Allow me to introduce you to my mom's classic Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo; a flavorful one pot dish made with rice, veggies, and chicken.
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This flavorful one-pot dish is made with rice, veggies, and chicken.
It's an authentic Puerto Rican arroz con pollo recipe with simple, easy-to-follow instructions and mouthwatering, traditional Puerto Rican flavor.
Keep reading for tips on how to season the dish and achieve perfectly crispy Pagao rice at the bottom of the pot.
The OG of Puerto Rican Cuisine
If you've ever ate at a Puerto Rican restaurant or household, you probably tried some version of this Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo.
It's a classic chicken and rice dish with olives, veggies and lots of spices. Cooking the rice with the chicken and veggies and broth creates some of the most flavorful rice I've ever had and makes this the ultimate comfort food.
Similar to many of the Puerto Rican recipes on my site, this dish is one of those that every family has their own version of. Some families may use white rice, while others use brown.
My mom likes to cook the rice and chicken together, other Puerto Ricans like to cook the chicken first, remove it, cook the rice, then add the chicken back in.
In my opinion, there's no right or wrong way to make Arroz con Pollo. As long as the flavor is there, I think all of these methods have their time and place.
That said, my mom's technique is definitely the best (I'm not biased at all.)
Tips from my Boriqua Mom
But seriously, how adorable is my mom? Here are some of her top tips when making Puerto Rican chicken and rice:
- Season in layers. Adding flavor in this recipe starts with the spice rub for the chicken and doesn't stop until the very last step. Seasoning in layers means a super flavorful end result.
- Use a good quality pot. We used my favorite heavy bottomed dutch oven and it helped the rice to cook evenly and absorb all the liquid evenly.
- If you've ever had the crispy, almost but not quite burnt, rice at the bottom of a pot of Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo (also known as Pagao), you know how good it is. That said, it's easy to burn if you're not paying attention so keep reading for more tips on how to make Pegao.
My Puerto Rican family likes to make their own achiote oil using annatto seeds.
To make your own achiote oil place a few tablespoons of annatto seeds in ½ cup oil.
Heat on medium for about 4-5 minutes. Do not overheat or boil, they will become bitter. Also be careful as the oil stains. Immediately drain the oil from the seeds and discard seeds.
Grab this list, head to the store and get cooking! Here's what you'll need for this Puerto Rican arroz con pollo recipe...
For the Chicken:
- 4-6 chicken drumsticks
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne
- ½ tbsp salt
- 3 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp chili lime salt (optional)
For the Rice:
- 2 tbsp achiote (annatto) oil - see note for directions (optional, can be subbed for olive oil)
- 2 tbsp sofrito
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup green olives stuffed with pimento and sliced in half
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- ½ cup minced cilantro
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 2 ½ cups rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup water
How to Make Arroz con Pollo
This Puerto Rican chicken and rice dish starts with with a simple spice rub that goes on the chicken and marinates for a half hour. From there, the chicken gets a good sear in achiote oil to help ensure perfectly cooked chicken skin and maximum flavor.
Next goes in our classic Puerto Rican flavor base (also known as sofrito). It's sautéed for 10 minutes. Then we add in a bunch of peppers, herbs, and alliums to sweat and caramelize along with the tomato sauce, olives and peas.
Then the rice joins the party, getting toasted with all the other ingredients, along with another tablespoon of oil if you're hoping to get that perfectly crispy rice at the bottom of your pan.
Finally it's time to add the broth and a splash of water to the rice before bringing to a boil, lowering to a simmer and cooking covered for 30 minutes until the rice is cooked through (or the time allotted on your rice packaging).
Once the rice is cooked through, you can continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes to achieve the pegao! Top with toppings of your choice and enjoy.
Tasty toppings for flavor & presentation
Not only do garnishes add a great deal of eye appeal, they can really amp up the flavor and enhance the other ingredients in the dish.
Here are some of my favorite toppings for Puerto Rican arroz con pollo:
- lots of fresh cilantro
- hot sauce
- sliced avocado
- pickled peas and jalapeños
Pegao (crispy rice)
If you've ever been lucky enough to try Pegao, the crispy and delicious rice at the bottom of some versions of Puerto Rican chicken and rice, you know how special the texture is.
While it's a magical element of this dish, it's not always the easiest thing to achieve, so don't beat yourself up if you don't get it on the first try.
Here are my top tips for developing a tasty layer of Pegao under your arroz con pollo:
- add a tablespoon of extra oil (you could use the achiote oil or olive oil) to your rice while toasting with the veggies to help the rice crisp up and prevent burning.
- cook until the rice is done, then cook for another 5-10 minutes, checking to make sure the rice doesn't burn, but gets nice and crispy.
- it's important to be patient when trying to achieve the perfect pegao as it's a challenge for even seasoned Puerto Rican cooks!
More Puerto Rican Rice Dishes