threads; season with salt and pepper.
Cover the pot with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the pot from the oven and nestle the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Place the pot back into the oven and allow the chicken and rice to finish cooking; about 30 minutes longer. Remove the chicken and rice from the oven and add in the frozen peas, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and fluff the rice with a fork.
Serve the chicken over the rice and top with olives and parsley, if desired.
- Follow the recipe for the chicken and the rice mixture, stopping when it’s time to add the liquids. You don’t want to add the water and broth if you’re making ahead because the rice will start soaking the liquid up and you’ll end up with uneven cooked rice later on.
- Allow the chicken to cool completely and then cover and refrigerate.
- Allow the vegetable/rice mixture to cool completely. Place the lid on the pot and refrigerate.
- When you’re ready to pop it the oven, add in the water, broth, and saffron to the rice and place in a cold oven. Then, turn the oven to 375º. Proceed with the recipe as it’s written.
**Since the pot and rice mixture are cold, you want it to slowly come up to temperature with the oven – never put a cold pot into a hot oven! While the rice is cooking, allow the chicken to sit at room temperature, then add it to the pot as stated in the recipe.
- Be sure to use a large pot with a fitting lid for this dish. I recommend a Dutch oven. The one I use is a 5 ½ quart pot.
- If you don’t want to cut up a whole chicken yourself you can buy it that way, or buy whatever cuts you like. Definitely use skin-on, bone-in though, as it will dry out on you otherwise.
- Saffron, though pricy, is an essential flavor to chicken and rice. You can certainly leave it out, but it won’t have that distinct flavor that chicken and rice has. I buy my saffron in very small amounts at Wegmans for about $15. It lasts a long while because you only need a small amount, so I think it’s definitely worth the splurge.
- You’ll know the chicken and rice is ready to remove from the oven when the liquid is absorbed. Letting it stand for 15 minutes before touching the rice helps any residual liquid to be absorbed and for the rice to be separate grains and not a starchy, sticky mess. So be sure not to skip that step!