Recipe: Arroz con Pollo

Pneumonia make cause my heart to race, my nerves to slacken, and my breathing to rasp, but it will never stop me from making my sweetheart his birthday dinner. To celebrate in style, I cobbled together the most unexpectedly glorious arroz con pollo.

Unexpected, because I honestly wondered how great could chicken and rice be?

Fantastic, turns out.

Put your trust in centuries of Latin American and Spanish history; the next time you have a big dinner party, make arroz con pollo.

Under a gracious layer of 100% love, you’ll find a one-pot chicken and rice dish which delights in bright bursts of briny olives and capers, blushing rice (thanks to a sprinkling of ruddy ground annato and a whole lot of chopped tomatoes), and a flurry of vivid green cilantro.

Arroz con Pollo is traditionally made in a giant pan – something like a paella pan which can go gracefully from oven to table – although a Dutch oven would work nicely in a pinch. I used that $20 pan I got at the Indian market back when I first began our Global Table Adventure.

Serves 8-10


4-6 whole chicken legs (thighs included)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground annato/achiote (may substitute saffron, if desired)
4 cups chicken broth
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp vinegar
1/3 cup green olives
1 Tbsp capers
1/2 tsp oregano
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt & pepper

3 cups long-grain rice


lemon wedges
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
extra olives and capers, if desired


A butterfly in Panama. Photograph by Dirk van der Made.

Follow a butterfly through Panama to a special cooking spot. Perhaps on the top of a green, green hill; under a blue, blue sky.

On the crater rim around Santa Fé (Veraguas Province), Panamá. Photo by Dirk van der Made.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Soften garlic, onion, green pepper,  and garlic in olive oil. Add ground annato (this will give the rice the softest blush).

Push the onions and peppers to the sides and brown the chicken (in batches, if needed, to ensure proper browning).

Splash on the broth…

… tomato, vinegar, rice, olives, capers, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer, then stir in rice.

Cover and bake about 30 minutes.

Garnish with a handful of chopped cilantro and serve as is, or pull the meat off the bones and toss with the rice. (Pulling the meat off the bones will make it easier to share the chicken among up to 10 people)

Personally, I love the simplicity of keeping the chicken whole.

This is a recipe for a crowd.

And, if there are any leftovers, you’ll be happy to find them in the refrigerator later.

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  1. My life has been so busy that I neglected to read your recent posts, and it’s a shame! DIdn’t know about pneumonia, my gosh, take care of yourself!

    Arroz con pollo is of course quite similar to a recipe my Mom used to make while I was growing up

    well, the photos in your post today are spectacular, all of them

    I hope you feel better, I hope my routine will settle down soon and I can get to indulge on your regular posting!

    And… before I forget: Happy Birthday to your hubby!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you for all your kind words. The pneumonia was greatly helped by medicine, thankfully! I saw that your mom recently celebrated her birthday as well. Many happy returns :)

      • Thanks so much!

        SHe will appreciate the comment, I know one of my nieces who speaks English will translate it all for her later this week – a nice virtual gift, since I cannot be there this year.

  2. All the pictures look yumy. Since I was away for work this week, we’ll have to invite ourselves over to your house and try Panama food.

    Cheers to all three of you!

  3. Anitra Lavanhar says:

    LOVE these photos, your writing and everything!! Happy Birthday to Keith, and I hope you are feeling better soon! We would love to see you. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  4. I’m very excited to try this, as I impulse bought some Annatto at Penzey’s because it’s so pretty! [I also buy books by their covers, and wine if the label is pretty. I’m so easy! ;-) ]

    I’m a little confused by how much vinegar. You mention “2 tbsp vinegar” twice. Do we add 4 tbsp or is that a bit of “I’ve been really sick and I’m still cooking so give me a break, here, OK?” kind of typo thing?

    Feel much better, please, have your friends bring you some of the fabulous soups you’ve had me cooking! Even in the heat of summer, that Ground Nut and Spicy Chicken soup from Ghana is very restorative! :-D

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hey Jill, it was definitely the latter of the two choices (although since I love vinegar, I’d happily add more to any recipe, any time). That peanut soup is sounding really good right now… great idea!

      • I made this tonight, and (as seems to be often the case) I had some confusion about ingredients, and I needed to halve the recipe because I wasn’t feeding the neighborhood. I used an anaheim from my garden instead of a green pepper, and simmered atop the stove instead of baking (weird pan issue…don’t ask) but it was delicious anyway, definitely a keeper. I plan to use this recipe to justify the purchase of a paella pan. Imagine how appropriate if you give us a paella with Spain! :-)

  5. It looks delicious! Your photos are amazing. I like the plate!

  6. Such a hearty meal!

  7. So glad to have found your site – such delicious recipes and gorgeous photos! My husband’s family in Costa Rica also makes Arroz con Pollo, but it looks very different from this. For one thing, they just use a rice cooker or a regular pot, plus they would never think of adding olives! This looks wonderful, too, though :)

  8. Mayanne Feliciano says:

    having just got back from a spanish vacation , we ate a lot of paella.
    when i saw this recipe i knew it would be a great and easy recipe to make.
    I was so blown away by how good it was . My BFF who also had some had the same comment.
    thanks for the great recipe. BTW i omitted the green peppers as I don’t like them but i think i will substitute red,yellow or orange next time,;-).

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