Caribbean Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo) Recipe


Arroz con Pollo is a simple dish.  I’ve heard it called the “Mac and Cheese or Pot Roast” of the Latin world.  Every family has a recipe and every kid will tell you that their mother’s is the best.  I personally think my wife’s version is the best, but feel free to disagree with me.  I’m sure that if this dish is made in your family, it’s pretty good too. (But my wife’s is still better and you’ll never convince me otherwise!)

My wife’s first husband was Puerto Rican and this dish is made in the Puerto Rican style as taught to my wife from his mother.  It was my first experience with Puerto Rican cooking, but I have to say that now I’m hooked and I get my wife to make any of the foods she learned there whenever possible. (When I’m not hogging the kitchen, that is.)

The combination of chicken, rice, capers, olives and spices in this version is nothing like the Mexican Arroz con Pollo I grew up around.  for one thing, Puerto Rican cooking isn’t all that spicy heat-wise.  In fact most of their condiments are very mild.  The Mexican version will knock your socks off in some cases.  I much prefer this one and I hope you enjoy it, even if your mother’s is better. (And of course it is, it’s Mom’s!)

This recipe has been adapted to use several over-the counter sauces and bases, as we cannot get some of the ingredients called for in this part of the U.S. without ordering them online at a premium.  I’ve linked the ingredients we use to online stores where you can find them if they’re not available in your local area.

Caribbean Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo) Recipe
  • 1 small chicken chicken (or 2.5 – 3 lbs lbs chicken breasts) cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 oz. salt pork, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb. ham steak, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 tbsp. Recaito
  • 10 green olives (pimiento stuffed cocktail olives work perfectly)
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. achiote coloring (Sazón)
  • 3 cups white rice
  • Chicken stock
  1. Place chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large zipper seal storage bag. Massage bag to mix all ingredients and coat chicken well. Place in the refrigerator for at least two hours to marinade.
  2. In a caldero or a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add salt pork and ham and brown rapidly. Reduce heat to medium. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add onion and recaito. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 3 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup chicken stock in a small saucepan. Reserve.
  5. In caldero, add olives, capers, tomato sauce, achiote coloring and 3 cups rice. Mix over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add heated liquid from saucepan and mix well, cooking uncovered over moderate heat until rice is dry.
  6. With a fork, turn rice from bottom to top. Cover caldero and cook over low heat (as low as possible) for 55 minutes, turning rice again after 20 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately. If desired, garnish with heated pimientos and a few extra capers.
  8. Share and Enjoy!

What we do differently every time:

The recipe as it is written produces a thick char on the bottom of the caldera that Puerto Ricans call pagau.  Pagau is considered a delicacy in Puerto Rico, but neither my wife or I much care for it, so instead of stirring the rice just once, we stir three times and then allow the rice to steam off the heat for a bit. This method does change the texture of the rice, but not the flavor, and it makes cleaning the pan a whole heck of a lot easier, too.

If making the dish for a group of Puerto Ricans, I would suggest making the recipe as written and then standing back away from the caldero.  There will be fighting over the pagau.

Links to other recipes like this:


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  1. says

    Your spam thing gets me every time…sometimes twice! This dish looks incredible and I have easy access to all ingredients. Can’t wait to try it!

  2. says

    Your wife’s is the best…because it’s exactly the same as mine! Isn’t Sazon the best seasoning ever? And I always cook with chicken broth too rather than water. Tell her that I/others sometimes use a cup of wine or beer as part of the liquid. It adds another level of flavor. Happy holidays!

  3. ariane says

    this dish looks very yummy! i love cooking and i hope this ingredients you listed are also available here in my country! please post some more interesting recipes! i really like it!

  4. Betty says

    Oh wow! I haven’t had arroz con pollo in a long time. This looks great! Hats off to the cook. :)
    Recipe looks pretty simple to follow, thats an added plus!


  5. Jimmy says

    Arroz con Pollo is the quentestinal favorite of children. My kids were charmed with it by a neighbor lady from Costa Rica, The achiote is not just a coloring agent, but also a large part of the flavoring. I have been growing it in the yard for some years. It is known also in the tropics, (Where I live), as the “Lipstick Flower”. The children rub the flowers on their lips to make them red.
    I vary the dish, using smoked Spanish paprika, fresh peas, (The Porteugees influence), or add some chorrizo. You can also garnish it with some finely slivered cilantro and other greens.

  6. The Mrs. says


    I’ve used achiote often in my cooking and love that added flavor it brings. I’ve made arroz con pollo with peas and occasionally corn (my great grandmother’s influence). When my ex m-i-l taught me how to make it, I was awed and amazed. My family (aside from my grandmother who made a spanish rice that was amazing) had only used instant rice or created a rice porridge of rice, milk, sugar, and butter. I couldn’t stand the texture so learning that rice could change flavors and textures so easily. :) I didn’t know it was called the “lipstick flower” though. That’s great!


  7. says

    Even though my mother’s side is Panamanian (and makes this dish often) they aren’t fans of the pagau. But I love it, so I get it all to myself! I’ve eaten arroz con pollo endlessly growing up but never with capers. My family has always used peas instead for some reason. Love the site!

  8. ingrid says

    As a Puerto Rican (though thoroughly Americanized) it was wonderful to see a dish I grew up eating . My mother hasn’t taught me many of her dishes as like her mother there is room for only one woman in the kitchen! I’m going to print this out and give it a try….won’t be as good as Mama’s but I know it’ll be close! :-)

  9. ingrid says

    Oops, forgot to mention I’m the only one in my family that LOVES pagau. I’ve even figured out how to make some when using my rice cooker. It’s not quite the same but close enough!

  10. DC says

    This looks EXACTLY like the arroz con pollo from growing up in Puerto Rico. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the tip on pegao – I don’t care for it either so thanks for the tip on stirring it more frequently.

  11. Rhetta says

    I have been looking for this recipe for a very long time since I had it about 14 years ago..Now I am going to make it!! I can’t wait!!

  12. mark says

    great recipe but where does the lime go? it calls for juice of one lime but i have read the recipe 3 times now and do not see where the lime is added…in the marinade, with the other liquids, at the end? thanks!


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